A Brief History of Linux Mint

Linux Mint’s eleven year history is always worth looking over. It’s fascinating to see how the desktop, and the OS itself, has evolved over time, taking on the latest technologies in both hardware and from the wider Linux world itself.

2006 – Mid

Born in 2006, Linux Mint is the brainchild of Clement Lefebvre, a French developer who at the time was writing reviews and tutorials for various Linux sites. After a time, he began to get a flavour for what the community wanted out of a distro and as a result, in August of 2006, Linux Mint 1.0 “Ada” was released.

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2006 – End

Based on Kubuntu Dapper, Linux Mint 1.0 “Ada”, wasn’t the most stable distro at the time. However, in November 2006, Clem had finished development of Linux Mint 2.0, codenamed “Barbara”. 2.0 was based on Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft and was more stable, offering the user many improvements over Canonical’s Ubuntu distributions.


During 2006 and 2007 Linux Mint 2.1 and 2.2 were released, building on the growing user base and continually improving. One of Mint’s endearing factors was that it came shipped with a full set of multimedia codecs, which greatly improved its reputation. In 2007 Linux Mint 3.0 “Cassandra” was released, the first version to display the Mint logo.

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Fast forward a few years, through versions 3.1, 4, 5 and 6 and we come to Mint 8 “Helena”. Linux Mint had already attracted many former Windows users, primarily due to the launch of Windows Vista a few years earlier. Although Windows 7 was a vast improvement over its predecessor, the Windows mutineer was already finding Mint a better choice.


Linux Mint 12 “Lisa” was a significant release, as it was the first version to sport the Desktop Environment MATE. MATE, pronounced ma-tay and named after the South American beverage Maté, is a fork from the popular GNOME 2 desktop which became popular due to controversy over GNOME 3’s new design and operation.

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Hot on the heels of Mint 12 came Mint 13 “Maya”, an LTS (Long Term Support) version that was supported up to April 2017. Maya was a significant release due to the launch of the Cinnamon Desktop Environment. Although MATE was now the default DE, Cinnamon was developed specifically for, and by, Linux Mint.

2013 – Mid

Linux Mint 15 “Olivia” arrived in 2013, based on Ubuntu 13.04 and sporting a choice of Desktop Environments. Cinnamon and MATE were the defaults. MATE designed for older systems, while Cinnamon for more powerful, modern computers. KDE and Xfce were also available, covering a wealth of user preferences.

2013 – End

Still in 2013, towards the end of the year, Linux Mint 16 “Petra” was released, built on Ubuntu 13.10. Petra was considered by some reviewers at the time as the perfect example of a Linux distro. The blend of Desktop Environments, stability, features and extras all combined to form a solid and dependable OS.

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Linux Mint 17 “Quiana” was released in May 2014. An LTS version, with support to April 2019 and built on Ubuntu 14.04. Version 17 saw several releases over the next couple of years, with Mint 17.1 “Rebecca” and 17.2 “Rafaela” in 2015 and 17.3 “Rosa” in 2016. Incidentally, Ars Technica described 17.3 as “…the best Linux desktop distro yet.”.


From 2016 Linux Mint 18, 18.1, 18.2 and 18.3 were released, codenamed Sarah, Serena, Sonya and Sylvia
respectively. Mint 18.x was an excellent version that brought many of the new features we now take for granted. Then at end of June 2018 came the launch of Mint 19 “Tara”, LTS to 2023, and brimming with updates and new features.

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What Makes Mint Different?

There are countless distributions of Linux available, catering for a vast range of different user types, so why use Linux Mint over another distro? The competition for your attention is quite fierce when it comes to Linux but thankfully Mint has plenty of value worth considering.

Although Mint shares the same core as Ubuntu, as well as the package repositories, there’s a world of difference between the two; and that difference is what makes Mint stand out from the crowd.

Ubuntu, for all its “Linux for Human Beings” ethos, decided some time ago to opt for a totally, and radical at the time, Desktop Environment. Of course, we are referring to the much maligned, Unity. It’s quite remarkable really, just how much animosity can be generated toward the visual interpretation of a few lines of code. In a community that tolerates almost any eccentricity, Unity achieved such notoriety throughout the Linux population and was hated as much as any offering from Microsoft. The other versions from and related to Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu and so on, have kept their theme, and as a result have managed to retain their fan base. However, it was the core Ubuntu direction and its alleged flagrant disregard for heeding the views and opinions of those using the software that forced a number of stalwarts to jump ship.

Many of the refugees of Ubuntu found solace in the form of Linux Mint, which at the time was still operating with a classic GNOME 2 desktop environment; but the world was changing and the GNOME development team were taking things in one direction, whilst Ubuntu were taking its in another. Mint, finding itself between a rock and hard place, were loath to adopt either the true form of the newly released Gnome 3, an environment that caused just as much controversy as Unity had, or the Ubuntu implemented Unity. Instead the team employed an eclectic mix of desktops, a learned choice of environments for the user to opt for during installation. The Mint team were listening to the views and comments of those in the community and as a result they could offer the user a compromise.

Looking at the previous releases of Linux Mint, from Linux Mint 12 “Lisa”, based on Ubuntu Oneiric; to Mint 13 “Maya”, based on the Precise Pangolin, we see a Linux distribution that offers the advanced and casual user alike an experience that retains the classic look and feel of the desktop; without the commercialisation or look-alike branding that appears to have become the norm these days. In particular, we got to enjoy the pleasures of MATE and Cinnamon – considered as the true Linux users’ desktop environments.

However, it’s not just the choice of Desktop Environment that makes Mint different. The layout of the Mint Menu for example, provides easy and logical access to the installed apps and administration of the system. It’s intuitive and for those who want a modern approach, it also includes a search function.

The Mint developers have also included some specialised tools: Mint Install, Mint Update, Mint Backup and Mint Upload. All of these are designed to make tasks easier and create a better user experience.

Mint also includes media codecs out of the box, so you don’t need to install them once the operating system is set up. You can also find Java runtime and Flash Player installed by default, along with productivity apps, media players such as VLC and even Gimp. Overall though, it’s the Linux Mint community that makes this such a stand out and different distro. Within the Mint forums you can find a helpful and dedicated set of users, from all walks of life and at differing levels of skill and knowledge, ready and willing to help a new user. Sign up at www.forums.linuxmint.com, introduce yourself and get involved.

It’s these differences that make Linux Mint a great choice of Linux distro for beginners and advanced users too.

David Hayward

David has spent most of his life tinkering with technology, from the ZX Spectrum, getting his hands on a Fujitsu VPP5000/100 supercomputer, and coding on an overheating Raspberry Pi. He's written for the likes of Micro Mart, Den of Geek, and countless retro sites and publications, covering reviews, creating code and bench testing the latest tech. He also has a huge collection of cables.

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