TechSpot: Six Popular Linux Desktop Environments

Unlike Windows and OS X, Linux allows you to fully customize not only the look and feel of your desktop, but also its functionality as well as settings, through different "desktop environments". These desktop environments offer different styles and options, and unavoidably, with choice often comes confusion.

Today we'll do a brief overview of the most popular Linux desktop environments to give you an idea about what each has to offer and what suits you the best.

Read: Six Popular Linux Desktop Environments
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I've never liked any of them. They have always looked old and dated, or just a mess of confused designers.

I dunno, I like Linux, and would like to use it, but everything I do, it just feels like free software, and I've just never gotten used to it, or liked the look and feel of it.

I was a big fan of Gnome 2 in the day. Then I used Unity and KDE. My current laptop is very low spec though, so I tried MATE, which I quite liked. It gave me a taste for the Gnome 2 days.

The fact is though that you can often take one desktop and make it look and work like another (for the most part). I now have Xfce, but I've got it looking like Gnome 2/MATE. It's great!

One day I'll get a normal laptop and then go back to Unity or KDE, especially now that they are working on KDE 5, which looks awesome!

Nice quick FYI article/link, but not sure the start of the linked article is much more than limited perspective opinion.

"Unlike Windows and OS X, Linux allows you to fully customize not only the look and feel of your desktop, but also its functionality as well as settings, through different "desktop environments""

To add to this post, something for all of you that can't find a happy spot Explorer in Windows. Not going to start listing all of them, many have died over time due to lack of interest/popularity, but a full replacement shell is not something new to Windows.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...ernative_shells_for_Windows

As many have said, I have been down the road of different shells. Inconsistency in the versions/releases has led me back to Explorer.
http://www.online-tech-tips.co...shell-replacement-programs/

Used to use linux, but these days its just a test / play environment for me. Save like £1 a week and buy windows you wont regret it.

Vester said,
Used to use linux, but these days its just a test / play environment for me. Save like £1 a week and buy windows you wont regret it.

Where experience has taken me is that, unless it's on a server or IoT device, Linux is for developers who can't afford a Mac.

So, I guess, unemployed developers.

Vester said,
Used to use linux, but these days its just a test / play environment for me. Save like £1 a week and buy windows you wont regret it.

Really? People pay for an inferior product these days? Sheesh.

simplezz said,

Really? People pay for an inferior product these days? Sheesh.

It's sad to watch someone waste words like this.

That's the problem. You can pick 6 and leave a few out, instead of being, say, three or four. Is not choice anymore, it's wasteful fragmentation.

How is it fragmentation? A desktop is just another app you use to manage other apps. It doesn't introduce any incompatibilities.

If you mean fragmentation of development effort, not really, those devs would not want to collaborate with other desktop teams, that's why they made their own in the first place. But they'll all be using common libraries and other toolkits to make their desktop interface run, so in fact the devs will actually be cooperating, just not on a superficial level.

The desktop environment doesn't stop you installing or running a different applications.

I'm on XFCE, I can install and run KDE, Gnome, Qt, X applications as I wish.

I'm not familiar with XCFE. anyone have any links to info about xcfe? I'm going to buy a new laptop but I'll make it a linux machine

Every time I try any Linux desktop it takes maybe 1 hour until I end up pasting some lengthy and obscure command line stuff to change something simple.

Linux has many good uses but for me it would be one of the last choices for a desktop PC.

LaXu said,
Every time I try any Linux desktop it takes maybe 1 hour until I end up pasting some lengthy and obscure command line stuff to change something simple.

Linux has many good uses but for me it would be one of the last choices for a desktop PC.


Guess you haven't used a modern distro in a while then. My family and friends use it and they don't even know what a terminal / cli is ;)

Pluto is a Planet said,
I specifically use Linux when I don't want a desktop environment at all and because it offers the best command line experience I've tried.

Completely agree. A DE is optional. I often run a raw tty. I love ncmpc (ncurses MPD client), irssi, vim, screen, and of course mplayer / youtube on the framebuffer :D

Cinnamon:
"Cons: Requires 3D acceleration, which means it might not work well for you depending on your machine's graphics card and/or drivers; It might not be as stable as some of the more mature and established desktops."

Not as stable? What? It's never crashed on me on any of the PCs where I use Mint. And most of those PCs are far from top of the line equipment. Do you have any evidence at all that Cinnamon is more prone to instability than other desktop environments? If so, I'd really like to see it. But I guess saying "it might not be as stable" is a cheap way to make a non-committal statement based on nonexistent evidence.

I'm glad we've abandoned the narrative that Cinnamon is "old-fashioned." That was the lamest criticism, especially as people are clamoring for the return of their old start button and taskbar in Windows. A taskbar should be on the bottom of the screen just as a spacebar should be on the bottom of the keyboard.

When you try to be "cutting edge" and move the taskbar, you're gonna make people as frustrated as they would be if you moved the spacebar. You're throwing out decades of experience and muscle memory just for the sake of superficially appearing innovative. The good people of Canonical continue to ignore this fact with their dogged determination to push Unity despite all the backlash. That is partly why Mint has surged ahead of Ubuntu.

That is an odd omission considering they got LXDE in there. Sure there's some fairly niche/esoteric desktops out there, but XFCE isn't one of them. Should have put Pantheon (Elementary) in there as well, up and coming and all that.

I agree, especially, like Max says, they included LXDE. I suppose there's not a lot to be said for XFCE given how slow it's development model is (not in a bad way), but still, to see LXDE in there and not the former 3rd place contender seems a bit odd.

Ah well. I still love you XFCE, even if they don't. *hugs XFCE setup*

Aergan said,
Not sure why XFCE was skipped really.

XFCE is the new Gnome2 for me. It's functional, configurable, clean, aesthetically pleasing, and fast. I've yet to come across a better desktop environment. LXDE is also pretty good, but not as user friendly and polished as XFCE IMO.

Yeah was definitely surprised not to see XFCE especially when it was mentioned in the LXDE entry.

While I use MATE normally I think I should have a bit more time with XFCE since there is a lot to like about both.

Good writeup, still a fan of KDE myself, still mourning Gnome's descent into.. whatever that is, but the article's first paragraph is fairly off. I'm not denying Linux has a lot more choices (and more actively developed too), but Windows most definitely allows you to change desktop environments too. Has been able to do that for many years. Same goes for "look and feel", not sure where that came from.

I just use Mate, it's pretty much Gnome2. Works great! I haven't tried KDE in a looooong time, maybe I should test it out for funzies.

Yea I like Mate too for nostalgic reasons.. just feels like using XP nowadays if you get my meaning, not putting it down or anything. KDE just fits for me as it goes the exact opposite route of Gnome 3.. instead of hiding functionality, features and options, it throws them at you in spades.

Yeah I get that, I used to use KDE. I don't find I miss the options though, I mostly want a UI just to launch apps, manage windows, and stay out of the way. I don't actually use the OS shell itself very much.

What's fantastic though is how seamlessly apps using different widget toolkits are handled in both KDE and Gnome. Very happy about that!

Something about how QT renders its widgets always puts me off on using KDE. I've always found GTK's rendering a little easier on the eyes.

Max Norris said,
still mourning Gnome's descent into.. whatever that is, but the article's first paragraph is fairly off.

That's the great thing about GNU/Linux and FOSS in general. If you don't like an interface or program, there's a plethora of other options. I'm not a fan of Gnome3 either, but I know some people who are.

That's the difference between Linux and Windows. On Windows you're effectively stuck with whatever Microsoft gives you. Sure hacks are available, but it's much nicer to just be able to plug in whatever environment you prefer.

Max Norris said,

I'm not denying Linux has a lot more choices (and more actively developed too), but Windows most definitely allows you to change desktop environments too. Has been able to do that for many years. Same goes for "look and feel", not sure where that came from.

It's true that you can load a different shell. But it's not as simple as just switching environments from a graphical display manager. Then there's all the software utilities that go with it. For me, Windows is very rigid compared to Linux. You have to take what you're given basically. Not my preferred experience.

simplezz said,
That's the difference between Linux and Windows. On Windows you're effectively stuck with whatever Microsoft gives you. Sure hacks are available, but it's much nicer to just be able to plug in whatever environment you prefer.

It's not hacks, the OS loads a different shell when you log in. Not calling KDE a hack I hope? Sure, Linux has a lot more choices (kind of have to when it doesn't come with a desktop), but if there's shortcomings to be found in the Windows varieties.. that's a failure on the third party community, FOSS or otherwise. Microsoft's not obligated to help other environments.

simplezz said,
It's true that you can load a different shell. But it's not as simple as just switching environments from a graphical display manager. Then there's all the software utilities that go with it.

Actually it is. One setting and done. ;) And again, all the associated software that goes with a different shell is up to the people who make the thing in the first place... file managers, launches, all that stuff. All replaceable.

That said this isn't a Windows vs Linux debate, merely pointing out an inaccuracy in the article.