Cinnamon: Linux Mint's next GNOME step
The Linux Mint developers, led by founder Clement Lefebvre, have forked the shell of GNOME 3. The new shell fork, named Cinnamon, is being used as a platform to continue their development of a more GNOME 2-like environment for GNOME 3 users. In Linux Mint 12, the developers introduced MGSE (Mint GNOME Shell Extensions), a set of shell extensions which added in the various elements of functionality that the Mint team wanted to see in GNOME 3. This included a launcher menu at the bottom right, a task bar at the bottom and status widgets.
Although MGSE has been well received, it appears that the level of integration and performance that the Mint developers wanted was not possible using the shell extension route. They have therefore decided to fork the GNOME 3 Shell and modify it at a lower level. Cinnamon is the result of this work and is at an alpha stage of development. It already provides the launcher menu, task bar, status widgets and virtual screen switcher; more features are promised in the near future. The developers are looking to introduce Cinnamon as a desktop default in Linux Mint 13.
MATE, the fork of the GNOME 2 environment which was also supplied with Linux Mint 12, will probably continue to be maintained too. Lefebvre said in a forum posting that "MATE is different, it feels different and it provides different features. Both desktops will appeal to different categories of users and so we're likely to support both". He added in a later comment that "The one thing we want for Linux Mint 13 is a desktop people can use and say 'this is better than Gnome 2'. It's ambitious, we made the first steps with MGSE, but more work is needed and we won't achieve this goal simply by writing extensions."
Despite its alpha status, Cinnamon can already be installed for testing in Linux Mint 12 with the commands "
apt update; apt install cinnamon-session", and then either logging out and selecting "Cinnamon" in the GNOME login session selection before logging back in or running "
cinnamon --replace". Cinnamon source code can found on github where the GPLv2 (or later) licensed code's design philosophy is summarised as having an emphasis "on making users feel at home and providing them with an easy to use and comfortable desktop experience".