Linux Mint 18 Will Get Its Own Set Of Apps

Linux Mint to have its own apps

It’s common for distro developers to create and release a series of apps that are designed specifically for their distros. A big example of this is elementary OS. Nine years in, Linux Mint is finally taking the plunge and doing the same.

[Tweet “#LinuxMint to finally get its own apps in Mint 18.”]

Linux Mint is one of the best known Linux distros available. Based on Ubuntu and Debian, Linux Mint strives to create a “modern, elegant and comfortable operating system which is both powerful and easy to use”. The team behind Linux Mint is also very involved with the MATE and Cinnamon desktop environments.

First X-Men, now X-Apps

Thursday, Linux Mint project lead Clement Lefebvre announced the creation of the X-Apps. The X-Apps are designed to be desktop-agnostic so that developers can update them without having to tweak them for each desktop environment. Lefebvre stated that these X-Apps would be used as default applications for Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce.

Does Linux Need Even More Apps?

According to Lefebvre, the creation of the X-Apps was necessitated by the release of GNOME 3.18. He said that with the release of GNOME 3.18:

“GTK itself and many of the GNOME applications now integrate better with GNOME Shell and look more native in that environment. The bad news, is that they now look completely out of place everywhere else. To make matters worse, Unity, the flagship product of Ubuntu, relies heavily on GTK, GNOME applications and the GNOME environment itself, so we’re not dealing with the upstream version of 3.18 here, but with a collection of patches which bring their own issues (one example is that Ubuntu reintroduces menubars and titlebars in applications but without rewriting their headerbar.. so you sometimes see all three of them).”

In the past, the Linux Mint team dealt with the problem by “downgrading apps (Linux Mint 17 uses gedit 2.30 for instance), patching GNOME (GTK and various GNOME apps) and using alternatives (mostly in MATE and Xfce)”.

Lefebvre also said that it didn’t make sense to build specific applications for Cinnamon and MATE this is why they opted to work on apps which would be generic, perfectly suited to run in Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce (and possibly other desktop environments).

He further added:

X-Apps will be a collection of generic GTK3 applications using traditional interfaces which can be used as default desktop components in Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce. In Mint 18, the “X apps” will allow us to maintain a native look and a good level of integration because they will be used in replacement of GNOME applications which now look foreign (using headerbars and a distinctive layout). Long-term, the X-App project will allow us to innovate and to develop new features and improvements in the applications themselves (this is something we couldn’t do via patches, temporary forks or DE-specific forks like the MATE apps because it was too costly).

What Kind of Apps Will Be Available?

Xedit: the text editor
Xedit: the text editor

Lefebvre only revealed one of the upcoming X-Apps: a text editor named xedit. Here are some of the feature that it will provide:

  • Based on Pluma to lower learning curve
  • Makes use of GTK3
  • Doesn’t depend on GNOME or MATE


The X-Apps will be coming together with Linux Mint 18 release, which will follow the release of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS by several months. Ubuntu 16.04 is scheduled to release in April.

Final Thoughts

Personally, whenever I hear about someone releasing new distro specific apps, I cringe. The Linux universe is already incredibly fragmented. Do we really need more duplicate projects to take time and energy to create? Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of desktop-agnostic apps. It would fix a lot of problems with how apps look from distro to distro.

The problem that worries me is “Will they be able to pull it off?” As I stated before, the Linux Mint guys also work on two desktop environments. Now add application development to the mix. I’ve never written a piece of software myself (other than one that said “Hello, World”), but I do know that when you try and complicate a project bad things happen. Many projects have fallen to the dragon of feature creep I hope that doesn’t happen here.

Do you have a different take? Let me know in the comments below.

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  • It is even worse than that.
    Each release of GTK breaks all themes written for any previous version of GTK
    This is intentionally done.
    This is not supposition, this is from Gnome developer communications.
    The purpose of doing it is to force the use of their Gnome theme.
    Forcing the use of their Gnome theme is to protect the Gnome ‘brand’.

    It is not your computer to do with as you wish.
    It is a marketing platform for Gnome.

    There needs to be a fork of GTK, that is where the fork really needs to be.

      • I don’t have a big problem with fragmentation of Linux applications. There are dozens of variations on the theme of Notepad in Windows, for example, but it doesn’t harm Windows in any way to have those choices. It’s not the same as the fragmentation of Linux distros themselves that results in developers throwing up their hands and giving up on Linux because there are so many different flavors of Linux with so many different ways of doing things.

        If anyone deserves the blame for this particular project, it’s not Mint– it’s Gnome. They’re pursuing their own design aesthetic, which is their prerogative, but they are doing it in a way that breaks with the way things have always been done. Now they’re pushing this ugly “gtk header bar” that clutters up the appearance and replaces the tried and true menu bar with the abomination known as the hamburger menu (while disregarding the system-specified theme for window appearance). What used to take a single click now takes several; what used to be right there on the screen now takes hunting and drilling down through more layers of menus.

        On a mobile device, this is a necessary evil. They don’t have the screen space for a lot of on-screen options, and because they’re optimized for big fleshy fingers, the controls themselves take up a much greater proportion of the space on-screen than on a traditional UI. The hamburger menu necessarily becomes a “junk drawer” for just about everything, leaving the users to rummage around whenever they need to look for anything.

        On non-touch devices, this accommodation of the inherent limitations of mobile devices seriously harms workflow and usability. Two of the traditional PC’s best strengths are the comparatively huge screen (with lots of room for menus AND the content) and the mouse (which has pointing and clicking as two distinct events, so the user knows exactly what is being clicked on before the click even happens; as such, it is precise enough to reliably hit targets far smaller than is practical with touchscreen taps).

        Why give those advantages up in favor of a mobile-oriented UI (with all of its limitations) when you’re not actually using a mobile device?

        Ubuntu is going that way too with their Unity DE. Since Unity’s release, Ubuntu has lost its place as top Linux distro; Mint, with its focus on traditional UI elements that are ideal on the non-touch traditional PC, has taken over. Hint, hint.

        Microsoft also tried a unified UI for touch and mouse with Windows 8, and it was a flop. They tried again with Windows 10, and while it moves the bar closer to the traditional PC, it moves it farther from mobiles; now it’s mediocre and klunky on both, and it would be a flop too if MS wasn’t essentially forcing people to take it (and I don’t just mean the deceptive or forced upgrade shenanigans; I mean the promise that this is the last Windows version ever, so unless you want to use an unpatched, insecure piece of Swiss cheese, you’re going to have to swallow Windows 10 if you want to stick with Windows).

        It’s a sad state of affairs when one set of devs intentionally breaks useful functionality on purpose while another set of devs works to fix what was broken, but that’s the reality now with a lot of projects (consider Firefox and Pale Moon for another example). X-apps and Pale Moon are not taking their respective forks in a different direction than the parent project… they’re going in the same direction as the parent projects until relatively recently. It was Gnome and Firefox, respectively, that took off on some new, ill-advised trajectory.