Disappointed with Mate

I migrated here from Linux Mint, mainly for the better package support. I'm sorry to say, even after hours of configuration, I am very disappointed with this distro.

It's the little things which keep adding up. From the initial installation, it was not at all obvious how to enable drive encryption. I had to research, and even watch videos just to figure it out. It used to be a single checkbox which said "encrypt the installation". Now it's "erase disk and install -> advanced -> use LVM -> encrypt". Simple, right?

The next issue I had is the very basic window configuration. It's very clear Mate was designed for a dark colour scheme, and any light schemes were an afterthought. System tray icons have very little contrast, and often are cryptic. The volume adjust popup is dark grey on black. Text is dark grey instead of black. Even the welcome screen has white on light grey text in the bottom right corner.

The worst part about the colours is there's no real way to change them. Yes there are a few schemes to choose from, but how do I change the colour of the active window's title bar? How do make text black instead of dark grey?

The system tray area is another source of frustration. It's an all-or-nothing deal which cannot be configured. How do I change the clock to 24 hour mode, and display the date? How do I remove the pointless gear icon on the far right, which is fully redundant with the menu button? Why does the network manager frequently hide available wireless networks, and ignore priority settings?

There's no easy way to configure a laptop's touchpad. There are a couple basic settings, but no way to disable hot button areas, gestures, and the myriad of settings available on virtually every modern touchpad. These settings alone can make or break usability.

The power management timeout graduations too coarse, going from 10 to 30 minutes with nothing in between.

The pluma text editor has a dozen colour schemes to choose from, but no "black on white", and no "use my system colours".

The calculator lacks a history buffer, like the one in Mint has.

Enough ranting. How can we fix these things, and make the system easy to use for everyone?

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Why not just go back to Mint? It's closely based on Ubuntu, and every package available on Ubuntu ought to be available on Mint.

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why not address the questions?

I agree, Linux is about choice. Use the distro that works for you. I love Ubuntu Mate, and have very few problems, but I understand it might not be for everyone. For one I use the Traditional OK desktop theme, and tinker very little after that. I have used Xandros, PC Linux, Zorin, the first Solus, and Debian Mate before finding this distro. ( I also dual boot Parrot when I need privacy and security). Good luck Rachie.

I was - he was coming to UM for the package support. Mint is based on Ubuntu, and as far as I know, has access to all Ubuntu packages. Returning to Mint might just be the most practical thing for him.

Actually, Mint does not have all the packages. It kept trying to install severely out of date software, making development nigh impossible. But this isn't about one distro versus another. This is about how to improve Ubuntu Mate for everyone.

How can we do this? I have programming skills, but I have no idea how to get started with Linux collaboration.

There is a section on the newly updated website: Get Involved

Well, sorry to hear about the disappointing experience, but it's good feedback from a new user, so thanks. They are papercuts, so let's see why and where:

Drive encryption during installation

That's Ubiquity and affects a lot of flavours and distros that use it for installation too. Looks like they moved the encryption/LVM options into a button to make it less cluttered.

Colour scheme

Tricky, since it's a limitation of GTK3 (the toolkit behind all the pre-installed software) which doesn't allow fine control of theming components. Sure, it can be changed by editing the theme's CSS file, but that's too advanced. The colours screen in Welcome was added to provide an alternate to green.

Quite the contrary about dark first, Ambiant-MATE-Dark is the newest of the bunch. Ubuntu MATE's theme continues the design of what Ubuntu "Ambiance" had, which is a mix of light/dark. Though, all of those themes use light on dark OSD (volume pop up) which would be a design decision.

I just noticed the erroneous white on the theme in Welcome - I'll get that fixed:


(I look after the Welcome / Software Boutique programs)

I heard our project leader spoke on a podcast about 20.10 having a new theme based on Yaru. :man_shrugging:

System Tray

I agree - partly because this flavour has chosen to use indicators, which continues what Ubuntu had in its pre-Unity days. They offer nicer integrations (audio player, mail checker, etc) but the time/date for instance doesn't expose its configuration in the interface.

Each indicator is a separate process - they can be turned off in Start-up Programs (by checking "Show hidden")

Some people may prefer the actual MATE time/date applet.

Touchpad / Power Management

I don't use Ubuntu MATE on a laptop, so no comment. The granular controls should be possible if MATE Power Management switched to a slider, rather then a drop down. Let them know.

Pluma (MATE)

As a default, this bugs me too. There's been discussion on that:

Calculator (MATE)

Looking at the project's history, it looks like this should be added for a future MATE release.

To be clear, I'm no programmer of MATE - or pretty much most of the desktop. A lot comes from different people / teams / projects, so it's a matter of letting them know or contributing (if there's any coders about).


"Classic" scheme uses your system theme font colour, background and highlighting. "Kate" scheme uses black font and white background (hardcoded in scheme). Plus you have a couple of other themes out-of-the-box. Decent enough, no? If not, you may create your custom "black on white" scheme. Navigate to /usr/share/gtksourceview-3.0/styles, take existing theme as a sample (for example, Radiant-MATE.xml) and replace text foreground with #000000 and background with #FFFFFF. Nothing prevents you from copying your favourite editor scheme from Mint as well. To my knowledge, xed is a fork of pluma.

May I ask, what is the origin of these expectations? Colours are traditionally controlled by themes in gtk-based environments. Is Mint different in that respect? If you don't like theme colours, you may edit theme css directly or choose another theme. Default Ambiant and Radiant themes use grayish fonts and do not change active window's colour, but I can't say they are unreadable or have bad contrasts. If you think you found a bug, please, write a bugreport on Github or Launchpad. Pre-installed TraditionalOk and TraditionalGreen themes do change active window title and use almost black font. These ones may suite you better.

There are plenty of recent posts covering this topic, really.

This icon is from indicator-session, and it is not redundant at all. Its main purpose is to provide more convenient control over user sessions. It becomes much more clear, if your workflow requires switching between several active user sessions on one computer (for example, you share one computer with somebody or use it for teaching/educational activities). It also can be configured to show current username in panel. If you don't like it, use @lah7's advice and disable indicator-session in startup programs or uninstall it.