The best integration of the most dependable desktop environment, but there's a flea in the soup

Hi, y’all!

I used GNOME2 since I first met Ubuntu 4.10 and not very long after GNOME 2.28 was released. I guess I still used 2.30-2.32 occasionally, but the announcement of the future GNOME3 has strongly upset me. Before GNOME2, I was into FVWM, FVWM-Crystal, IceWM, FVWM95. After GNOME2 died, I reluctantly chose XFCE as the only dependable DE, but as everyone knows, XFCE was thought to be moribund at least twice (4.12 and 4.16 were too late and extremely late to the show). Ah, the long road to GTK+3…

In the process, I disregarded MATE. At first, I thought there won’t be enough manpower to maintain an environment abandoned by the herd (sorry for the term). I already disliked the new names of the apps, and I still do when it comes to Atril, Engrampa, and Caja (which I see not as Box, but as Crate, as in “a crate of oranges”), but that doesn’t matter much. What counts is that, while I was sleeping under a rock, MATE not only transitioned to GTK+3, but it has even got rid of some old bugs, and to my huge surprise, it’s so well integrated in Ubuntu MATE 21.04 that it’s really the best 21.04 flavor of all!

Therefore, I simply didn’t know that since MATE 1.20 and Ubuntu MATE 18.04, I could have opted for MATE, as a better and yet so familiar GNOME2 continuation! Instead, I wasted so much time either trying to fall in love with XFCE (which I never quite did, especially as the default configuration is ugly, and customizing the panels is much more clumsy than in GNOME2/MATE), or trying to persuade myself that KDE Plasma 5 is finally usable and without the so many aberrations introduced with KDE4. But even as KDE5 is very decent nowadays, it keeps changing at a crazy pace (This Week in KDE is indicative of their craziness); and yet, they fixed the bug of a missing reflow of the text in Konsole eleven and half years later (but most distros won’t see it too soon), while the devs found more important to add “a variety of useful new features such as inline previews for images and HTML color codes that you hover the cursor over, the ability to assign custom colors to tabs, and a new on-by-default toolbar.”

Finding (rediscovering?) MATE, and especially Ubuntu MATE, seemed a godsend under the circumstances. (I had some useful experiences in Arch land meanwhile, after Manjaro and Debian.) I love how it integrates into the Control Center the Language Support gnome-language-selector offered by the language-selector-gnome package (the name inversion is probably caused by the fact that it replaces language-selector), and the Yaru MATE themes are über-gorgeous! Also, the defaults are so well-thought that the distro is almost fully usable out of the box!

I said “almost” because the typical user would look for the traditional “The 10, 12, 15 or 25 Things to Do After Installing Distro X” article (many years ago I too had a list of “9 things to do after installing Ubuntu”); and even Ubuntu MATE 21.04 has a few steps of possibly desired customizations before reaching the optimal state (even when using it as a live distro):

  1. Change the layout from the Welcome screen or MATE Tweak: people used to Windows or KDE would prefer Redmond. Die-hard fans of the non-searchable Applications, Places, System trio would switch from Familiar to Traditional.
  2. Most people nowadays would prefer to change the theme to Yaru-MATE-dark.
  3. In such a case, they might also want to change in Pluma the color scheme to Yaru-MATE-dark.
  4. Change the font rendering smoothing to Grayscale, Full. (For years, I thought I was the only person in billions who considers RGB shades to a black-on-white text idiotic, and who actually sees rainbows on a supposedly B&W page; is there any printer in this world to replace gray shades with colors? Nope. Then, I noticed there are distros that default to Grayscale, Full, such as Linux Lite; and other people who think like me, such as Igor Ljubuncic aka Dedoimedo, which is even pickier than I.)
  5. Remove the Disk Mounter applet, which is too much in a one-panel layout, and even with dual-panel layouts.
  6. In Caja, change the Default View to Compact View, and uncheck “All columns have the same width.” (If a file manager doesn’t have a compact list view, I refuse to use it.)
  7. Install Synaptic. (GNOME2 without Synaptic? OK, it’s MATE now, but that’s no excuse.)
  8. Install ubuntu-restricted-extras.

That’s about it. Sure thing, people using it as a live distro might also need to change the keyboard layout, the time zone, and possibly use the Language Support.

There is one severe criticism I had to direct to Ubuntu MATE’s team: it is not “why snapd?”, nor “why is the Snap support enabled by default?”, but this one: why had ubuntu-mate-welcome, gtk-theme-yaru-mate, and icon-theme-yaru-mate to be installed from Snap Store? They are three bloody packages that define an official Ubuntu flavor, and they should have been hosted as regular packages, in the package pool! Please don’t try to persuade me that Ubuntu would have refused @Wimpy this tiny demand!

OK, I understand: despite being so much into MATE, and despite having a “LINUX LUDDITES” sticker, he’s not a Luddite (I am!). He’s Uncle Snapcraft, and he also decided there’s a need for a new Ubuntu installer, using technologies I don’t approve of (Flutter), from companies I don’t trust (I don’t trust Google, which is different from how I despise Microsoft). I don’t care about subiquity and other things I shouldn’t care of; for a text or ncurses installer, there are choices even in Debian; otherwise, there’s nothing that cannot be fixed in Calamares, except that it can’t install systemd-boot, and that nobody loves systemd-boot, despite being much leaner than the abysmal rubbish that is GRUB2!

So Ubuntu MATE 21.04 could have been rated 10/10, but I’ll give it 8/10, because:

  1. It installs essential and identity-defining packages from Snap Store, being them only three. People have ditched distros for less (I’m thinking of the anti-systemd cult.)
  2. Thus, it enables snaps by default, with the risk of making many users install things they don’t want to have installed this way. Most conscientious users would add a PPA or would find another way of installing their preferred apps instead of resorting to snaps, Flatpaks, or AppImages. Luring the users into things they don’t want is vile, and I thought it’s only used by the likes of Microsoft.

A great soup, with a flea in the middle of the tasty contents. Would the chef assume the reality? Of course, the customer can’t have a saying regarding this free soup, and even if it weren’t free, leaders be leaders, and users be losers. But I just wanted to express my opinion, however useless and unable to change a thing it might be.

All the best,
Ludditus, long ago known by some as Béranger

Yes, everyone would like their preferences to be the default out of the box :slight_smile: "Most people these days would prefer..." means "I would prefer".

I agree with you about the snaps/Flatpaks/AppImages business. It's being snuck in all over the place, in a sneaky fashion, and that's no good. Of course, systemd is the mother of all "we'll tell you what's good for you, and you'll shut up and like it" power plays.

I do not consider anti-systemd folks to be cultists at all. I still feel burned about how Debian handled that. It was a disgrace. I would have expected them to stick by their guns instead of rolling over as they did. And of course, Ubuntu is stuck with their decision. Oh well.

No offense, but I'm going to agree with @sgage on the theming point in particular: Actually, many of us who use MATE are more than a little nostalgic. Look around the screenshots on the forum lately to see what I mean; as many as 20% of the screenshots I've seen here have been of MATE with the TraditionalOk theme, which is supposed to emulate the old Clearlooks theme of GNOME 2 yore. So as much as I might agree with many of your comments, @ludditus, I also disagree that "most people" would really like Yaru. Just look at this trending post to see what I mean: A cross-between Yaru and TraditionalOk? Presenting Yaru ok... or an attempt.

I want to preface this by saying that I do acknowledge that my view is one of many, and that some many disagree with me. I also acknowledge that there are people who view technology more conservatively (not in the political sense) and are fine with older technologies that "just worked" (I'm personally that way when it comes to Windows). I also recognize that my background in the Linux space will differ from others and contributes to my particular viewpoint; I used Linux back in middle school when I got Ubuntu 13.04 on a DVD from a magazine when Unity was the default desktop environment, and I have used Ubuntu along with macOS since.

While I know that a good portion of the user base uses Ubuntu MATE for nostalgic reasons, I feel that Ubuntu MATE is more geared towards a modern and pragmatic approach to Linux and computing with a retrospective desktop rather than to serve the nostalgia purely and without any change. This seems like a good approach to take, as new users can get Ubuntu MATE up and running with little effort and start using their computer without any extra setup (for the most part). Additionally, Ubuntu MATE offers some great tools for new users like the Welcome app and MATE Tweak to help them get familiarized well.

I'd like to also (re)iterate on some opinions I've shared on some related topics:

  • The Software Boutique does feel like it falls short as a general purpose package manager GUI, but for the purpose of helping new users find common software with ease, it works well enough.
  • There are only a small handful of apps that are Snaps; I personally take no issue with Snaps, seeing how easy it is to make one and distribute an app quickly across distributions. Yes, snaps do have some issues of their own, but most of them don't really bother me. I do dislike Flatpaks because of their theming issues (which Snaps works a lot better in), but it is what it is, and I will use them if I have to.
  • The Yaru theme provides a decent modern look to any system, though I do personally wish that the padding was trimmed down a bit, at least for the MATE-specific changes. Likewise, the Ambiant and Radiant themes are still pretty good, and I know the TraditionalOk/Yaru mix is being actively developed here.

I'd like to provide the following as a concluding point. We all have different opinions on Ubuntu MATE and what should be the default, what technologies we should develop further and which ones to abandon, and where some distributions fall short. But it's important for us to keep a healthy discussion about it and not turn it into a political turf war. I've seen many discussions go on the wayside like this in various subjects ranging from US politics and government to education, and it isn't all that helpful; it gets everyone riled up, and the polarization intensifies. Please, remember there's a human behind the wall of text you read on the screen. They may share different opinions and have different values than you, but that doesn't make them any less of a person. If I'm not mistaken, that's the whole point of ubuntu: humanity towards others.


Yes and no. If we were to make a study of what themes are preferred by young users of no matter what OS, we'd probably find that most of them are into black or dark. I wasn't a fan of dark themes until relatively recently, when most people I know of had black or dark themes in Windows 10, Arch Linux, Debian, Ubuntu derivatives. It's a trend that's not new, but it's here. Go to Reddit and check their rice screenshots. The vast majority are dark themes. Maybe the fact that young people use laptops at night played a role here.
So I succumbed to the dark-mania myself. Before that, I was only using a dark background in terminals. Now, I only use light backgrounds when reading e-books, but still not white.
I would prefer not to prefer dark themes. But, you know, most people see ugly cars in the street, so they start buying ugly cars (they're the only cars manufactured nowadays), and gradually they start thinking they're beautiful.

Sneaky or no sneaky, good or bad, it looks like my point was missed: there was absolutely no technical reason to put three (3) packages that define the look & feel of Ubuntu MATE elsewhere than in the normal package repositories. None whatsoever. Of course, this could be interpreted as an attempt to force snaps on people.

There are many disagreements in the Linux world, and many people disapprove of a technology or another. A consensus is impossible. I never understood the religious wars on licenses that led e.g. to XFree86 going dead, to OpenOffice being forked, etc. etc., and I never understood the so many cases when perfectly stable and proven technologies were replaced by new, broken, alpha-stage ones, just because the developers were bored with the old ones and they had itches to develop something new no matter what. Alternatively, there was an organization to have suggested or sponsored that behavior. But back to systemd, I don't think this is the worst technology Red Hat has imposed to the universe. I can make a long list of worse things.
As for snaps, I won't rank them against systemd. There's still choice whether to use them or not. Except in Ubuntu MATE.

Agree with the snap argument. Its bloatware.Do use xfce and mate at the moment. But i prefer mate as an working system.Also i find the disk mounter applet space intensive.

However i absolutely hate most dark themes. The problem is mate is a dostribution for more than one person, so what you like can be a bug in the eyes of another user.Ubuntu mate is a very good system that i like to use. Not saying that gnome is that bad , just it is more mobile phone?/tablet oriented and nothing to reccomend for real desktop computers.

I know, I've read that thread and, frankly, I wasn't thrilled about the idea of derivatives of TraditionalOk.
Typically, people would call me a Luddite because of my various nostalgic ideas and options, and the tendency to use tomorrow the same things that worked yesterday and still work today, but I don't like anymore the themes based on Clearlooks. However, I've used Red Hat's original Bluecurve theme for years because I loved it (mostly on CentOS though).
But regardless of personal choices, and with all due respect:

  1. Yaru MATE did involve some work, let's not show disrespect to its creators.
  2. Yaru MATE was part of the marketing regarding the release of 21.04.
  3. Yaru MATE has been rather well received outside this community, and I'd even say it might have attracted some new people to Ubuntu MATE 21.04, which is great news, right?

So why so little love for it?

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Yes, one man's meat is another's poison and to coin another phrase it's horses for courses.
I'm a newcomer to MATE 21.04 (but a user of ubuntu since 16.04, now 20.04 with each LTS in between) and am really impressed with it's nice clean lines as it comes out of the box, so to speak. Easy on the eye (for an ageing sight challenged user like me) and definitely recommended for seniors :+1:

I love it!! and I even bought the MATE mousemat to boot :slightly_smiling_face:

:+1: :+1:t4: :+1:t6:

Nothing is perfect in this world, but we're doing pretty well nonetheless :slight_smile: And Ambiant-MATE is not bad at all!
A larger choice of themes can't hurt, though.

All in all, @marquiskurt's message has been the most positive so far; I know mine are always harsh, me being an old-ish grump-ish individual. Maybe I should ask him to teach me what to do to start loving mangas and MacBooks :wink:

Yaru Mate is very much better than the broken Ambiance-/Radiance in its later versions. That i can agree. Yes forking and modifying Adwaita is a lot of work.

It is flat and my personal taste are themes that are not flat and not dark.Believe that there are some users feeling the same way.

But i do agree that its an acceptable theme as a default option. Ambiance was literally a mess in the end. Was good until 14.10 and then it broke rather quickly.

I love Yaru MATE.
I just don't feel the need to write it everywhere on this forum.
<10 people on this forum think it looks bad and show pictures of their supposedly better-looking desktop that would make me quit Ubuntu MATE if I were forced to use their settings.
To each his own.
People are always more vocal on the internet when it comes to being negative about something. Doesn't mean it's not liked.

I do not particularly care what the default theme is, just as long as I can easily change it to something the works better for my old eyes. I don't care about 'fresh' and 'modern', and I can't work with dark themes.

In fact, I don't really worry about default anything, since it's all customizable. I have been using Gnome 2/MATE for as long as they have existed, and Ubuntu since it first came out in 2004. Before that, Debian. Started with RedHat in '97. The point being, I have my preferred setup down cold, and it is the work of 2 minutes to make any new installation the way I like it. I'm sure there would be howls of anguish if it were the default :slight_smile:


Still, having good (or great!) defaults is important in the adoption of a distro. No matter the OS, I know that many people just leave everything with the default settings, no matter how atrocious they were. Also, so many people are lazy, or they just say, "Is this all this ugly distro could do?! Phew!". From a marketing standpoint, good (balanced to suit a maximum of tastes?) defaults sell the product! :slight_smile:

Now, of course that much more important is to have your WiFi, BT, printers etc. supported, but that's another story. I also know a few people eager to spend some time to fiddle with a particular HW issue, as long as they like the rest of the distro.

This is a reply to a post deleted by someone (why did they change their mind?!) and who suggested that snaps being enabled by default in Ubuntu, this is not an Ubuntu MATE specificity, and that I should remove snapd. But, should I remove (and purge) snapd, what would happen to ubuntu-mate-welcome, gtk-theme-yaru-mate, and icon-theme-yaru-mate, which are crucial to me, because they are part of what defines this distro? (They might remain installed though, right?)

The reason I don't want snapd installed is simple: I don't want snaps installed mistakenly and without even realizing it! When I search for an app, I want to see there's no source for it, so I could go upstream and add the PPA (e.g. sudo add-apt-repository ppa:apandada1/foliate) from which I could get the proper package, dammit!

Everyone is educated here, so I can't get what's so difficult to understand why snapd shouldn't be forced on people!

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That doesnt sound good. Removed snapd too cause it eats system resources a bit.
What im more concerned about is used disk space and internet bandwith.

Hi @ludditus,

this thread may answer some of your questions.
Looks like this PPA allows you to install ubuntu-mate-welcome via apt.
Yaru themes for UMATE are a part of preinstalled ubuntu-mate-artwork package. I believe they coexist with snaps.


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Thanks, but I don't want to fiddle with such elementary things, because this is absurd! I mean, what's next, Pluma to be normally offered as snap, and then alternatively via a PPA?
I can live without the Welcome, but c'mon, Yaru?
Why not offering the entire MATE via snaps, wouldn't this please Uncle Snapcraft?
I wonder who decided to put ubuntu-mate-welcome, gtk-theme-yaru-mate, and icon-theme-yaru-mate in the Snap Store? Was it a decision of the Benevolent Dictator, or it was a joint decision of some committee? And even so, was it taken to please The Great Leader?

Because, frankly, it makes no sense.

I pointed you to a thread, where ubuntu-mate-welcome maintainer explains rationale behind providing welcome as a snap. First, they provided ppa, when snap technology became mature enough, they switched to snap (still maintaining ppa).

Yaru is available via ubuntu-mate-artwork package, what's wrong?


Do gtk-theme-yaru-mate, and icon-theme-yaru-mate look like packages to you?

If that PPA introduces packages with other names, that's another crazy thing.

Oh, the rationale is "snaps are better than PPAs"!
Because integrating something in the official repositories has never been considered? WTH.

What I also noticed is the reaction of the OP:

Perhaps one could say is there a point in including snaps for just two applications when you can install snap yourself if you want to? ... Sadly, time for more distro hopping perhaps?

One of the few guys with a logical thinking.