How to Install Cinnamon Desktop on Ubuntu

Change up your Ubuntu desktop with Cinnamon

A desktop environment in Linux is a collection of tools that enables you to perform tasks on a computer. The desktop environment consists of a number of key components such as:

  • The window manager, which determines how windows appear and behave
  • A menu
  • A taskbar
  • Icons
  • File managers
  • Other tools that, in a nutshell, make it possible for you to use your computer
Person using Cinnamon on Ubuntu Linux
Lifewire / Miguel Co

The Cinnamon desktop is much more Windows-like than Unity, Ubuntu's default desktop environment. So if you're a Windows user, you'll probably find Cinnamon particularly user-friendly. Here's a guide to installing the latest version of Cinnamon as well as a few useful tweaks.

Installing Cinnamon From Ubuntu Repositories

Cinnamon Ubuntu

The version of Cinnamon in the Ubuntu standard repositories is not the latest version available, but it is adequate for most people's needs. (If you want to install the latest version, see below.) Whichever version you wish to use, you should install Synaptic so that you can find and install Cinnamon easily. Synaptic comes in handy for other tasks, too, such as installing Java.

Screenshot Cinnamon On Ubuntu layout

To install Synaptic:

  1. Open a terminal window by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T.

  2. Enter:

    sudo apt install synaptic
  3. Enter your password when prompted.

  4. To launch Synaptic, click on the top button on the Ubuntu launch bar and enter Synaptic in the search box. Press the Synaptic icon.

  5. To install the version of Cinnamon in the Ubuntu repositories, select Search and enter Cinnamon in the box.

  6. Place a tick in the box next to cinnamon-desktop-environment

  7. Press Apply to install Cinnamon.

Installing the Latest Version of Cinnamon

Screenshot of installing Cinnamon desktop updates

To install the latest version of Cinnamon, you must add a third-party Personal Package Archive (PPA) to your software sources. A PPA is a repository that a person, group or company other than Ubuntu developers created. The upside to using a PPA is that you get the latest version of the packages; the downside is that Ubuntu doesn't provide support for them.

To install a PPA:

  1. To open the Synaptic Package Manager, press the top icon on the desktop and enter Synaptic into the search bar.

  2. Select the Settings menu and choose Repositories.

  3. When the Software & Updates screen appears, select the Other Software tab.

  4. Press Add at the bottom of the screen.

  5. Into the box provided, type ppa:embrosyn/cinnamon.

  6. When you close the Software and Updates form, you are asked to reload from the repositories. Press Yes to pull in all the software titles from the PPA you just added.

  7. Select Search at the top of the Synaptic window and enter Cinnamon.

  8. Tick the Cinnamon box.

  9. Press Apply to install the Cinnamon desktop.

  10. Enter your password when prompted.

The latest version of Cinnamon should now be installed.

How to Boot Into the Ubuntu Cinnamon Desktop

screenshot of opening Ubuntu Cinnamon

To load the Cinnamon desktop that you have just installed:

  1. Reboot your computer or log out of Ubuntu.

  2. When you see the login screen, select your name like you normally would.

  3. When the screen expands, press the gear icon right next to Sign In.

  4. You should now see the following options:

    • Cinnamon
    • Cinnamon (Software Rendering)
    • Ubuntu
    • Ubuntu on Wayland
  5. Choose Cinnamon, and then enter your password as usual. Your computer should now boot into the Cinnamon desktop. 

Change the Ubuntu Cinnamon Background Image

screenshot of changing Ubuntu Cinnamon Background

When you boot into the Cinnamon desktop environment for the first time, you might notice that the background is black and nothing like the one shown at the top of this page. Follow these steps to choose a new background image:

  1. Right-click on the desktop and choose Change Desktop Background.

  2. Press the + at the bottom of the Backgrounds screen.

  3. Select Add folders > Other Locations > Computer.

  4. Navigate through /usr > /usr/share > /usr/share/backgrounds.

  5. Press Open.

  6. Select Backgrounds.

  7. Choose the image you want to use as a background.

Now that you're able to use the menus to launch applications and navigate around your system, check out the multitude of ways you can customize Cinnamon.

Linux Mint or Ubuntu?

Cinnamon is the default desktop environment for a flavor of Ubuntu known as Linux Mint. If you haven't installed Ubuntu yet and you would prefer your desktop to function more like Windows, try installing Linux Mint rather than Ubuntu; Cinnamon has already been customized to work perfectly. If you've already installed Ubuntu, though, creating a Linux Mint USB drive and replacing your Ubuntu operating system with Linux Mint would be overkill.

You might also want to use Ubuntu and not Linux Mint if you desire the latest in Linux development. Linux Mint bases itself on the long-term support release of Ubuntu. This means you get the latest stable release of Ubuntu, including security and package updates, but you don't get newer features offered by incremental updates to that release. With this in mind, you might prefer to use Cinnamon on Ubuntu rather than on Linux Mint.

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