Everyone was left asking what Linux Mint would do when their next big release came out. Would they take the path of least resistance and follow Ubuntu, their parent distribution, by accepting Unity? Or would they stick with upstream and make Gnome Shell their default? Maybe they might give Gnome 2.x a new lease of life and keep that as the default – it would certainly win them a lot of fans! Linux Mint 12 is now out, and we know the answer to this question: none of the above.
Gnome Shell Extensions
The team behind Linux Mint have gone in a completely unexpected and original direction. They’ve picked up Gnome Shell but, rather than using it as is, they’ve taken advantage of the integrated support for extensions to substantially customize it. Almost all of the problems that people have had with Gnome Shell are fixed by Mint’s Gnome Shell Extensions. They have:
- Re-introduced the bottom panel, complete with an Application menu and window list.
- Put a shutdown option back in the session menu.
- Turned on desktop icons by default.
- Re-introduced window minimization.
- Re-enabled the system tray.
- Made Alt+Tab work like it used to, switching between windows rather than applications.
We can’t sing the praises of this approach enough. Since all the usual Gnome Shell features are still in place, and each extension can be turned on or off individually, users can gradually acclimatize to Gnome Shell – or not if they don’t want to. Users can create the desktop they want. We also think this is a huge testament to the developers of Gnome. They set out to build a new platform with the explicit intention of allowing this kind of customization.