My 19.10 feedback after 3 months of use

Hey everyone,

I've been using Ubuntu MATE 19.10 as my daily driver for the past three months and I've been really, really happy with it. Since I returned to the free world last year after a long period of absence, I've evidently been distro-hopping quite a lot. I plan to settle down with the upcoming batch of LTS's, and Ubuntu MATE ranks high on my shortlist, tied with Ubuntu Budgie.

So: big thanks to everyone involved! What do I like with your Ubuntu flavor? Well it's lightweight, stable and very, very customizable. I really appreciate the efforts you invested into putting these different layouts together. As a pixel-saving maniac, I eventually cobbled together a Mutiny-Cupertino hybrid. Essentially, it's Mutiny albeit with an auto-hiding Plank on the left-hand side instead of a panel (Plank looks nicer in my opinion). Meanwhile, having those layouts around means that, when relatives ask me to set up a Linux box for them (or to prolong an aging computer, which amounts to setting up a lightweight Linux), I can more easily set up something to exactly match their needs.

Now, I wouldn't contribute much by merely praising your distro, however worthy it may be. Hence a list of minor niggles you might be interested in, to make 20.04 a very polished product.

Using the default Ambiant-MATE theme, Firefox' page-scroll slider is a couple pixels thinner than the bar it's in. This has unfortunate consequences, beyond cosmetics: when shoving the cursor to the right of the window and clicking to grab the slider, I'm actually clicking on the bar (that is, on the pixel not covered by the slider)... which immediately moves document view, instead of letting me grab and move the slider. Page-browsing can be really annoying. Although this seems to be a Firefox-specific issue, it can be fixed by increasing the slider's size in ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css:

.scrollbar.vertical slider,
scrollbar.vertical slider {
min-width: 13px;

13px being, so I found, the smallest value that gets rid of the issue.

In my opinion, panel items (icons in App Indicator Complete, Global Menu entries...) are too much spaced out. On a wide screen you wouldn't notice. On a small laptop screen or "square" desktop screen (like 1280*1024), the menu quickly gets too crowded, which causes various applets to get cut out (like the global menu). Here's the fix, again to gtk.css:

.mate-panel-menu-bar menuitem {
padding: 0 2px;

I've set spacing to 2px but you can of course choose another value.

Even though Marco was supposed to be tearing-free in 19.10, I've found it not to be the case when using proprietary NVidia driver. And sometimes, Nouveau isn't an option. Read this ArchWiki article to fix the issue.

GUI way: open NVidia X Server Settings and "click on the Advanced button that is available on the X Server Display Configuration menu option. Select either Force Composition Pipeline or Force Full Composition Pipeline and click on Apply ."

When saving and restoring the session (under Marco), I've noticed that windows were often mismatched across workspaces; in particular, windows of the same application that normally should have been restored to different workspaces (such as my "leisure & news" Firefox window which I don't want where my "work" Firefox should be) were inverted. Evolution also misbehaved and wasn't started on session restore. Eventually, I replaced it with Thunderbird anyway. Say what you want of Thunderbird's interface, it's not as confusing as Evolution methinks.

Very minor thing: the Control Center cannot be scrolled down to the bottom, you need to resize it first; otherwise, the slider is stuck.

At some point, my computer would occasionally freeze when suspending: the screen would go black but the rest would keep running... no way to switch tty nor to get anywhere else. Hard-reset was the only way out. If anything, that should have been my biggest complaint... But I haven't seen this behavior for the past few weeks. It could have been fixed in the meantime. If it occurs again, I'll report it here. That said, I guess it had to be more of a kernel issue than a desktop-related one, so there isn't much the MATE team could have done here.

I've seen Firefox freezing at times, while gobbling up enormous amounts of RAM (like 4 Gb instead of around 500Mb for a given number of tabs); MATE panel would do the same at the same time, eating up 1 Gb compared to about 50Mb in normal times. After killing and restarting both processes, things went back to normal. I suspect the global menu might be involved here; otherwise, why would Firefox and MATE panel go wild simultaneously? Maybe a memory leak in the panel global menu applet (the only interaction between the two, since I'm not using the task manager nor the dock)?

And I guess that's about it. End of the report. As you can see, aside from the suspend-freeze problem, and to a lesser extent the Firefox + panel one, the rest of my complaints are of low importance. Ubuntu MATE has otherwise been impressively reliable.

Now, on to my requests / suggestions...

Are there any plans to include a workspace overview in MATE? If there's one thing that modern desktops do well, it has to be that: Mac OS has Mission Control, GNOME has the Activities overview, in elementaryOS it's called the Multitasking View, and even Windows 10 caught up with its Task View. When you're used to splitting your stuff across multiple workspaces, it's really convenient to be able to quickly access thumbnails of opened windows, to know what is where, to switch workspace, or to reallocate windows across workspaces. The MATE panel workspace-switcher applet doesn't really compare in terms of usability. It doesn't provide as much information as clearly, and you can't move windows around as easily.

A possible way here could be to adopt and refine Xfdashboard. It currently works with Marco just as it does with Xfwm. Currently, the daemon appears broken though. When it's running, the first time you call Xfdashboard it'll work nicely. After that, on subsequent calls, you won't be able to exit the dashboard view by clicking on a window, as you should. This is a problem I noticed wherever I tried Xfdashboard, not just on MATE.

Lastly, some people see Ubuntu MATE and think it has to be outdated: "Look at that theme! Those icons! That's Windows XP isn't it?" While we know better and many of us keep fond memories of Lucid Lynx's look, what about shipping a modern-looking theme and offering it as an option in MATE Welcome? Not all GTK3 themes work well on Marco, but many of the most popular do: I have Materia, Arc or Qogir in mind. Just change the accent color to green instead of blue and that's it! As for the icon theme in the age of flat design: Papirus or Newaita are both very complete and good-looking, and they have green folders options. Papirus is the most "modern"-looking of the two, while Newaita has something a "quaint" charm that could fit MATE's visual identity (in my eyes, Newaita really embodies the "retrospective future" motto, a mixture of modern and old-school elements).

And so ends my wall of text. Thanks for reading, and again for your work!


EDIT: I forgot one thing: what about making it possible to choose Brisk menu's layout (fullscreen dashboard vs start menu)? Right now we need either to use dconf, or to completely change the desktop layout.

Also, in Advanced MATE Menu, it's apparently not possible to reorganize, drag and drop favorite shortcuts. If you happen to remove a favorite, you're permanently left with a hole in your menu...


I have had issue 5, but the only time it happened with me was using larger font sizes than normal, check that, I do have an issue out on github so the devs may be aware of the issue, just haven't had time to get to it. I also had issue 6 on my laptop so I upgraded to 20.04 daily and have not had one since, but perhaps since you haven't seen it recently it is fixed on 19.10 now

@ Magean: Great post! :+1::+1::+1:

I forgot one thing: when using the Window Buttons applet to get rid of maximized windows' titlebars, applications that were maximized when they were closed may then start maximized albeit with a titlebar. Clicking on the maximize button has them being unmaximized; clicking again maximizes the window "properly" (that is, with no title bar). This happens usually when logging out and back in between closing the application and starting it again.

So, steps to reproduce:
-open some application (say, Caja or Firefox) with the Window Buttons applet enabled to remove the title bar
-maximize the window
-log out
-log back in
-open that same application
You'll notice it has a titlebar but is nonetheless considered as being maximized.

A post was merged into an existing topic: What's your most important bugfix or new feature for 20.04?