Linux Mint 18

As the release date for Linux Mint 18 approaches, project announcers have reported that they are no longer shipping live CD images with embedded codecs. Furthermore, they also are dropping support for OEM images with codecs. These changes bring Mint in line with most other distros, which also feature codec-free images. This also means they can release new versions of Mint faster.

At first glance, this may seem to be a case of the developers putting their needs ahead of their users', but in actual fact, the impact on end users will be minimal. The new flavor of Mint will come with several simple ways to include codecs during or after installation. (It will require an Internet connection to download the codec packages.)

Including the codecs at install time is a simple matter of ticking a check box. Even if the user misses the check box (with a bad case of dialog box blindness), the codec option still will be visible on the welcome screen. And, there's also an option in the main menu to install the codecs under Sound and Video. Of course, users confident with the console may prefer to use apt-get.

Besides the changes in the installation experience, Mint 18 also will introduce the Xapps suite. Xapps is a collection of four GNOME-based applications, which are designed to provide a consistent experience on different platforms and desktops. These basic apps will replace several other apps that are included in the current version of Mint.

Xapps includes the Totem-based Xplayer media player, which will be familiar to Mint 17 users. There's also a new text editor called Xed, which is forked from Pluma. Xapps includes the Xviewer image viewer as well, which is derived from eog (Eye of GNOME). Finally, there is an Atril-based document reader called Xreader, which is replacing Evince on Cinnamon and MATE versions of Mint 18.

Although there had been talk of sweeping changes in the area of desktop themes, the Mint team has listened to the community and held back on some of the more radical ideas. Instead, the team intends to introduce changes to a new theme gradually, while continuing to support the popular default themes upon which users have come to depend.

Besides these highly visible changes, there are a number of tweaks under the hood. For one thing, Mint 18 is based on Ubuntu 16.04, which includes fresh packages from the Debian repos. This makes for a more stable foundation, and the Mint team has been able to remove some of the fixes and hacks that were required to hold version 17 together.

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