Mint 8: mintInstall improvements

I’ve been really silent lately and I haven’t communicated much with the community on what I was working on and what was happening. I was in France this summer on a 3 months unpaid leave. This gave me the opportunity to see how my life would be affected if I was to leave my job and I’m happy to say the experiment was a total success. So more on that later, but I just wanted to apologize for being absent, as a lot of things are happening around here and they’ve kept me away from this blog.

The development on the upcoming Linux Mint 8 ‘Helena’ started in the Summer and a series of improvements are already implemented. Today, I’d like to show you the impact on one of our most popular application: mintInstall.

Less branding:

We decided to remove the Linux Mint branding on the applications we develop so for mintInstall, this means you won’t see written “mintInstall” in the menu, but “Software Manager” (or the localized equivalent in non-English systems):

Same thing in the window title:

The icon is changed as well, from the Linux Mint logo, to an relating to what the application does. In the case of mintInstall it’s now a yellow star.

These changes make more sense for the users, they make the overall operating system look more coherent, more elegant and more professional and finally they make it easier for users and developers of other Linux distributions to reuse our technology.

APT status and removal of applications:

When an application is listed, mintInstall now queries APT to find out whether it’s installed on the system and what versions are installed and/or available. This process is almost immediate and doesn’t impact the responsiveness. This basically means that, looking at an application, you’ll be able to see if it’s already installed or not, you’ll be able to see its version and you’ll be able to install it but also to remove it from mintInstall.

In the example below, mintInstall shows you that Thunderbird is installed.

If you click on the Remove button, the dependencies are calculated and the following dialog appears:

Note that this method of removing applications is similar and visually identical to removing applications from mintMenu.

Similarly, if you’re looking at an application which is not installed on your system, mintInstall shows you the available version and gives you the opportunity to install it:

No more refresh:

The refresh button is gone. To avoid too many hits on the Linux Mint server the data available to mintInstall isn’t up to date with the data present online in the software portal. Every now and then the team refreshes that data by exporting the content of the portal’s database to XML meta-data. In brief, and in simple terms, you had no way of knowing when this data was updated. You could click on the “Refresh” button every day and get nothing out of it, and when the data was finally updated you had no way of knowing about it. So this is gone now.

The data is now “refreshed” by us and packaged into a new package called mintinstall-data which mintinstall depends on. So basically, when the data is refreshed, you get a Level 1 package update in mintUpdate and you never have to worry about anything else.

The screenshots are not part of the data, they’re downloaded one by one, in the background, while you’re looking at the applications in mintInstall. If you’re not connected to the Internet while you’re doing that, no problem, it just fails silently without even you knowing it was trying to download anything. No lag, no error message, and no more long download sequences for you to get “all” the screenshots.

Graphical Interface:

The graphical interface was improved. It’s busy, full of controls and it has to fit on those netbook screens which are getting more and more popular, so changes had to be done.

This is how mintInstall looked in Linux Mint 7 Gloria:

And this is how it looks at the moment:

We got rid of the Refresh button and of the progress bar at the bottom. The border sizes of many of the components was reduced. The space was used differently, in particular for the screenshot, and the action buttons.

What’s coming next:

You can submit your comments here. If you have ideas you can register blueprints, and if you want to look and modify the code, you can have a look at our git repository.

Next time I’ll go through the mintUpdate improvements we prepared for Linux Mint 8 Helena.