Right now, most of the TODO list in MATE 1.8 Roadmap have been cleared away, meaning that MATE 1.8 will soon gets released. There's only one remaining TODO and that is Bluez 5 support in mate-bluetooth. That feature will be implemented hopefully by this week.
The MATE developers are planning to release RC release by bumping the version number to 1.7.99x to indicate that it's a RC release for the upcoming 1.8. Once the RC are considered stable, they will bump it again to 1.8.
This evening, i decided to create a new VM for testing the new MATE 1.7 development packages that are already available on the master branch of our GITHUB account. I built the MATE 1.7 packages on top of a clean installation of Slackware 14.1. The results can be seen on the screenshot below:
It's as clean as in MATE 1.6, but with more features and bug fixes across many MATE elements. Even though it's on VM, but the performance doesn't degrade. It's just as fast as in native environments.
I will not provide binary packages for MATE 1.7. People are encouraged to build it from the source by running mate-build-all.sh script on the github repository. Please note that currently, mate-bluetooth is not yet buildable, since it's not yet bumped to 1.7.x. You can delete the related entries in mate-build-extra.sh before firing the mate-build-all.sh script.
Please report any MATE problems to upstream (MATE developers), while SlackBuild and build script problem to me (or Chess).