Linux Mint 18.1 “Serena” is an intermediate upgrade to 18 “Sarah” which released back in mid-2016. There are a few big updates and many minor updates with this version. In this article, I’m gonna point out most of the things you need to know before upgrading to it. As of the time of writing this article, Mint 18.1 is available in two editions- Cinnamon and MATE, XFCE and KDE editions are yet to release officially.
I’ve tried both of them but in this article, I’d be primarily referring to the Cinnamon edition because it’s the most popular one and also the favorite among Linux beginners. Mint 18.1 is an LTS release which means it’ll be supported till 2021, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on upgrades.
Linux Mint Installation
Installing Linux Mint is very simple and almost identical to installing Ubuntu. Just follow the steps in this article and you’ll install it in no time: How To Install Linux Mint From USB
If you want to upgrade to it from a previous version then check out the official guide here: http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=3185
Getting Started With Linux Mint 18
Even without installing, you can try out Linux mint with the live booting option which basically means that you can run the operating system without installing it. Once it boots up, you’re greeted with the familiar Mint Welcome Screen.
For new users migrating from windows, Linux Mint will be very easy to get used to as it looks kinda similar to Windows and also comes with many advanced options pre-configured which is a very big plus point of this operating system.
What’s New In Linux Mint 18.1?
As I’ve said before, it is an intermediate upgrade to Mint 18 and as such doesn’t see any major changes or addition of features. Few important of the upgrades are:
- Cinnamon 3.2
- New Screensaver
- Better Look And Feel
- Improved Hardware Support
- Vertical Panels
- Updates To Various X Apps
There are some other minor changes to, for a detailed list of them check here: https://www.linuxmint.com/rel_serena_cinnamon_whatsnew.php
The new version of Mint comes loaded with Cinnamon 3.2 with some cool tweaks. It has got a new screensaver which is much more functional than the previous one. It can now keep playing the background slideshow of the desktop, in laptops it shows the battery status, it even has integrated music controls. One thing that let me down was that the Mint Y theme is not applied by default. You see, the Mint Y theme is very sleek, modern and blends very nice with the flat UI scheme now seen almost everywhere but they still choose to go with traditional Mint X theme which is fine but looks kinda old. Anyway, you can change the theme easily by going to setting and clicking on “Themes”. Overall I love the Cinnamon desktop environment and MInt 18.1 seems to have integrated it pretty well.
I installed the Cinnamon edition in VirtualBox and so it seemed to be a little slow and consuming around 600MB of RAM. But I had installed the MATE edition in my real machine and it seemed to be running pretty fast, so it’s probably because of VirtualBox. The system is very stable and it hardly crashes. Earlier Cinnamon used to be pretty buggy but after they moved to the LTS version, it has become so stable that now it can easily compare with the likes of Gnome, KDE, Unity, etc.
Serena comes preloaded with the usual Mint bundle of applications like Firefox for browsing the web, Nemo for file managing, a bunch of forked apps for Mint Cinnamon called X Apps and so on. The Xed text editor has got a much needed Search Bar. One thing worth pointing out that some proprietary codecs, 3rd party applications, etc stopped coming preloaded since Mint 18 but they can be easily downloaded while installing the OS or from the Welcome Screen.
Linux Mint is currently ranked first in the list of the operating systems on DistroWatch and it is rightly so. It is a very efficient and reliable operating system that tries to provide users with everything they need without getting in the way. Compared to Ubuntu, it’s more polished and Cinnamon gives much more flexibility than Unity. The Update Manager in Mint 18.1 has got three choices for the kind of upgrades you want to get and although some criticize this feature, I think it’s rather more convenient and safe to let the users decide what type of updates they want. Another important feature of Mint is that it is made specifically for the desktop.
Nowadays, almost everyone is trying to get a unified interface across all devices and although it sounds good, it isn’t very practical because what looks good on a 5-inch smartphone touchscreen display may not look the same on a widescreen display designed to be operated by the mouse. So it’s refreshing to find an OS that doesn’t seem to concentrate on all devices at once.
Linux Mint 18.1 is a solid operating system and is very ideal for anyone who’s new to Linux or using another distro. But for those who are already running Mint 18, I don’t see any major reason for upgrading as both have the same package base.