Monday, March 16, 2015

Ubuntu MATE 15.04: Slick, traditional, and ultra-customizable

For my second review, I’ll be reviewing a distro that has been gaining a bit of popularity: Ubuntu MATE. Only a couple of weeks ago, Canonical recognized it as an official Ubuntu flavor, which means that you can download Ubuntu MATE from official Canonical servers. This doesn’t mean much now, but expect it to gain a lot of popularity in the coming months.

No search bar.png

  1. First impressions and ease of use

The LiveCD is 1.1 GB in size and can be downloaded from We fire it up and get a GNOME 2 desktop.

Ubuntu MATE 15.png

I’m not accustomed to GNOME 2, instead I’m used to Windows and KDE, so it took a little while to get used to. There seems that there’s no search bar so you have to know which category the application you want to open is sorted into.

No search bar.png

But I opened MATE tweak and I found that I could change the panel layout to “openSUSE”, which helped a little, but I found out that the search bar only searches for files so that didn’t help much.

openSUSE layout.png

You can also switch to something called “Eleven” which resembles OS X, if that is what you’re used to.

OS X Layout.png

Being a GNOME-based Ubuntu variant, I thought the window buttons were going to be unchangeably stuck to the left like they are for OS X. Thankfully, they’re on the right by default as it is in Windows, KDE, Xfce, LXDE, or any other major desktop. Although if you’re coming from OS X, you can still change it to the left in MATE Tweak.

But you actually can use your traditional menu - right click on the panel and click “Add to panel…” and select MATE menu. We get something resembling a Windows start menu, complete with application search.

And because MATE is a GNOME 2 fork there’s tons of customizations for it in terms of layouts, so tweak away to your liking.
Advanced menu.png

Ease of use score: 9/10

2. Installer

Ubuntu MATE uses the Ubiquity installer, in my opinion the easiest install tool there is. I’ll just leave some screenshots. There is one hiccup however, that it seems to detect BIOS mode installations even on an empty VirtualBox disk as I’m installing in UEFI mode. Trying to click one of the buttons to go back or to continue gives nothing, so I had reboot in BIOS mode and install. This is probably just a VirtualBox bug though so I’ll try to install it on the computer I’m building for school and report the results here.


The aforementioned install bug. I couldn’t even click anything and had to just dump everything and install in BIOS mode.
Install - note UEFI bug.png

So an overall smooth installation except for the BIOS hiccup.

Installer score: 9.5/10

ISO size
Default filesystem
Install time (offline)
Boot time
Size of install
Desktop RAM use
KaOS 2015.02
1.4 GB
4.6 GB
415 MB
Ubuntu MATE 15.04
1.1 GB
4.2 GB
457 MB

3. Design

Ubuntu MATE uses the default Ambiance theme with green accents so it looks nice and modern. Also being a GNOME 2 fork there are a lot of third-party themes. However you have to logout and login for the changes to work.
The login screen is nice and simple.

Login screen - no guest additions.png

So using the Azure Material design theme (

Material customization.png

I liked the default theme Yuyo dark, however, so I kept it that way. But if you don’t like anything, customize away.

Qt/KDE based apps look good too, but you have to download a bunch of libraries.

KDE Okular.png

Design score: 10/10

4. Applications

Ubuntu MATE comes with most of the default Ubuntu applications.

Web Browser - Firefox
File Browser - Caja
Email Client - Thunderbird
Text Editor - Pluma (basically GEdit)
Image Viewer - Eye of MATE Image Viewer
Terminal Emulator - MATE Terminal
Music Player - Rhythmbox
Office Suite - LibreOffice

So all in all a great default software compilation.

Applications score: 10/10

5. Installing Packages

Since Ubuntu MATE is obviously based on Ubuntu, it uses APT as its package resolver. The repositories have the most software of all Linux distros and you can easily add PPAs from Launchpad and configure them as sources. You can also use the Ubuntu software center if you’re CLI averse.

The only issue is that if you use dpkg -i to install a .deb package, it won’t resolve dependencies for you so you have to run apt-get -f install after you try to install a deb. However, installing gdebi and using that will automatically resolve dependencies.

Installing packages score: 10/10

Final thoughts: I highly recommend Ubuntu MATE to any computer user. It is very easy to configure and install and it’s also very intuitive to use.

Final Score: 48.5/50 = 97%

OS Name
Score (percentage)
Ubuntu MATE 15.04
KaOS 2015.02

Bold - current review

Italic - highest score

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