10 reasons to use Cinnamon as your Linux desktop environment

10 reasons to use Cinnamon as your Linux desktop environment

Cinnamon is a Linux desktop environment reminiscent of GNOME 2 that offers flexibility, speed, and a slew of features.

10 reasons to use Cinnamon as your Linux desktop environment
Image credits : 

Sam Mugraby, Photos8.com. CC BY 2.0.

Recently I installed Fedora 25, and found that the current version of KDE Plasma was unstable for me; it crashed several times a day before I decided to try to try something different. After installing a number of alternative desktops and trying them all for a couple hours each, I finally settled on using Cinnamon until Plasma is patched and stable. Here's what I found.

Introducing Cinnamon

In 2011, GNOME 3, with the new GNOME Shell was released and the new interface immediately generated both positive and negative responses. Many users and developers liked the original GNOME interface enough that multiple groups forked it and one of those forks was Cinnamon.

One of the reasons behind the development of the GNOME shell for GNOME 3 was that many components of the original GNOME user interface were no longer being actively developed. This was also an issue for Cinnamon and some of the other forked GNOME projects. The Linux Mint project was one of the prime movers for Cinnamon because GNOME is the official desktop environment for Mint. The Mint developers have continued to develop Cinnamon to the point where GNOME itself is no longer required, and Cinnamon is a completely independent desktop environment that retains many of the interface features that users appreciated about the GNOME interface.

cinnamon-desktop-environment.jpg

Figure 1: The default Cinnamon desktop with the System Settings tool open.

Cinnamon 3.2 is the current release version. Cinnamon is available for many distros besides Mint, including Fedora, Arch, Gentoo, Debian, and OpenSUSE, among others.

Reasons for using Cinnamon

Here are my top 10 reasons for using Cinnamon.

  1. Integration. The choice of a desktop has not been contingent upon the availability of applications written for it in a long time. All of the applications I use, regardless of the desktop for which they were written, will run just fine on any other desktop, and Cinnamon is no exception. All of the libraries required to run applications written for KDE, GNOME—or any other desktop that I use—are available and make using any application with the Cinnamon desktop a seamless experience.

  2. Looks. Let's face it, looks are important. Cinnamon has a crisp, clean look that uses easy to read fonts and color combinations. The desktop is not hampered by unnecessary clutter, and you can configure which icons are shown on the desktop using the System Settings => Desktop menu. This menu also allows you to specify whether the desktop icons are shown only on the primary monitor, only on secondary monitors, or on all monitors.

  3. Desklets. Desklets are small, usually single-purpose applications that can be added to your desktop. Only a few of these are available, but you can choose from things like CPU or disk monitors, a weather app, sticky notes, a desktop photo frame app, and time and date, among others. I like the time and date desklet because it is easier to read than the applet in the Cinnamon panel.

  4. Speed. Cinnamon is fast and snappy. Programs load and display fast. The desktop itself loads quickly during login, though this is just my subjective experience and is not based on any timed testing.

  5. Configuration. Cinnamon is not as configurable as KDE Plasma, but it is much more configurable than I originally thought the first time I tried it. The Cinnamon Control Center provides centralized access to many of the desktop configuration options. It has a main window from which the specific feature configuration windows can be launched. It is easy to select a new look from those available in the Themes section of System Settings. You can choose window borders, icons, controls, pointers, and the desktop basic scheme. Other choices include fonts and backgrounds. I find many of these configuration tools among the best I have encountered. A modest number of desktop themes are available, providing the ability to significantly alter the look of the desktop without the confusion of the massive numbers of choices that KDE provides.

  6. The Cinnamon Panel. The Cinnamon Panel, i.e., the toolbar, is initially configured very simply. It contains the menu used to launch programs, a basic system tray, and an application selector. The panel is easy to configure and adding new program launchers is simply a matter of locating the program you want to add in the main Menu; right click on the program icon and select "Add to panel." You can also add the launcher icon to the desktop itself, and to the Cinnamon "Favorites" launcher bar. You can also enter the panel's Edit mode and rearrange the icons.

  7. Flexibility. It can sometimes be difficult to locate a minimized or hidden running application and finding it on the toolbar application selector can be challenging if there are a number of running applications. In part, this is because the applications are not always in a sequence on the selector that makes them easy to find. So one of my favorite features is the ability to drag the buttons for the running applications and rearrange them on the selector. This can make it much easier to find and display windows belonging to applications because they can now be where I put them on the selector.

    The Cinnamon desktop also has a very nice pop-up menu that you can access with a right click. This menu has selections for some frequently used tasks such as accessing the Desktop Settings and adding Desklets, as well as other desktop-related tasks.

    One of these other menu items is “Create New Document” which uses the document templates located in the ~/Templates directory and lists each of them. Simply click on the template you want to use and a new document using that template is created using the default office application. In my case, that is LibreOffice.

  8. Multiple workspaces. Cinnamon offers multiple desktops like many other desktop environments. Cinnamon calls these "workspaces." The workspace selector is located on the Cinnamon panel and shows the outlines of the windows located on each workspace. Windows can be moved between workspaces or assigned to all. I did find that the workspace selector is sometimes a bit slow to catch up with the display of window locations so I switched the workspace selector to show the workspace numbers and not shadows of the windows in the workspaces.

  9. Nemo. Most desktops use their own preferred default applications for various purposes and Cinnamon is no exception. My preferred desktop file manager is Krusader, but Cinnamon uses Nemo as its default, so I just went with that for the duration of my test. I find that I like Nemo—a lot. It has a nice clean interface and most of the features I like and use frequently. It is easy to use while being flexible enough for my needs. Although Nemo is a fork of Nautilus, I find Nemo to be better integrated into the Cinnamon environment. The Nautilus interface seems to be somewhat poorly integrated and discordant with Cinnamon.

  10. Stability. Cinnamon is very stable and just works.

Conclusions

Cinnamon is a fork of the GNOME 3 desktop and appears to be intended as the GNOME desktop that never was. Its development seems to be the logical improvements that the Cinnamon developers thought were needed to improve and extend GNOME while retaining its unique and highly appreciated personality. It is no longer GNOME 3—it is different and better. Cinnamon looks good and it works very well for me and is a very nice change from KDE—which I still like very much. It took me a few days to learn how Cinnamon's differences could make my desktop experience better, and I am very glad to have learned a lot more about an excellent desktop.

Though I like Cinnamon, I would like to experiment with some others as well, and I am now going to switch to the LXDE desktop and try that out for a few weeks. I will share my experience with LXDE after I have spent some time using it.

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15 Comments

Greg P

Periodically I will venture off into some desktop environment other than KDE based on some article like this one, but shortly find myself venturing back. I can't see any of these 10 reasons that will cause me to switch at the moment.
Reason number 2 seems to be a standard comment from advocates of their desktop. To me, a clean, uncluttered desktop is a barely usable one. I just want to be able to clutter it up with what I want and need, that's all.

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jelabarre59

I think what the author meant was that Cinnamon doesn't fill the desktop with it's *own* clutter. You can fill the desktop up with whatever you want, but you don't have to contend with a desktop forcing it's own conventions on you (other than the continuing issue of wanting to hide/remove scrollbar arrows, but that's a discussion for another thread).

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Faldiin

"Cinnamon is a fork of the GNOME 2 desktop and appears to be intended as the GNOME desktop that never was."

This is an incorrect sentence in you conclusion. Cinnamon is a fork of Gnome 3 and is part of GTK+ v3. Mate is a fork of Gnome 2.

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dboth

You are correct - thanks for pointing that out. I will make the appropriate change today.

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Chuck Davis

It's foolish to try to use KDE on a non-KDE distribution! If you want to see the current status of KDE try it on one of the distros that supports KDE. I happen to prefer openSUSE but there are others. Red Had does not and probably never will produce a decent (i.e. usable) KDE spin.

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nonya

Like Greg, I have tried Cinnamon, Mate, LXDE, and other desktop environments. I do this by installing distros that use the desktop environment in question as the default. I always end up using KDE, as I like it better than any of the others.

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Paolobenve

Stability: I used Cinnamon for about an year, and a thing that happened and never found a solution was the crash of the panel. In Cinnamon the panel is part of Cinnamon itself, it's not an application on its own. Reloading Cinnamon didn't restore the crashed panel. I had to exit and log in again. This was what aparted me from Cinnamon. Now I'm stuck with Xfce, and I find it much more stable than Cinnamon.

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dboth

That is interesting. I never had any problems with any portion of the Cinnamon interface including the panel. Of course I only used Cinnamon for a few weeks and it is probably a more recent version than you used.

I will be using Xfce for a few weeks also as I write this series. I am currently using LXDE as I prepare the next article.

Thanks for your comment.

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iplayfast

I've been using Cinnamon for a few years now, kde has lost me years ago when it became too buggy to be useable. I don't want to mess around with the desktop or OS, I want to get work done and Cinnamon allows me to do that.

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Rubberman

I am using Mint 18 w/ Cinnamon on my new laptop/desktop computer. Overall, I like it. My other system/server is CentOS 6.8 running Gnome and I can configure them to look and behave very much alike, which is what I want. Less brain freeze moving between them that way.

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Bo Siger

Why not use anything modern that works with wayland. I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND X 11 ENTHUSIASTS.

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jelabarre59

Why not use anything modern that works with wayland. I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND X 11 ENTHUSIASTS.

Maybe because Wayland is hostile to people accessing GUI applications remotely? It may have the ability, but I get the impression the Wayland developers would prefer you were forbidden from using it.

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wavesailor

I'm keen to try Raspberry Pi’s PIXEL Linux desktop environment which is now available for x86 PCs. Super light weight so perfect for Older PC's and Laptops
Anyone try it yet?

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Fred McKinney

For the last several years, I've been mainly an Xfce user, along with using GNOME 2.x and LXDE along the way. I liked Xfce a lot until their decision to migrate to GTK 3, which made theming their panels a pain, plus its memory usage kept increasing. I also like to have access to themes that are the same thing in different colors, which Linux Mint provides by default. I thus decided to give their main (Cinnamon) version a try. I gotta say, I LOVE how the Mint team is doing things, and that Serena (version 18.1) is supported until 2021. I've gone ahead and installed it on both my desktop and laptop, and I gotta say, I LOVE IT, and in fact, Cinnamon is now my desktop environment of choice.

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Bo Siger

I will never use any X11 distro anymore. I also hope AROS and Haiku will be useable soon. jellebare 59 I can tell you they are working on it. Impressions might fool you. I also hope they will replace old unix crap with something better and keep and develop the good unix stuff. Unix was never close to what Amiga or Haiku were achieving. I am sorry but I am an ordinary desktop user and I use cheap laptops I have no need for X11 complications, whatever that is remote or new Linux x 11 eyecandy desktops.

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