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Linux Mint 18: Fresher Than Ever

By Jack M. Germain
Aug 9, 2016 1:39 PM PT

Linux Mint 18: Fresher Than Ever

The Linux Mint 18 Sarah will please long-time users and impress new adopters for its growth in features and overall consistent performance.

Linux Mint 18, released at the end of June, is a long-term edition supported through 2021. The in-house built Cinnamon desktop and the GNOME 2 fork MATE desktop were available at its introduction. The Xfce edition became available earlier this month, and the KDE edition is coming soon.

Linux Mint 18 Sarah is based on Ubuntu 16.04 and comes loaded with numerous significant new features. I am pleased to find the development team has maintained its philosophy of making key improvements to an already solid distro without overwhelming its user base with outlandish directional changes.

I have used Linux Mint Cinnamon on my primary work machines since developer Clement Lefebvre created his distro. The Linux Mint 17 series began in June 2014. It has become an apt alternative to Canonical's Ubuntu, which radically changed its development path. The growth evident in Linux Mint 18 is a logical and pleasing upgrade from version 17.3.

Linux Mint 18
Linux Mint 18 has a well-polished look and feel along with a new collection of pleasing background images.

Linux Mint 18 will go a long way to help maintain this distro's consistent ranking on DistroWatch.com as one of the most popular general-purpose Linux offerings.

What's New

Many of the improvements bundled into this release consist of system and user software upgrades. For example, Linux Mint now runs Linux kernel 4.4 and Cinnamon 3.0 or MATE 1.14. Mint 18 supports the exFAT file system out of the box. Also now supported by default is the Btrfs file system.

Linux Mint 18 includes an enhanced update manager that supports installation of different versions of the Linux kernel. The changes to the update manager should be well received by users. It offers easier configuration to balance safety, security and stability in handling system updates.

New commands support Debian syntax for apt. The terminal command "apt" still supports all previous features. Linux Mint 18 also supports a new syntax of Debian "apt" with some changes and improvements.

For example, you can run the new apt full-upgrade command to get results equivalent to running apt dist-upgrade.

You now can use a terminal command, add-apt-repository remove argument to remove the junk repository. The software services graphic mode did not allow that function.

Another really nice touch is the progress bar. The completion process displays when you run the terminal commands "apt install," "apt remove" and "sudo apt autoremove."

Linux Mint 18 comes with Steam, Spotify, Dropbox and Minecraft added to the software manager, which makes it easier and more automated to install and update these applications.

X-Apps Revealed

One of the highlights is the introduction of X-Apps to the installed base of default applications. Linux Mint 18 brings several updated apps that replace stock standards for viewing photos and PDF files, editing text, and playing media files.

X-Apps produce generic applications for traditional GTK+ desktop environments. They replace applications that no longer integrate properly outside of a particular environment, such as GNOME applications.

Linux Mint 18
X-Apps
Linux Mint 18 introduces the first set of X-Apps to unify the way apps look and function across desktops.

These new applications unify appearance and functionality across desktops. The idea behind this project is to make available the same applications used in all traditional desktop environments. They have the same interface and capabilities of all desktop environments similar to Linux Mint 18.

More are planned. So far there are five cross-desktop xapps:

  • Xplayer is a Multimedia player based on Totem.
  • Xed is a text editor based on Pluma, which resembles gEdit.
  • Xviewer is an image viewer based on the Eye of GNOME or Eog.
  • Xreader is an app for reading documents based on Atril, a multipage document viewer for postscript (ps), encapsulated postscript (eps), djvu, dvi and portable document format (pdf) files.
  • Pix is a photo-organizing app based on gThumb.

Codecs Covert

Sometimes progress breeds some inconvenience. Previous versions of Linux Mint shipped with multimedia codecs preinstalled. Many distros do not provide that out-of-the-box functionality.

Now Linux Mint 18 does not include multimedia codecs either. The fault lies with the growing concerns over copyright restrictions in some countries.

The missing codecs present just a one-time inconvenience. You have two options to install them.

The simplest fix is the menu-assisted option found in the sound and video category of the Mint main menu. Just click on "Install Multimedia Codecs".

The other option is to issue the installation commands manually in a terminal window. Here they are:

  • $ sudo apt-get update
  • & sudo apt-get install mint-meta-codecs

This process will get you the most commonly needed and used proprietary codecs.

User Interface Tweaks

The Linux Mint 18 release includes nothing earthshaking, and this is good. It has no radical changes to rattle established users. This is also good.

The Mint 18 upgrade comes with lots of little fixes and updates that in combination produce one of the best Linux Mint releases in memory. This is very good.

It was fun to discover many of these niceties as I worked with the upgrade to prepare this review. It is the little things that make such a big difference.

For instance, Linux Mint 18 provides better scrolling support. Touchpad now supports scrolling with two fingers. It also has the added option of reverse scrolling.

The icons of apps added to the panel display a new context menu when you right-click on them. That provides more options than the previous Launch, Add, Edit and Remove. Another change is the new dialog sound settings.

Linux Mint 18 keeps the Mint-X theme as a default setting, but it also has new theme application icons and Mint-Y. The themes and icons Mint-Y provides give you a choice of either light or dark.

Bottom Line

There is no urgency in updating to Linux Mint 18 -- the changes it brings are subtle. However, the collection of tweaks and additions and UI improvements will give you a more pleasant computing experience.

Linux Mint 18 is a solid improvement. This distro continues to get better with age. You have nothing to lose with installing the upgrade sooner rather than later.

You have everything to gain by taking Linux mint 18 for a spin if you are not already a committed user. A few other distros offer the Cinnamon desktop, but Linux Mint has much more in its favor than Cinnamon.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you'd like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please email your ideas to me, and I'll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Talkback feature below to add your comments!


Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him on Google+.


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What do you think of today's voice recognition technology?
It's great -- the tech has improved vastly in recent years.
It's the wave of the future, but quality is still hit or miss.
I like it for texting, especially when I'm driving.
I only use it when I have to, like with IVR systems.
I avoid using it, because most voice systems are still terrible.
It's an unnecessary frill that I can easily live without.