With so many different Linux desktop environments, it can be difficult to choose one, especially if you are a beginner or a user who is simply changing Windows. In case you are not familiar with the concept of desktop environment, it is reduced to a set of libraries, tool kits, modules and applications that make the desktop visible and functional on the screen, and allow the user to "communicate" with the system
A desktop environment includes components such as the window manager, icons, toolbars, panel, widgets, wallpapers and screensavers, as well as a basic set of applications (file manager, browser, media player, text editor, image viewer, etc.). It is not such a strange idea; After all, Windows also has a desktop environment. In versions 8 and 8.1 it is called Metro, while Windows 7 had Aero and XP had Luna.
A great thing about Linux is that it is not limited to any desktop environment that is poisoned with the distribution it installed. If you don't like the default DE, just install another or two, for that matter. But which? Maybe this article can help you decide.
Here is a list of the 10 best Linux desktop environments.
KDE is one of the oldest desktop environments; development began in 1996, and the first version was launched in 1998. It is a highly customizable DE based on the Qt framework, and many popular Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora and openSUSE., offer it as the default DE or as one of the "flavors".
While beginners often feel overwhelmed by the amount of options in KDE, it is a perfect desktop environment for people who want to modify everything, because KDE makes it possible. There are two KDE branches currently in development: the 4.x series (first launched in 2008) and KDE Plasma 5 and Frameworks 5, first launched in July last year. Plasma 5 brings many improvements, mainly focused on an optimized visual experience (better launchers, mens and notifications) and ease of use on different devices.
However, the KDE 4.x series is still compatible and used by most KDE users. Its main feature is the plasma interface, which comes in three forms: for desktop computers, netbooks and tablets. Plasma is basically the workspace you see when you start KDE, and you can add widgets and panels, have several desktops and use the function called Activities to organize your widgets and applications into groups according to your purpose. For example, you can keep all your social media tools in one activity and switch to them only when you want to use these applications.
KDE offers a lot of applications in its software compilation; It is probably the best equipped of all desktop environments. Some KDE applications are: Dolphin (file manager), Kate (text editor), Konsole (terminal), Gwenview (image viewer), Krunner (launcher), Okular (document and PDF viewer), Digikam (editor of photos and organizer), KMail (email client), Quassel (IRC client), K3b (DVD burning application) …
The best for: advanced users, those who want better control of their system, users who love stationery and infinite personalization.
Since its first launch in 1999, GNOME was always seen as the main competitor of KDE. Unlike KDE, GNOME uses the GTK toolkit, and its goal was to provide simplicity and a classic desktop experience without too many options. However, in 2011 a great redesign was introduced in GNOME 3, and the traditional desktop was replaced by GNOME Shell. Many users and developers were not happy with this, and some even went to fork GNOME 2 and created complete desktop environments based on it.
Even so, GNOME 3 prevailed, and today it is as popular as KDE. Today it offers a classic way to please the fantastic nostalgic of GNOME 2. The GNOME Shell is its most distinctive feature, and offers a practical activity summary in which you can see all your tasks, applications and notifications at a glance. Dash is the launcher with shortcuts to your applications, but you can also access them from the search box.
GNOME 3 wants to provide a workflow in which everything is connected and easily accessible, and some of its features are similar to OS X, so it attracts Mac users. Like KDE, it has a lot of applications, including Nautilus (file manager), Evince (document and PDF viewer), Gedit (text editor), Eye of Gnome (image viewer), Totem (video player) …
Better for: touch screen devices; users who want to try a non-traditional desktop approach, users who change OS X.
Basically, MATE has resurrected GNOME 2: it retains the appearance of the old desktop environment while providing software updates and interface improvements. MATE is also friendly with old hardware, since it does not require composition, making it ideal for low-end computers. It was introduced in 2011 as a fork of GNOME 2; In addition to branching the DE base, MATE developers also branched several GNOME applications.
MATE is compatible with several major Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, Mageia and PCLinuxOS. The applications included with MATE are Caja (file manager), Pen (text editor), Eye of MATE (image viewer), Lectern (document viewer) and others. It is a simple and lightweight DE for users who do not need all the bells and whistles of other DEs full of features.
The best for: users with old computers, beginners, those looking for a lightweight DE with a traditional approach to the Linux desktop.
4. the trinity
What MATE is for GNOME, Trinity is for KDE. It is a continuation of the KDE 3 series. When KDE 4 was released, it was (possibly) unpolished and not stable for daily use, which left many users unhappy. Then the Trinity was created; a bifurcated desktop environment compatible with old and customizable hardware as well as the good and old KDE 3.
However, Trinity is not just a "copy" of KDE 3; rather, it is a separate desktop environment with features that are not identical to those of KDE. Namely, Trinity does not have Activities or the semantic desktop component with file indexing, PIM and search (the "infamous" Nepomuk-Strigi-Akonadi services that many KDE users deactivate as soon as they install KDE). What it has is an impressive list of applications, some of which are ShowFoto (photo editor and viewer), Konversation (IRC client), Konqueror (file manager and web browser), Kaffeine (media player), KWord ( word processor), Basket (application to take notes), KEdit (text editor) …
The best for: users who love the look of KDE 3 and those looking for a lighter version of KDE.
XFCE has been present in the Linux desktop environment scene for a long time; specifically, since 1996, and the current version is 4.12 as of February of this year. It is a lightweight DE based on GTK + 2, and is fully adaptable to themes, with functions such as window mosaic and Preview Mode (similar to Mission Control on OS X). It is aimed at beginners who want a stable ED that is not complicated to maintain. Customization is possible through useful dilogues, but XFCE has always focused on simplicity.
The default desktop has a panel, a base and a few icons, which provides a familiar interface even for users who have never touched Linux. Like other important desktop environments, XFCE offers its own set of applications: Thunar (file manager), Leafpad (text editor), Parole (media player), Xfburn (DVD burning application), Midori (browser web), Ristretto (image viewer) …
The best for: beginners, users with old hardware and those who want a simple and orderly DE.
LXDE is a superlight desktop environment that first appeared in 2006. Today, it is backed by all major distributions and is often recommended as the best option to revive old computers. LXDE is easy to customize, and its most important feature is the fact that the applications it provides do not have many dependencies, so they can be installed without much problem in any other ED.
In terms of appearance, it is very traditional and reminds of the Windows XP interface. LXDE has extremely low system requirements and, as reported, occupies only 50 MB of RAM at startup. It comes with all the applications that an average user might need, some of which are: PCManFM (file manager), GPicView (image viewer), Leafpad (text editor), LXMusic (music player) …
The best for: beginners, older users, users who change Windows and those who have low-end hardware.
Believe it or not, Enlightenment is older than GNOME and KDE; It was launched in 1997. However, it is not as popular nor as widely used because it was stagnant in development for a long time. These days, some distributions (especially Bodhi Linux) are distributed as your primary DE, but you can install and test them on any distribution, of course.
Enlightenment focuses primarily on visual experience and innovation in the field of graphics. Several amazing features prove it: desktop animations, grouping of windows (allows you to resize, move and close several windows at once), minimize windows on the desktop cones, add up to 2048 (!) Virtual desktops in 32 possible grids (each with its own wallpaper), and stack desktops one below the other, then slide them as layers to work on more desktops simultaneously. Applications offered by default include, but are not limited to, terminology (terminal), ePad (text editor), Ephoto (image viewer), Epour (torrent client) and Rage (media player).
The best for: Users who want to try a different DE and anyone interested in desktop customization.
Cinnamon was created by Linux Mint developers in 2012 and based on GNOME Shell, but with a different view. The idea was to create a simple desktop environment that looks modern, runs smoothly and does not leave new users confused and frustrated. Since it is a young project, it is still in development, but it already has many fantastic features and almost all major Linux distributions offer it as one of its flavors.
Cinnamon supports desktop themes and effects, and you can add applets (panel widgets) and desklets (desktop widgets) to your work areas. There is a versatile and customizable menu on the panel, but you can replace it with other applets or extensions. Cinnamon is compatible with practical functions for window management, such as setting and edge adjustment, and the next versions will provide better support for multiple monitors. Some Cinnamon applications were forked from GNOME, especially Nemo (file manager).
The best for: beginners, users looking for simplicity and ease of use, and those who want a lightweight but attractive DE.
Some readers may argue that Unity is not technically a DE, and they will be right, because it was built as a shell for GNOME and does not come with a set of applications. However, it is one of Canonical's largest projects, and they call it a desktop environment, so it is included in this list. Unity was developed with netbooks and touch screen devices in mind, and its goal is to optimize screen space, as well as making all Ubuntu applications, files and features easily accessible to the user. The first version came out in 2010, and today Unity can be installed in other distributions, like any other DE.
Several features make Unity stand out from the rest. It has separate indicators for applications and system functions, a front display for a quick search and a full search overlay called Dash. The board contains lenses, which are used to send search queries to areas and display the results. Scopes can search for content on your hard drive or on various services on the Internet, including Google Drive, Github and Wikipedia. By installing Scopes and Lenses, you can extend Unity's functionality and make it more appropriate to your needs.
The best for: users who spend a lot of time searching for files or content, as well as those who want a different DE than traditional ones.
Panten is the youngest project on this list. Developed by the elementaryOS team in 2013, it is surprisingly not a fork of something else, but an independent DE based on GTK3. The panthen is often described as similar to OS X and is praised for its modern and clean appearance and its simplicity. It has a customizable menu, subtle stationery and supports multiple work areas and grid-based window mosaics. Since it is quite light in terms of system resources, it is an excellent choice for users who want to beautify their old computer with a new Linux DE. Pantheon offers some default applications: Midori (web browser), Geary (email client), Noise (audio player), Plank (dock), Switchboard (configuration manager), Scratch (text editor), Slingshot (launcher) ) and Pantheon Files (file manager).
The best for: beginners, users looking for a lightweight ED and all those who enjoy responsive and orderly interfaces.
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As you can see, all these desktop environments look very similar by default, so don't forget that you can customize them greatly. It is even possible to make KDE look like Unity or Cinnamon to emulate Windows 7!
And now, For you: what is your favorite desktop environment for Linux? Tell us in the comments below.