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What is MATE?

MATE Desktop Environment Logo - CC BY-SA

The MATE Desktop Environment is the continuation of GNOME 2. It provides an intuitive and attractive desktop environment using traditional metaphors for Linux and other Unix-like operating systems.

MATE in Debian

MATE is currently packaged for wheezy (backports), jessie, stretch and unstable.
In wheezy's case, the backports repository has to be enabled as described in the official backports documentation. Do make sure you update the repository after enabling backports.



The MATE desktop environment includes useful applications like a file manager, an editor or an image viewer. All these applications are forks of the old GNOME 2 applications, for example Caja is forked from the GNOME file manager Nautilus.



Caja is the official file manager for the MATE desktop. It allows for browsing directories, as well as previewing files and launching applications associated with them. It is also responsible for handling the icons on the MATE desktop. It works on local and remote filesystems. Caja is a fork of Nautilus.



Pluma is a text editor which supports most standard editor features. It also extends this basic functionality with other features not usually found in simple text editors. Pluma is a graphical application which supports editing multiple text files in one window (known sometimes as tabs or MDI). Pluma fully supports international text through its use of the Unicode UTF-8 encoding in edited files. Its core feature set includes syntax highlighting of source code, auto indentation, and printing support (with print preview). Pluma is a fork of Gedit.

Eye of MATE


eom or the Eye of MATE is a simple graphics viewer for the MATE desktop which uses the gdk-pixbuf library. It can deal with large images, and can zoom and scroll with constant memory usage. Its goals are simplicity and standards compliance. Eye of MATE is a fork of Eye of GNOME.



Atril is a simple multi-page document viewer. It can display and print ?PostScript (PS), Encapsulated ?PostScript (EPS), DJVU, DVI, XPS and Portable Document Format (PDF) files. When supported by the document, it also allows searching for text, copying text to the clipboard, hypertext navigation, and table-of-contents bookmarks. Atril is a fork of Evince.



Engrampa is an archive manager for the MATE environment. It allows you to create and modify archives, view the contents of an archive, view a file contained in an archive, and extract files from archive. Engrampa is a fork of File Roller.

MATE Terminal


MATE Terminal is a terminal emulation application that you can use to access a UNIX shell in the MATE environment. With it, you can run any application that is designed to run on VT102, VT220, and xterm terminals. MATE Terminal also has the ability to use multiple terminals in a single window (tabs) and supports management of different configurations (profiles). MATE Terminal is a fork of GNOME Terminal.


There are three options to install MATE in Debian:

How to install


MATE (full + extras)

mate-desktop-environment-extras package

This will install the complete MATE desktop including a few extras.

MATE (full)

mate-desktop-environment package

This will install the complete MATE desktop environment.

MATE (core only)

mate-desktop-environment-core package

This is a minimalist MATE installation
(You have to install all end-user applications later). Above packages depend on this one.

If no graphical environment was present before, you will also need to install a display manager such as GDM or LightDM.

Install MATE in an already installed system

Optional: If you want to uninstall GNOME and its dependencies first, do:

aptitude purge `dpkg --get-selections | grep gnome | cut -f 1`
aptitude -f install
aptitude purge `dpkg --get-selections | grep deinstall | cut -f 1`
aptitude -f install

To install MATE, do the following:

Standard MATE setup, display manager and X11 server

apt install task-mate-desktop

The following options do not install a display manager or X11 server. If no graphical environment was present before, you will also need to install a display manager such as LightDM or GDM.

MATE full

apt install mate-desktop-environment

MATE full and extras

apt install mate-desktop-environment-extras

MATE just core

apt install mate-desktop-environment-core


Most configuration of the MATE desktop is done via its various GUI utilities. The location of these varies depending on version, but common utilities include networking, themes, sounds and much more. It is also possible to configure (read/write) settings using the command line with gconftool-2(1).

As of the release of Stretch a new utility called Mate Tweak is available. It is also available in testing and unstable. This is a small utility that will allow you to change various settings. For instance desktop icons and even the compositor that MATE uses. You can install this either through synaptic or by using apt with the command.

apt install mate-tweak

See also