If there's one thing that's undeniable in the GNU/Linux world at the moment, is that users' tastes can be as diverse as the choices of desktop interfaces we have available and that there is no true one-size-fits-all desktop. In addition to this, there is no doubt a vocal group of users who reject some of the recent desktop directions in the likes of Unity and GNOME-Shell and long for the days of GNOME 2. In this article I'll show you how to install MATE 1.8 in Ubuntu 14.04 and give it a classic Ubuntu look and feel, much like the days of Ubuntu 10.10, for example.
Following on from my 'Is Ubuntu's Unity Really All That Bad Nowadays?' article, one thing quickly became clear to me from some of the responses I got: it doesn't matter how much the likes of Unity improve, the fact is there will always be users who'll reject the desktop and have their own personal favourites. And this is no bad thing, because thankfully in Linux we have so much choice available and the MATE desktop (an increasingly popular GNOME 2 fork that is fast throwing out old legacy code and improving the overall codebase) is one such great choice.
Alright, let's go!
Getting MATE 1.8
MATE is actually available from the Ubuntu Software Centre right from the get-go, but it is version 1.6. That's fine if you simply don't mind having the latest version and just want to install it right away. But MATE is improving all the time and adding some modern integrations and cleaning up the codebase, so the latest version is certainly a great idea if you don't mind installing an extra repository for Ubuntu.
NOTE: The MATE repo for Ubuntu 13.10 and Ubuntu 14.04 is currently unsigned and as such you will get a warning, which you can simply press 'y' to ignore.
From the MATE wiki:
Okay with that out of the way, if you're happy to proceed, first open up a Terminal window and copy/paste each of these commands in order:
sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://repo.mate-desktop.org/archive/1.8/ubuntu trusty main"
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install mate-core mate-desktop-environment mate-notification-daemon
Once that is done and hopefully completed with no errors, you should have MATE 1.8 installed!
Now all you have left to do is log out and when you get to the Ubuntu login greeter, choose the "MATE" session from the session chooser (likely a round Ubuntu logo/button next to your username/password box) and login again.
Let's 'Ubuntify' MATE!
Okay, great, MATE is now installed. If you're a user who just likes to customize with your own themes and icons, you may as well go ahead and do just that.
If, however, you want to get that good old Ubuntu 10.10 (the last version of Ubuntu to use GNOME 2, which MATE is derived from) kind of look and feel, keep on reading.
First, you need the Ambiance GTK theme. If you're using Ubuntu 14.04 Unity, you may assume Ambiance is already installed since Ubuntu still uses this theme by default. Correct, except... the latest Unity compatible versions of Ambiance won't work correctly with MATE.
Thankfully there is a fantastic theme package you can download called 'Ambiance and Radiance Colors Suite' from Ravefinity which is fully compatible with MATE (among other desktops). Naturally with Ubuntu, there's a PPA available for ease of install and updates:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ravefinity-project/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ambiance-colors radiance-colors
Of course, if you only want the Ambiance themes, omit the 'radiance-colors' from that last line.
Now you should have the all new Ambiance Colors themes (and perhaps Radiance too, if you so chose). To apply a theme to MATE, which is probably more than obvious to you from the days of GNOME 2, you simply right-click on the desktop and click 'Change desktop background' and then navigate to the Theme tab from the opened backgrounds window. Or, simply navigate to the System Menu, go to Preferences and then click on Appearance.
You'll see a number of Ambiance and/or Radiance themes, as you can see in the image below.
The great thing about this pack besides MATE compatibility, is simply that it gives you a number of Ambiance or Radiance themes with tweaked colors. So you have a lot more choice instead of the Ubuntu Orange you usually get. So, all you do now is choose the theme you want and you'll be done.
If you want the window buttons (close, minimize, maximize etc) on the left instead of the right, run this command:
mateconftool-2 --set /apps/marco/general/button_layout --type string "close,minimize,maximize"
But it's up to you and what you're used to.
If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below.
More information and installation options for other Linux distributions can be found on the MATE website.