by Swapnil Bhartiya

MATE 1.10: Lighter and better

Jun 15, 2015
LinuxOpen SourceOperating Systems

The latest release of MATE desktop environment is here!

After 15 months of heavy development work, the MATE community recently announced the release of MATE 1.10.

I run MATE on my Arch Linux box along with Plasma 5 and Gnome (why use one DE when you can use all, especially when you are running Arch?). Arch and Mate make a great pair for one simple reason: you can create an extremely lean and optimized desktop for your workflow.

MATE could be used on older and less powerful hardware, though users may find DEs like Xfce or distros like Puppy Linux more suited for such hardware. But where MATE really shines is when you want to use modern hardware and technologies and need a DE that keeps your system resource efficient.

MATE desktop is extremely resource efficient so instead of using your CPU or RAM, MATE sips what it needs and leaves most resources for the applications that you run.

A brief history of MATE

MATE was initially released in 2011 to keep the Gnome 2 UI alive. The project was quickly adopted by the Linux Mint team, which was looking to offer a solution to those Ubuntu users who were not happy with Unity or Gnome 3 Shell. (and developers also created an Ubuntu flavor of MATE called Ubuntu Mate.)

A Gnome fork

MATE has forked many core components of Gnome in order to offer the Gnome 2 experience while using the latest code-base. Some of the core components of MATE include Caja, the fork of Nautilus file manager; Pluma, a form of Gedit text editor; MATE terminal, Eye of MATE, the image viewer; Macro, the windows manager, etc.

Google Summer of Code

Like many other Open Source projects, MATE benefits heavily from Google’s Summer of Code project. As Martin Wimpress, one of maintainers of MATE, told me, “GSoC 2014 was very successful for MATE and some of the biggest changes in MATE 1.10 are the projects our students delivered last summer; Caja Plugin Manager, ePub for Atril and libmatemedia. All three help keep MATE relevant but of the three libmatemedia is the one I’m most excited about because it made it possible to remove a lot of deprecated code from several core components making maintaining MATE for distribution packagers much simpler, particularly on bleeding edge distributions such and Arch Linux and Fedora.”

Time-tested UI powered by latest technologies

What sets MATE apart from other lightweight distros is that it sticks to the time-tested, good old interface while keeping up with the latest technologies. Wimpress told me that in the latest MATE, Sander Sweers (Gentoo maintainer) backported lots of new features from GNOME3 to MATE 1.10, which again keeps the project relevant and enabled support for new developments happening in core Linux technologies.

In order to make MATE more resource efficient, one of the Linux Mint community members, Vlad Orlov, did a static code analysis to fix memory leaks and potential segmentation faults.

GTK3 is still experimental

Though MATE has added GTK3 support, it is still considered experimental. The team has noticed many serious regressions with each new GTK3 release. “So while MATE 1.10 built against GTK 3.16 currently works, we can not guarantee that will be the case when GTK 3.18 lands,” said Wimpress.

That said, the team feels that the future release of GTK3 will be less demanding on MATE and the DE will continue to benefit from it.

If you want to test GTK3 builds of MATE, there are two major distros offering it: Arch Linux and Fedora.

How to test MATE on Arch Linux?

MATE can be easily installed on Arch Linux by installing the ‘mate’ and ‘mate-extra’ packages, which are available in the main repositories. However, if you want to test GTK3, you can upgrade your system by running these commands:

pacman -Syy pacman -S mate-gtk3 mate-extra-gtk3

Wimpress is the MATE maintainer for Arch Linux and he told me that “If you’ve already got the GTK2 version of MATE 1.10 then I created the packages in such a way that pacman knows how to negotiate the conflicts.”

Go on, install MATE on your system and let us know what you think of the desktop environment and what improvements you want to see in it. And if you are already a MATE user, tell us what you love about it.