Linux Mint's purpose is to produce an elegant, up-to-date, and comfortable GNU/Linux desktop based on Ubuntu. Some of the reasons for the success of Linux Mint are:
It's one of the most community driven distributions
It is a Debian-based distribution and as such it is very solid and it comes with one of the greatest package managers
It is compatible with and uses Ubuntu repositories. This gives Linux Mint users access to a huge collection of packages and software.
It comes with a lot of desktop improvements which make it easier for the user to do common things
There is a strong focus on making things work out of the box (WiFi cards drivers in the file system, multimedia support, screen resolution, etc)
New features in Linux Mint 18.3 Cinnamon
Linux Mint 18.3 is a long term support release which will be supported until 2021. It comes with updated software and brings refinements and many new features to make your desktop experience more comfortable to use.
Linux Mint 18.3 "Sylvia" Cinnamon Edition
The star of the show in Linux Mint 18.3 is the Software Manager.
A Better Manager
Although app stores already existed in Android and iOS and similar concepts had been developed in PCBSD at the time, Linux Mint was one of the first distributions to introduce a Software Manager, and that manager started to show its age. It needed attention and so a huge amount of work went into revamping it, making it look more modern and polishing it to give a better user experience.
The Software Manager
Popular software applications such as Spotify, WhatsApp, Skype, Google Earth, Steam or Minecraft are now featured and very easy to install.
The user interface looks more modern and its layout is inspired by Gnome Software. It's simpler, more consistent than before and it makes the application look much cleaner.
Many popular apps are featured and easy to install
The Software Manager is now also much lighter and faster than before. It no longer uses Webkit, browsing categories and apps is almost immediate, and it launches 3 times faster than before.
The backend was ported to AptDaemon and the Software Manager now runs in user mode. Consequently you do not need to enter any passwords to browse applications, and if you enter a password to install or remove an app, the authentication is remembered for a little while so you can install or remove other apps without having to enter that password again.
Under the hood the code was simplified and modernized, using the latest techniques used by the development team.
Thanks to Flatpak you can install bleeding-edge applications even if their dependencies are not compatible with Linux Mint.
Linux Mint 18.3 comes with Flatpak installed by default and the new Software Manager fully supports it.
A section is dedicated to Flatpak and the Software Manager lists the content of each Flatpak remote:
Browsing the Flathub remote in the Software Manager
Although Flathub is configured by default, you can modify the list of remotes. If you add new ones, they will appear in the Software Manager.
Packages and flatpaks are completely different things, but in the Software Manager, they’re presented the same way: They’re just applications you install.
Flatpaks look like other apps in the Software Manager:
Installing a Flatpak
You can browse each remote, see their flatpaks, review them, look at their screenshots, press the Install button and launch them just the same way you install other apps.
Once installed Flatpaks run in their own environment and in isolation. They do not impact the rest of the operating system. Below is GNOME Games 3.26 running in its own GTK 3.26 environment. This application could not otherwise run in Linux Mint as it is not compatible with GTK 3.18.
GNOME Games 3.26 running in its own environment
Here is another aspect of Linux Mint which was significantly improved in 18.3.
The Backup Tool was almost entirely rewritten. Everything was reviewed: Its features, the way it looks and the way it works.
The Backup Tool
It is now dedicated to making a backup of your home directory, nothing less and nothing more. It saves all your files into a tar archive. When restoring a backup, files are restored in the exact same place they were before, with their original permissions and timestamps.
It runs in user mode so you no longer need to enter your password. The steps required to perform a backup or to restore data are much simpler than before and your configuration choices are remembered so you can repeat backups often without the need to re-select the same things over and over again.
Saving your software selection is also much simpler than before. Rather than showing you thousands of packages to choose from, the Backup Tool now simply lists the packages you installed from the Software Manager.
Saving your software selection
Under the hood, the code is also much smaller and much more modern. Performance and stability were improved, in particular around data compression and multi-threading. Like it was done for the Software Manager, the APT backend was switched to AptDaemon.
Linux Mint 18.3 features Timeshift, a tool dedicated to system snapshots.
Timeshift is the perfect companion to the Linux Mint Backup Tool. It doesn't save your personal data, it saves everything else.
Thanks to Timeshift you can create backups of the operating system itself.
You deleted system files by mistake? You can recover them. You upgraded to a newer release and something isn't working well anymore? You can go back in time.
System snapshots with Timeshift
In preparation for Linux Mint 18.3, our development team worked in cooperation with Tony George, the developer of Timeshift, to improve localization, HiDPI support, look and feel, and support for window progress and encrypted directories. If you already enjoyed Timeshift in the past, we hope you'll enjoy it now even more.
A new tool called "System Reports" was developed for Linux Mint 18.3. Its goal is to generate reports when software crashes occur, and to show information relevant to your computer and your environment.
When a crash occurs, information is now gathered and a crash report is generated.
The "System Reports" tool lists the crashes and is able to generate stack traces for them:
When developers aren't able to reproduce a bug, that information is very useful. It's always been very difficult for non-experienced users to produce core dumps or stack traces. This tool helps a lot with that.
In addition to crash reports, the tool is also able to show information reports.
Unlike the release notes which show the same generic information to everybody, information reports are targeted at particular users, particular hardware, particular cases. Each report is able to detect its own relevance based on your environment, the desktop you're using, your CPU, your graphic cards...etc.
The development team will use this tool to write reports and to address certain issues by showing information, workarounds, troubleshooting techniques which can help users affected by them.
Reports can even include actions and resolutions. Sometimes the development team knows how to solve a particular problem, but the solution cannot or should not be taken on the user's behalf. In those cases a report can simply ask the user and solving an issue can be as simple as a click on a button.
GNOME Online Accounts
Cinnamon 3.6 supports GNOME Online Accounts. Among other things, this support makes it possible to browse Google Drive and OwnCloud in Nemo.
Connect your Google Account and Nemo automatically adds access to your Google Drive in the sidebar:
GNOME Online Accounts
Whereas previous releases used the Synaptics touchpad driver, this one ships with the Libinput driver by default.
When the Libinput driver (xserver-xorg-input-libinput) is installed, it is used. When it is removed (and after a reboot), Synaptics is used instead.
Cinnamon 3.6 supports both drivers out of the box, thanks to improvements in the settings daemon and the introduction of "automatic" configuration options which adapt well to most touchpads, no matter which driver is being used.
The configuration module for Cinnamon spices (applets, desklets, extensions, themes) was completely revamped:
It allows you to put applets directly in different panels, gives 1-click access to configuration settings, shows the Spices that have had an update since you installed them, and refreshes more rapidly. There's also a 'More Info' link to the Spices website for screenshots and user reviews.
The size and position of the on-screen keyboard are now configurable. You can place it on top or at the bottom and it can take half, a third or a quarter of your screen.
AT-SPI support (which allows the on-screen keyboard to pop up automatically when you give focus to a text entry) was improved and is now fully functional.
Onboard and Cinnamon were modified so they could be both installed and wouldn't interfere with each other. You can now use the Cinnamon on-screen keyboard without onboard getting in the way on AT-SPI events, and you can launch and use onboard without Cinnamon getting in the way either.
Nemo extensions can now pass the name of their configuration tool to Nemo in order to get a "Configure" button in the Nemo plugins dialog:
This makes it easier to integrate extensions properly and not clutter the application menu.
Some of the other improvements in Cinnamon 3.6 are:
HiDPI support gets better with every new release.
The Software Manager and Software Sources were ported to GTK3 and now support HiDPI.
HiDPI support in Cinnamon 3.6 now defaults to "Auto" (it was disabled in previous releases), so the environment will scale out of the box on HiDPI displays.
LibXapp now allows applications to communicate their progress to the window manager.
This feature is called "window-progress" and it is supported by Cinnamon 3.6.
When an application uses it, its progress is visible in the panel window list:
Window progress in Cinnamon 3.6
In Linux Mint 18.3, window progress is supported by the following applications:
Xed, the text editor, now features a minimap.
The toolbar of the PDF reader, Xreader, was improved. The history buttons were replaced with navigation buttons (history can still be browsed via the menubar). The two zoom buttons were switched and a zoom reset button was added to make Xreader consistent with other Xapps.
The reader now also detects the DPI and the size of your monitor to make the size of the document you see on the screen match the size of the paper in real life when using a 100% zoom level.
In Xplayer, the media player, the fullscreen window was improved to look cleaner and to be more consistent with the player’s window mode.
The login screen is more configurable than before. Options were added for automatic login, so if you're the only one around, you can now set up your computer to log you in without a password.
LDAP users will appreciate the ability to hide the user list and enter user names manually.
Various user interface elements such as the panel indicators now show tooltips and can be enabled/disabled in the preferences.
Configuring the login screen
Support for numlockx (which purpose it to turn ON the numlock key at startup) was also added.
Linux Mint now features better out of the box support for spell-checking and synonyms in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Russian.
Redshift was added to the software selection and is now installed by default. This tool adapts the color temperature of your screen based on the time of day, making it look warmer at night to reduce the impact on your eyes.
The Driver Manager now detects your CPU and presents microcode packages in a more meaningful way:
The Driver Manager
The Upload Manager (mintupload) and the Domain Blocker (mintnanny) were removed from the default software selection. They will continue to be available in the repositories but they are no longer installed by default.
The PIA Manager, a set up tool for PIA VPN connections (available in the repositories), now runs in user mode and no longer requires a root password to be launched.
This release ships with linux-firmware 1.157.13 and the Linux kernel 4.10.0-38.
Linux Mint 18.3 features a superb collection of backgrounds from Adam Kool, Adriel Kloppenburg, Daniel Clarke, Daniel Olah, Drew Coffman, Jakob Owens, James Donovan, Jan Kaluza, Jyothish Kumar P.G, Kalen Emsley, Muhammad Masood, Next Voyage, Sezgin Mendil, Syd Sujuaan and Thomas B..
An overview of the new backgrounds
Linux Mint 18.3 features Cinnamon 3.6, a Linux kernel 4.10 and an Ubuntu 16.04 package base.
Linux Mint 18.3 will receive security updates until 2021.
Until 2018, future versions of Linux Mint will use the same package base as Linux Mint 18, making it trivial for people to upgrade.
Until 2018, the development team won't start working on a new base and will be fully focused on this one.