Install Linux Mint’s New Cinnamon Desktop on Ubuntu

Tired of Ubuntu’s Unity desktop environment? Try Cinnamon, the latest desktop environment from Linux Mint. Cinnamon offers a more traditional, GNOME 2-like layout, but it’s based on the modern GNOME Shell — and you can install it on Ubuntu.

One day, Cinnamon will be Linux Mint’s default desktop environment. It’s forked from GNOME Shell instead of being based on GNOME 2, so it can take advantage of modern technologies and shed GNOME 2’s outdated software.

Cinnamon vs. MGSE vs. MATE

Linux Mint has quite a few different desktop environments. Mint GNOME Shell Extensions (MGSE) offers several extensions that modify the way GNOME Shell works — Cinnamon builds on MGSE and replaces it. Linux Mint also includes the MATE desktop, which is a fork of the outdated GNOME 2 desktop environment. Cinnamon is more forward-looking than MATE, but doesn’t abandon GNOME’s traditional interface like GNOME Shell does.

Installing Cinnamon

You don’t have to use Mint to get the Cinnamon desktop. It’s available in a personal package archive (PPA) for Ubuntu 11.10 and 12.04.

First, you’ll need to bring up a terminal and run the following command, which adds the personal package archive to your Ubuntu system as a software source:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:merlwiz79/cinnamon-ppa

Press Enter when it prompts you

Second, download a list of available packages by running this command:

sudo apt-get update

Now you’re ready to install Cinnamon’s packages with this command:

sudo apt-get install cinnamon cinnamon-session cinnamon-settings

Type Y and press Enter when prompted.

Use another Linux distribution? You can find instructions for your distribution, or just a link to download the source code, on Cinnamon’s official download page.

Starting Cinnamon

Cinnamon doesn’t replace your existing Ubuntu desktop environment. It just adds a new option to your login screen. You’ll need to log out before starting Cinnamon.

After logging out, select Cinnamon from the login screen and log back in.

Using Cinnamon

Cinnamon comes with a single panel on the bottom of the screen, just like Linux Mint’s GNOME 2 desktop environment did. At the left side, you’ll find a menu that’s more similar to Linux Mint’s traditional applications menu than it is to GNOME Shell’s full-screen applications menu. Unlike GNOME Shell, the panel also contains a traditional window list.

At the right side, you’ll find music and network icons, a clock and workspace switcher. The music applet is particularly polished — it lets you control music players from your panel.

You can launch the Cinnamon Settings application from the menu, but it has few options at the moment. Linux Mint want Cinnamon to be much more configurable — another difference from GNOME 3 — but most options aren’t available yet.

Disabling the Global Menu

You might notice Ubuntu’s global menu bar still appears at the top of the screen. If you want to get rid of it, just run the following command, then log out and back in:

sudo apt-get remove appmenu-gtk3 appmenu-gtk appmenu-qt

Want it back? Just replace “remove” with “install” to reinstall the packages:

sudo apt-get install appmenu-gtk3 appmenu-gtk appmenu-qt


Cinnamon is still new, so don’t be surprised if some features are rough around the edges. Still, it’s an impressively modern take on a traditional Linux desktop layout. Cinnamon and Linux Mint are projects to keep an eye on.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 01/27/12
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