​The Linux Mint desktop continues to lead the rest

The latest Linux Mint desktop is still the best desktop around.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

You can keep your Windows 10 and macOS High Sierra. For me, Linux Mint 19 is not only the best Linux desktop, it's the best desktop. Period. End of statement.

Why? Because its traditional windows, icons, menus, and pointers (WIMP) interface is a true pleasure to use. It's even more fun now, because with Mint 19 and its default Cinnamon 3.8 desktop it's faster and snappier than ever. The Cinnamon desktop, which uses the GTK 3.22 toolkit, also has a smoother look than previous versions.

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Linux, as ever, out of the box is more secure than macOS or Windows even after you strap on all the anti-virus software. On my Mac and Windows boxes, security is an almost daily job of patches and fixes. On my Mint desktops? I don't even worry about it and I have never had a single security problem. I wish I could say the same about the competing operating systems.

Installing software on Mint is mindlessly simple. Yes, I know you've heard all the stories about how you must compile software to install Linux programs. Please. You can still install programs on Windows with BAT files, but no one does it because there are modern tools. With Mint, you click on Software Manager, search for a program, find it, click it, and you're done. Welcome to the year 2018.

Linux desktops are also fast on hardware you can find in a trash dump. High Sierra on my March 2015 vintage MacBook Air with 1.6GHz i5 processor and 8GBs of RAM runs as fast as trying to run through knee-deep mud. I am so, so not looking forward to running macOS 10.14 Mojave on it. Windows 10, on my Dell XPS 8700 with its 3.6 GHz Intel Core i7-4790 processor and 16GBs of memory, runs fast enough to be useful, but it's not fast. Mint 19, on my 2011 Dell XPS 8300 with its 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and 8GBs of RAM, charges along like a champ. No one in their right mind would run Windows 10 on that seven-year-old box.

But enough of that. I've long been on record about Linux Mint's virtues. Let's talk about what's new, improved, and what's missing from Linux Mint 19.

First, as I mentioned earlier, the Cinnamon interface is a lot quicker. It's also, to my eye, much more attractive. If you prefer, you can now run Mint 19 with the Xfce 4.12 or MATE 1.20 desktops. But Mint's developers have decided to no longer support KDE. For KDE with Ubuntu Linux under it, they -- and I -- recommend Kubuntu.

Mint 19 is built on top of Ubuntu 18.04. That makes Mint 19 a long-term support version. For its Linux kernel, Mint uses Linux 4.15.0-20.

As usual, Mint comes with the latest versions of some of the most popular Linux desktop programs. This includes LibreOffice 6.0 for its office suite, Firefox 51 for the web browser, and Thunderbird 52.8 for email.

Mint's programmers have dropped Pidgin, the multi-protocol instant messaging program. You can, of course, add Pidgin, or other programs -- in my case Chrome for web-browsing and Evolution for email -- using the Software Manager. The Manager, which now supports Flatpaks for program installations, is also faster now than it has been before.

One thing you can't do with this edition of Mint is upgrade directly from Mint 18.3. Instead, you must replace it with a fresh installation. The Mint team promises you will soon be able to update your operating system with no extra effort, but we don't have a date yet.

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A new feature, which will make upgrading the system and pulling back from upgrades if something goes wrong easier, is Timeshift. With this you can restore your computer to the last functional system snapshot if something does break. This new functionality has led to another change in Mint. Now, the Update Manager will apply all available upgrades. If something goes wrong, it relies on Timeshift to guarantee your system's stability.

You can't use Timeshift over a network or with an attached drive that uses FAT or NTFS file systems. Since I back up everything and the kitchen sink to generic Network Attached Storage (NAS) drives, which are usually formatted with FAT, that's a problem. Still, Timeshift's a useful trick to have in your Mint bag of toys.

The Nemo file manager has also been given a kick in the pants when it comes to speed. It's faster at showing directory contents and while moving files to network and USB drives. Searching in Nemo is also much faster. If there are searches you do all the time, you can also save the search, and it will run much faster the next time you run it.

Taken as a whole, this new Mint is a pleasure to use. I've been running it on my main desktop for several weeks now, since the beta arrived, and my love for Mint remains as strong as ever. It is simply the best desktop out there in my book. Give it a try, I think you just might agree with me.

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