How to Customize the Cinnamon Desktop Environment

Enhance the desktop environment for Linux Mint

The Cinnamon Desktop Environment is relatively new when compared to KDE and Gnome and therefore there aren't quite as many customizable features.

This guide will show you the sort of things you can do to enhance the Cinnamon desktop including:

  • Changing the desktop wallpaper
  • Adding panels
  • Adding applets to panels
  • Adding Desklets
  • Customizing the login screen

Linux Mint is being used for the purposes of this guide, but these instructions should work for Cinnamon on all Linux distributions.

Change the Cinnamon Desktop Wallpaper

Change Linux Mint Cinnamon Wallpaper

 To change the desktop wallpaper within Cinnamon right-click on the desktop and choose Change Desktop Background

The application used for changing the desktop wallpaper is very easy to use.

Within Linux Mint the left pane has a list of categories which are the previous versions of Linux Mint. The right pane shows the images that belong to a category.

Linux Mint has had some really nice backgrounds over the years, the "Olivia" category in particular.

You can add your own folders of images by clicking the plus (+)symbol and navigating to the folder you wish to add.

Clicking on an image automatically changes the background to that image (You don't have to confirm by pressing apply or anything like that).

If you are one of those people who likes a bit of variety whilst they are working, then you can check the box that says "Change background every x minutes," and you can specify how often the images change.

Every image in the selected folder will be shown in order unless you check the Random Order checkbox in which case the image will change in, well, a random order.

The Picture Aspect dropdown list lets you decide how the images will be displayed on your desktop.

  • No Picture makes your desktop go black.
  • Mosaic repeats the image horizontally and vertically.
  • Centered places the image in the center of the screen.
  • Scaled increases the size of the image both horizontally and vertically.
  • Stretched makes the image take up the whole screen.
  • Zoom zooms in on the image.
  • Spanned makes the paper stretch across multiple screens.

The Gradient options work when the No Picture option is chosen for the Picture Aspect.

You can make the gradient vertical or horizontal and the picture fades from the start color to the end color.

How to Add Panels to the Cinnamon Desktop

Adding Panels Within Cinnamon

To alter the panels within Cinnamon right-click on an existing panel and choose Panel Settings.

There are three options available:

  • Traditional Layout (Panel at the bottom).
  • Flipped (Panel at the top).
  • Classic (Panels at the top and bottom).

If you change the panel layout, you will need to restart Cinnamon for the change to take place.

Click the auto-hide checkbox (there will be one for each panel) if you want the panel to hide when not in use.

Change the Show Delay value by clicking on the plus (+) or minus (-) buttons. This is the number of milliseconds it takes for the panel to re-appear when you hover over it.

Change the Hide Delay value, in the same way, to decide how long it takes to hide the panel when you move away from it.

How to Add Applets to Panels Within the Cinnamon Desktop

Add Applets To Cinnamon Panels

To add applets to a panel on the Cinnamon Desktop, right-click the panel and select Add applets to panel.

The Applets screen has two tabs:

  • Installed
  • Available (Online)

The installed tab has a list of all the applets that are currently installed on your computer.

Next to each item there will be a lock if the applet can't be uninstalled and/or a green circle if the applet is in use on another panel.

If the applet is already installed on a panel you can't add it to another panel. You can, however, configure the item by clicking the Configure button at the bottom of the screen.

The configure option only appears for certain items.

To add an applet to a panel click on the applet and click the Add To Panel button.

To move an applet to another panel or to a different position right-click the panel and switch the edit mode slider to the on position. You are now able to drag the applet to the place where you want it to go.

Within Linux Mint there are some decent applets installed which aren't on the panels by default:

  • Expo - Zooms out and shows multiple workspaces.
  • Accessibility - For people with eyesight and hearing issues.
  • Recent Documents - Lists recently accessed documents.
  • Scale - Zooms out to show all open applications.
  • Slideshow Controls - Can be used to flip your background image.
  • Workspace Switcher - Choose your workspace.

There is one kind of applet that can be added multiple times and that is the panel launcher.

When you add the panel launcher there are default icons for Firefox, Terminal, and Nemo. To alter the launchers right-click on them and choose add, edit, remove, or launch.

The add option shows a screen where you have to enter the name of the program you wish to run and then a command to launch the program. (Click the browse button to find an application). You can change the icon by clicking on the default image and navigating to the image you wish to use. Finally, there are options for launching the application within a terminal window and adding a comment.

The edit option shows the same screen as the add option but with all the values filled in already.

The remove option deletes the individual application from the launcher.

Finally, the launch option launches the application.

The Available Applets tab shows a list of applets that can be installed on your system. There are loads available but here is a short list to get you started:

Add Desklets to the Cinnamon Desktop

Add Desklets To The Cinnamon Desktop

Desklets are mini-applications that can be added to your desktop such as calendars, clocks, photo viewers, cartoons and quote of the day.

To add a desklet right-click on the desktop and choose Add Desklets.

The Desklets application has three tabs:

  • Installed Desklets
  • Available Desklets
  • General Desklet Settings

The Installed Desklets tab has a list of desklets that are already installed on your computer. As with panel applets, a desklet will have a locked symbol if it can't be deleted and a green circle to show that it is already on the desktop. Unlike panel applets, you can generally add as many of each desklet as you wish.

You can configure desklets by clicking on a desklet that is in use and click the Configure button.

The installed desklets include:

  • A clock
  • A launcher
  • A photoframe

The Available Desklets tab has desklets that can be installed on your system but that aren't at the moment.

There aren't that many available but the highlights are as follows:

  • Weather
  • Sticky Notes
  • Comic viewer
  • Reddit viewer
  • Quote of the day

The General Desklet Settings tab has three options:

  • Decoration of desklets
  • Snap to grid
  • Width of desklet snap grid

Customizing the Login Screen

Customize Mint Login Screen

The login screen for Linux Mint is really stylish with various images fading in and out as it waits for you to log in.

You can, of course, configure this screen. To do so, choose Login Window from the Administration category on the menu.

The Login Window Preferences screen has a panel down the left with three options and a panel on the right which changes depending on which option you choose. The three options are as follows:

  • Theme
  • Auto Login
  • Options

The Theme option provides a list of themes that can be used as a login screen display.

If you would prefer to use your own image check the background image option and navigate to the image you wish to use. You can also choose to use a background color rather than an image by checking the Background Color option and then click on the color you wish to use.

The welcome message can also be changed to show a custom message.

The Auto Login option can be used to automatically login as a specific user by checking the Enable Automatic Login and choosing the user from the dropdown list.

If you want to automatically login as a user but give another user the chance to login first, check the Enable Timed Login checkbox and choose the default user to login as. Then set a time limit for how long the system will wait for another user to login before automatically logging in as the set user.

The Options option has the following available settings:

  • Default session
  • Use 24-hour clock
  • Automatically select the last logged in user
  • Allow root login
  • Log debug session
  • Limit the session output
  • Filter the session output

How to Add Cinnamon Desktop Effects

Cinnamon Desktop Effects

If you like snazzy desktop effects, choose the Effects option from the Preferences category on the menu.

The Effects screen is split into two sections:

  • Enable Effects
  • Customise Effects

The Enable Effects option lets you select whether to enable desktop effects and if you do whether to enable session startup animation and enable desktop effects on dialogue boxes.

You can also check a box to determine whether to enable the fade effect on Cinnamon scroll boxes.

The Customise Effects section of the screen lets you customize the following items:

  • Closing Windows
  • Mapping Windows
  • Maximising Windows
  • UnMaximising Windows
  • Minimising Windows
  • Tiling And Snapping Windows

For each of these items you can choose whether to fade and scale (except for minimizing which gives you a traditional option as well). There are then a series of effects that can be chosen from such as EaseInBack and EaseOutSine. Finally, you can adjust the amount of time the effects last for in milliseconds.

To get the effects to work the way you want them to takes a bit of trial and error.

Further Reading for Customizing the Cinnamon Desktop

Slingshot Menu

Hopefully, this has given you the inspiration and help required to get you started with customizing Cinnamon.