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It’s already been well over a year since the initial release of Gnome 3, and the world of Linux desktop environments has dramatically changed since then. Gnome 3 was born, Gnome 2 was essentially thrown to the side, Gnome 3 was forked to create Cinnamon, and so on.
However, Gnome 2 wasn’t completely thrown to the side, as it its code is now actively maintained in another project called MATE. Is it stable? Is the experience exactly as Gnome 2’s? Let’s find out!
How To Get MATE
Getting MATE on your Linux system isn’t very easy yet. Aside from any third-party repositories, barely any distribution currently offers MATE as a desktop environment option. If you’d like to have a go with MATE on your preferred distribution, you may or may not have luck but a few Google searches should provide you with a good idea if it’s possible and what to do if it is. So far, Linux Mint is the only one who is actively pushing MATE (as well as Cinnamon) as a desktop environment choice. Therefore, this review will be based on Linux Mint’s implementation of MATE as it’s as simple as running the Live CD. You can download your own copy by visiting Linux Mint’s website.
When the desktop first loaded, I was literally reminded of Linux Mint 11 and previous versions that still used Gnome 2 as it looks virtually identical. If I click around in the menu or right-click the desktop, everything looks as it used to.
One of the most popular Gnome applications is Nautilus, which can also serve as a small sign if you’re using the real deal. When I open it up, it looks essentially the same, and the only real difference is that Nautilus is actually called Caja under MATE. We can live with that change, right?
If that still hasn’t convinced you yet, an even better sign is whether the system settings tools that come with MATE are identical to those that came with Gnome 2. After clicking around in a few windows such as the Appearance settings, I can conclude that it is indeed the same.
Is There A Difference?
So is there a difference between Gnome 2 and MATE? Not quite (aside from a few name changes), but if you head over to MATE’s website you’ll see that they are indeed working on it with stability fixes and other smaller additions. In a nutshell, it will most likely mean that MATE will try to look as much as Gnome 2 as possible, but it will still evolve through active development. Therefore, it will look about the same (although there may be bigger differences down the road), but the code that runs it all will definitely be worked on.
In the end, it’s up to you whether you want to stay on the Gnome 2 path and use MATE or switch to something else whether it be Gnome 3, KDE, Xfce, etc. In case you do choose MATE, you won’t have to worry about being left behind with updates as it is being actively maintained with new features and plenty of fixes. As such, it runs very stable and fast as you’ve come to expect with Gnome 2.
What’s your opinion of the MATE project? It is worth keeping Gnome 2 alive? Are all these forks a good idea? Let us know in the comments!