Linux Mint 21.2 includes a bit of feature creep from the GNOME world
Plus Xfce flavor desktop based on latest version 4.18
The latest blog post from the Linux Mint project announces new features coming in 21.2 – and some of them are surprisingly big changes for a point release.
The post reveals multiple new features due in the June release. One is especially significant for anyone using the Xfce flavor of Mint 21, if a little unexpected: it will contain the latest version 4.18 of the Xfce desktop.
Each whole-number version of Mint is based on the current Ubuntu LTS release, and to get a new version of the desktop environment, Ubuntu users generally must upgrade to a new release of the distro. So, as we said at the end of last year, Xubuntu users will need to upgrade to the 23.04 release, "Lunar Lobster", in order to get Xfce 4.18. Mint, however, is progressively diverging further from its Ubuntu roots, and plans to update the Xfce desktop in its next point release. This is among other desirable changes coming in 21.2, including improved Bluetooth support, plus better language support and keyboard navigation on the login screen.
The one that surprises us is a revised version of the Pix image-thumbnail manager. This is moving to a GNOME combined "header bar", doing away with its menu-and-toolbar interface. This is doubtless because it's based on GNOME's gThumb and Mint 21.2 moves from gThumb 3.2 to 3.12. All GNOME apps have been revamped with GNOME's controversial "Client Side Decorations", which is one reason some desktop environments avoid GNOME accessories whenever possible.
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The Mint project already sponsors a set of alternative accessories, which it calls XApps, which it uses with all three of its supported desktops. So, for instance, Mint's version of GEdit is called Xed, and its version of the Evince document viewer is called Xviewer. The Reg FOSS desk strongly prefers the traditional UI: we find that CSD gets in the way and is a hindrance to usability, rather than a boon, especially to those with a keyboard-centric way of driving a computer rather than a more mouse-oriented one – such as users with visual disabilities.
We're faintly dismayed to see CSD creeping into Mint, even if under the name "header bars." This isn't the first example: for instance, Mint 21 includes the Hypnotix IP TV player, which also uses a header bar and a hamburger menu rather than a menu bar.
Pix is based on gThumb, but gThumb in turn was originally based on GqView, which is still around under the new name Geeqie. Maybe it's time for a change of upstream project. Mint recently dropped GNOME's Bluetooth stack and replaced it with BlueMan, and we humbly suggest that another such replacement is in order.
Historically, Mint discouraged version-to-version upgrades, although point releases are less dramatic or indeed traumatic. We've upgraded a couple of PCs from Mint 19 to 20, and 20 to 21, without any show-stopper surprises so far, so it may be time for users of older releases to back up their computers and take the plunge, so they're ready for Mint "Victoria" later this year. ®