How to install MATE Desktop on Arch Linux

While Arch Linux gives you the super light-weight base, the MATE desktop environment gives you the traditional desktop experience you need.

As one of the most popular Linux desktop environments, MATE offers a variety of features, such as it’s traditional desktop experience, low resource consumption, and highly customizable interface, that makes it a good fit for Arch Linux, a lightweight, minimal Linux distribution.

In this article, we will show you the process for installing the MATE Desktop environment on Arch Linux.

Installing MATE Desktop on Arch Linux


You will need:

  • A computer or VM with at least 1GB of RAM and 20GB of storage with Arch Linux installed.
  • An Internet connection

Installing MATE Desktop

1. Check Internet Connection

If you have not done so already, please ensure that the Arch Linux installation that you wish to install MATE on has a stable Internet connection, as it will be needed to download MATE and it’s dependencies. This can be done by using the ping command:

$ ping -c 3

Screenshot of ping results
Screenshot of ping results

2. Use Pacman to Update System

Once you have verified that you have a working Internet connection, use Pacman to update the system by running the following command:

$ sudo pacman -Syu

Depending on your system configuration, you may be prompted for a password when using `sudo`. If there are any software packages that have updates available, you will be asked if you want to continue with the installation. Type `y` and press enter.

NOTE: Since I am using a fresh installation of Arch Linux, there are no packages to update yet. You may see different output.

Screenshot of system update with Pacman
System update with Pacman

Reboot the system using:

$ sudo reboot

3. Install Xorg

Now it is time to install Xorg, a popular display server for Linux if you have not already done so. To check whether or not you have Xorg installed, we will use Pacman:

$ sudo pacman -Qi xorg

If Pacman shows that you have Xorg installed, you may skip this step.

Screenshot of using Pacman to check if Xorg is installed
Using Pacman to check if Xorg is installed

If you do not have Xorg installed, you will have to install it. To do so, run:

$ sudo pacman -S xorg xorg-server

You will be prompted to enter a selection by Pacman. Press ENTER and proceed with the installation.

Screenshot of using Pacman to install Xorg
Using Pacman to install Xorg

4. Install MATE Desktop Environment

Once Xorg is installed, we can install the packages for the MATE Desktop Environment itself. This is done using Pacman:

$ sudo pacman -S mate mate-extra

Again, you will be prompted to enter a selection by Pacman. Press ENTER and proceed with the installation.

Screenshot of using Pacman to install MATE
Using Pacman to install MATE

5. Install LightDM Display Manager

LightDM is a display manager, a software that allows for graphical logins. To install it, run:

$ sudo pacman -S lightdm

Screenshot of using Pacman to install LightDM
Using Pacman to install LightDM

Next, we need to install a greeter, which is a software that works alongside the display manager to provide a GUI login screen. The greeter can be installed with:

$ sudo pacman -S lightdm-gtk-greeter

Screenshot of using Pacman to install lightdm-gtk-greeter
Using Pacman to install lightdm-gtk-greeter

6. Enable LightDM

Before LightDM can be used, it’s service, `lightdm.service`, must be enabled. To enable LightDM, we will use `systemctl` as shown below:

$ sudo systemctl enable lightdm.service

Screenshot of enabling LightDM
Enabling LightDM

Now that LightDM is enabled, it will start on boot once the system is restarted. To restart the system, use:

$ sudo reboot

7. Login to Newly Installed MATE Desktop

Now that you’ve rebooted, LightDM should start automatically and present you with a graphical login, like the one shown below.

Screenshot of graphical login
Graphical login

After you log in, you will be presented with your freshly installed MATE Desktop Environment.

Screenshot of MATE Desktop Environment
Screenshot of MATE Desktop Environment


Now, MATE should be fully installed on Arch Linux. By the end of this tutorial, you should have installed Xorg, MATE, LightDM, and a greeter onto your machine, and you should be looking at your new graphical desktop environment.

From here, you can tweak the desktop environment to suit your needs, install graphical software, or explore the included software, which includes:

  • MATE Terminal – The included terminal emulator
  • Caja – The file manager of MATE
  • Pluma – A simple text editor
  • Atril – The included document viewer
  • EOM – Eye of MATE, the image viewer
  • Engrampa – A graphical archive manager

What you do with your new graphical environment from here is up to you. For anything from editing documents and browsing the web to running complicated development or rendering software, MATE has you covered.

Brandon Hammond
Hello, my name is Brandon Hammond, I am an avid Linux enthusiast, programmer, and contributor here at FOSS Linux. Linux is one of my passions, and when I'm not attending college I'm usually tinkering with it in a VM.



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