Cinnamon – A Great Alternative Desktop Environment For Gnome Shell [Linux]

Gnome 2 has been a favorite of many Linux users. The simple, yet fully customizable interface is what won the hearts of many users, and it is not surprising that when the Gnome team releases Gnome 3 which is more resource intensive and radically different from Gnome 2, many users protested. Many developers started to create their own desktop environment, trying to mimic the look, feel and behavior of Gnome 2. Cinnamon is one of the few that did a great job.

Cinnamon is created by Clement Lefebvre, the Linux Mint founder and lead developer. It is a fork of Gnome Shell, but with the look and feel, and even the functionality of Gnome 2. The focus of Cinnamon is to make the users “feel at home with an easy to use and comfortable desktop experience“. After trying it out, I am pretty sure it has achieved its aim.

The cinnamon package is already available in the Linux Mint repo,. If you are a Linux Mint user, you can easily install it via the command:

sudo apt-get install cinnamon

In Ubuntu, you will have to add the PPA before you can install:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install cinnamon

Users of Fedora and other distro can follow the instructions here to install Cinnamon in your system.

Once you have installed Cinnamon, log out of your current session and select “Cinnamon” in the login screen.

cinnamon-login

The default desktop layout comes with a bottom panel with the Menu button and several app launchers. There is also a system tray showing the calendar and network settings. It is pretty bare, just like Gnome 2.

cinnamon-desktop

The Menu button is the popular MintMenu in Linux Mint that sort all your applications into various categories. You can also drag any application from it and drop to the panel for quick access.

cinnamon-menu

In addition, you can also right click at the system tray and add/remove applets, much like the way you do it in Gnome 2. I know what you are going to ask – Nope, you can’t use Gnome 2 applet here. There is a good list of applets in the library, but if that is not enough, you can also download more from the Cinnamon applets page. To install the applet, you have to extract the zip file and place it in the “./local/share/cinnamon/applets” folder.

cinnamon-add-applets

The Cinnamon Settings is the most important part of the Cinnamon desktop and it contains all the settings to make Cinnamon looks great and performs well.

You can access Cinnamon Settings from “Menu -> Preferences -> Cinnamon Settings”.

cinnamon-settings

At the Panel setting, you can configure whether to auto-hide the panel and whether it should be at the top, bottom or both (the classic Gnome 2 way). There is also a Panel edit mode. In this mode, you can drag, drop and move the app launcher to your favorite order and position.

cinnamon-panel-settings

The calendar option allows you to edit your own date format to display in the panel. The default is showing “Day (of the week) Date Hour:Min”, but if you are like me who don’t like to see the date in the time, you can remove the “%b %e” from the input field.

The Hot Corner settings is where you can assign a corner of your desktop for a specific task. At the moment, you can only assign one corner and one task (either “Show all windows” or “Show all workspace”. You can also hide the “Activity Overview” icon.

cinnamon-hot-corner

cinnamon-hot-corner-effects

Cinnamon support custom themes, applets and extensions. You can download any of these from Cinnamon site. Similarly you need to place them in the respective folder within the “./local/share/cinnamon/” folder. After that, you can then go to the Cinnamon Settings to activate your themes, applets, or extensions.

Cinnamon also support desktop effect, much like the way Compiz does. The desktop effects are rather minimal, focusing mainly on windows minimizing, maximizing and closing effects.

The Desktop is where you can configure whether the Computer icon, Home icon, and various mounted hard drive should appear on your desktop or not. Similarly, you can change the mouse double click action on a window title bar. I also like how it allows you to switch the window button from right to left, or on both sides.

Cinnamon is a very polished Linux desktop that will make many users “feel at home”. While it is a fork of Gnome Shell trying to mimic the look and feel of Gnome 2, it does comes with plenty of extra features that make it very user-friendly and customizable. One thing for sure, it doesn’t look and feel like Gnome Shell at all and the panel is definitely a welcome return. If you are a Gnome 2 fan, I will sure you will fall in love with Cinnamon.

Try it out and let us know if Cinnamon can make it to your favorite Linux desktop list.