Desktop environments

Linux is very flexible when it comes to how graphical desktops looks like. However almost all make use of X. To explain in a sentence what is X, X is the infrastructure needed to run graphical programs, without having any graphical software. So the various desktops make use of this infrastructure that forms a nicely powerful layer to the hardware.

It is a good idea to use applications not thighed to the desktop environment, so the work and data will be still available on major version updates or desktop changes.

Desktop environments are usually structured in different parts where some of them might be exchanged.


A LXDE move from gtk2 to QT is

lxqt-meta and lxqt-panel come with options that might not get installed as default. Under Gentoo emerge -pv lxqt-panel shows useflags for screen capturer, archiving, terminal

Gentoo emerge -pv lxqt-panel shows them as useflags to get more panel widgets -colorpicker -cpuload -dom -lm-sensors -networkmonitor -statusnotifier -sysstat

For gentoo see

The following packages should be installed

qterminal is a terminal application

lxqt-powermanagement gives the battery icon


Xfce means XForms Common Environment, however new versions of it do not make use of Xforms anymore, to keep the name, Xfce means something as X Freakin' Cool Environment.

It is considerably less complex than KDE and Gnome, but still well featured and fast.

Distributions on Netbooks as Linpus for the Acer Aspire One make use of Xfce.


KDE is a full featured desktop using the GPL version of the QT libraries and comes with many applications that simply are there and work without being worried how to install and configure them (screen capture, system monitor, info center, file find, file manager that asks to do links instead of copy and duplicate files... ).

Advantage: KDE is a complete solution.

Disadvantage: It might be considered a bit bloated, having big foot print and makes the used depending on KDE applications.


The many (but not all) KDE applications can be installed easily when not using KDE. They have obvious dependencies to QT.

Once having installed a program that depends on QT, the KDE applications do not require a lot of dependencies.


KDE can have many window effects as wobbly windows and the desktop cube. For this, it is important that direct rendering is working and KDE gets started with the Window manager plasma (not Openbox). The the desktop cube can be made visible by a key sequence.


Simply short pressing the key sequence to see the cube and then use the mouse to move around. When done, re-press the key sequence to go back. The default key sequence Ctrl + F11 might conflict with an other already set key sequence and therefore not work. In this case a custom key sequence as Ctrl + space can be set.

Figure 6.1. KDE cube

The KDE cube


The desktop environment Gnome has a long tradition and is probably the best compromise between full blown slow fancy desktop and fast, friendly intuitive and usable. It uses gtk library and is therefore full GPL. Ubuntu makes use of Gnome.

Gtk stands for Gimp tool Kit and shows it origin. Gimp is the Gnu Image Manipulation Program.

For Gentoo set the automount useflag, to have the gnome-volume-manager dealing with the devices plugged in. See the D-Bus section for more details.

Gnome 3 depends on systemd and therefore a migration is tricky. An other indication that it has become a big chunk is that it does no more run with compiz.


LXDE the Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment is an other attempt to have what many people want, a non bloated fast simple desktop. and for gentoo

Many distributions as Knoppix has jumped toward LXDE. Additionally it is well layered and follows the standards. To get it fancy LXDE can be run with compiz.

Since it is lightweight not too many applications come. The following might be considered to additionally install

  • Leafpad a gui editor

  • LXDM a display manager to login graphically (Add lxdm to /etc/conf.d/xdm). The configuration file is /etc/lxdm/lxdm.conf . There is also a simple gui lxdm-config

Some other packages are recommended to be installed as:

  • To have media mounted via gui make sure gvfs is installed

  • check that consolekitd is running (On gentoo rc-update add consolekit default)

  • file-roller to get archiving support

  • shutterbug for screen-shots

To see date and seconds click on the clock, go to the digital clock settings and insert %F %R:%S

For gentoo emerge lxde-meta and echo "exec startlxde" >> ~/.xinitrc

LXDE used gtk2 and there are no plans to move it to gtk3, so end of life arrives.

Linurs startpage