Linux

Is Cinnamon a worthy replacement for Ubuntu Unity?

Jack Wallen answers a question that a lot of open-source users are asking: Is Cinnamon a worthy replacement for Ubuntu Unity?

Cinnamon

If there's one area of Linux that gets more scrutiny than any other, it's the desktop. From every corner, the haters and detractors abound. Nearly every publication that offers any focus on the Linux desktop at some point posts a piece about getting rid of the default Ubuntu desktop. Cinnamon is one of the primary replacement contenders.

Cinnamon is the default desktop for Linux Mint and, quite frankly, it's one of the main reasons why Mint has gained so much popularity. Why? Because it has the user-friendliness of Ubuntu and a desktop that dares to harken back to nineties-era Linux -- with a few modern touches.

With that said, let's install Cinnamon on your Ubuntu 14.04 desktop and find out if it's a worthy replacement for the metaphor defying Ubuntu Unity.

Installation

Note: This installation shouldn't break Unity. I have successfully installed Cinnamon and retained full use of Unity.

To install Cinnamon, open up a terminal window and enter the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-nightly sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install cinnamon

When the installation completes, log out of Unity, select Cinnamon from the desktop selector (to the right of the username in the login window), enter your password, and hit Enter. When the desktop finally appears, congrats -- you'll be using Cinnamon.

The question

Is Cinnamon a worthy replacement for Unity? The answer to that question depends completely on how you use your desktop. If your desktop is nothing more than a launcher of applications, then Cinnamon is a great replacement. It offers a standard (if not aging) interface that includes a menu, quick launchers, and a notification/system tray area (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

The Cinnamon desktop installed on Ubuntu 14.04.

If you right-click the desktop, you'll find a desk menu that allows you to add desktop launchers and Desklets. A launcher is exactly what you'd expect -- an icon that will launch an application. There is an easier way to do this:

  1. Click on the menu
  2. Locate the application you want to add to the desktop
  3. Right-click the application icon
  4. Select Add to Desktop (Figure B)

Figure B

Figure B

Adding an app launcher to the desktop.

The Desklets are comparable to Android widgets -- they're tiny applets that offer various types of functionality/information. By default, there are only three Desklets:

  • Clock
  • Digital photo frame
  • Launcher

You can click on the Get more online tab (Figure C) to locate others (in total, there are 17).

Figure C

Figure C

Adding a Desklet to the desktop.

The answer

Do I think Cinnamon is a worthy replacement for Unity? No. Although Cinnamon is a fine desktop, I think it's a bit too old-school. I've run the gamut of Linux desktops over the last 18 years and am glad to not have to deal with a desktop that looks as if it's just a bit behind the curve. For me, Unity and Linux Deepin are more inline with my tastes and needs.

However, that's just me. For anyone else wondering about Cinnamon, I'll take this angle:

If you want a performance-centric desktop that doesn't toss aside feature and customization, Cinnamon is for you. Cinnamon is a straight-forward desktop interface that pretty much anyone can use -- from your IT staff to your grandmother. It really is that easy to use. Cinnamon doesn't surprise you, it doesn't trick you, but it also (in my opinion) doesn't wow you. But that's not what Cinnamon is about. This take on the desktop is all about functionality -- on a standard level. It doesn't break rules, push envelopes, or have new tricks up its sleeve.

Cinnamon is a fairly pedestrian desktop that takes the bits and pieces of what's worked well over the years and cobbles them together into one, well-designed piece. So, if you're okay with using a desktop that looks and feels a bit long in the tooth (but one that functions very, very well), Cinnamon is for you. If you lean towards the bleeding edge of design and prefer a more modern look and feel, Cinnamon will most likely disappoint.

What do you think? Is Cinnamon the future of Linux... or is it the future with a tight grip on the past? Tell us your take on Cinnamon in the discussion thread below.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

13 comments
mike.walsh
mike.walsh

I like Cinnamon. I like a nice menu system where I can find my applications easily.

A month ago I migrated my wife from WinXP to Mint-Cinnamon, and she is very happy with it. She does not care what the desktop looks like as long as she can easily get to Internet browsing, her Thunderbird email and a few lightweight games. Cinnamon does that for her.

And I'm an engineer, and I like the logic of a well-laid out menu system, which Cinnamon provides.

However, I have a few old PCs in my work-shed which Cinnamon does not run well on, much to my disappointment.

I guess I should try Lubuntu or Xubuntu for them.

I don't like the "glamour" of Unity, although many do. I set up Ubuntu/Unity for a friend of mine who has mental-health issues. Because he is on a mental-health pension, he could not afford to purchase Windows, so Ubuntu/Unity was perfect for him. He's been using Ubuntu happily for four years, and hasn't needed my help with anything for 12 months now.

It all comes down to personal tastes.

Ubuntu4ever
Ubuntu4ever

I've messed around with Fedora, Puppy Linux, Ubuntu, Linux Lite, Linux Mint, Lubuntu, and most recently (when Unity decided it didn't want to launch anymore and I was unable to fix it) Xubuntu. Each has their pros and cons, but really all of the non-Canonical Ubuntu forks seem unnecessary. Lite and Mint only seem to differ in minor ways (default DE, pre-installed packages) and so far Xubuntu does what they do, just better. To me it strikes a nice balance between old and new, light and heavy.  This is just my limited experience though. I've never user Mate, Kde, or the new Gnome, so I can't opine on them.

parnote
parnote

I prefer a desktop that doesn't waste CPU cycles on glitz, splash, whistles and bells. Old school is fine for me. Give me a desktop that gets out of my way, yet keeps things organized logically, so that I can get tasks done. At the end of the day, it's about getting those tasks done. It's not about all the flashy gizmos lined up on your desktop. That's why I prefer the Xfce desktop. It's simple and doesn't stand in the way of getting tasks done, yet it provides an attractive and organized interface to the tools I use to get tasks done.

Hunkah
Hunkah

I LOVE CINNAMON!  I think it is the best thing that has happened to the desktop.  All that whining about Gnome 3 or KDE or Unity... you don't hear it as much since Cinnamon came out... which could also be why Mint is now in the number one spot on Distrowatch.


I use Fedora/Cinnamon as my setup.  I don't like Ubumtu because of the people behind it.

Knighthawk5193@Yahoo.com
Knighthawk5193@Yahoo.com

As most people here have stated, I too have tried Cinnamon, and while I don't use it regularly, I also don't see anything wrong with it. It's logical, and anyone who's ever used Windows would be able to pick up on using it easily. I don't recommend it for older hardware, as it's very "thick", but for more modern PC's its a perfect replacement for the standard. As for Unity, well that is the desktop that at one point was despised by the masses, this DE I also use, not daily but enough that I am completely familiar with it and what its capable of. It is also a "thick" DE in that on older hardware it's not as fast and zippy as more recent hardware. Ultimately this is truly a subjective question, what one person dislikes in Cinnamon...another person might have been looking for all this time in a DE. What someone else thinks Unity is lacking in, someone else might think is fine that it's not there. For my self I would use either one of these desktops if I had to.

hengels
hengels

I tried Mint and couldn't figure out the justification of such a desktop concept where we had/have already KDE and XFCE which are both representing a much better conservative desktop than Cinnamon. I am really loving the KDE Plasma desktop because of its customization capabilities. Most of the (time consuming) customizations which I can apply to KDE I can do now also with Unity (even easier). After some years of avoiding Unity this innovative default desktop of Ubuntu grew into a matured and practical product and is now the desktop of my choice.

orionds
orionds

I tried using Mint in its earlier days but, as time passed, it became heavier particularly since Cinnamon. I have still yet to get rid of my old hardware as they are doing fine using Lubuntu or Xubuntu. To get a more modern feel, I turn on effects in Lubuntu, install the Gnome fallback desktop and Docky. With Xubuntu the effects are pre-installed and I like the Xubuntu desktop enough not to resort to Gnome fallback. This way, my single-core PCs at home and those in the library of my school zip along very nicely even when running video and photo editing (e.g. Gimp which I really like).

extremeskillz
extremeskillz

I like all the current desktop options available today for Linux. However, my favorite and default is Unity. Why? Well it's modern and efficient and that is how I like it. If I deal with users with older hardware I would install an Ubuntu alternative. But for me its Unity. I've been using it since it was release with Ubuntu 11.04. I am currently on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS on 1 year old HP Probook. The desktop is just clean, modern, and all my apps I always used work with it. 


Unity FTW!

fmo1973
fmo1973

Unlike a lot of people, I really dislike Cinnamon and like Unity. I think that starting to develop such an environment that is not lightweight or fast because they didn't like Gnome3 or Unity is a waste of time. If you want lightweight go for LXDE or XFCE, if you want perceived reactivity, try elementaryOS, its DE is really blazing fast to use. 

Unity is a fine DE, I don't know what's all the fuss about it or why people dislike it so much, I work with it all day long and it does everything I need, it just lacks the speed that you get from something like elementaryOS but works great with a multi-screen setup

Pronounce
Pronounce

I like Cinnamon. It's the interface I keep coming back to. But sonwon has a point in that Cinnamon isn't lightweight. It runs like a snail on old hardware. I've been using Lubuntu on my low end builds due to poor performance with all versions of Mint.

sonwon
sonwon

XFCE is the best replacement for all of them, is lightweight and many customizations and widgets that work too!

Ubuntu4ever
Ubuntu4ever

@scooterrodriguezth It's designed for a touch-based interface as opposed to keyboard and mouse, like Android and iOS. That's about all.