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The elves in the Linux Mint development team have been very busy the past few weeks, and just in time for Christmas they have produced new and updated relases for all of the Mint distributions.
The main branch, Mint 14 (Nadia), derived from Ubuntu 12.10 with the Gnome-based Cinnamon and MATE desktops came out in November, then Linux Mint Debian Edition Update Pack 6 at the beginning of December.
That was followed last week by the release of the Xfce version, and the set was completed this weekend with the release of the KDE version. In the following gallery I will show the default desktop and menus, and give a brief description of the content and some of strengths of each version. But there is no substitute for trying it for yourself.
All of these distributions are "Live" images, so you can download and burn them to a DVD or copy them to a USB stick, and boot it up on your own computer without changing anything on your disk. Running the live image you can see whether all of your hardware is supported - don't believe all of the FUD that people spout about having to find device drivers, compile kernel modules or whatever.
The screenshots in this gallery were taken on six different laptops, with a variety of Intel and AMD cpu and graphics, and Wi-Fi adapters from Intel, Broadcom, Atheros and Ralink - and they all worked from the base installation. If the live distribution works for you, the Mint installer will help you get it installed on your system alongside Windows.
Starting with the most recent release first... This version of Linux Mint 14 is based on KDE 4.9.3, and Linux kernel 3.5.0. This distribution is not derived from Kubuntu, it comes from the main Ubuntu distribution with the KDE desktop and features integrated by the Linux Mint developers.
The standard KDE desktop, shown above with hierarchical menus and Plasma workspaces for desktop icons, has gained a lot of users who are disenchanted with the Gnome 3 and Unity desktops.
As with all of the Linux Mint distributions, it includes a long list of applications and utilities. Firefox 17.0.1 for web browsing, LibreOffice 184.108.40.206 with Writer, Calc, Impress and Draw, and the Okular document viewer for PDF files. Multimedia playing with the excellent VLC player, Kaffeine and the Amarok audio player.
For graphic image editing it includes GIMP 2.8.2, plus Gwenview for photo viewing and basic editing, and the excellent digiKam 2.8 for complete photo and album management, editing and exporting to a variety of online photo services.
With KDE you not only get the standard desktop, you also get the netbook desktop. Simply go to System Settings, then choose Workspace Behavior. From the list at the left of that window choose Workspace, and then from the Workspace Type drop-down choose netbook.
This screenshot was made on an Acer Aspire One 522 (AMD C-60 CPU, 1024x600 screen). The netbook desktop places a quick-start bar across the top of the screen, for easy launching of commonly used applications, and places menu icons on the lower portion of the screen, with each icon having only a single level of application icons grouped below it.
New windows always start full-screen, and window navigation is handled through the panel at the top edge of the screen. The top panel auto-hides when another window is active, in order to maximize the screen space available for applications.
Also released last week, the Linux Mint 14 Xfce distribution, based on Xfce 4.10, is fast and lightweight, but still has the traditional desktop look that many Linux users were used to with Gnome 2. This screenshot was taken on a Samsung N150 Plus (Intel Atom CPU, 1024x600 display). Like the KDE version, it includes Firefox 17.0.1, LibreOffice 220.127.116.11 and GIMP 2.8.2. For photo management it includes gThumb, for audio playing it has Banshee, and for video it has the Totem Movie Player.
Also recently released was Update Pack 6 for Linux Mint Debian Edition, shown above with the MATE desktop. This branch of the Mint distribution is derived directly from Debian GNU/Linux, rather than Ubuntu.
This screenshot was taken on an HP Pavilion dm1-3105ez (AMD E-350 CPU, 1366x768 display). With this latest Update Pack, LMDE is running Linux kernel 3.2.0 and MATE 1.4.0. It is somewhat the opposite of the lightweight Xfce distribution, as it has a very large selection of applications and utilities included.
It includes both Firefox and Thunderbird; for multimedia it has Banshee, VLC Media Player, Totem and the Gnome Mplayer. It has gThumb for photo display and management, and the ImageMagick tools for manipulating and converting image files. Oh, and of course it has LibreOffice and a PDF Document Viewer.
Finally, here is the flagship of the family, Linux Mint 14 (Nadia). This screenshot, taken on my old workhorse Fujitsu Lifebook S6510 (Intel Core2Duo CPU, 1280x800 display) shows the latest Cinnamon desktop (1.6).
It is running linux kernel 3.5.0, and includes most of what has been mentioned previously - Firefox and Thunderbird, LibreOffice, GIMP, gThumb, Banshee, VLC, Totem and Mplayer. The most important characteristic of Linux Mint is that "it just works" - you can play your multimedia audio and video without having to chase around for different players and codecs, you can edit your Office text, spreadsheet and presentation documents, including the ability to read MS Office .doc, .docx, .xls, xlsx files, read and write ODF (Open Document Format) file, and create PDF files. You can surf the web, access your mail, and view, edit and manage your photos.