Linux Mint 12 MATE

The recent release of Linux Mint 12 has gotten quite a bit of attention. Most reviews of Linux Mint 12 have focused mainly on the GNOME 3 desktop (as pointed out in the comments of my Linux Mint 12 GNOME 3 review by reader liquidkermit). But there’s another desktop environment included in Linux Mint 12 called MATE.

MATE is a fork of the venerable GNOME 2 desktop environment. MATE is a much more task-oriented desktop environment, unlike GNOME 3 and Unity which are more application-centric.

Why would people be interested in MATE rather than the new GNOME 3 desktop? Well some folks simply do not like GNOME 3, even with the extensions the Linux Mint developers have added to improve it. MATE offers the chance for users to stick with the tried and true interface of GNOME 2.

The Linux Mint 12 MATE Desktop
Linux Mint 12 MATE

You can access MATE by choosing it on the Linux Mint 12 login screen. Just click the little gear icon near the login box and choose MATE. You’ll load MATE instead of the default GNOME 3 desktop.

Before I get into this review, please bear in mind that it’s early for MATE. The Linux Mint developers have posted a message warning users that MATE may not be as stable as they like since it’s so early. Here’s that message, please bear it in mind if you try to use MATE in Linux Mint 12:

MATE is brand new, it’s not completely stable yet, and it’s missing a few parts. It’s being actively maintained and with close collaboration between the MATE developers and Linux Mint. With time the project will gain maturity and provide users with a traditional and solid desktop experience.

Eventually, MATE will be in every way identical to Gnome 2 and represent the future of traditional desktops within Linux.

What’s New In This Release
Since MATE is new, there’s not really a “new features” list for it. However, there are a couple of new features in Linux Mint 12 that also apply to MATE. Some things that are new apply only to GNOME 3 so I haven’t included them here. If you want to see those, please see the Linux Mint 12 GNOME 3 review that I did earlier.

Two new features in this release:

New wallpaper
Duck Duck Go as the default search engine

The new wallpaper offers an attractive Linux Mint logo as the default selection. There are also some nature scenes from places like Yellowstone National Park and India available as well.

Duck Duck Go is part of Linux Mint’s new business model. It’s very different than Google, it doesn’t change search results depending on who’s doing the search. Nor does it track or record user information. It’s built on open source code as well, and it contributes to open source development. I tried it out and it seems to work very well. Give it a shot and see how you like it before considering switching back to Google or whatever search engine you usually use.

DuckDuckGo Search Engine
DuckDuckGo Search Engine

Here’s the blurb from the LM developers about it:

Duck Duck Go: The new default search engine is Duck Duck Go. It doesn’t show different results depending on who’s making the search, it doesn’t track or record user information, it provides you with optimized results and it’s built on and contributes to Open Source.

Development of a new business model: Search engines will share with Linux Mint the revenue generated for them by Linux Mint users. Some search engines partnered with Linux Mint already and are present in Linux Mint 12.

Easy installation of other engines: The way you install search engines in Linux Mint 12 is radically different than in previous releases. Clear explanations and easy instructions are there for the user to understand how search engines help Linux Mint and to decide what to do. The installation of additional search engines is also now much easier than before.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

  • x86 processor (Linux Mint 64-bit requires a 64-bit processor. Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
  • 512 MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
  • 5 GB of disk space
  • Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
  • CD/DVD drive or USB port


The installer is obviously the same for MATE as for the GNOME 3 version of Linux Mint. I loved that since all I had to do for this review was paste in the screenshots from the other review. Boy, I wish it was that quick for every review. Ha, ha!

:biggrin: :whistle: 😉

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1
Install 1
Install 2
Install 2
Install 3
Install 3
Install 4
Install 4
Install 5
Install 5
Install 6
Install 6
Install 7
Install 7
Install 8
Install 8
Install 9
Install 9

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu
Boot Menu

As I noted earlier, you can access MATE via this login screen. Click the little gear in the upper right corner of the login box and select MATE. You will then load the MATE desktop instead of the default GNOME 3 version.

The Desktop: Home Again!
When I booted into the MATE desktop, it felt like I’d come home again. I kid you not. If you have been discombobulated or disgusted with GNOME 3, then you will feel yourself start to relax the instant the MATE desktop loads for you. It’s as though you never left your previous version of Linux Mint.

There are no kooky GNOME 3 menus in MATE. You can do all of the same things you could before in terms of window management, etc. It’s really your Linux Mint desktop the way it was truly meant to be, with no compromises to suit the insane GNOME developers who have unwisely tried to foist a mobile interface onto a desktop operating system.

You are probably getting the idea that I like the MATE desktop better than even the modified GNOME 3 desktop in Linux Mint 12. Yep, you’re absolutely right. You can just slide into the MATE desktop with true ease and comfort. It’s all there for you and you don’t need to fiddle around with the madness of GNOME 3 at all.

The desktop comes with the usual Home, Trash and Computer icons. The familiar MintMenu is there in all its glory and without any vile GNOME 3 corruption whatsoever.


Themes & Wallpaper
You get the lovely new Linux Mint wallpaper when MATE loads up. It’s quite attractive. It doesn’t look like the new themes are available, but who cares? There are plenty of other themes available and you can get more online if you want. Note the error message about a theme not looking right though.

Themes & Background
Themes & Background

Admin Tools

System Management
Here’s a look at the Control Center.

Control Center
Control Center

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

No games, they are available in the Software Manager though.

Image Viewer
LibreOffice Draw
Simple Scan

Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail

Movie Player


Software Management
The Software Manager is the same in MATE as it is in GNOME 3. So it’s just as easy to find and install (or remove) applications. If you aren’t familiar with it, the Software Manager has about 36,000 applications in it. There’s quite a lot to check out. You can see star ratings of applications and read user comments as well.

Software Manager
Software Manager
Featured Applications
Featured Applications

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very easy to add or remove software. Just find the application you want and click the Install or Remove button. Then type in your password into the verification menu and your install/remove will begin.

Install Frostwire
Installing Frostwire

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
Flash is installed by default, so I had no problems with that sort of content.

Flash Video Content
Flash Video Content

Multimedia Applications
You get the same multimedia applications in the MATE desktop as you do with GNOME 3. Banshee, Brasero, GNOME MPlayer, Movie Player and VLC are all there. And there’s plenty more in the Software Manager if you need something else.

Multimedia Section of the Software Manager
Multimedia Section of the Software Manager

Problems & Headaches
This is where this review gets rather weird, or perhaps weirder than usual. 😉

Even though MATE is early and the Linux Mint developers have warned against possible problems, I actually noticed fewer problems with MATE than I did with the GNOME 3 environment in Linux Mint 12. If you read the problems section of my review of that desktop, you’ll know that I encountered some weird rendering problems of the application menu.

I encountered nothing of the kind in Linux Mint 12 MATE. It ran very well for me. I deliberately went on an application-opening rampage and opened up a bunch of applications to see if I’d get any crashes, lockups, slowdowns or other noticeable problems. Nothing happened, the applications all opened quickly and didn’t crash or slow down.

My experience may have been exceptional or perhaps MATE is farther along than we realize? I’m just not sure.

So I’m very keen to know if others have seen any burps or problems while running Linux Mint 12 MATE. Please post your experiences in the comments so we can all benefit from them. And if it ran great for you, then post that too. It’s good to know if perhaps it’s more stable than indicated in the Linux Mint developer’s note I included at the beginning of the review.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

You might also want to check out the Linux Mint community site or forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Well it’s pretty clear that I prefer MATE to even the modified version of GNOME 3 in Linux Mint 12. If you have a similar perspective then I think MATE is for you. I say that with the earlier caveat about MATE being very early in its development, so don’t get too upset if you try it and you encounter a burp or two.

Still, even though it’s early I’m excited and happy about Linux Mint 12 MATE. My experience was quite positive and I think that’s a good harbinger of things to come for it in Linux Mint. I’m very glad the developers decided to include it.

Linux Mint 12 MATE is probably best suited – whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced user – to those who truly dislike GNOME 3 and prefer a more task-centric, GNOME 2 desktop environment.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Linux Mint 12 MATE
Web Site:
Price: Free
Pros: Fork of GNOME 2. Offers a task-centric desktop. Includes the original MintMenu.
Cons: It’s still early in MATE’s development; it might be unstable at times.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced users who prefer the GNOME 2 desktop interface.
Rating: 4.5/5


27 thoughts on “Linux Mint 12 MATE

  1. Thanks for the review and thank heavens for MATE. I upgraded to LinuxMint 12 some months ago and installed with the default Gnome 3. I still have Mint 11 and Gnome 2 on my wife’s computer so could really see the diffiernce. I found what I considered a lack of functionality in Gnome 3 Desktop and was for ever cursing this on my machine. I could not access the panels and was unable to add objects to them – Calculator, Skype, Take screen shot, Shut down etc. Today I stumbled on your review when searching for why I could not access the panels – BINGO – Followed the instructions on changing to MATE on the Login panel and once again my life is easy. Still early days but I am guite sure I will be sticking with MATE hence forth. Thanks again….

  2. Been using mate on 2 laptops for a few days no problems at all, runs superB on old thinkpad t40 with 512 RAM , i found it to run better than LXDE on that old hardware +1 to clem & the troops.

  3. I'm running this Mint 12 64bit atm but I am going to change some other distro because this graphical interface crashes always in 10-30 minutes if I run a java game (Minecraft, RuneScape) and play music (Banshee) at the same time… second thing I don't like is the notification thingy just on the bottom bar, I can't find a way to disable it, I've tried advanced settings thing but it only has an option to disable the whole bar. I don't want to do anything instantly after I plug in a memory stick or a hard drive. also, it constantly spams the cable network disconnected error, It's never actually disconnected or plugged out. It always flashes many times after I start the computer from sleep and sometimes with no reason at all. Theres even no lag with any internet using games or Skype when it flashes. This is a Samsung laptop with no other than the original parts and everything.

    Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU M 380 @ 2.53GHz (dual core)

    4GB RAM

    something about GPU (lspci -v | less):

    02:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation GT218 [GeForce 310M] (rev a2) (prog-if 00 [VGA controller])

    Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c06a

    Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 16

    Memory at dc000000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16M]

    Memory at e0000000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=256M]

    Memory at de000000 (64-bit, prefetchable) [size=32M]

    I/O ports at 2000 [size=128]

    [virtual] Expansion ROM at dd000000 [disabled] [size=512K]

    Capabilities: [60] Power Management version 3

    Capabilities: [68] MSI: Enable- Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit+

    Capabilities: [78] Express Endpoint, MSI 00

    Capabilities: [b4] Vendor Specific Information: Len=14

    Capabilities: [100] Virtual Channel

    Capabilities: [128] Power Budgeting

    Capabilities: [600] Vendor Specific Information: ID=0001 Rev=1 Len=024

    Kernel driver in use: nvidia

    Kernel modules: nvidia_current, nouveau, nvidiafb

    02:00.1 Audio device: nVidia Corporation High Definition Audio Controller (rev a1)

    Subsystem: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd Device c06a

    Flags: bus master, fast devsel, latency 0, IRQ 17

    Memory at ddefc000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16K]

    Capabilities: [60] Power Management version 3

    Capabilities: [68] MSI: Enable- Count=1/1 Maskable- 64bit+

    Capabilities: [78] Express Endpoint, MSI 00

    Kernel driver in use: HDA Intel

    Kernel modules: snd-hda-intel

  4. Although i started of by using MATE because of my dislike for Gnome 3 i gave Cinnamon a try as well,(which can be loaded using the synaptic manager) and i must say it's great.

    Surely before Mint 13 there will be a few alterations here and there, but so far i can only recommend it to all MATE users that they should use Cinnamon too. I am sure you'll love it!!

  5. Pingback: E X T O N » Blog Archive » DebEX-Mint 12 Special med KDE 4.7.4 och kernel 3.1.6
  6. I am a physician who recently switched from Ubuntu 11.04 (autologin classic Gnome2) to Linux Mint 12 (autologin MATE) for my personal laptop. I switched because I feel “safer” with Mint knowing that a) the developers are not pushy with new user interfaces and b) they are committed to providing “classic” UI options. I think it is counterproductive to have to get used to a new UI–it would be like someone “upgrading” my office by moving everything around so that I no longer know where anything is…and consequently cannot get anything done.

    I had no problems at all with MATE. It is stable and ran all of my applications without any hiccups. Caja is the default file manager but Nautilus is also installed. Both Software Center and Synaptic are present.

    MATE had just a few issues for me, which were easily fixed:
    1-no battery icon on taskbar (fixed by installing xfce4-power-manager)
    2-sound preferences didn’t allow for >100% volume, which was nice with Ubuntu given my laptop’s weak speakers (fixed by installing pavucontrol)
    3-no screensaver (not a big deal to me, so I didn’t pursue a fix)
    4-IBus input method for Esperanto didn’t work with some programs (fixed by installing ibus-gtk3)

    I am a happy Linux Mint convert and am glad that I can be part of a community that is of like mind when it comes to the fact that an OS should, above all, foster productivity and have a non-distracting and familiar UI.

  7. I was beginning to think I was doomed to go no further than Ubuntu 11.04.

    Gnome 2 is a great desktop — especially relative to control freaked desktops that don't let you manipulate or remove the panels. Seems the Linux developers have forgotten that Linux stands for Freedom! Go develop with the central committee known as Apple if you want to control and be controlled..

    Okay, I have been taught not to gripe but to be grateful, so sorry.. I am Grateful for Mint with Mate. Yeah!!


    "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?" -Orwell

  8. Let me start by saying that Linux (and Mint in particular) has been my favorite OS for a few years now. I have all the confidence in people like Clem, because they want to do the right things as well as things right.

    A fact is that so far I am not thrilled about Gnome 3, but hope that Mate is going to be what Mint 11 was, which is near perfect, at least for me as an enthusiastic and advanced user. 'Mint 11 is a kind of 'benchmark' as to how Gnome 3 or Mate should work in future, I think.

    Going back to Mint 11 is no option for me on the long run, because changes or improvements in systems are inevitable, but continuing on a wrong path is not advisable either.

    Opening the desktop e.g. and having an overview of Places, System and Favorites down on the left hand side is (for me ) a 'one click' information overview that I would not want to miss in a system. I have gotten used to it and tweaking things here and there is a wonderful component of Mint. AFAIAC lets keep it that way as a starting point for whatever new system is going to be..

    Even more security, speed and choice of software etc. is welcome as a second requirement for an even better system, be it G3 or others to follow.

    As a result I can't wait to see all imperfections in Mate being taken care of over the next few months.

  9. Well, I just installed 12 and tried both Gnome3 and Mate. Neither worked very well for me. On Gnome3 the bars would keep vanishing and take 10 seconds to come back. On Mate it was a little slow, it seemed when I hit a button it would take a second to respond. Also, no sound, I have never had a Mint not work with sound for me. I tried installing the proprietary drivers and that made Gnome3 have the graphical glitches that you experienced.

    No bother, I'll stick to 12 for now, I love it, and will try an upgrade in a few months. I'm also planning on upgrading my Asus Atom nettop to a fitpc3 when they come out and I'll try it then for sure. I'm not upset as Mint has been a 11 out of 10 for me the last few years, have to have a miss eventually, so this hasn't soured my experience with Mint at all. When switching to new desktop managers I understand that things will be a little rocky.

  10. Just reading and hearing that MATE is more stable than GNOME 3 is great news. This would definite help make Mint 12 the Linux distro to watch.

    I can only wish that MATE would become available for Mint Debian soon. If not, then I would have to settle using Mint 12 for my future new laptop in 2012.

  11. Now that I've read your MATE review I need to fire up the new box again, reinstall Mint 12 (to clean out anything I might have saved in the Gnome 3 world) and try the MATE desktop out. I have some bad feeling about using a fork of a project as it might go away though. MATE will need to evolve to use the new GTK3 stuff used in Gnome 3 to absorb new stuff while keeping the old look, feel and smell. Hope Mint is up to the challenge!

  12. Great review. I'm only curious about MATE as I'm a happy Debian Xfce 4.8 user.

    Absolute top marks for 'discombobulated' had to look that one up, a great word indeed! :)

  13. Originally I was a bit alarmed when Mint called this an RC because it seemed really buggy especially the display was almost unusable. But within days things improved dramatically with updates. Now I . can hardly tell the difference between MATE and and the old version of Gnome except for the uninstall option on the menu. I think this is being worked on now.

    Oddly MATE worked fine with my ATI card proprietary driver but Gnome does not and has lots of artifacts unless I remove the proprietary driver.

    I understand that the desktop is an overlay on Gnome 3. I would like to hear more about the new advantages of Gnome 3 that caused this shift away from the old desktop in the first place.

  14. I am glad to hear that MATE is stable enough for use. I have given Gnome 3 and Unity a fair try and simply am not willing to use them. Gnome 3 wasn't terrible for me but seems heavy and slow (used with openSuse) while Unity is so full of bugs it is unusable. I've never liked KDE despite several tries and Xfce is not bad but I really do not like its menu or file manager.

    So I have been sticking with Gnome 2 (Linux Mint 10, due to better power management in the 2.6.35 kernel) and LXDE. I think I'll be waiting for Linux Mint 13 to install as hopefully by then MATE will be fully functional and the linux kernel will take care of the power management issues. Plus it will be an LTS version.

  15. Jim I have been running MATE for a bit more than a week, alternating it with both Mint12/Gnome3 and fedora/Gnome 3.

    Mo doubt about it, the Mint team has a huge stake in MATE "It’s really your Linux Mint desktop the way it was truly meant to be…"

    Exactly right. The Mint menu/desktop at this point is not working so comfortably on Gnome 3 foundations as it does on Gnome 2/MATE. That seemed apparent to me in the first 30 minutes.

    Can Clem make the Gnome 3 variant work equally well? Of course, he and his team already have done a great deal and they are very clever people. Might they do better with MATE? I think so. Fonts need work, but that is a relatively small part of the challenge, I suspect.

    BTW, if MATE is unstable that has not shown up yet. I am running the full stable of codecs, nvidia driver, HP wireless printer and wireless connection to my router without any apparent problem thus far.

    Compare with fedora 16/KDE (also on test) which I closed the other day, restarted and found my "K" application widget was gone! Now that's a gremlin.

  16. I am downloading Linux Mint 12, and I will give it a good look, plus my mother has agreed to use my Lenovo laptop with Mint on it to see if it will work for her or not. We agreed that if she is able to use it, she is welcome to do so, and if she isn't, she can plug her own laptop back onto the network and use it instead.

    I am looking forward to trying out Mint myself to see if it is usable, and if not, to pick something else that she can try using. I'll try to write about the experience, either here or in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum.

  17. "Eventually, MATE will be in every way identical to Gnome 2 and represent the future of traditional desktops within Linux."


    I'm quite interested in Mate, but having used a lot of desktops over the years, I find KDE a very natural continuation of the more traditional desktop environment. Maybe it's a little too 'classic windows' for some, and not minimalistic enough for others, but there is almost no learning curve of the basic interface required for Windows XP and OSX 10.5 and 10.6 users.

    It will be time to build another box soon, and I might well try LM again, so thanks for the heads up of an otherwise not widely discussed option.

  18. I had a minor problem with MATE not recognising the resolution of both my monitors. It defaulted to the resolution of the lower resolution one. While the GNOME 3 desktop which starts by default correctly set both monitors to the correcct resolution.

    Other than the minor issue I'm very pleased with MATE. Now I need to make it the default desktop, so I don't have to remember to select it each time I restart, which is rare enough that I will almost definately forget.

  19. For me, MATE has been far more stable than Gnome-Shell. Dont even bother trying to come out of Standby/Suspend with Gnome-Shell. It does not even load the panels. MATE fired right back up as if it had never been off. I'll give Clem and the guy(s) credit, they did a phenomenal job with the Shell Extensions. But you can only polish a deuce so much 😛 Its still crap in the end LOL.

  20. I was kind of wondering what all had to be done in order to make MATE usable and stable. Maybe this is a bit like Debian Sid – applications work, and they are generally very stable, but sometimes, you get erratic packaging or unexplained changes because developers readily admit that it has not been rigorously tested. Of course, Debian Sid developers LOVE to test, as do Debian users, so it usually gets a pretty good exercise.

    Hopefully, MATE will be the same way, and if so, GNOME and Mint lovers like Jim will be really happy. I have to tell you that I am ALREADY happy – using Xfce in Debian Sid and never having to install; I've had this one going for a couple of years now. But I'm not typical; I have over thirty years of experience developing, testing, and administering software, and specific experience with Linux dating back to 1995, before ANY systems were even close to being as simple and straightforward as they are today. Therefore, I don't need Mint, though it is convenient. For me, Debian Sid is convenient enough, and more so in some ways. I install it, customize it, put a modest amount of extra work into it, but then I run it for years on end (two years and counting with this particular system, but I've commonly gone five or more years with one system instance). Mint, except for LMDE and LMDX, does not have that model, but I am glad they DO have it in Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) – which is GNOME-based, and LMDX (Debian Xfce). They are OK, but less polished; I can do better with a straight Debian system for my interests.

    Still, as I said, I am not the usual audience. The classic Mint audience will love the MATE version; the "new" Mint audience may love the hybrid; Debian users who are Mint fans have two options, so the Mint team has their bases VERY well covered indeed!

    1. I just installed Mint 12 a week ago on a separate external HDD to give it a try. After few hours I was fed up with it. Gnome 3 is not suitable for me, and on top of that I couldn't run it properly after I upgraded my ATI drivers. I was frustrated but I wanted to see if I can do some modifications. Well.. I gave up on Gnome 3 and I did installed enlightment desktop. It is perfect but I wanted to use something more familiar. I've been using Mint since version 2 (Bianca) and I did compare it to every major distro and guess what? Until Mint 12 was packed with Gnome 3 it was always best distro, now users have to choose between Debian based and ubuntu based variations of xfce, lxde, kde4 and most unfortunate Gnome 3.

      I was about to write my review about it, when I noticed separate desktop with MATE. I did load it up and I am stuck with it. I love it. It seems top be very stable (at least on my pc) very fast, configurable, flexible and well known from the past.

      I am sure MATE is the future of MINT's desktop. Brilliant combination of Gnome 2 and KDE 3.5. It needs some polishing and maybe some more features, but as for now I am confident it is the best desktop for all linux users.

      I am using linux every day for past 20+ years now, I see constant changes in directions taken by coders, based upon my knowledge and experience I am sure MATE can become the best and most wide used desktop environment in Linux world. Just give it some time… After all simplicity is the key to success.

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