Top 10 Best Linux Desktop Environments

With so many various Linux desktop environments on the market, it may be onerous to decide on one, particularly for those who’re a newbie or a person who’s simply switching from Home windows. In case you’re unfamiliar with the desktop surroundings idea, it boils right down to a set of libraries, toolkits, modules and purposes that make the desktop seen and purposeful on the display, and allow the person to “talk” with the system.

A desktop surroundings contains elements just like the window supervisor, icons, toolbars, panel, widgets, wallpaper and screensaver, in addition to a primary set of purposes (file supervisor, browser, media participant, textual content editor, picture viewer…). It’s not such a overseas concept; in spite of everything, Home windows additionally has a desktop surroundings. In variations 8 and eight.1 it’s referred to as Metro, whereas Home windows 7 had Aero, and XP had Luna.

A beauty of Linux is that you simply’re not restricted to whichever desktop surroundings ships with the distribution you put in. If you happen to dislike the default DE, simply set up one other one – or two, for that matter. However which one? Maybe this text will help you determine.

Here’s a listing of High 10 Finest Linux Desktop Environments

1. KDE

KDE is among the oldest desktop environments – the event began in 1996, and the primary model was launched in 1998. It’s a extremely customizable DE primarily based on the Qt framework, and plenty of common Linux distributions, together with Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Fedora and openSUSE, provide it as both the default DE or as one of many “flavors”.

Whereas newcomers are sometimes overwhelmed by the quantity of choices in KDE, it’s an ideal desktop surroundings for individuals who wish to tweak every part, as a result of KDE makes that attainable. There are two branches of KDE at present in improvement – 4.x sequence (first launched in 2008) and KDE Plasma 5 & Frameworks 5, first launched in July of final yr. Plasma 5 brings many enhancements, principally centered on a streamlined visible expertise (higher launchers, menus and notifications) and value throughout totally different units.


Nonetheless, KDE 4.x sequence continues to be supported and utilized by nearly all of KDE customers. Its predominant characteristic is the Plasma interface, which is available in three varieties: for desktops, netbooks and tablets. Plasma is mainly the workspace you see if you boot up KDE, and you’ll add widgets and panels to it, have a number of desktops and use the characteristic referred to as Actions to arrange your widgets and apps into teams in accordance with their objective. For instance, you possibly can maintain all of your social media instruments in a single Exercise, and change to it solely if you wish to use these apps.


KDE affords a heap of purposes in its Software program Compilation; it’s most likely the most effective geared up of all desktop environments. Some KDE purposes are: Dolphin (file supervisor), Kate (textual content editor), Konsole (terminal), Gwenview (picture viewer), Krunner (launcher), Okular (doc and PDF viewer), Digikam (picture editor and organizer), KMail (e-mail shopper), Quassel (IRC shopper), K3b (DVD burning utility)…

Finest for: superior customers, those that need higher management of their system, customers who love desktop results and infinite customization.


Since its first launch in 1999, GNOME was all the time seen as KDE’s predominant competitor. Not like KDE, GNOME makes use of the GTK toolkit, and its intention was to supply simplicity and a traditional desktop expertise with out too many choices. Nonetheless, in 2011 a serious redesign was launched in GNOME 3, and the standard desktop was changed by GNOME Shell. Many customers and builders have been sad about this, and a few even went on to fork GNOME 2 and create total desktop environments primarily based on it.


Nonetheless, GNOME 3 prevailed, and immediately it’s simply as common as KDE. These days it affords a Basic Mode to please the nostalgic GNOME 2 followers. The GNOME Shell is its most distinctive characteristic, and it affords a helpful Actions Overview the place you possibly can see all of your duties, apps and notifications at a look. The Sprint is the launcher with shortcuts to your apps, however you may also entry them from the Search field.

GNOME 3 needs to supply a workflow during which every part is linked and simply accessible, and a few of its options are just like OS X, so it appeals to ex-Mac customers. Like KDE, it boasts a bunch of purposes, together with Nautilus (file supervisor), Evince (doc and PDF viewer), Gedit (textual content editor), Eye of Gnome (picture viewer), Totem (video participant)…

Finest for: touchscreen units; customers who wish to attempt a non-traditional method to desktop, customers switching from OS X.



Principally, MATE is GNOME 2 resurrected – it preserves the appear and feel of the previous desktop surroundings whereas offering software program updates and interface enhancements. MATE can also be pleasant in the direction of previous {hardware}, as a result of it doesn’t require compositing, so it’s nice for low-end computer systems. It was launched in 2011 as a fork of GNOME 2; other than forking the DE base, the builders of MATE additionally forked a variety of GNOME purposes.

MATE is supported by a number of main Linux distributions, together with Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, Mageia and PCLinuxOS. The purposes bundled with MATE are Caja (file supervisor), Pluma (textual content editor), Eye of MATE (picture viewer), Atril (doc viewer) and others. It’s a easy and light-weight DE for customers who don’t want all of the bells and whistles of different feature-packed DEs.

Finest for: customers with previous computer systems, newcomers, these in search of a light-weight DE with a standard method to the Linux desktop.

4. Trinity

What MATE is to GNOME, Trinity is to KDE. It’s a continuation of the KDE 3 sequence. When KDE 4 was launched, it was (arguably) fairly unpolished and never secure for on a regular basis use, which left many customers disgruntled. Then Trinity was created; a forked desktop surroundings suitable with older {hardware} and customizable similar to the nice, previous KDE 3.


Nonetheless, Trinity is not only a “copy” of KDE 3; fairly, it’s a standalone desktop surroundings with options that aren’t an identical to KDE’s. Particularly, Trinity doesn’t have Actions nor the semantic desktop element with file indexing, PIM and search (the “notorious” Nepomuk-Strigi-Akonadi companies that so many KDE customers flip off as quickly as they set up KDE). What it does have is a powerful listing of purposes, a few of that are ShowFoto (picture editor and viewer), Konversation (IRC shopper), Konqueror (file supervisor and internet browser), Kaffeine (media participant), KWord (phrase processor), Basket (note-taking app), KEdit (textual content editor)…

Finest for: customers who love the look of KDE 3 and people in search of a lighter model of KDE.


XFCE has been current on the Linux desktop surroundings scene for a very long time; particularly, since 1996, and present launch is 4.12 from February of this yr. It’s a light-weight DE primarily based on GTK+ 2, and it’s absolutely theme-able, with options like window tiling and Preview Mode (just like Mission Management on OS X). It’s geared toward newcomers who need a secure DE that’s not sophisticated to keep up. Customization is made attainable by useful dialogs, however XFCE has all the time been centered on simplicity.


The default desktop has a panel, a dock and some icons, thus offering a well-known interface even to customers who’ve by no means touched Linux. Like different main desktop environments, XFCE affords its personal set of purposes: Thunar (file supervisor), Leafpad (textual content editor), Parole (media participant), Xfburn (DVD burning utility), Midori (internet browser), Ristretto (picture viewer)…

Finest for: newcomers, customers with older {hardware}, and those that need a easy, uncluttered DE.


LXDE is a super-lightweight desktop surroundings that first appeared in 2006. At present it’s supported by all main distributions and sometimes beneficial as the only option for reviving previous computer systems. LXDE is straightforward to customise, and its strongest characteristic is the truth that the purposes it gives don’t have many dependencies, to allow them to be put in with out a lot fuss on every other DE.


When it comes to look, it’s very conventional and considerably paying homage to the Home windows XP interface. LXDE has extraordinarily low system necessities and reportedly takes up solely 50 MB of RAM upon startup. It comes bundled with all of the purposes a mean person may want, a few of that are: PCManFM (file supervisor), GPicView (picture viewer), Leafpad (textual content editor), LXMusic (music participant)…

Finest for: newcomers, older customers, customers switching from Home windows and those that have low-end {hardware}.

7. Enlightenment

Imagine it or not, Enlightenment is older than GNOME and KDE – it was launched in 1997. Nonetheless, it’s not as common or as extensively used as a result of it was caught in improvement for a very long time. Lately, some distributions (most notably, Bodhi Linux) ship it as their predominant DE, however you possibly can set up and check out it out on any distribution, after all.


Enlightenment is primarily centered on the visible expertise and innovation within the discipline of graphics. A number of superb options show this: desktop animations, window grouping (enables you to resize, transfer and shut a number of home windows without delay), minimizing home windows into icons on the desktop, including as much as 2048 (!!) digital desktops on 32 attainable grids (every with its personal wallpaper), and stacking desktops below one another, then sliding them like layers to work on extra desktops concurrently. Purposes supplied by default embody, however will not be restricted to Terminology (terminal), ePad (textual content editor), Ephoto (picture viewer), Epour (torrent shopper) and Rage (media participant).

Finest for: customers who wish to attempt a unique DE and anybody all for desktop customization.

8. Cinnamon

Cinnamon was created by the builders of Linux Mint in 2012 and primarily based on GNOME Shell, however with a unique imaginative and prescient. The thought was to create a easy desktop surroundings that may look trendy, run easily, and gained’t depart new customers confused and pissed off. Because it’s a younger venture, it’s nonetheless in improvement, nevertheless it already has many implausible options and virtually all main Linux distributions provide it as considered one of their flavors.


Cinnamon helps desktop themes and results, and you’ll add applets (panel widgets) and desklets (desktop widgets) to your workspaces. There’s a flexible, customizable menu on the panel, however you possibly can substitute it with different applets or extensions. Cinnamon helps helpful options for window administration akin to edge tiling and snapping, and upcoming variations will present higher help for a number of screens. A few of Cinnamon’s purposes have been forked from GNOME, most notably Nemo (file supervisor).

Finest for: newcomers, customers in search of simplicity and ease of use, and those that need a light-weight but engaging DE.

9. Unity

Some readers may argue that Unity is technically not a DE, and they’d be proper, as a result of it was constructed as a shell for GNOME and it doesn’t include a set of purposes. Nonetheless, it’s considered one of Canonical’s greatest initiatives, and so they name it a desktop surroundings, which is why it’s included on this listing. Unity was developed with netbooks and touchscreen units in thoughts, and it goals to optimize display house, in addition to make all purposes, information and options of Ubuntu simply accessible to the person. The primary launch got here out in 2010, and immediately Unity might be put in on different distributions, like every other DE.


A number of options make Unity stand out from the remainder. It has separate indicators for purposes and system capabilities, a head-up show for fast looking out and a whole search overlay referred to as Sprint. The Sprint accommodates Lenses, that are used to ship search queries to Scopes and show the outcomes. The Scopes can seek for content material in your onerous drive or throughout varied companies on the Web, together with Google Drive, Github and Wikipedia. By putting in Scopes and Lenses, you possibly can lengthen Unity’s performance and make it extra appropriate to your wants.

Finest for: customers who spend plenty of time trying to find information or content material, in addition to those that need a totally different DE than the standard ones.

10. Pantheon


Pantheon is the youngest venture on this listing. Developed by the elementaryOS group in 2013, it’s surprisingly not a fork of one thing else, however an unbiased DE primarily based on GTK3. Pantheon is commonly described as just like OS X and praised for its clear, trendy look and ease. It has a customizable menu, refined desktop results, and helps a number of workspaces and grid-based window tiling. Because it’s fairly mild on system sources, it’s an important alternative for customers who wish to beautify their previous pc with a brand new Linux DE. Pantheon affords some purposes by default: Midori (internet browser), Geary (e-mail shopper), Noise (audio participant), Plank (dock), Switchboard (settings supervisor), Scratch (textual content editor), Slingshot (launcher) and Pantheon Information (file supervisor).

Finest for: newcomers, customers in search of a light-weight DE, and everybody who enjoys responsive, uncluttered interfaces.

 SEE ALSO: 15 Finest Linux Video games For 2015

As you possibly can see, all these desktop environments look very related by default, so don’t neglect that you may customise them to an important extent. It’s even attainable to make KDE seem like Unity or Cinnamon to emulate Home windows 7!

And now, over to you – what’s your favourite desktop surroundings for Linux? Inform us within the feedback beneath.