Linux Mint 12: Review

Linux Mint 12 was released 4 days ago on November 26 (Release Announcement). This is a reviw of Mint 12 based mostly on my initial impressions. (I added the “more” tag because of all the screenshots.)

For those who don’t know, Mint is based on Ubuntu (probably the most used and known distro). It has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity which has been attributed to its ease of use (over Ubuntu with Unity). Those who watch Distrowatch will have seen Mint rapidly gain page views eventually well surpassing Ubuntu, the former champion of desktop Linux. Of course this is just page views and Ubuntu almost certainly still has more users but Mint is becoming a very popular distro.

Now enough talk of Mint’s success. The purpose of this post is to review Linux Mint 12.

A New Interface

Mint has adopted Gnome 3 as its default interface but in its own customized way. The Mint team has created a set of Mint extensions (MGSE) to augment the functionality of Gnome Shell. The default desktop looks like this:

The Mint 12 Desktop

The Mint 12 Desktop

Mint has created a desktop that is an interesting hybrid of Gnome 3 and the traditional Mint desktop. Gnome 3 on top, More traditional on the bottom. Her is a sampling of the interface

To access the Gnome 3 part of the interface simply push your cursor into the upper left corner of your desktop. You will be presented with something like this:

Gnome 3 in Mint

This functions as a window switcher, an launcher and a search. The bar on the left is your favorites. Favorites con be added by dragging from the applications pane. The other applications are accessed by clicking on the application button. You can then use the menu to find the app you are looking for. The search works from either pane. It searches applications, files’ and folders.

Application Menu: Gnome 3  Mint

Applications in Gnome Shell

The bottom menu is a bit different from past mintMenu’s (not as good, in my opinion). The favorites are on a bar at the left and the standard category-based menu is on the right and a search bar on top.

Mint Menu

The Bottom Menu

There is a certain amount of customization possible. A tool unhelpfully named Advanced Settings is used for much of it. You can change which of the Mint Gnome Shell Extensions are enabled (you can have pure Gnome 3 if you desire), change themes and other similar useful and important things. You can also change the background , but only in the traditional way. Note that after disabling extensions then re-enabling them you must log out then log back in for them to reappear and work properly.

All in all, Mint has done a pretty good job with their modified Gnome 3 interface. It works well, allowing you to use Gnome 3 in a more traditional way but it has a few quirks. For example you cannot add favorites to the menu from the bottom menu. You must instead add them from th standard Gnome 3 menu. The bottom menu could also be better. This somewhat odd hybrid desktop could be seen as a stepping stone to vanilla Gnome 3 or perhaps it is here to stay like the previous Mint interfaces.

However for those who are reluctant switchers, You can still use your familiar Linux Mint 11-like desktop. Simply choose MATE (a Gnome 2 fork) as your desktop environment when you log in.


Pretty straight forward, almost the same as the other releases. I did learn that you could upgrade Ubuntu 11.10 to Mint which was an interesting discovery.

Included Software

Again, almost the same as previous releases


Linux Mint 12 sustains Mint’s excellent reputation. Mint does a good job of bringing Gnome 3 to users that are stuck on the traditional desktop. The interface still has some rough edges but they will no doubt be fixed in the next release.


One Response to Linux Mint 12: Review

  1. Pingback: Best Linux Distro for Absolute Beginners « PC and Penguin

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