New features in Linux Mint 17.1 Xfce

Linux Mint 17.1 is a long term support release which will be supported until 2019. It comes with updated software and brings refinements and many new features to make your desktop experience more comfortable to use.


Linux Mint 17.1 "Rebecca" Xfce Edition

Out of the box support for Compiz

Linux Mint 17.1 Xfce Edition comes with two window managers installed and configured by default:

  • Xfwm (Xfce's very own window manager, simple, fast and very stable).
  • Compiz (an advanced compositing window manager which can do wonders if your hardware supports it).

Among the various window managers available for Linux, Compiz is certainly the most impressive when it comes to desktop effects.

There's nothing quite like a rotating cube to catch everybody's attention.


Compiz in action

Of course, Compiz isn't just about the "wow" factor. It's also a very capable window manager. When properly installed and configured it can rival the best and bring your Xfce desktop on par with more recent desktops such as Cinnamon.


Expo, in Compiz

Using the "Desktop Settings", you can switch back and forth between the two window managers. To try Compiz, run Menu->Desktop Settings->Windows and choose Compiz. Log out and log back in for changes to take effect.


Switching window managers in the Desktop Settings

By default, Compiz is configured with the following keybindings:

  • Press Ctrl+Alt+Right to move to the workspace to the right
  • Press Ctrl+Alt+Left to move to the workspace to the left
  • Press Ctrl+Alt+Up to run Expo and visualize all the workspaces (from there you can move windows around too)
  • Press Ctrl+Alt and drag the desktop with the mouse to make the cube rotate
  • Move a window close to an edge to tile it
  • Move a window close to an edge for a little while to move it to an adjacent workspace

CompizConfig is also installed by default so you can configure every aspect of Compiz to your liking.

If things go wrong, remove ~/.config/compiz-1 for Linux Mint to regenerate it automatically.

Xfce Improvements

  • Xfburn received Blu-Ray support
  • In the application menu, categories are now placed on the left and react to mouse hover by default (these options are configurable)
  • Moving a window towards the edge of the screen now tiles the window by default rather than switching to another workspace
  • Quick launchers for Firefox and the terminal were added by default in the Xfce panel
  • The panel clock applet is now used by default so you can see the current date by placing your mouse over it

Update Manager

More meaningful updates

The Update Manager now groups packages together according to their source package. A line no longer represents a single package but a software update which consists in one or several packages.

When a developer fixes a bug or writes new features, the source code is modified and all packages which are related to it become available under a new version. It is therefore futile and sometimes dangerous to apply some package updates and not others within the same source package.

In the screenshot below, the Update Manager shows 10 software updates. These updates represent a total of 70 packages. The LibreOffice update is selected and the Update Manager shows the 22 packages it contains. At the bottom of the screen, the Mesa update contains 18 packages, some of which are known to break your system if you were to apply them individually.


More meaningful software updates

By grouping these updates the Update Manager prevents you from applying incomplete updates while making it easier for you to review them (updates make more sense and there's far less than before to review).

Kernel selection

As more and more kernels become available, the kernel selection screen was redesigned to quickly let you review known security fixes and known regressions:


Kernel selection in the Update Manager

Other improvements

Short descriptions were added. Both short and long descriptions now appear in your own language.

The main window no longer hides after installing updates.

Proxy support was added for the retrieval of changelog information.

Language Settings

The user interface of the Language Settings was redesigned to show more information but in a simpler way:


Language Settings

There are now two settings for locale selection: "Language" (which corresponds to the language you speak) and "Region" (which corresponds to the country you live in). This is an important addition for users who live abroad, or which language is from a different locale than their regional settings.

Support for Input Methods was also added. This is important to people who want to write Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and a few other languages which require characters or symbols which aren’t present on the keyboard. The Language Settings now let you choose and install your input method. The interface also tells you if required components are missing (typically if you’re missing a package for things to work correctly).

Login Screen

Visual improvements

The Login Window Preferences were redesigned:


The Login Window preferences

The new layout features icons in the sidebar to access the different categories of settings.

The concept of "greeters" was confusing to users so it was replaced by a simpler theme selection. All themes (HTML and GDM) as well as the GTK greeter are now available from the same list.

A preview button, to quickly visualize the active theme, was added.

Under the hood improvements

The session output is now limited to 200KB (between 2000 and 4000 lines of logs), to prevent warning spam issued by toolkits, libraries or programs from filling up the .xsession-errors file, sometimes resulting in loss of performance, lack of HDD space, or the inability to log in.

The session output can also be filtered, to prevent warnings and errors from GTK, Glib, Gio, Gobject, Glade etc… from getting into .xsession-errors.

Note that the session output limit is enabled by default and the session output filtering is disabled by default. Both options are available in the MDM Setup tool.

In the login screen, touchpad taps are now disabled while the user is typing.

System improvements

Linux Mint 17.1 features the following system changes:

  • A new pastebin command was introduced. You can pipe a command into it or simply give it a filename. The text is then available online for 2 days:
    • echo "Hello World!" | pastebin
    • pastebin myfile.txt
  • The 'search' command now uses the current folder by default, so these three commands are now the same:
    • search in . for somekeyword
    • search for somekeyword in .
    • search for somekeyword
  • The 'apt' commands now feature bash completion

Artwork improvements

Linux Mint now uses the Noto fonts by default. They're good looking and provide better support for some languages (CJK in particular).

The default MDM theme for the login screen now features a slideshow. Additional HTML themes were also installed by default, including some of the great retro-looking themes from Sam Riggs, a new modern theme from Philipp Miller and some flat themes from Bernard.


All the backgrounds since the previous LTS

Finally, there are backgrounds galore in Linux Mint 17.1. All the backgrounds since the previous LTS (Maya, Nadia, Olivia, Petra, Qiana) were added, as well as a nostalgic selection of the best backgrounds from the early days of Linux Mint. You'll even find the notorious Dew background from Linux Mint 7 Gloria in there :)

Other improvements

The USB Image Writer now shows the percentage of completion in its titlebar, so you can minimize it while it's working and see its progress without having to switch back to it.

The Software manager now warns the user much more explicitly than before when an operation is about to remove other packages.

The Software Sources tool now checks the speed of repository mirrors much faster than before and in parallel. It also uses a retry mechanism on timeout and removes erroneous mirrors from the list.

The English version of the Official User Guide was ported to DocBook and is now available from Menu->Help. PDF versions in multiple languages are also still available at https://www.linuxmint.com/documentation.php

Main components

Linux Mint 17.1 features Xfce 4.10, MDM 1.8, a Linux kernel 3.13 and an Ubuntu 14.04 package base.

LTS strategy

Linux Mint 17.1 will receive security updates until 2019.

Until 2016, future versions of Linux Mint will use the same package base as Linux Mint 17.1, making it trivial for people to upgrade.

Until 2016, the development team won't start working on a new base and will be fully focused on this one.