Gray Matter


Examining the Cinnamon Desktop Environment

RT Cunningham | April 7, 2021 (UTC) | Linux

Cinnamon Desktop EnvironmentI first wrote about the Cinnamon desktop environment in 2020, before I started working with the latest version of the Cinnamon edition of Linux Mint. I’m revisiting the desktop environment as objectively as possible since it’s the desktop environment I’m currently using. It’s time for me to write about the applets, desklets, extensions, panels and themes.

The default layout of the Cinnamon desktop environment is the traditional desktop metaphor. Windows uses the traditional desktop metaphor as well, as do other Linux distributions. The “taskbar” consists of a “start” button and various default icons which use applets behind the scenes.

The Applets

I’m not familiar with every desktop environment for Linux yet and I probably never will be. There are some desktop environments being used on Linux distributions that I’ll never examine. With Cinnamon, they’re called “applets”. On other desktop environments, they’re called “widgets”.

After I installed the latest version of the Cinnamon edition of Linux Mint, the first thing I did was remove the applets I didn’t need and add the applets I wanted. There are four ways in Cinnamon to get to the applets settings with a mouse or the touch pad:

Applets can be added or removed using the “Applet” application, obviously, but the application can’t move them to a desired position. For that, you have to turn on “panel edit mode”, which I explain in the panel section below. I removed the “Printers” applet, the “Removable Drives” applet and the “Keyboard” applet.

I added the “Num Lock/Caps Lock indicator with notifications” applet because the number lock key on my physical keyboard doesn’t have an LED indicator like the capitals lock key. Along with that, I reconfigured the notifications applet to not display when empty. I replaced the “Menu” applet with the “Cinnamenu” applet. It has a grid layout and a “Favorite Apps” category.

The last thing I did was to reconfigure all the applets I was capable of reconfiguring, especially the “Grouped Window List” and the “Calendar”.

The Desklets

The “desklets” could be called “screenlets” in other desktop environments. I seem to remember at least one, but that could have been a previous version of the Cinnamon edition of Linux Mint for all I know. Anyway, the desklets are placed on the desktop, along with desktop launchers. I don’t use either desklets or desktop launchers because I rarely look at the desktop.

There are three ways in Cinnamon to get to the desklets settings with a mouse or the touch pad:

As I mentioned on Reddit, “Cinnamon Is Almost Infinitely Customizable”. Just because I have no need for desklets, perhaps other people do.

The Extensions

There aren’t many extensions and most of them deal with workspaces, something else I have no need to use (other than the first one). The only extension I’ve ever used is “Transparent panels”, which I stopped using when I edited my theme.

There are three ways in Cinnamon to get to the extensions settings with a mouse or the touch pad:

The Panels

Although Cinnamon comes with one panel by default, you can add up to three more, at the top, the right and the left. Or, you can simply move the default panel to one of the other positions. Each panel has three sections, at the left, the center and right (or at the top, the middle and the bottom for the sides). The default panels starts out only using the left and right.

There are four ways in Cinnamon to get to the panel settings with a mouse or the touch pad:

The easiest way also lets you manipulate a lot of the panel settings without actually clicking on “Panel settings”. I find that I’m changing panel settings far more often than I should, only to change them back to what I had them set at before.

The Themes

When I installed the latest version of the Cinnamon edition of Linux Mint, I chose the “Aqua” icons color on the welcome screen. I kept the original theme and changed only the desktop wallpaper (which I rarely look at). After being unsatisfied with the “Transparent panel” extension (because I wanted the panel to be transparent all the time), I copied and edited my default theme.

I copied the /usr/share/themes/Mint-Y-Dark-Aqua directory to the /home/(user)/.themes/My-Dark-Aqua directory, which I created before copying. In the cinnamon subdirectory, I loaded the cinnamon.css file into my text editor, found the “.panel-top, .panel-bottom, .panel-left, .panel-right” section and then the background-color. I changed the last item in the color definition from 0.99 to 0. Full panel (all panels) transparency achieved.

Once that was done, all I had to do was to change to my theme with the Themes application. If I ever change my theme to something else, for whatever reason, all I have to do is follow the same steps for my desired theme.

There are three ways in Cinnamon to get to the themes settings with a mouse or the touch pad:

There’s More to Explore in the Cinnamon Desktop Environment

I didn’t mention changing the desktop background, but it’s similar to how it’s done in almost every desktop environment. The thing to remember is that it doesn’t change the background for the login screen, which has its own settings.

Nemo is the default file manager and Muffin is the default window manager. While you can use other file managers without much effort, changing the window manager requires more work than it’s worth. I use PCManFM when I want to copy or move a lot of files from drive to drive because Nemo “appears” to freeze during the process (it doesn’t, but I can’t see the progress with Nemo).

Image Attribution: Cinnamon developer / LGPL

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