7 Favorite Cinnamon Applets

Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Aug 27, 2014 GMT
Bruce Byfield

Some users condemn panel applets and desktop widgets as clutter. For me, however, they are two of the most important features of a desktop environment because of the degree of customization they allow. Their lack is a major reason I am indifferent to GNOME and Unity, and conversely why I prefer KDE and -- increasingly, Linux MInt's Cinnamon.

Cinnamon's applets and desklets are a relatively new feature. Two releases ago, there were only a handful of applets and two or three desklets that amounted more to proofs of concept than anything of much use. However, in the latest release, I count 27 applets pre-installed and another 169 available online, as well as 17 desklets, making for a healthy ecosystem of minor add-ons and utilities. All are installable on-the-fly with a few mouse-clicks, and toggled on or off from the Applets configuration window.

As you might expect, some of these offerings are system and hardware monitors. Some are standard desktops widgets, such as the system tray and task bar. However, a surprising number are variants -- including some 16 menus, 7 Places menus, and 5 clocks. Still others are specialist menus, such as the Office Center, Graphics Center, and Script Menu applets and the Cinnamon Developer Tools desklet.

The rest are a varied collection, reflecting a variety of different needs and interests. In no particular order, some of my current favorites include:
1.) Expo - Installed by default, Expo is an overlay that shows the virtual workspaces currently in use, and allows you to rename them. I would prefer if Expo would display at less than full screen size, but, even so, it is by far the best virtual workspace manager that I have seen, easily beating the traditional panel pager for convenience.

2.) Pomodoro Timer  - The Pomodoro Technique (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique) is a time management system in which work is  sub-divided into regular intervals -- usually 25 minutes -- plus rest periods. This applet provides the basic software for inserting your To Do list into the technique.

3.) Github Explorer  - Github, of course, is currently one of the most popular public repositories for free software. Github Explorer is a file-manager-like navigator for Github, with customizable links to key directories, including projects' and developers' home folder, as well as file listings for the current directory.

4.) Extensions Manager  - In addition to applets and widgets, Cinnamon also includes two dozen extensions (http://cinnamon-spices.linuxmint.com/extensions) that add such desktop features as an additional bottom panel and tiled windows, as well as special effects such as wobbly windows and a desktop cube. The Extension Manager toggles extensions off and on.

5.) Screenshot and Desktop Video - As a technical writer, I considered a tool for taking screen shots and videos a basic necessity. Usually, I use GIMP, but, this applet requires less juggling between windows since it is already mounted on the desktop.
6.) Lorem Clipboard - Traditionally, designers use Latin dummy text so that they can evaluate a design without being distracted by the words. The most common dummy text is called Lorem Ipsum after its first two words. With this clipboard, designers can generate dummy text as needed.

7.). Show/Hide Applets  - Given the variety of Cinnamon applets, the temptation to let them take over the panel can be overwhelming. The only trouble is, by default Cinnamon has only one panel, and your applets can quickly leave little room for the taskbar. Allowing you to autohide and reveal applets as necessary, this applet provides a simple but elegant solution.

I could go on, but everybody will have their favorites. My intent is not to encourage others to use my favorites, but to illustrate the variety of applets that Cinnamon makes available.
My only complaint about Cinnamon's applets are that their icons are so mimimal in design that they would be impossible to distinguish without the mouseover help. However, that is true of many panel icons on any desktop. In general, I am simply pleased that these small bits of functionality are available for personalizing the desktop.

Yes, panel applets can look less than elegant, but their functionality makes their appearance of secondary importance. Kudos to Cinnamon developers for choosing inconvenience over a dislike of clutter.

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