Last Updated on May 22, 2022
This series offers a gentle introduction to Linux for newcomers.
A desktop environment is a collection of disparate components that integrate together. They bundle these components to provide a common graphical user interface with elements such as icons, toolbars, wallpapers, and desktop widgets. Additionally, most desktop environments include a set of integrated applications and utilities.
Desktop environments (now abbreviated as DE) provide their own window manager, system software that controls the placement and appearance of windows within a windowing system. They also provide a file manager which organizes, lists, and locates files and directories. Other aspects include a background provider, a panel to provide a menu and display information, as well as a setting/configuration manager to customize the environment.
Ultimately, a DE is a piece of software. While they are more complicated than most other types of software, they are installed in the same way.
Ubuntu 21.04 uses the GNOME 3 DE.
Ubuntu flavours offer a unique way to experience Ubuntu, each with their own choice of default applications and settings. To date, this Linux for Starters has focused on the GNOME edition of Ubuntu. But there’s other official flavors including:
- Kubuntu – offers the KDE Plasma Desktop.
- Xubuntu – comes with XFCE, a light and configurable DE.
- Lubuntu – provides a light, fast and modern Ubuntu flavour using LXQt as its default DE.
- Ubuntu MATE – offers the continuation of the GNOME 2 DE.
- Ubuntu Budgie – provides the Budgie DE which focuses on simplicity and elegance.
It’s possible to install these flavours (and others) as a fresh installation. But what if you want to try a different desktop to GNOME 3? It’s easy to experiment with different desktops without wiping Ubuntu and installing a flavour from scratch.
First, we strongly recommend you create a separate user as DEs can share the same configuration files causing strange things to happen, especially with theming.
Running multiple DEs is possible and a great way to experiment, but you may need to resolve minor issues (which can be a good way of learning in itself). But if you want everything to “work out of the box”, you might wish to experiment running multiple desktop environments in a different way (such as using another machine or with virtualization software such as VirtualBox).
Let’s start with KDE Plasma 5.
All articles in this series: