The Cinnamon Challenge : The Aftermath of a Year of Cinnamon Goodness
I thought I’d weight in on my experiences so far with the Cinnamon desktop environment, which I came into contact with last year. While the project is coming along nicely, it does have it’s pro’s and cons. I wanted to go over what I have come across is using the environment over that past year. Read on for more.
What cinnamon does for you
The cinnamon desktop is the most intriguing DE I have come across in the past few years. I will whisper “gnome” quietly as to not ensue a right. The Mint project provides much beloved improvements to Cinnamon, but the DE is available to many distros, and not just tied to Linux Mint. The DE is most attractive to those hoping to get back some of the love they used to have for Gnome, after Gnome3 has largely diverged from where it was in Gnome 2. While extensions can make up for some of this, it is still frustrating at times when you truly wish to tweak things via traditional settings panels. The aim of Cinnamon is to merge Gnome 2’s classic interface with some areas of Gnome3, while adding cool features along the way. There are times when I feel like the photo above with cinnamon, but mostly, it is a pleasant experience.
The main interface
The interface is still a bit of hit or miss. And this is fine given how young the project is. Let’s talk about the main menu, launched via click or WINDOWS key. The menu is fantastic. Type to find a buried program, a la Windows 7, a favorites list, and a superb double column structure, in which the content on the right column changes as the left hand column is changed (i.e. the categories). This hybrid of Gnome2 and Gnome3 is the strongest feature of Cinnamon and it does it’s job well.
The panels are another story, and seem to infant in their design to be A+ to me yet. In Gnome2, moving items, adding items, and manipulating things on the panel was a breeze. Add a separator here, add an applet there, and you’re on your way. With Cinnamon, the experience is still half=baked with the panel. And again, I stress that is fine, as I know things are progressing at a nice pace. My main grip is Panel Edit Mode. This function seems nice and dandy, until you actually move and configure items on your panel. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to move items to specific spots, or in another order, only to have Cinnamon crash/reboot, or place, inexplicably, my weather applet in the center of another panel area. Moral of the story? Once you get things in place, try not to touch them 🙂 I do appreciate being able to manually restart cinnamon myself in a very simple manor, rather than killing X Server or whatever method you would use (logout/login).
Thankfully the ‘expose’ like “scale” hotspaces function makes the jump from Gnome3 as well. I very much appreciate that the Cinnamon developers are trying their best to thrive on feedback about what individuals love and don’t love (at all) from Gnome 3. The convergence is inspiring. Also on by default, are the classic “home, computer, trash, and ‘mounted volumes’ ” icons.
Thankfully, if you feel ambitious enough, there is the ‘dconf’ editor, which allows you to fix a lot of things that are not quite baked yet into the Control Center or the still crufty, but necessary “Settings” module from Gnome3. Equally, but less confusing is the “edit menu” shortcut to Alacarte (right-click the Cinnamon menu button). Thankfully, Alacarte (the menu editor itself) functions fine, and I experienced far less issues with orphaned icons and shortcuts I did with Gnome3 “vanilla.” In the “Cinnamon Control Center,” are many nice and “cleaned up” settings, that reflect the immense ambition of the project. Where this still falls apart is up next…
Also, new but welcomed, is the addition of some nice themes for Cinnamon. This adds a good bit of flavor if you wish, to your existing implementation of Cinnamon. Cinnamon does also contain it’s own screensaver implementation, but like Gnome3, has as little as 2 options for this. You can however install xscreensaver (which is as old as the dinosaurs, but still works!), and remove the Cinnamon screensaver. Is the desire for a pacman screensaver or pong animation while you are away completely gone ? It still baffles me that Gnome3/Cinnamon feel nobody cares about screensavers, when every other OS seems to have them. Do they consume too much power or is there some reason I am missing here?
My main gripe:
The one main gripe I still have about cinnamon is this, settings. Again, I cannot stress this enough, I know and realize they are working on this, but the need for both the gnome-settings control panel and the Cinnamon control panel / center, is to say the least, highly annoying. This is even more amplified if you are a new user. Now, if you are fine with the “defaults” of what is presented/done with your system after installation, this is not so much an issue. One quick example is the “Power” settings menu item, which is only present in my gnome-settings control center, and not in the Cinnamon Control Center. I was tired of my display blanking after 5 minutes, and wanted to change that time, and realized it existed no where in the Cinnamon Control Center. As time goes on, these missing “features” of the Cinnamon Control Center will be added, and eventually we will have no need for the “old” control panel. What gets me though, is some distributions (*cough* Fedora 19), hide the old control center from Gnome, making it frustrating for those that do not know.
There are some tweaks to the Sound settings that could use some love too. Not really a fault of Gnome3 or Cinnamon, but it would be great to be able to select the sound server (pulse or alsa) in the sound settings. Relying on ‘pavucontrol’ to configure the hidden recording option to get Audacity going is frustrating. For most, the existence of ALSA and Pulseaudio is a necessary evil. Sorry for ranting about this point, but it is sort of in the context of using this DE and Gnome3 as well.
Aside from the Cinnamon Control Center, I am a huge supporter of this fork of Gnome3, and use it as my primary DE on Arch Linux. I was not only put off from the lack of control, I suppose as a more intermediate user, of Gnome3, but also the large memory footprint of Gnome3 as well. Of all the DE’s that I have used lately, this one is my particular favorite. I suppose I just was never a “KDE guy,” although I admit the Qt “visuals” are quite aesthetically pleasing. This Desktop Environment is definitely one to keep an eye on, even if you do not use it. With improvements happening all the time, I am glad to use it. The alternative to Cinnamon is also the MATE desktop, but I found myself missing using the WINDOWS hotkey to bring up the menu, and the instant search, among other things. So, for a great convergence of Gnome2 and Gnome3, Cinnamon is your go-to in that respect.
If you would like me to elaborate on other aspects of the system, than just this overview, please leave a comment below and I will write more on that subject matter.