The Second-String Desktop
The great thing about choosing a Linux GUI is that it costs you nothing to change. Whether you like Fedora's default GNOME install or prefer openSUSE's green-lizard KDE install, every Linux install can be tweaked or changed. I must warn you though, once you try the NeXTSTEP clones Window Maker or AfterStep, you might never want to see a start menu again. If you experiment with the mouseless beauty of the Ratpoison window manager, you might never want to click again. Or, perhaps you're at the other end of the spectrum, and you want to fool yourself or others into thinking you are running OS X. Check out the free Macbuntu GNOME theme. With Linux, customization is king, and the options are seemingly endless. I created a chart to help you sort out some of the Linux GUI options available (see Table 1). It's by no means an exhaustive list, but it should get you started. Remember, just because a desktop environment is sitting on the bench doesn't mean it didn't make the team. Check out the bench-warmers, you might just find a winner.
Table 1. A Sampling of Linux Desktops/Window Managers
|Desktop/Window Manager||Description||Design Goals||Based On||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|KDE||Full desktop environment||Full system integration, including applications||Uses KWin window manager and Qt libraries||Great application integration, highly customizable||Distinct look; non-KDE apps often seem awkward|
|GNOME||Full desktop environment||Full system integration, including applications||Uses Metacity window manager, based on GTK+ libraries||Wide variety of native applications, wide adoption in corporate environments||Non-GTK apps often look odd and use more RAM|
|LXDE||Lightweight desktop environment||Speed and beautiful interface||Uses Openbox window manager and GTK+ libraries||Works well on older/slower hardware, maintains compatibility||Lacks some of the features found in GNOME or KDE|
|XFCE||Lightweight desktop environment||Full-featured desktop environment, but light on resources||Usually uses XFWM4, but works well with other window managers||Somewhat lower system requirements than GNOME or KDE||Possibly a bit too resource-hungry for low-end systems|
|Enlightenment E17||Window manager with the features of a desktop manager||Speed and eye candy with integrated functionality||A window manager plus a set of libraries for developing apps||Fast without sacrificing style||Still in beta but quite stable|
|ROX Desktop||Desktop manager based on the ROX-Filer||Approaches the OS in a file-centric way||ROX-Filer file manager and the OroboBox window manager||Unique file-based design makes installing apps drag and drop||ROX Desktop is either a love or hate affair|
|IceWM||Hybrid window manager and desktop manager||Speed and simplicity||Simple menu and taskbar design||Fast and easy to make system-wide configuration changes||No way to make desktop icons, requires additional software for some features|
|Blackbox/Fluxbox||Very minimalistic window managers||Speed and small memory/CPU footprint||Fluxbox is based on Blackbox (it's a fork)||Blazingly fast||Very limited in features, but by design not immaturity|
|Openbox||Very minimalistic window manager||Speed and small memory/CPU footprint||Originally based on Blackbox, original code since version 3.0||Simple and fast||Limited in features by design|
|AfterStep/Window Maker||Clones of the NeXTSTEP interface||Functions and looks like NeXTSTEP||Designed after the unique design of the NeXTSTEP interface||Unique||Often difficult to configure, and the interface is an acquired taste|
|Ratpoison||A window manager that doesn't require a mouse||Kills the need for a mouse||Designed after GNU Screen||No need for a mouse||Very limited in features, which the developers consider a feature|
|DWM||An extremely minimalist window manager||Manages windows and nothing more||The ideas of other minimalist window managers||Small and fast||No configuration files, must edit source code to configure|
|Geek Hide-away in Guatemala - Stay for Free!||Nov 26, 2015|
|Microsoft and Linux: True Romance or Toxic Love?||Nov 25, 2015|
|Non-Linux FOSS: Install Windows? Yeah, Open Source Can Do That.||Nov 24, 2015|
|Cipher Security: How to harden TLS and SSH||Nov 23, 2015|
|Web Stores Held Hostage||Nov 19, 2015|
|diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development||Nov 17, 2015|
- Microsoft and Linux: True Romance or Toxic Love?
- Cipher Security: How to harden TLS and SSH
- Non-Linux FOSS: Install Windows? Yeah, Open Source Can Do That.
- Geek Hide-away in Guatemala - Stay for Free!
- Web Stores Held Hostage
- Firefox's New Feature for Tighter Security
- PuppetLabs Introduces Application Orchestration
- It's a Bird. It's Another Bird!
- diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development
- IBM LinuxONE Provides New Options for Linux Deployment