I have been using Ubuntu since 2006 and I always felt that it is one of the easiest to use distro, especially for new Linux users. That was in the past. Nowadays, when people ask me for recommendation, I would certainly recommend Linux Mint over Ubuntu, and here are the reasons.
Note: This is mainly a comparison of Linux Mint and Ubuntu (unity version) and why I think Linux Mint is better. No offense to those who are using other distro and loving it.
Cinnamon vs Unity
Canonical (the team behind Ubuntu) created a new desktop manager, also known as Unity and added their own customizations to it. Similarly, Linux Mint also created their own version of desktop manager, also known as Cinnamon (a fork of Gnome 3) and use it for Linux Mint 13 and 14. The only difference between the two – Cinnamon gives a much better user experience than Unity.
The most impressive thing about Linux Mint is that during the transition from Gnome 2 to Gnome 3, they managed to keep the user interface consistent. Gnome Shell differs greatly from Gnome 2, both in the UI and the backend coding; and yet when Linux Mint created Cinnamon, they are able to retain the same UI found in their previous version. This means that users upgrading from an older version don’t have to spend money relearning the new interface.
For Unity, it is definitely a good attempt and innovation by the Canonical team, but a poorly implemented one. If you are coming from the old Gnome 2 desktop, transiting to Unity is definitely a difficult and frustrating experience. Window control buttons moved from right to left, without an easy way to switch it back; Global menu doesn’t work for all apps. Pidgin replaced with Empathy and it doesn’t work most of the time. Amazon ads in my desktop? No thanks!
As a long time Ubuntu user, I can’t get myself to like Unity. With Cinnamon, I love it the moment I started using it.
Users First or Features First?
One thing that I noticed for both Linux Mint and Ubuntu is that one of them put their users first, while the other focuses on new features development rather than user experience.
The primary aim of Linux Mint is to “produce a modern, elegant and comfortable operating system which is both powerful and easy to use.“. I think they have definitely achieved the “easy to use” part. One of the key to make things easy to use is to keep it simple and consistent throughout. Apple’s iOS is a great example. What I am impress about Linux Mint is that the UI has been consistent throughout all its releases, even though the technology underlying it is totally different. This means that when I upgrade from one version to another, I won’t have to relearn everything again.
Ubuntu, on the other hand, has no fear of testing new grounds. They are willing to innovate and try new stuff. They are also willing to sacrifice user experience in the process of doing so.
The Dash is great, but it doesn’t make it easier for the users to search for apps. Pidgin was replaced with Empathy when it is still a half-baked product. They switched the default music player from Rhythmbox to Banshee, and only to go back to Rhythmbox again. They make Unity the default desktop manager when it is still buggy. They introduced the appindicator which blocked some notification icons from appearing in the system tray, and the list goes on…
Canonical has definitely done a great job innovating and some of their new features are really cool and useful. I only hope that in the process, they can do a better job integrating the new features without compromising the user experience.
While there are some useful tools like Synapse (application launcher), Cairo dock, Ubuntu Tweak, that allows you to customize Ubuntu and make it easier to use, or switch to other desktop manager instead of Unity, the question is, why do you need such customization in the first place? If you need to make so many customization just to make it usable, then it is no longer usable at all.
Since Linux Mint is a variant of Ubuntu, all the customizations that you did in Ubuntu will work in Linux Mint as well. However, while in Linux Mint, I don’t find myself doing a lot of customization as most of the things just work, or pre-installed. For sure, I won’t need to switch to another desktop manager in Linux Mint.
As mentioned earlier, this is a comparison between Ubuntu (Unity version) and Linux Mint and why I think Linux Mint is better. The good thing about Linux is that there are plenty of distro out there and you can easily find the one you like. However, if you were to ask me for a recommendation, I would surely recommend Linux Mint over Ubuntu.
What do you think?
And let’s have a quick poll: Which do you think is better: Ubuntu or Linux Mint?