Linux Mint is one of the most famous desktop Linux distributions. It is based on Ubuntu, and is generally thought to be a beginner-friendly Linux distribution that can be used by anyone, even by new users who are migrating from the Windows world.
Mint has been in the scene since 2006, arguable still using the same look & feel, but there’s more to Mint than what meets the eye, and the eye does not go unwanting. In our quick article today, we’ll give you some reasons on why Linux Mint can be a good distribution to start your Linux journey with.
Traditional Desktop Layout
The first thing you’ll notice about Mint is how traditional their desktop layout is; A taskbar at the bottom of the screen, and a normal desktop where you can place icons, just like Windows XP, 7 and 10. This makes Linux Mint a very good option for those who are used to Windows and want to continue having that layout in the Linux world.
What’s noticeable about Mint is that it uses the same layout regardless of the desktop environment; Linux Mint comes in 3 possible desktops: Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce. But regardless of which one you choose to download, you’ll always notice that Mint is using the same layout.
The taskbar at the bottom of the screen is also similar to the structure of the one in Windows: A start menu icon at the beginning, followed by various launchers, and then the currently opened windows, and lastly the system tray plate.
Special Mint Apps
The second thing you’ll notice about Linux Mint is that it offers you many special applications developed by the Mint team. For example, you have:
- Mint Update: A graphical update manager for Linux Mint.
- Mint Install: A software center for Linux Mint where you can browse and install tons of programs.
- Mint Stick: Burn any ISO image file to a USB stick, or simply format it.
- Mint Drivers: Install graphics drivers (and drivers for other components) graphically and quickly.
- Mint Report: Browse log files related to your system and programs’ crash reports.
- Mint Upload: Small utility to upload files to the Internet via FTP, STFP and SCP.
- Mint Nanny: Simple parental control application that blocks access to certain domain names on the Internet.
- Warp: A small utility to share files between devices on the LAN network.
- PIA Manager: For those of you are subscribed to Private Internet Access VPN, this programs allows you to connect your system to it.
- X-Apps: Forked traditional utilities from the GNOME stack, such as the text editor, the system monitor, the image viewer and many other tools.
- And of course, there’s Linux Mint’s Cinnamon desktop, which comes with the Nemo file manager and other components.
- And there’s Linux Mint’s contributions to the MATE desktop.
It is hard honestly to find a Linux distribution that does the same effort as Mint in terms of providing applications for every need in order to maintain the comfort of their users. I know some Linux distributions that don’t even ship an office suite.
Stable User Experience
We have been following the development of the Linux Mint distribution for more than 11 years, and if you did the same, you’ll notice that the user experience of versions like 6 and 7 of Mint (Which were released in 2009 and 2010) are almost identical to the newest versions released this year. Of course, there were design revamps, new icons and themes, better UIs and more stuff like this. But the core Mint experience remained the same.
You need the same number of clicks to launch an application as you did 10 years ago, you need the same number of clicks to search files on your computers as you did 10 years ago. The bottom bar remained at its place since the very first few versions of Linux Mint in 2006, the desktop icons remained working and functional since that time too.
For comparison, here are two pictures of Linux Mint 19.3 (Released in December 2019), and Linux Mint 3.0 (Released in 2007):
Such thing is very important for many users, users who do not want to change the way they do things, and want to immediately just use their PCs to do the same work they used to do as before. This sadly can not be expected to happen in other distributions that use the GNOME or KDE desktops (Today’s GNOME is totally different than GNOME in 2010, and KDE 3 or 4 is different than 5).
Because of the features above, and because Linux Mint also comes with many themes and icons for eyecandy, and additionally because both the Cinnamon and MATE desktops are feature-complete, then you can immediately start enjoying your Linux Mint installation right after you install it. We have huge lists of things to do after installing Ubuntu, Fedora and openSUSE, but there’s no need for such lists at all in the case of Mint, as everything any average user needs is already shipped by default.
This makes Mint a perfect choice for those of you who are searching for a distribution that they can install on the PCs of their parents or grandparents without requiring additional support and steps.
Based on Ubuntu
Linux Mint being based on Ubuntu allows it to enjoy the same features Ubuntu enjoys; It receives most of its 60000 package updates from Ubuntu’s official repositories, and does support adding PPAs to it. If you have a 3rd-party program that works on Ubuntu, then it will probably also work seamlessly on Mint too.
It also means that Linux Mint can theoretically enjoy the same Ubuntu LTS support period, which is 5 years. So you can stick to using your Mint installation for many years to come if you want.
Why NOT Start your Linux Journey with Linux Mint?
What we mentioned above was the “positive” side of using Mint. However, as we try to be honest in our advice and reviews, there are some issues when it comes to using Mint.
There are some hardware compatibility issues with Mint; For example, the latest versions of Mint didn’t work on our AMD Ryzen 2500U CPU. And even when we tried some workarounds, the graphics driver never worked and we were forced to boot it in the software rendering mode. The parent distribution, Ubuntu, had no issues at all, but Mint did.
Sometimes a bug appears with the screensaver, where you try to awake your laptop and all you can see on the screen is a reflection of yourself on the empty black screen in front of you.
The Mint team removed Google as a default search engine in Firefox, and you need to visit a special URL in order to install it back (You need to click on that tiny Google icon in the bottom of the page). This can cause some headache for some users. And the Firefox package is installed in a way that the Linux Mint version gets a higher priority than the Ubuntu’s version, so in each new update, you’ll notice that some of your settings have been reset.
Because of dependencies issues, installing other desktops on your Mint installation is not quite feasible. If you try to install GNOME Shell on your Mint installation for example, then you may find some issues and bugs on the long run.
The Bottom Line
Aside from the issues mentioned above, Linux Mint can be considered a good Linux distribution to try. Many users prefer it over Ubuntu due to its stable UX and the other applications it provides. If you are new to the Linux world, then it would be a good idea to spend a week or so in trying Mint and other Linux distributions to see which one is a better option for you.
Mint is totally funded by its community and sponsors, they receive something like $15000-25000 in user donations alone each month (excluding sponsors), so it would be safe to assume that Mint isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.