30 Jun 2016 - by 'Maurits van der Schee'
Linux Mint 18 is released today and I understand why Linux Mint is the world's most popular Linux distribution (according to DistroWatch). It has all the goodness of Ubuntu 16.04, combined with a user-friendly, familiar and modern looking interface with plenty of options to customize.
There is a Cinnamon and a MATE version of Linux Mint 18. I tried them both briefly and I noticed several differences. The MATE version seems more light-weight as it feels a bit more snappy. It sports "Caja" as a file manager which is less powerful than "Nemo", but still does not feel like it is missing important features. The MATE version has more configuration options than the Cinnamon version. The Cinnamon version on the other hand looks more modern and polished. Your desktop on a cube and wobbly windows, remember that thing? I think it was in 2007 when I have first seen that. It is still supported in MATE, wohoo!
The MATE version of Mint feels a lot like Xubuntu (my favorite distro at the moment), but it seems a little slower and not necessarily more beautiful. The Cinnamon version of Mint is actually a leap forward compared to Xubuntu in terms of features and eye-candy, but is even heavier. I would say that Gnome flashback feels a bit faster than Mint Cinnamon. I think most people will feel that Mint Cinnamon is the prettiest desktop. It helps that Mint Cinnamon's color scheme is easy adjustable, while it is hard to get rid of the orange and purple in Gnome flashback.
I would argue that Mint Cinnamon hits a sweet spot for beginners. It has a familiar interface, is user-friendly, not as slow as Windows and it looks quite pretty. It also just works, something you can never take for granted. Mint MATE is definitely aimed at geeks: die-hard Linux users that love to work with a super fast machine that is ultra-configurable and runs a (for them) familiar Gnome 2 environment. It also has that "geek" factor of being a thing of the past that only attracts long-term, thus experienced, Linux users. MATE is almost as fast as XFCE and it has more features and configuration options, so it may even be a viable option for Xubuntu users (like me).
Linux Mint has added some really nice features that standard Ubuntu does not has (by default), such as: Backup software, Graphical firewall, Domain blocker, Update manager with "conservative", "normal" and "progressive" setting. Also the file managers "Caja" (MATE) and "Nemo" (Cinnamon) work really well (out-of-the-box), where Thunar and Nemo need patches to run on Xubuntu and standard Ubuntu.
"Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon" is my new default operating system advice for people with fast machines, beginners or experts. If you are not happy with that you may try the MATE version or even Xubuntu 16.04 or Ubuntu 16.04 with Gnome flashback (in that order).