How to Install MATE Desktop on Debian 12, 11 or 10

For those looking to enhance their Linux experience on Debian, the MATE Desktop Environment emerges as a top choice. MATE, which has its roots in GNOME 2, combines classic desktop features with modern technological advancements. This guide will walk you through how to install the MATE Desktop on Debian 13 Trixie, Debian 12 Bookworm, Debian 11 Bullseye, or Debian 10 Buster, ensuring you can fully enjoy its benefits.

Here’s why MATE stands out:

  • Versatility: MATE’s interface feels familiar but offers customization options for users from different OS backgrounds.
  • Performance: MATE is lightweight yet powerful, delivering smooth performance even on older hardware.
  • User-Friendly: Designed for simplicity, MATE ensures that even those new to Linux can easily navigate.
  • Compatibility: MATE is adaptable, working well with various Linux distributions, including Debian and others.
  • Community Support: A dedicated global community backs MATE, ensuring it continually evolves to meet user demands.

Additionally, MATE comes packed with efficient applications like Pluma for text editing, Eye of MATE for image viewing, and Caja for file management, enhancing productivity.

MATE offers a balanced blend of efficiency, customization, and power, making it a preferred choice for both Linux newcomers and seasoned users. As you proceed with this guide, you’ll gain insights into installing and optimizing the MATE Desktop Environment for your Debian system.

Note: The visuals in this guide might vary slightly based on your Debian version, given Debian’s nature as a long-term stable release.

Section 1: Install MATE Desktop on Debian Linux

Step 1: Updating Your Debian System

Ensuring that your Debian system is up-to-date before we embark on the installation process is crucial. This procedure ensures that all existing software packages on your system are running on their latest versions. Let’s accomplish this by executing the following commands in your terminal:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Step 2: Selecting Your MATE Desktop Installation Option

One of the great things about MATE is its availability in Debian’s repositories, making the installation process pretty straightforward. You’re offered two choices for installation: a basic setup or a more comprehensive one with some additional features.

If your hardware is older or if your system doesn’t have many resources to spare, you might want to go for the basic installation. However, you can opt for the extras package if you want the complete MATE experience with all its bells and whistles.

To carry out the installation of MATE, you’ll need to execute one of the following commands in your terminal:

To install the basic MATE Desktop:

sudo apt install mate-desktop-environment

The basic installation includes essential desktop elements like:

  • File manager
  • Window manager
  • Panel
  • Settings manager

To install the MATE Desktop with additional features:

sudo apt install mate-desktop-environment-extras

The extras package delivers more robust functionality, including:

  • Advanced text editor
  • System Monitor
  • PDF viewer
  • Archive manager
  • Additional themes and backgrounds

Remember that the installation involves downloading and installing numerous packages, which means the time it takes to complete will depend largely on your system’s hardware and internet speed.

Step 3: Rebooting Your System

After installation, you’ll need to restart your system to ensure the new changes come into effect. You can do this swiftly by entering the following command in your terminal:


Section 2: Accessing MATE Desktop Environment on Debian Linux

Step 1: Verification of the Desktop Environment

Upon the system reboot, you’ll be presented with the login screen. However, pause before proceeding with your login.

At this juncture, you must first verify the desktop environment. You can accomplish this by locating and clicking on the configuration button, conveniently situated in the lower right corner of your screen.

A click on this button will unfurl a list of desktop environments. Here, you must shift your selection from the default “GNOME” to “MATE.” This action aligns your login to the newly installed MATE Desktop Environment.

Screenshot showing the transition to the MATE desktop environment on Debian Linux.
A visual comparison of the change to the MATE desktop environment on Debian Linux.

With your selection made, go ahead and log into your account as you usually would. You are now all set to immerse yourself in the streamlined, customizable, and user-centric experience provided by the MATE Desktop Environment on your Debian Linux system.

Section 3: Tips for Getting Started with MATE Desktop Environment on Debian Linux

Tip 1: Familiarize Yourself with MATE’s Layout

While the MATE desktop environment maintains a classic, intuitive layout, it’s worth exploring the interface. Acquaint yourself with the menu’s structure and the various widgets available. This exploration will allow you to customize your desktop environment to suit your preferences better.

Tip 2: Customize MATE to Your Preference

MATE provides extensive customization options to match your workflow. You can modify the theme, icon sets, and desktop background right out of the box. Take a moment to dive into the Appearance preferences and tweak these settings to your liking.

Tip 3: Explore Workspaces

Workspaces in MATE provide multiple virtual desktops, helping you better organize your tasks and applications. You’ll find these at the bottom panel of your screen by default. You can easily add more workspaces or navigate between them for better productivity.

Tip 4: Make Use of Applets

Applets in MATE are small applications that reside on your panel and offer various functionalities. You might find a weather applet, system monitor, clipboard manager, and more. Add these to your panel to enhance your desktop’s functionality and simplify tasks.

Tip 5: Understand Window Management

MATE employs a traditional window management system that many users find comfortable and efficient. Understanding how to work with multiple windows, minimize, maximize, and arrange them can significantly enhance your workflow.

Tip 6: Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

Mastering keyboard shortcuts is an excellent way to speed up your tasks on MATE. Shortcuts for opening the terminal, switching workspaces, or managing windows can save you valuable time. You can find the complete shortcuts list in the System Preferences Keyboard Shortcuts section.

Tip 7: Experiment with Advanced Features

As you become more comfortable with MATE, don’t hesitate to delve into its more advanced features. This exploration can include setting up custom actions, configuring auto-start applications, or even playing around with the Compiz advanced window manager for added visual effects.

Remember, the more familiar you become with your MATE environment, the more you can tweak it to enhance your productivity and user experience.

Screenshot of the MATE desktop environment interface on Debian Linux.
An overview of the MATE desktop environment’s user interface on Debian Linux.

Section 4: Additional Managing MATE Desktop Environment Commands

Uninstalling MATE Desktop Environment from Debian Linux

Step 1: Remove MATE on Debian Linux

Sometimes, your needs might shift, and you may decide to uninstall MATE. Maybe you’re interested in exploring a different desktop environment or reverting to your previous configuration. You would have to remove MATE and its linked files to accomplish this. Here is the command for that purpose:

sudo apt autoremove '^mate' task-mate-desktop --purge

This command ensures that MATE and any affiliated files are removed. This action will revert your desktop environment to its state before you installed MATE Desktop environment.

Step 2: Reinstalling GNOME

Suppose you wish to return to the GNOME Desktop Environment after uninstalling MATE. In that case, you might need to refresh your package list and reinstall the gnome, gdm3, and task-gnome-desktop packages. Here are the commands for that purpose:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install gnome gdm3 task-gnome-desktop --reinstall

Step 3: Enabling GDM

Before restarting your system, ensure GDM (GNOME Display Manager) is enabled. Overlooking this step might result in booting into a terminal or a server-like login. If that happens, you can restore your GNOME Desktop login by running:

sudo systemctl enable gdm --now

Step 4: Rebooting the System

To guarantee that all changes have been appropriately applied, it’s essential to restart your system. The following command will restart your system, thus implementing all your recent changes:

sudo reboot

The steps outlined above guide you through uninstalling MATE and returning to a previous setup with GNOME. It’s essential to consider this process if you want to try out different desktop environments on your Debian Linux system.

Closing Thoughts on Installing MATE Desktop on Debian Linux

In conclusion, this guide has taken you through the step-by-step process of installing the MATE Desktop Environment on Debian Linux versions 12, 11, and 10. We’ve addressed the initial setup, delved into the login process, shared valuable tips, and guided you on uninstalling MATE if needed. Each step was carefully detailed, offering an in-depth yet comprehensible approach to using the MATE Desktop Environment on your Debian system.