Mint and Cinnamon

Since Fall 2012, the computers in the Math/CS department's labs have been running a version of Linux called Linux Mint, with a user interface called the Cinnamon Desktop. This replaces Ubuntu Linux. The latest version of Ubuntu uses the Unity desktop, which is a departure from the traditional type of Linux desktop environment. Linux Mint is actually built on Ubuntu, but it substitutes its own Cinnamon Desktop for Unity. Cinnamon is a more traditional desktop environment. Starting in Fall 2016, we are using Linux Mint 18. This page introduces you to some of its features, not all of which are obvious.

There is not much that is new compared to Linux Mint 17. The text editor gedit has been renamed to xed (but gedit has been defined as an alias on the command line meaning "xed".) Also, "go" has been redefined as an alias meaning "gvfs-open"; A command of the form go <file> can be used to open many kinds of file with their default applications. You might find that some of the default system settings, such as for window placement, have been changed to annoying values. (To change the window placement setting, go to the Cinnamon Settings panel for "Windows", then to the "Behavior" tab, and change the setting for "Location of newly opened windows" to "Automatic".)

Cinnamon uses a fairly traditional Applications menu, which you can access by clicking "Menu" at the bottom, left corner of the screen. Here's what it looks like and some hints about how it works:

Note that an easy way to start an application is to hit the "Meta" key on the keyboard and then start typing the name of the application. A few keystrokes will usually select the application that you want, and you can launch it by hitting return. (In fact, you don't even need to know the name -- the menu will search for keywords and comments about the application. For example, if you want a text editor, you can start typing "text editor" and the menu will soon select the xed application.)

Right-click on an application in the menu to get some options, including one ot add the application to the panel. This will put a icon in the bar at the bottom of the screen that you can click on to launch the application.

You can configure a lot of Cinnamon's properties. Use the Cinnamon Settings icon in the menu. For example, in the Cinnamon Settings window, click on "Desktop", and you will find a screen where you can say what icons you want on the Desktop. (You might want a Trash icon and no Computer icon.) If you go to "Themes" and then "Icon Themes", you can select the icons that are used at various places on the Desktop. The picture above uses the "Mint-X" icon theme; you might not see the same icons.


Cinnamon gives you two or four workspaces by default, depending on when your account was created. You can use the key combinations Control-Alt-Left_Arrow and Control-Alt-Right_Arrow to move from workspace to workspace. Use i style="white-space:pre">Control-Alt-Down_Arrow to reveal all the windows in the current workspace, and use Control-Alt-Up_Arrow to see all workspaces. Here's what that looks like, if you have two workspaces:

In this view, point at one of the workspaces, and Cinnamon will arrange the windows on that workspace so that you can see them all. Click on a window to select it. There's a "+" sign on the right that you can click to add a workspace, and you can click a workspace's close box to delete it.


The first time you log in, you will see message box similar to the following illustration. You can use some of the links in the box to learn more about Mint and Cinnamon, but you probably just want to uncheck "Show this dialog at startup" and close it: