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The Linux desktop-a-week review: MATE

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I've been running MATE as my one and only environment for the last week. And boy howdy, do I have an opinion.

I started out my “use every Linux Desktop Environment for a week at a time” endeavor with Enlightenment and Awesome, two profoundly different environments that I didn't previously have a huge amount of hands-on experience using.

For the third one, I selected a Desktop Environment that I have given a rather hard time recently - MATE.

I've been running MATE – which, from what I've been told, is pronounced “Mah-Tay”... and not the obviously wrong way I've been saying it – as my one and only environment for the last week. And... boy howdy do I have an opinion.

Let me back up for a moment.

MATE is a fork of GNOME 2. When GNOME 3 (and the GNOME Shell) came along, some folks weren't happy with it and yearned for a continuation of their beloved GNOME 2 interface. So MATE was started as a way to continue the GNOME 2 code base, and even work to update it to utilize the most recent libraries (such as GTK+ 3).

Now, I should say that I tend to be skeptical of forks. With MATE I wondered... “GNOME 3 is so highly customizable, why not simply tweak it with extensions to GNOME Shell in order to create a GNOME 2-like experience?” That really is something the GNOME team even provides in the form of a Classic style for GNOME Shell.

So, what exactly would the point be of forking and maintaining GNOME 2? That seemed, to be blunt, rather dumb.

After using the latest version of MATE for a week, I've gotta say...

I was wrong. MATE is awesome.

Remember how nice GNOME 2 ran? Remember how fast it was and how nice you could make it look? And how astoundingly stable and mature it was?

That's MATE. It is GNOME 2. Sure, they've renamed some of the applications and made some improvements and fixes, but this experience is exactly how you remember it.

One thing that MATE has in common with both Enlightenment and Awesome is the general peppiness. Everything in MATE is just plain snappy and light on resource usage. And you could say that memory/CPU usage isn't a huge deal with modern hardware. But, in my testing on this i5 with 8 gigs of RAM, MATE is so much more responsive than GNOME Shell, KDE or Unity that it's just plain silly.

Honestly, I don't want to leave MATE behind. I have truly enjoyed using it. Part of that may simply be the nostalgia factor (as GNOME 2 was my primary desktop for several years), but the other side of that coin is that MATE is just...excellent. It's almost startling how much faster (and, in many ways, more polished) MATE is than some of the other bigger, newer Desktop Environments.

Now, pardon me while I install the latest and greatest KDE Plasma Desktop for the next week of this crazy Desktop adventure.

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