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Cinnamon Desktop: Breaks with GNOME, finds beefed-up Nemo

It's all a bit more Windowsy than its ancestors

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Review The Cinnamon Desktop project recently released version 2, a major overhaul of the desktop environment that's best known as the default option for Linux Mint's flagship release.

Cinnamon 2.0 will be part of Linux Mint 16, "Petra", scheduled for release towards the end of November. The team behind Cinnamon plans to backport the 2.0 release for the Debian edition of Mint, as well as most recent LTS release: Linux Mint 13.

But the really big news in Cinnamon 2.0 is it should now be much easier to get the desktop running in any distro thanks to the fact that it's now independent of GNOME 3.

Cinnamon is still built on top of familiar GNOME technologies like GTK, but it no longer requires GNOME itself to be installed. Instead, Cinnamon 2.0 uses its own backend services and libraries to do the heavy lifting.

Like Ubuntu's Unity desktop, Cinnamon began life as an alternative interface for GNOME 3. Because GNOME 3 changes considerably with each six-month release, Cinnamon 1.x releases had to be built against specific versions of GNOME.

That mean, for example, Cinnamon 1.8 that shipped with Mint 15 was designed specifically to run atop GNOME 3.6. That tight coupling meant while it worked great in Linux Mint 15, it was - to say the least - a challenge to get it running on other distributions.

cinnamon2_windowsnapping3

Inspired by Microsoft's Xbox One - Snapped windows in action (click to enlarge)

Cinnamon 2.0 solves that by swapping out all the GNOME 3 guts for its own homegrown tools (the one exception being the Bluetooth daemon, which is still the GNOME 3 version). That makes Cinnamon more portable, which is great for users, but it also frees the developers to innovate and create new features without worrying about how they will be affected by future changes in GNOME.

Indeed, the fruits of the move away from GNOME tools to the new Cinnamon backend can already be seen. As lead developer Clement Lefebvre put it when he announced the new Cinnamon 2.0: "Some of the new features in Cinnamon 2.0 would not have been possible without [custom tools]."

He adds that from now on: "If a new feature requires changes across multiple components of the desktop, the team is no longer restricted by the limitation or the design of the GNOME backend components."

In other words, the future of the Cinnamon desktop is no longer bound to the future of GNOME 3.

If you're on Ubuntu or Mint there's a PPA available for Cinnamon 2.0. I also installed that in Fedora without difficulty.

Based on my testing I would suggest going with Fedora, Mint or Ubuntu 13.04. The just-released Ubuntu 13.10 did not play nicely with Cinnamon 2.0. Or at least, it doesn't play nicely alongside Unity, which I wasn't able to use again until I had un-installed Cinnamon 2.0.

What else is there and what do you get with your new homegrown Cinnamon backend?

For starters, you get some much improved user- and group-management tools and several new features for Nemo, Cinnamon's default file browser.

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