A sometimes forgotten Linux desktop environment, Cinnamon is a competitor for your desktop that you may not have seen coming. While Cinnamon is developed by the Linux Mint team as a flagship product for their distribution, it is also available for download and use on any other distribution. This article covers Cinnamon Desktop in depth, exploring the user experience and customization options, performance, usability, and recommendations for Cinnamon users.
First impressions of cinnamon
Cinnamon was originally a fork of GNOME, but with Cinnamon 2.0 it has become an independent desktop environment that no longer depends on the GNOME library. Once connected, Cinnamon looks clean, modern and focused. It follows a very traditional Windows desktop paradigm, with an application menu at the bottom left, applications along the bottom panel, and a system tray at the bottom right. It also has desktop icons for all your disks / file systems with “Computer” and your personal folder with “Home”.
Once you get past “Wow, it looks like Windows”, you see that there has been some work on Cinnamon to make it feel different from the GNOME backend and the look of Windows. The Themes app gives you a good overview of all of your look-and-feel settings and options, with tons of color choices available, with options to change things up.
If the goal was to create a DE that follows traditional paradigms, then the Linux Mint team absolutely did it with Cinnamon. Right out of the box, there are dedicated minimize and maximize buttons, all window controls are on the right side of the window borders, and the application menu at the bottom left has categories and a search function powerful search engine that searches not only application titles but also descriptions Navigating the desktop is super simple; the office puts you behind the wheel without asking you to drive something too heavy.
For everything you need in Cinnamon, just open the applications menu and browse the categories or start typing to search. It’s a centralized place to start delving into everything the system has to offer, and it unifies all apps into logical categories and a universal access point. It’s quite similar to Windows in this sense, but the feel of the apps is reminiscent of many GNOME apps. The interface is simple but effective, and it gives you what you are looking for without bothering you. A good example of this is Xed, which is Cinnamon’s view on GNOME’s Gedit. It is simple, elegant, minimal and allows you to quickly write your script, text file or Readme file without much hassle.
Many of Cinnamon’s default X-Apps are like GNOME Core applications plus a little extra usability. Xed, the text editor, is like Gedit with easier preferences and choices. The way applications are designed is part of the reason why Linux Mint has a great reputation for being user-friendly.
Cinnamon also has a lot more personalization right out of the box than its ancestor. Although the default interface is Windows, you can easily move the panel (or remove it if you want) and make it similar to macOS / Ubuntu or any other style you like. You can customize the panel, the application menu icon, the global theme, the accent colors, the icon theme, the window decorations, the window border and much more. Almost every aspect of the desktop interface can be customized. Customization is not comparable to KDE Plasma, but it is much deeper than the other offerings. It makes room for you to move in and feel at home without overwhelming yourself. These are the best parts of Linux without the worst parts: you have choice and control without the overwhelming amount of freedom that some options offer you.
Cinnamon keyboard shortcuts
Cinnamon also comes with great keyboard shortcuts, especially around the window tiles. Holding the button Great button and pressing Left, Right, Up, or Down, you can create half-tiled windows on the left, right, top or bottom of your screen. In addition, once a window is half tiled on one side, you can divide it by quarter by pressing Up or Down. The window tile without any animation or delay, which makes things incredibly fast and as if you could just get the job done.
Window management is done with a classic Alt + Tongue, giving you an application icon and a drop-down menu in the window preview. In terms of managing the workspace, it’s a similar configuration: hold Ctrl and Alt and press Left, Right, Up, or Down. Left and Right will change workspaces, Down will show you an overview of your workspaces, and Up will give you a grid view of all of your workspaces with the option of adding more.
Cinnamon focuses on the keyboard, which exploits the advantages of Linux particularly well, in particular with a lack of easy touch gestures under Linux. Being able to hold Great or Ctrl and Alt and use the arrow keys to navigate the system, especially with the quick capture of keyboard shortcuts, gives you a really logical and simple way to bypass the system, and once you adopt those shortcuts, you won’t go back.
There are all kinds of Cinnamon extensions, like a Compiz Cube for your workspaces, a blurred background preview and wobbly windows, a favorite among diehard fans. Cinnamon extensions give you access to some functional desktop changes rather than the typical visual changes offered by the Themes app. It’s another layer of customization that gives you flexibility in your system.
Another great strength of Cinnamon is its Desklets. These are small applets that you can add to your desktop to give you a larger clock, a dedicated application launcher, graphics of CPU usage, and more. It’s a great way to be able to quickly view important information without cluttering up a system tray or opening another application. Everything is simply integrated into the office.
Cinnamon performance is excellent. At rest on a freshly booted Linux Mint 19.3 virtual machine, CPU usage is around two to three percent, and idle RAM usage is 566 MB. This is a fairly small footprint, especially considering given his lineage. This makes it ideal for older machines with less powerful processors and which have lower maximum RAM specifications. I could imagine an old ThinkPad working fine with Cinnamon, especially considering all of its useful keyboard shortcuts.
As mentioned earlier, there are very few animations, which may seem a bit modern. However, it does increase overall system performance and makes things lightning fast. Changing workspaces, paving windows, opening the applications menu, everything seems incredibly fast. It makes me want to work faster to keep up with the office, almost like the office challenges me to keep up.
The disadvantages of cinnamon
Cinnamon is a great office environment, but has a few drawbacks. The Mint Icon theme looks a bit dated, and it looks like someone caricatured an icon theme from 2007. It’s pretty easy to change, like with all Linux desktops, but there is clearly Had a lot of thought about the design, theme and accent colors that I wish I could stick with the Mint icon theme. It’s a little disappointing.
Another drawback is some of the additional applications that come with Cinnamon. Things like Transmission, HexChat, two separate font applications and two separate USB formatting and writing applications make me wonder how much they are really needed. I often find myself uninstalling lots of apps that come with Cinnamon just because they bother me. X-Apps are great because they add usability to GNOME Core apps, but it’s just hard to overtake HexChat in my apps menu.
Where to discover cinnamon
The obvious choice is Linux Mint. The Linux Mint team has been itching on Cinnamon for quite some time, and the polishing they’ve done is commendable. In addition to Cinnamon itself, there are tons of useful apps developed by the team and integrated into Mint specifically, making it an incredible user experience. Things like Warpinator, Timeshift, and the driver manager give Mint a little friendly side that’s hard to find elsewhere.
Who should use cinnamon
Anyone looking for a light desk that looks good and works well out of the box should try Cinnamon, especially if you consider yourself a keyboard shortcut. Using Cinnamon even for a day or two will breathe new life into your computer and help you realize the potential of how quickly and efficiently you can work.
Now that you’ve learned some of the ins and outs of Cinnamon, make sure you know how to enable Autologin in LightDM and why you should use Timeshift in Linux Mint to back up your computer.
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