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Ubuntu has been heralded by many as the apogee of the user-friendly, consumer driven Linux distribution. But what if there was an even better alternative? An operating system that benefits from the extensive Ubuntu repository, the proven Debian core and an user interface that would make it easy for Windows users to switch?  And better yet, how about an operating system with the motto “From Freedom Came Elegance“?

Linux Mint, a distribution based on Ubuntu, has won a significant share of users, and represents a better Linux experience for both advanced and first time users. Simple yet effective tweaks, like the Mint Menu, might not appear very impressive at first glance but they affect your daily routines in a positive manner. It’s the same principle that makes Apple software better: an uncanny attention to details and yes, elegance.

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Gloria, or version 7, was launched by the development team in June and is based on Ubuntu 9.04 “˜Jaunty Jackalope’. The release schedule for new versions of Linux Mint is tightly linked to Ubuntu’s, with updated versions releasing within 3 months of the official Ubuntu launch date.

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The Mint tools, a set of applets or small applications, pre-installed extras and a customized theme package are basically what set Linux Mint apart. Support for MP3s, AVI video files, Java, and proprietary hardware drivers come standard. It’s like buying a tuned card straight from the factory, except Linux Mint is completely free.

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The theme looks sleek and attractive, with shades of minty green and black, unlike the brown bliss of its father. You’re going to notice the similarity with the Windows taskbar immediately – the “˜Start’ button, quick launch and tray icons are right where they are supposed to be. The same goes for the windows switching area, there’s no separate bar. This makes for a quick and painless switch for those who would prefer the advantage of running Linux without having to spend a great deal of time adjusting to the UI (User Interface).

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The Linux Mint Menu works pretty much like its Windows Vista and 7 counterparts, providing quick access to system locations, applications or configuration panels. If you have many applications installed and forget how the one you needed was called, you had to scroll down alphabetically in Windows, which is quite tedious if you have the bad habit of trying stuff all the time. The Mint Menu makes this experience much better by organizing the application by their category: Office, Internet, Administration, etc. The “˜Filter’ search box also has a leg up; it provides various actions related to your keyword automatically, be it a Google  search, an application or a package you want to install.

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Linux Mint Install is another cool applet that replaces the standard Add/Remove Applications feature. Neatly organized in categories, featuring descriptions, ratings and reviews, applications couldn’t be easier to locate and install. It’s considerably simpler than on Windows; select the application, click “˜Install’ and you’re set.  Because Linux Mint is based  on Ubuntu, it’s compatible with the same huge repository of applications.

Mint Update keeps all the software updated with the latest patches for security and performance. Forget about checking Windows Update and then each application individually – Mint Update works with all the applications installed using Mint Install as well as the system packages. It even assigns a number to each update so you can quickly assess its importance and compatibility with your system.

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The Control Center, a feature that will look familiar to KDE users, is now available in the default Gnome window manager, aggregating all the available configuration applets – complete with a search bar and categories.

A few more tweaks and applets make Linux Mint great, but they are less important and I’m sure you’ll discover them yourself. Linux Mint comes in both 32bit and 64bit, with KDE, GNOME and XFCE flavors available here. Each version includes the standard array of applications such as Gimp, OpenOffice and Rhythmbox 5 Great Alternative Linux Music Players 5 Great Alternative Linux Music Players Read More . The Live CD image can be burned to a CD ImgBurn - Easy & Free CD and DVD Burner App ImgBurn - Easy & Free CD and DVD Burner App Read More or USB stick How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin We've already talked about Linux and why you should try it, but probably the hardest part of getting used to Linux is getting it in the first place. For Windows users, the simplest way is... Read More and can be booted for testing or performing a permanent installation. A quick start guide can be downloaded for free. You might also want to check out our “Getting Started Guide to Linux Getting Started Guide to Linux [PDF Guide] Getting Started Guide to Linux [PDF Guide] Read More “.

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