Future of MATE with regards of GTK3? :ubuntu_mate:


Sorry for the silly question. Hope you can help to clarify the situation of MATE’s future in the area of GTK2 vs GTK3.

I am an old fashion person, in the past I was happy with GTK2. Then GTK3 came along and the main Ubuntu distro switched to Unity which I didn’t like b/c it took me too long time to disable to undo the innovation (left windows buttons, search lenses, etc.).

Although my computer is modern enough, I am attracted by SIMPLE desktops. Had evaluated Englightment, LXDE, XFCE, Cinnamon. Settled on Fuduntu which was abandonned. Then finally I ended up using Xubuntu 14.04 with a bottom menu and an auto hide side left menu.

I recently tried LinuxMint MATE 17.03 and liked it a lot. 16.04 is the opportunity for me to switch from XFCE to MATE. But then I remember the “Fuduntu” episode, anything that hangs on GTK2 base will die one day. Pardon me for my ignorance but what is the chance of survival of MATE?

More exactly, in a world of GTK3, what is MATE doing behind the scene? Does MATE maintain the old GTK2 code in life support until the task become unsurmountable and the authors will abandon the project. Or does MATE use all the modern techniques but just “draw” the traditional GTK2 look on top of it?

Thanks in advance for any clarification.

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Welcome! It’s a good question. I’m not part of the MATE Developers team, but their roadmap shows that eventually, everything will be ported to GTK3.

Ubuntu MATE is all about MATE. The project is committing to preserving a traditional desktop experience like the good old GNOME 2 days, but still maintained under the hood. From what I can recall, MATE have cleaned up GTK 2, chucked out legacy GTK 1 code that initially held it back and are working towards GTK 3 in future releases.

I too am quite happy with what GTK 2 offers and how applications look and behave, but the future of GTK 3 awaits, and Ubuntu MATE works well for both versions of GTK applications.

UM 16.04 is a good time to switch as there are new fixes too so GTK 3 apps integrate better, such as the client side decorations.

As the slogan goes: For a retrospective feature…

Hope this clarifies your question. :slight_smile:


I think this says it all (@lah7's 3rd link above):

Traditional Desktop Metaphor

The MATE Desktop Project is dedicated to keeping alive the traditional GNOME 2 desktop metaphor. Many users liked this desktop, and found it simple, configurable, and comfortable to use. Our goal is to continue the development of this desktop environment, adding new features, fixing bugs, and improving the software as support libraries and other dependent software improves and changes.

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MATE 1.14, due out next week, will offer full GTK3 support. It has been available for experimental use since MATE 1.10.

It is down to the distro maintainers, people like me, to decide if they will continue to build MATE using GTK2 or switch to GTK3. I’ll be discussing the potential move to GTK3 with the Debian team next month so can’t say what toolkit MATE will be using in 16.10 just yet.

MATE running under GTK3 is more or less identical to what you’re familiar with in the GTK2 version.There are no shocking paradigm changes, it’s the same stuff just using a new toolkit :slight_smile:



Super cool thx. The technical “invisible” details are not important to me. As long as the MATE project is maintained for long term, I am happy.

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Looking at the roadmap, you seem to head to a complete move to GTK 3. Then I can not help wonder what your “reason for existing” will be? What would be the difference with Ubuntu-Gnome? Or even the Solus-budgie desktop? I see all of them eventually moving in the same direction. Aside from the standard panel, what other 'compelling reasons" would Ubuntu Mate offer?

Switching to Gtk 3 won’t turn MATE into GNOME 3. For example, Caja won’t get a headerbar. GNOME switched to Gtk 3 and changed their designs at the same time, but these were different changes that aren’t linked together. Xfce is also working towards using Gtk 3.

Gtk 3 will have benefits. First off, it’s actually getting new development :wink: It has more consistent theming, support for high-DPI scaling, and better scrolling with libinput, just from what I’m personally looking forward to.


Would any of us really notice a change from Gtk2 to Gtk3?, I am just a normal user, I use Mate because I like the way the desktop is laid out, what is actually underneath running it all; doesn’t interest me in the slightest, I just want it to work!. :smiley:

The GTK3 implementation on MATE is identical the the GTK2 implementation. You won’t notice any difference.


Ditto, @UranUtan ; I couldn’t have said better ! :blush:

I can second this; I have been running MATE 1.14 under GTK3, on two computers (a private from-scratch build on a SuSE kernel), since day one.

My only issue is that I still cannot find a suitable library, or any files, in which to get my "indicator-applet-complete" to function.

What I built was a UMATE clone - with everything bleeding edge that I could integrate - in order to see the future. Although, I am very pleased with the performance and stability of the build, I can tell you that the future looks just like the present. :smiley:

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Ubuntu MATE 16.10 is looking pretty much identical to 16.04, we’ve still got some theme tweaks to make but I’m really pleased with progress so far. Indicator are partially working, I expected there to breakage here and we’ll tackle Indicators when the theme is all done.


UMate is a phenomenon, no question about it! :wink: Correspondingly, MATE DE seems to be taking shape rather nicely, universally, as it progresses through these stages; and 1.14 has been great for me since day one.

As always, much thanks to you and yours for this saving grace of a DE and a distro, @Wimpy . :smile:


The interesting question is how GTK3 will affect memory consumption. I believe there were several posts related to this but unfortunately I am unable to find them now. I am not sure why your questions were not discussed more in depth. Perhaps you showed too little affection for what MATE is or wants to be among the various competing desktop environments.

The Solus-budgie desktop certainly looks very promising and Gnome seems to have solved its problems with extensions. Then there is the new lightweight LXQt that Lubuntu is going to adopt soon (not sure how Qt compares to other lightweight GTK3 desktop environments on a technical level) and Xfce is still around, going through a similar transitional period like MATE. There is definitely a lot of competition when it comes to desktop environments, and even more so with the move to GTK3, bringing MATE to the same technical level of Unity and Gnome (correct me if I am wrong).

MATE has a special charm and and its continued success depends on how well it can reconcile the tensions between being a progressive desktop environment appealing to the aesthetic preferences of a modern user while retaining a traditional workflow accomodating the habits of a conservative user. At this point it would be interesting to know whether Ubuntu MATE succeeds more in attracting veteran users or newcomers to Linux.

With other desktop environments such as Budgie, Xfce, and LXQt working towards similar goals of bridging modernity and tradition, what is MATE's unique selling point? I get the impression that MATE does not strive to be too modern after all and its unique selling point is rather retro-chic or retro-cool. Hence the slogan "for a retrospective future". I am not sure to what extent MATE is the retro part and Ubuntu the future.

Of these four DEs, MATE most explicitly states that it seeks to preserve a traditional desktop metaphor. Despite the fact that Xfce is older, it is with MATE that you get a sense of history in the making. But with its explicit historic commitment (as opposed to itself being a project with a long history such as Xfce), MATE could maneuver itself into some kind of aesthetic deadlock, unable to move forward and change some of its design paradigms because that would erode the commitment to essentially preserve the GNOME 2 experience.

I hope the developers make sure, that in the future Mate is/stays the default DE for a Raspberry Pi !

But I don’t think it is manoeuvring itself into an aesthetic deadlock. With the various layouts available in Mate tweak plus the integration of the dock plus, I have no doubt, further optional layout innovations in the future, UM looks set to provide the best of all worlds. That is to say a desktop that comes out of the box as traditional as you like. But which also provides the capacity to re-set the desktop in in a number of other ways.