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Nemo, desklets and Spices

Cinnamon 1.8 also includes a lot of visual refinement in its Nemo file manager. Nemo was famously and loudly forked from GNOME's Nautilus and has added back a number of features that the GNOME developers deemed unimportant and removed. With the latest version of Nemo, the Mint developers have now tackled the task of introducing user interface refinements, making the look and feel of the application blend in a lot more with the rest of the Cinnamon interface. Little flourishes, such as a bar graph on mounted filesystems that shows how much of their space is currently being used, give Nemo its own character. For experienced users, the file manager offers a number of different view modes which will make users happy who prefer an old school tree view to the more modern side bar with shortcuts that is presented by default.

Nemo screenshot
Zoom Nemo has received some elegant visual refinements

The new Cinnamon version also introduces support for desklets, simple HTML and JavaScript applications that can be displayed on the desktop and range from clocks to comic viewers and RSS readers. These desklets are relatively simple to write and a number of third-party ones are already available from the Linux Mint community. The included management application lists desklets from an online repository and users can install them with a few clicks. Applets can also be installed as part of "Spices", which is Linux Mint's term for bundles of desklets, applets, themes and extensions. This new installation method replaces the previous method of downloading these components from the Cinnamon web site and installing them manually. Linux Mint 15 adds its own Spices management tool to simplify the process; it can also be used to update installed Spices, if the Spice in question supports this.

A new control centre application in Cinnamon replaces GNOME 3's own control centre. This will not make a difference for many end users and most will probably not even notice that something has changed as both applications are visually very similar. The new control centre has mostly been introduced to make work easier for the Mint developers as the distribution keeps adding its own tools for operating-system-level tasks. The control centre collects all of these configuration tools together and presents them in a way that GNOME 3 users will find familiar as well.

MATE improvements

Users who prefer a desktop experience that is more akin to the classic GNOME 2 look can choose to install Linux Mint 15's MATE edition. In version 1.6, which is shipped with this release, the GNOME 2 fork has seen a lot of work and bug fixes under the hood that are not immediately visible to the user, but which, the developers say, make the desktop environment more stable and easier to maintain and develop for its developers. Similar to Cinnamon with Nemo, MATE's Caja file manager has also seen some user interface polish work.

Other improvements in the desktop interface encompass minor changes to the work space switcher and more configuration options for notifications. All in all, development on the GNOME 2 successor continues, but the developers are definitely concentrating on minor improvements and on removing small annoyances in the user interface instead of groundbreaking developments; looking at the goals behind the MATE project, that does seem to be mostly the point. Linux Mint 15 definitely presents a usable MATE desktop that is well integrated with the distribution's look and feel, but for users accustomed to the Cinnamon and GNOME Shell desktop environments, and even Ubuntu's Unity, it will feel like a step into the past.

Next page: Conclusions

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