Linux Mint 9, dubbed Isadora, was released on May 18th with plenty of new features and software. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, but it does have its own identity and community. The GNOME version of Linux Mint is released first; if you’re looking for the KDE, LXDE or Fluxbox releases, it might be a few more weeks before those come out.
Naturally, Mint 9 has lots of new software. It comes with GNOME 2.30, OpenOffice.org 3.2.0 (with the old-fashioned Sun splash-screen), Firefox 3.6.3, and so on. You can see the full package listing on DistroWatch, but it’s pretty much the latest and greatest stable packages you’ll find currently. Of course, Mint inherits most of its packages from Ubuntu, so if you’re familiar with what Ubuntu has to offer, Mint shouldn’t throw any surprises.
Linux Mint Menu
The menu has been improved. If you turn on 3D effects, you can view a partly transparent menu. You can also now right-click on an item in the menu to edit it. You also have the option of changing the menu’s default behavior from showing what you looked at last to defaulting to your favorites. You can even right-click items to add them to your desktop and panel. I love the right-clicking features in the menu, it makes it very fast to change items or put them on your panel or desktop.
LXDM Display Manager
Linux Mint 9 LXDE is the first Mint release to use LXDM as a display manager. It’s smaller and faster than many comparable display managers and offers excellent localization support. It can also be themed and is easily configured for automatic login.
PCManFM2 File Manager
The LXDE file manager has been completely rewritten to offer better support for mounting and unmounting filesystems, native Trash support, and autorun when certain types of media are inserted.
New Software Manager
It features more than 30,000 packages, and you can read user reviews of each application. You can also post your own reviews. Applications are sorted by score, so it’s easy to see the highest rated software.
Software installations will run in the background. You can continue browsing through the Software Manager or shut it down. Another item to take note of is the new, community website for Linux Mint users. The new site lets Linux Mint users share their thoughts about software, hardware and other topics. By registering for the site you will also be able to write software reviews that will appear in the Software Manager.
New Backup Tool
Linux Mint has a new backup too. The new backup tool preserves your data and preferences. It also tracks the software you installed. When you go to upgrade to a fresh install of Linux Mint, the backup tool will restore your data as well as the software you had installed on your Linux Mint system.
You can also opt to restore your software selection on a different computer. The backup tool can perform incremental restorations and backups, and it can compress and archive “on the fly.” It also performs an integrity check on each file (but you can turn this off if you want to speed up your backup).
Better look & feel
This release also includes a new desktop settings tool. The new tool has an improved appearance, and changes take effect immediately.
Remember those controversial changes Canonical made to the title bar buttons in Ubuntu? They were placed on the left instead of the right. This infuriated many Ubuntu users who claimed it was too “Mac-like.” Well Linux Mint fixes that too by giving everybody a choice in the matter.
This release also marks the return of the Windows Installer (mint4win). I don’t generally run Windows so it’s not much use to me, but I’m glad to see it back for those who wish to use it.
Ubuntu 10.04 brings faster boot speeds, a better looking installer, and “Long Term Support” (3 years of security updates).
In conclusion, Linux Mint has quite a lot to offer. If you’re new to Linux or want a distro to recommend to someone who’s new to Linux, Mint is one of the best to start with. The inclusion of “restricted” codecs and such is likely to rankle some Free Software purists but can help get new users transitioned to Linux a bit more quickly. Since Mint 9 is based on an Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS) release, users have support for the desktop through 2013, which makes it even more ideal for new users. If you haven’t settled on a distro yet, or want one to recommend to friends and family, Mint is an excellent choice.