Given that Linux Mint is based on the Ubuntu distribution (which is, itself, based on Debian Linux), it might seem that Linux Mint would use Unity as well. This is not the case, however. "So far Unity is only used by one other distribution. It doesn't look particularly interesting to us and there's no demand for it," Lefebvre said.
Nor does the Linux Mint team want to continue to use Gnome 3, which was released last August and was used in Linux Mint 12. Gnome 3 asks people to change the way they use their computers, Lefebvre noted in a blog post last November. It requires users to think about using the computer in terms of the applications they want to use rather than tasks they want to complete. Nor does it multitask well, he charged. Lefebvre was not alone in his frustration: Linux maintainer Linus Torvalds has called Gnome 3 "an unholy mess."
Cinnamon, in many ways, returns to traditional notions of how desktop interfaces should be presented to users. For instance, the interface used a slim panel to hold icons for applications, operational status reports and basic commands. Cinnamon will allow users to place this icon panel along the top, or on the bottom, or even have two panels for both the top and the bottom. In a future release, users will be able to place the panel anywhere they want on the desktop. This approach is a notable contrast from Unity, the icon panel for which is affixed to the left-hand side of the screen.
With Cinnamon, users also can customize the look and feel of the desktop, as they easily could with earlier versions of Gnome. With a configuration tool called "Cinnamon Settings," users can pick from different themes, apply desktop effects, and add applets and extensions.
In addition to Cinnamon, Linux Mint 13 will also feature another desktop, called Mate, which applies a shell over Gnome 3 that presents an interface that replicates the experience of using Gnome 2.0. It will be for people who are used to the old interface or don't have the system resources to run Cinnamon, Lefebvre said.