I recently installed the Fedora Cinnamon Spin after using Manjaro for some months. I have used Fedora for many years, and Cinnamon is one of my favorite desktop environments. However, until Fedora 23, if I wanted to use Cinnamon in Fedora, I would have to install it after I installed another desktop. Now, I can install Cinnamon directly from an ISO file. In this article, I will share my experiences installing and using the Cinnamon Spin for Fedora.
Forewords: Why Cinnamon?
There’s so many different desktops and spins that it makes sense to ask why one and not another. First of all, let’s clear up some myths or ideas about this desktop.
“It’s heavy and isn’t good for laptops with low resources.“
My netbook is an Intel Atom Dual Core with 1GB of RAM. Cinnamon works as smoothly as MATE or Xfce. Additionally, it is lighter than KDE or the GNOME shell. Of course, when you add desklets, extensions, and other stuff, you add more load to the RAM. The more you add, the more you load onto the system, and the heavier it gets. Keep that in mind when adding eye candy to your desktop (whether Cinnamon, Plasma, or other desktop environments).
All desktops environments are unique and good in their own way, and at the end of the day, everything depends on each person’s workflow. With that in mind, here is a brief list of Cinnamon’s biggest highlights.
- Classic style: There’s a task bar below, a menu, and icons and files on the desktop. If you like things this way, this is a priority. If you don’t, you may find it a bit disappointing.
- Soft effects: It has beautiful eye candies like translucency and animations, but they aren’t heavy nor distract your attention from your work.
- Extensible: If you want even more or you don’t like the Cinnamon add-ons, you can make it work with Conky, Cairo Dock, or any other similar program without major troubles.
- Configurable: There’s an old joke about KDE that if you don’t like something, there’s surely a button to change it. Cinnamon is not that tweakable, but it certainly gives a lot of options to make it look as you wish.
- Good integration: Works well with non-GNOME programs and independent projects like Gourmet (independent) and Kontact (KDE).
- Ready to use: Cinnamon has few applications that are “Cinnamon-only” like Nemo (file manager). It’s not a full suite of software like KDE or Gnome. But this Spin comes with all the programs you’ll need to start. It has LibreOffice, an image viewer, a web browser (Firefox), and more.
Getting started with Cinnamon: Prep work
My laptop is a bit old (four years), but it works perfectly for me. It has two Intel Atom processors, 1GB of RAM, and 150GB of hard drive space.
Next, I partitioned the disk into three separate partitions: the root directory,
/home, and a swap partition. I gave 95GB to
/home because usually that ends up more full in my case, but you may adapt it to your needs. It’s a fact that the Fedora partition tool is still a bit tricky at times, but it works nicely once you’re sure you’re doing it correctly. There’s two things to keep in mind: don’t tick the Reformat option for
/home (if you have a previous
/home partition as I do) and make sure you already backed up everything noteworthy. Once you apply changes, there’s no turning back!
While this process is going on, you may want to make some coffee. It isn’t especially slow, but you won’t be able to use the computer in the meanwhile.
After that, it will be time to set the languages and keyboard, time zones, and network settings. The network settings aren’t mandatory, and Anaconda, the Fedora installer, should be able to automatically detect your network interface (e.g. wired or wireless), so you can configure it later. I do so.
After this, the system will start installing Fedora, leaving you only one thing to do: configure your users. You must set the root password and configure your user (or users, if there are more people using the same computer). You can also select your user as Administrator. I do so, as I am the primary user of my computer and it is handy to select it now. After that, you may go browse the Internet, check your email, or anything else. The installation process is automatic and you can use your computer while waiting.
When the installation finishes, it will ask you to either reboot or keep using the live system. If you choose to reboot, remember to unplug your USB drive. Otherwise, it will boot again from the live media instead of the hard drive.
If you’re having troubles with installing Fedora, the Fedora Docs team has thorough documentation detailing all the steps of installing Fedora, and goes much more into depth than what the scope of this article will cover. There’s also plenty of great installation tutorials on YouTube!
First look at Cinnamon
Congratulations, the installation is finished and you are ready to use Cinnamon! Let’s see what we can do.
First of all, log in and check that the basics are working correctly. If so, start updating your system immediately. If your connection isn’t very good (like mine), don’t update the whole system at once, but in small bunches. To do this, open either a utility like Yumex or open a command line if you’re comfortable with
dnf. Wait until it refreshes and shows you any available updates.
If you have concerns about bandwidth, tick items in small amounts (if you’re using Yumex). Regardless of the tool you use, it will solve dependencies automatically, so it is safe to do it this way. You will be able to see what will be installed or updated, the size of the updates, and the final size after it is installed. If it is an acceptable amount, you can accept. If you are using a GUI like Yumex, you will be notified when the updates finish.
Look and feel customizations
Now the system is ready to use! Let’s see how we can tweak and adapt it to our own preferences. Now, we will look at enhancing the look and feel as well as installing specific programs. There’s three general ways to tweak Cinnamon. Installing themes, icons, and more from the repositories, downloading customizations from Gnome-Look, and downloading content from DeviantArt and other sites.
Installing from repositories
If you know the name of your favorite themes (such as icons and wallpapers), search for them in the repositories and install them as if they were programs. This will make them available for all users on your system. If you reinstall or update your themes from scratch, wallpapers and icons will disappear along with everything else in the root partition.
Downloading from Gnome and KDE Look
You can go to Gnome-Look for themes, icons, and wallpapers. There’s GTK themes (Cinnamon is GTK3), Metacity (window borders), Cinnamon themes (desktop theme), wallpapers, and icons. When you find something you like, download it and decompress it in
/home/youruser/.icons for icons or
/home/youruser/.themes for GTK, Metacity, and other themes. Wallpapers can go anywhere you like, but you may want to gather them in a specific folder and add it to the Backgrounds section, so the program will always look there. Additionally, you can look up icons in KDE Look. They work for Cinnamon and Mate!
For Cinnamon themes only, there’s also the option of clicking the link under the Themes menu (Settings > Themes). A window will appear, showing you your installed themes. If you click on “Available online“, you’ll find a lot more downloads from Cinnamon Spices. This method is handy because it will remind you if any themes have an update. But it only works for desktop themes and nothing else.
Downloading from DeviantArt and other sites
DeviantArt is a bit messy, so you must know what you are looking for (e.g. Metacity), and keep in mind that anything older than a year is unlikely to still work.
You can also look on Google for what you want, but remember that (besides wallpapers) not everything is likely to work if it’s too old. GNOME works in six month cycles, so one year is already two GTK releases.
Some of my favorite places to find wallpapers are:
- Photographs and paintings: alpha.wallhaven.cc
- General images: goodfon.su
- Other abstract / fantasy images: robhruppel.com
Extra applications and applets
Now some words about Extensions, Desklets, and Applets. All of them are available online to install from the Cinnamon settings menu. Two very useful applets are an alarm clock and a weather applet. The alarm clock is very simple, as it’s a tiny, fat clock in your panel. When you click on it, you pick a time and let it run. The weather applet is more or less the same, but you have to configure your location.
If you like the Extensions, you can install them via your Settings panel (Settings => Extensions => Available online). They work similar to the extensions on GNOME Desktop. Desklets also have some nice stuff. I especially like the Sticky Notes and weather desklets, but there’s many others. Sticky Notes works like virtual sticky notes, similar to Knotes and Gnotes.
Although Cinnamon comes ready to work out of the box, there’s some programs that help improve your work. Some of these programs are:
- Parcellite: A clipboard manager. Everything you copy or cut is sent to the clipboard. It’s easy to refer to a history of things you’ve copied and access them later. Parcellite is small, simple, and handy, and also has the benefit of being desktop agnostic.
- Bleachbit: It’s a great tool to clean useless junk from your computer. You can run it as root (be careful!) or as a normal user.
- Eye of Mate: A simple, handy and lightweight image viewer other than the one that comes with Cinnamon by default. It will install a couple of things from MATE when you install it. But don’t worry, it’s just a couple of megabytes and won’t slow down your system.
- Shotwell: Perfect for basic photo editing, like cropping or enhancing a dark photo. It also has two nice features: exporting to different formats via Save as and resizing images at will.
- Dconf and Gconf Editor: Graphical front-ends for Dconf and Gconf (GNOME configuration files).
- Pluma: Nice and simple text editor. Gedit is good, but more aimed towards programming. Pluma is perfect for normal text.
Last but not least…
Changing the host name after installation it’s quite easy. The hostname is the identifying line for your computer on a network. While it’s not required to change it from the default value, it can be a fun and simple way to make your system more unique and have a fun name to identify your device.
Open a terminal and launch your favorite text editor with root permissions. If you use something like Gedit, you can do this by tying
sudo gedit. After that, you will want to open a new file. Look until you find
/etc/hostname. It’s a small text file where the name of the computer is stored when it connects with others (either on a local network or on the Internet). This file can be opened with any text editor, but we’ll use Gedit in this article since it is the default program.
Once you open the file, delete
hostname.localhost and write your preferred host name instead (for example,
happybunny). Save and quit Gedit, and then close your terminal.
Questions and comments are welcome!