Desktop Environments

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The desktop environment (DE) is what makes up most of the user interface. It may include system panels, docks, window borders, backgrounds, and desktop widgets, among other things. GNU/Linux has a wide variety of DEs avaliable—this page will outline some of the most popular ones.

It is important to note that no DE is tied to a particular GNU/Linux distribution, or vice versa. Thus, if your distribution of choice is Debian, you may use GNOME, or KDE, or both GNOME and KDE (if you installed both). You can install as many different DEs as you want and try them all!

Computers in the LUG@UCLA Lounge have many DEs installed for you to try at your own leisure.


GNOME logo
screenshot of GNOME Shell in overview mode

GNOME Shell video overview on YouTube

GNOME is touch-friendly and mouse-friendly desktop environment that aims to be simple to use while also offering a full set of features that appeal to advanced users. If it appears to be missing a feature, you will probably find something interesting in the GNOME Shell Extensions database.

Compared with KDE, it has less options, but it is more dynamic. Users should use the overview to select between apps (see figure) and the use of workspaces is almost necessary. GNOME is a good choice for people who are sloppy or have poor motor skills because there is rarely ever a need to click on small areas or buttons. It is primarily developed by Red Hat, and is available on all major Linux distributions.

Distributions that come with GNOME:


KDE logo
screenshot of KDE