A couple of months ago I decided to check out the Cinnamon user interface. On my main working laptop I run Ubuntu 12.04 (LTS) which by default comes with Unity, Ubuntu’s own user interface. I thought I’d share some of my experience and thoughts on how it works and what I like about it, and what could have been better.
The first thing you notice after installing Cinnamon is the bottom panel, which is basically a general taskbar with a menu, icons, list of open windows and applets such as calendar, clock, volume settings etc. Superficially, it looks a lot like the Windows taskbar. I don’t really mind, because I find the cinnamon taskbar work better than the one in Windows, and a lot better than Unity. Windows 7 has a really annoying behavior when it comes to switching between open windows within an application. The Win7 taskbar displays just one icon for each application, and you therefore have to click the icon before you can select the window you want.
Unity is even worse. When you click the icon for an open application it just selects whatever window from that application that most recently was selected. This is really annoying if you for example downloads and opens a pdf and want to switch between the document reader and Firefox. When you then click the Firefox icon Unity gives you the Firefox download manager window when you probably wanted the main window. The same thing happens if you have many pdf’s open. There is a real hassle to find the right one by just clicking the Document Reader icon.
In Cinnamon you get all the open windows listed. This can of course make the panel a bit crowded if you have many windows open, but I think this is much better than having a struggle every time I want to switch windows like it is in Unity.
The Menu button gives access to all you applications. It also has a search field. It is not as comprehensive as the Unity Dash since it only searches you applications, not your files.
By default, Cinnamon have the title bar buttons (close, minimize, maximize) on the right side. I prefer to have them on the left side, like in Unity. At first I thought this would be hard to change and that I just had to get used to have them on the right. It turns out that is was really easy to change this through the Cinnamon Settings. Yay!
Cinnamon doesn’t have the “global menu bar” that Unity have, the menu bars are all on the windows where they belong. I prefer the classic way, and from what I’ve read, most applications made with GTK+ user interface (which Cinnamon, Unity and many others runs) is not made with a global menu bar in mind, making the Unity global menu bar not as good as the one in Mac.
I have experienced some bugs. The most common (and most serious) is that the desktop icons don’t always load. This happens about one quarter of the times I start my computer. This is not so critical for me since I don’t have any important files or shortcuts on the desktop anyway, but it is probably annoying for many other people. Another common bug I encounter is that newly opened windows sometimes are shrunk, and when I try to maximize them it doesn’t work. This however goes away if i minimize them and then restores them. I don’t know is these bugs are specific to Ubuntu or if they also appear on Linux Mint.
Ubuntu One integration is also not perfect. The icons that indicate that folders and files are synced or are syncing is not working. The synced folders just show the regular folder icon. The notifications, etc. works fine.
Despite a couple of bugs and missing features Cinnamon is a great user interface with a lot of potential- Cinnamon is more responsive, and is more intuitive and easier to work with. I’m sure the bugs will be fixed in later versions, and I hope Ubuntu One integration will be better. All in all I prefer Cinnamon over Unity. The main reason is being the ease of switching between windows. This gives a better work flow that isn’t obstructed by, what at least should be, a trivial task of changing what document you look at or what application you use.