There are several reasons one may like having multiple desktop environments side by side on one Linux distro. User interface, resource usage, extra features, and stability are some reasons some keep multiple desktop environments.
Linux Mint comes in different versions, with different desktop environments and default applications. Cinnamon, MATE, Xfce, and KDE are just some of the different versions of Linux Mint. Initially, you have to install one of these. Then, you can later install another desktop environment on top of it and run them side by side.
The Cinnamon desktop environment is the flagship of Linux Mint. It is based on the Gnome 3 desktop. It has, arguably, the prettiest interface. Cinnamon has lots of visual effects; therefore, it is more intensive on computer resources.
On the other hand, the MATE desktop environment is a continuation of the Gnome 2 desktop. It has a less stylish user interface compared with Cinnamon. That is not to say it is inferior. On the plus side, it consumes less system resources and is suitable for old computers with limited resources. For instance, I prefer to use MATE whenever I am about to use resource-intensive programs to reduce the stress on my RAM and processors.
Furthermore, the two desktop environments differ in respect to the default programs they come installed with. For instance, MATE has Caja as its default file manager. Cinnamon’s default is
Nautilus Nemo. Nonetheless, if you don’t like any default program, you are free to install and use one you like. You can make Cinnamon’s default file manager on MATE and vice versa.
It is possible for a Cinnamon user to install the MATE desktop alongside it and switch between them seamlessly. Similarly, a MATE user can also install and use the Cinnamon desktop without any problems. This tutorial assumes the user only has Linux Mint Cinnamon installed. The installation process is quite simple: just fire up the terminal and type the following command to install MATE and all of its required programs.
That’s all, you’re done! This process can also be done through Software Manager or Synaptic. Simply search for
mint-meta-mate, select it and click Install or Apply.
The same instructions apply to anyone on the MATE edition who wants to install Cinnamon. The only thing is that
mint-meta-cinnamon, instead of
mint-meta-mate, needs to be installed.
Don’t worry if you don’t see any indication that it installed after doing so. To switch to the MATE desktop, you need to first log out of your Cinnamon session.
Once on the log-on screen, select the desktop environment icon (this varies with display managers and may not look like the one in the image), and choose MATE from the drop-down options.
You should now be logged into the MATE desktop environment. You don’t need to learn anything extra to use MATE. It is intuitive. Go on and take a tour of the desktop environment. Should you want to customize the interface, do so via Control Center, under Appearance.
If you like a desktop environment more than your current one, it doesn’t always have to be an “X vs. Y” situation. You can sometimes install them side by side and enjoy the benefits of each. However, always check to see if it will not break anything.