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2-stage approach

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I have a LiveCD for Linux Mint (Cinnamon & Mate), but I was so disappointed in the ALL green/grey interface with no ability to set things up so I could find/use things easily (actual unique icons instead of just identically colored text-place-holders, and 'folders' inability to remember their location, size, & format (or even size them in the first place), plus only three folder formats to choose from and if I used the one I use most - List View - part of the filename was cut off and I couldn't enlarge the window to show the longest filename), that I just gave up and tried this forum to see if there was some other distro that might allow me to customize the desktop interface to do things MY way instead of forcing me to do it the OS programmer's way. Also the desktop icon labeling was huge text and nothing I did would make it a size so it wasn't partially cut off - lots of little things like that. I only have 2 gigs of RAM total and a 32-bit single-processor CPU with no extra partitions (My first drive has a system partition and a documents partition and my second drive is all documents backups/pagefile partition and system images partition) or a lot of space to make one (my primary drive is tiny - an old 130GB seagate - I have a third, new, larger WD drive, but haven't had time to devote to moving the system onto it (there is always something time-consuming - and I really preferred to to a clean install when I changed disks) I'm just afraid it would be tedious with too few resources. I love learning new stuff and I want it to be fun, not pressured. I won't really feel free to play with this until this dang remodeling is finished. Is there a way to customize the LiveCD Linux that I have into a useful desktop (unique icons, window sizing and window memory, icon groups/panels, small desktop fonts, etc.) without installing it? I suppose I could put some of my files off to one of my passport drives to make some room to install, but I've never dual-booted either and I'm concerned I'll mess something up and run into a time-black-hole that I can't afford at the moment.