5 Reasons to Use Linux Mint Instead of Ubuntu

Linux Mint has convenience and features Ubuntu doesn't

A question that is often asked in forums, on Reddit, and in chatrooms is, "Should I use Linux Mint or Ubuntu?" On the surface, there isn't much difference between Linux Mint and Ubuntu. Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu (except for Linux Mint Debian Edition), and apart from the desktop environment and default applications, there isn't much difference. Here are five reasons to choose Linux Mint over Ubuntu.

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Cinnamon vs. GNOME

Cinnamon desktop environment on Mint

GNOME is the flagship desktop environment that's installed with Ubuntu. It isn't everybody's cup of tea, though, and people either love it or loathe it. Cinnamon, on the other hand, is more traditional, much like the Windows desktop that many users have become accustomed to over the past 20 years. Cinnamon is more customizable than GNOME and provides the ability to have multiple panels, a selection of applets, and desklets.

You don't have to use GNOME with Ubuntu. Other desktop environments are available such as the Xubuntu desktop or Lubuntu desktop. The same is true of Linux Mint. The difference between Linux Mint and Ubuntu is that you can install the XFCE version, the MATE version, or the Cinnamon version with Linux Mint. While the controls might be different, the overall look and feel remain consistent.

Installing the Xubuntu desktop or Lubuntu desktop provides a different look and feel because these are aimed at different audiences.

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Linux Mint Is More Familiar for Windows Users

The Linux Mint desktop

Linux Mint feels more familiar to Windows users than Ubuntu. It doesn't matter which version of Linux Mint you install. In every version, there's a single panel at the bottom with a menu, quick launch icons, and system tray icons.

Without any changes to the setup, the menus for the applications appear at the top of the application window. Ubuntu has this as a setting that you toggle on and off.

Linux Mint and Ubuntu have similar applications, so it's hard to determine the merit of one set of applications over another. Ubuntu uses Rhythmbox as a media player, whereas Linux Mint has Banshee. Both are good applications.

Linux Mint comes with the VLC media player installed, whereas Ubuntu comes with Totem. Both of these applications are good, and arguing the merits of one over the other shouldn't be used to make your decision as to whether to use Mint or Ubuntu.

Applications can be installed using the graphical package managers that come with each distribution.

Linux Mint provides a desktop experience that Windows users are used to and applications that appeal to the average Windows user.

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The Ability to Use Non-Free Codecs

A music player in Linux Mint

Linux Mint comes with all the non-free codecs required to watch Flash videos and listen to MP3 audio pre-installed. 

When you install Ubuntu for the first time, there's an option during the installation that asks whether you want to install Fluendo and other ​third-party tools.​ When you select this option, you can play MP3 audio and flash videos. If you don't select this option, you'll need to install the Ubuntu-Restricted-Extras package to get the same functionality.

This is a minor point, but it makes Linux Mint slightly more usable from the outset than Ubuntu.

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Privacy and Advertising

A lock created by lines in a simulated network space

Yuichiro Chino / Getty Images

Here's an excerpt which highlights the Ubuntu Privacy Policy:

Canonical collects personal information from you in a number of different ways. For example, when you download one of our products, receive services from us, or use one of our websites (including www.canonical.com and www.ubuntu.com).

So what sort of personal information is collected, and who gets it?

When you enter a search term into the dash, Ubuntu will search your Ubuntu computer and will record the search terms locally. Unless you have opted out (see the "Online Search" section below), we will also send your keystrokes as a search term to productsearch.ubuntu.com and selected third parties.

There's a switch in Ubuntu that prevents this information from being collected. In Linux Mint, you don't have to worry about this.

Does this mean you shouldn't trust Ubuntu? Of course, it doesn't. Read the full privacy policy to find out what type of information is collected and how it's used.

Ubuntu also has a lot of advertising built into the desktop experience. This means that when you search for something, you receive links to items from the Amazon store. In some ways, this is good because it integrates your shopping experience into your desktop. However, for some, the advertising is annoying.

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Linux Mint Debian Edition and Rolling Release

The Linux Mint desktop Main Menu

While it's possible to seamlessly upgrade between Linux Mint releases, and the developers included simple graphical utilities to make the process easier, some people would rather not be concerned about upgrades.

As with any technology, there's a chance that upgrading can go wrong, even if it is rare. Also, you won't always have the latest software with versioned (19.1, 19.2, and newer) releases. New versions of applications are held back until the next version of Mint arrives.

If the idea of upgrading puts a knot in your stomach or you need access to the latest software as it's available, try Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE). LMDE is a rolling release distribution and remains up to date without reinstalling it. It's based on Debian rather than Ubuntu. So, a few things may be different, but you can always expect the same polished Linux Mint experience.

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