Ubuntu Cinnamon makes switching from Windows to Linux as painless as possible

Ubuntu Cinnamon is an official spin of the open-source desktop operating system that makes Linux immediately familiar to any user or skill level.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
The default Ubuntu Cinnamon desktop.

Cinnamon offers a clean and simple desktop interface anyone can pick up immediately.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Linux is all about choice. It has been since its inception and it remains so to this day. You'll find desktop interfaces that range from old-school to highly modern (and everything in between). If you've ever used any incarnation of Windows or MacOS, you'll find a Linux desktop distribution to perfectly meet your needs.

As for me, my preference falls more toward the modern take on the desktop. However, most users prefer to stick with the familiar and that typically means Windows. Because of this, you'll find a number of Linux desktop interfaces that resemble the Windows UI on some (or multiple) levels. 

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One such distribution is Ubuntu Cinnamon. This official flavor of Ubuntu uses the Cinnamon interface (which is the default for Linux Mint) for a desktop that requires very little effort to learn. 

According to the official Ubuntu Cinnamon website, "Cinnamon takes the more traditional approach of a GNOME 2 and MATE-like desktop. Similar to Windows 7, it is easy to transition from your Windows system to Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix, and even if you still prefer to keep Windows on the side, you can always dual-boot Windows and Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix." 

And that is the heart of Ubuntu Cinnamon. It's all about making the transition from Windows to Linux as painless as possible. And it does a remarkable job of making it easy. 

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Before you get too excited, do know that this is Linux and not Windows, so fundamentally it is different. First off, it's open-source, which not only means the source code is readily available to view and edit (if needed) but it's also free. On top of that, much of the software you'll use on Ubuntu Cinnamon is free. That should not scare you away from trying Ubuntu Cinnamon. When I say it's easy to use, I mean it's easy enough for anyone to use.

Think about it this way. The vast majority of people interact with the world via a web browser and not much more. The days of needing specific applications for everything you do is over. Because of that, the operating system you choose isn't nearly as important as the web browser. And even then, most browsers work just fine. 

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With that in mind, what's stopping you from trying the likes of Ubuntu Cinnamon?

Speaking of which…

I've never been a big fan of the Windows interface. But I do see the appeal. The traditional desktop layout is efficient and covers all the bases. If you want to quickly launch a favorite app, click an icon on the panel or desktop. For launching any other app, scan through the desktop menu. Do you have a folder you frequently access? Add a shortcut to the desktop. It's all there, ready to go.

The Ubuntu Cinnamon desktop menu.

You can open any installed application through the Ubuntu Cinnamon desktop menu.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

If that UI sounds not only familiar but also desirable, Ubuntu Cinnamon has you covered. The desktop offers a very traditional layout with all the features you're accustomed to using… but with a decidedly open-source spin. You'll find plenty of open-source software installed by default. Click the Menu button (lower left corner) to reveal everything categorized so you can easily find what you're looking for.

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Pre-installed software includes the likes of:

  • LibreOffice (office suite)
  • Firefox (web browser)
  • Thunderbird (email)
  • Celluloid (video player)
  • Rythmbox (music player)
  • GIMP (image editor)

For those who prefer to house folders on the desktop (for easy access), simply right-click anywhere on the desktop and select Create New Folder. 

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Another very nice feature of Ubuntu Cinnamon is window snapping. With this take on the desktop, you can snap windows:

  • Splitting the screen in half vertically.
  • Splitting the screen in half horizontally.
  • Splitting the screen into four quarters.
The Ubuntu Cinnamon desktop with four apps open and snapped to corners.

Working efficiently with four apps snapped into corners.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

I'm a big fan of window snapping and use it every day. Not every desktop includes four-corner snapping and I'm here for it.

Who is Ubuntu Cinnamon for?

This is an important question to ask, primarily because the Cinnamon desktop is directly linked to Linux Mint. And given how popular and user-friendly Mint is, why wouldn't you just opt for that OS? To make this question even more confusing, Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu. So, why not cut out the middle person and use Ubuntu with Linux Mint's desktop? 

Also: How to replace Windows with Linux Mint on your PC

There's no hard and fast way to answer that question. The difference between Linux Mint and Ubuntu Cinnamon lies in the details, most of which really won't matter to new users trying to decide which operating system to choose. Even the file managers are the same.

From the user's perspective, the primary difference is found in the number of pre-installed software. Linux Mint includes a number of applications not found in Ubuntu Cinnamon. For example, Linux Mint includes the likes of Warpinator (send and receive files across a network), Redshift (color temperature adjustment tool), and Hypnotic (watch internet TV), Library (view recent files). One big difference is that Ubuntu Cinnamon uses GNOME Software as the app store, whereas Linux Mint offers mintinstall. 

Both tools make it very easy to install software, however, Ubuntu Cinnamon offers Snap for universal package management, whereas Linux Mint goes with Flatpak. Both distributions have support for their universal package manager of choice built into the app stores, so even installing proprietary software like Spotify is just a couple of clicks away.

Also: My idea for a great new beginner-friendly Linux distribution

One thing that does surprise me with Ubuntu Cinnamon is that it doesn't include the built-in ability to share folders over a network (where Linux Mint does). Even with the Public folder found in your Home directory, you'll find no easy means of sharing. 

In the end, Ubuntu Cinnamon is an absolutely wonderful desktop operating system that will suit just about any type of user, whether you're new to Linux or not. The only type of person I would say might not dig this official spin would be someone who likes a desktop that offers considerable flexibility and configuration options. The Cinnamon desktop holds back on the configurable options to keep things simple. That doesn't, however, mean it is a simplistic desktop. It's not. 

In the end, if you're looking for a desktop operating system that is immediately familiar, simple to use, free, and reliable, look no further than Ubuntu Cinnamon.

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