I recently looked at the beta versions of Linux Mint across the 3 desktops that they offer. Now that the stable release is up on us it’s time for that full review. The main desktop Cinnamon is what I’ll be basing this review on though you’ll find most of the new features also apply to their XFCE and MATE versions too.
So starting with the installation process. The ISO file size weighs in at about 1.8GB for their Cinnamon desktop which is basically their flagship version. The MATE ISO comes in a tiny bit beefier at 1.9GB and the XFCE version 1.8GB. Once you’ve decided which desktop you’re going to be using the installation is a pain free process that should be complete in under 10 minutes on most machines. The computer I’m using took about half that time, so no complaints there. As with most Linux installations you’ll get a live environment where you can have a quick look around before committing to installing to disk. As ever you can let the installer automatically partition the disks for you or if you prefer to set these up manually like I do that option is also available.
After the installation process has finished you’ll be greeted with your desktop. The default look and feel of Linux Mint isn’t anything out of the ordinary and should even feel familiar to those of you who are making the switch from Windows 10.
You’ll have a panel at the bottom which I personally find rather large with a panel height of 40. This isn’t an issue though as it’s easily changed right clicking on the panel and selecting “Panel Settings” where you will find ways to change the look and behaviour of the panel. You’ll have an application launcher to the very left of your panel where you can scroll through applications by category and there is also a search box at the top where you can hit a few keys of followed by enter to open applications without having to use your mouse. You’ll also find icons here to handle actions like shutting down, locking your screen etc. This doesn’t vary too much to their XFCE and MATE versions which use the whisker menu and the brisk menu.
To the right of the application launcher is a “Show Desktop” button which will minimize all running applications on the first click. Clicking it a second time will restore the applications. At the very right of the panel you’ll find your system tray which has got a few updates in this version of Mint.
These new features are;
The ability to use the scrolling wheel on your mouse to perform quick functions over certain icons without having to open them up in the settings. For example scrolling with the mouse wheel over the volume icon will allow you to change the volume and pressing down on the mouse wheel will let you mute/unmute all audio.
The tray icons have also been given a visual refresh keeping a nice consistent look across all three versions of Linux Mint which also have HiDPI support.
If like me you aren’t a huge fan of the default colour scheme this can all be changed very easily by popping open the “Welcome Screen”. If you navigate to the “First Steps” section you’ll find you can change the desktop colours rather easily. You’re able to choose from a selection of 11 different accent colours which will change the colour of your icon theme and certain parts of your application windows. Just below the colour selection is handy little toggle that will allow you to switch from light and dark themes.
All of these changes can be done on the fly and don’t require closing and reopening applications to apply your new look. It’s a quick and seamless switch that I find very impressive. And for those of you out there that prefer a more traditional feel to your panel you can switch from “Modern” to “Traditional” in the panel layout section. Modern being the default selection which groups your windows together in a large icon giving you a number on the top left of the icon letting you know how many windows are active in that group. The traditional layout will give you a smaller panel with a more old school window list that isn’t grouped and provides the the title of the window next to the applications icon.
I think this is a brilliant inclusion to Linux Mint as it easily allows the user to change the look and feel of their desktop without hunting through different settings and applications. You’ll also find quick ways to launch things like the System Settings, The update manager etc from this same window.
If you aren’t a huge fan of the default wallpaper you’re in luck. Linux Mint features a new collection of wallpapers that you can check out under “Ulyana” in the background settings by right clicking on the desktop and selecting change background. There is a good variety here to choose from with my personal favourite being “Wave”.
One of the main new features of Linux Mint is the update to Cinnamon which is now version 4.6. Cinnamon 4.6 brings with it a lot of new features that I’m sure many users have been waiting for. One of them being the introduction of fractional scaling. What this means is you will be able to set the scaling more granularly on each monitor. This can all be done in the display settings application where you will also now be able to set the refresh rate too.
The file manager Nemo has also received some new updates that will increase it’s overall performance. You’ll now have your contents of directories displaying generic icons while the thumbnails are being rendered which should speed things up quite significantly.
The applications that are installed out the box are good mix of programs and should have most users covered. You’ll have the full LibreOffice Suite, Firefox is your default web browser and your desktop email client is Thunderbird. As well as a host of other applications that all feel like they belong. One of the my favourite of these applications is “Waprinator” which is a handy little tool that allows you to effortlessly share files with other computers using “Warpinator” on the same network. New applications can be installed through the Software Manager which also includes the Flathub plug-in which means you can install flatpak applications with little effort too.
As the base of Mint 20 is Ubuntu 20.04 it will also bring with it many of the improvements that were made there. However by default you’ll find that Snapd is disabled and won’t mysteriously find it’s way back on your system by using APT packages to install it. Personally I’m not too bothered about this but I know there has been some division about this decision that Linux Mint has made. Lastly Linux Mint 20 ships with a new Linux kernel which is 5.4.
Overall I think this is a brilliant release from the Linux Mint team. During my time with it it’s been snappy and responsive and hasn’t crashed once. The new features are a welcome addition to an already refined Linux distribution. This is what I’ll be recommending new Linux users use but that isn’t to say it has nothing to offer the more seasoned users either. This is an impressive release that will serve most users well in the coming years.
Click here to download Linux Mint 20. What do you think of this new release from Linux Mint? Let me know in the comments below!