SLIDESHOW

Meet Linux Mint 12 'Lisa': A Tour in Pictures

With its longtime focus on usability, Linux Mint is now the fourth most widely used home operating system in the world, its makers say. Here's a taste of what the free and open-source OS is like.

Linux Mint 12 'Lisa': A Desktop Up-and-Comer

Following its launch in 2006, Linux Mint spent a long time in the number two position on DistroWatch's page-hit rankings, standing behind only the Ubuntu Linux distribution on which it's based. In the second half of 2011, however, Mint pulled ahead, and since then it has held the top spot on that list, surpassing Ubuntu considerably in the number of hits per day it gets.

DistroWatch rankings are just one indicator of popularity, but there's no doubt that Mint has come into its own in the past year or so. With a longstanding focus on usability, Linux Mint is now a favorite, especially in light of its flexible approach to today's new desktop environments. These days, it's a particularly good alternative for Ubuntu users not enamored with that distribution's mobile-inspired Unity interface, as well as for newcomers to Linux. And its forthcoming Cinnamon desktop holds even more potential for the future.

Wondering what the world's fourth most widely used home operating system looks like? Read on for a brief introduction in pictures to Linux Mint 12, aka "Lisa."

'Modern, Elegant, and Comfortable'

Ever since its debut with "Ada," Linux Mint has named its releases after women. The latest version, Linux Mint 12, is known as "Lisa." Though based on Ubuntu, Mint offers a distinct look and feel, along with a variety of graphical tools for enhanced usability. It also includes numerous multimedia codecs for excellent hardware compatibility. The goal of the Mint project is to provide "a modern, elegant, and comfortable operating system which is both powerful and easy to use," the creators say.

A Community-Driven Approach

As part of its focus on usability, Linux Mint offers users plenty of options for assistance, including documentation, tutorials, and community support. Since the software is community-driven, users are encouraged to send feedback to the project for incorporation into future improvements. Linux Mint requires very little maintenance, however, owing primarily to its conservative approach to software updates, a unique update manager, and the robustness of the Linux architecture.

A Hybrid Desktop Environment

Although Linux Mint 12 uses the controversial GNOME 3 desktop environment, it also offers MGSE, or Mint GNOME Shell Extensions, for users to customize their system. By restoring traditional desktop elements such as a bottom panel, an application menu, and a window list, along with a task-centric desktop and visible system tray icons, MGSE makes it possible for the wary to use GNOME 3 in a traditional way.

A Choice of Artwork

Among numerous artwork improvements in Linux Mint 12 are two new themes called Mint-Z and Mint-Z-Dark. Mint-Z was the theme featured in the previous slide; Mint-Z-Dark is shown here. Also available are assorted backgrounds, including a series of stunning photographs from India and Yellowstone National Park.

A Customizable Desktop

Part of the flexibility inherent in Mint 12's MGSE component is that it allows users to select which traditional extensions to enable on top of the GNOME 3 desktop. "You can disable all components within MGSE to get a pure GNOME 3 experience, or you can enable all of them to get a GNOME 3 desktop that is similar to what you’ve been using before," explains Mint founder and project lead Clement Lefebvre. "Of course, you can also pick and only enable the components you like, to design your own desktop."

An Array of Bundled Apps

Included among the many applications bundled with Linux Mint are Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, GIMP, and the Totem movie player. With version 12, Mint has also switched its default search engine to DuckDuckGo--which is notable primarily for the fact that it doesn't track users--but users can easily install something else if they prefer.

Two GNOMEs in One

In addition to MGSE, Mint users uncomfortable with GNOME 3 have another alternative in the form of MATE, a fork of the familiar GNOME 2 desktop widely used in older Linux distributions. MATE is included on the DVD edition of Linux Mint 12, and users of the CD edition can install it via the mint-meta-mate package.

A Taste of Home

GNOME 3 and the older but still very popular GNOME 2.32 desktop typically aren't compatible when run on the same system, but by using the MATE fork, Linux Mint gives users the best of both worlds. Close collaboration between the MATE developers and Linux Mint ensures MATE's continued refinement and maintenance. Eventually, the task-focused MATE desktop will be identical in every way to GNOME 2, the developers say.

An Easy Way to Find Software

Linux Mint offers users about 30,000 software packages, along with one of the most user-friendly software managers available. Application icons make it easy to find software at a glance, and associated reviews help users zero in on the best ones.