Linux for Starters: Your Guide to Linux – Try Different Desktops – Part 16

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.

Page 2 – KDE Plasma 5

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – Introduction
Page 2 – KDE Plasma 5
Page 3 – XFCE
Page 4 – MATE
Page 5 – Budgie

All articles in this series:

Linux For Starters: Your Guide to Linux
1What is Linux? Why use Linux? What do I need?
2Choose a Linux distribution meeting your specific needs and requirements.
3Make a bootable Ubuntu USB stick in Windows.
4We show you how to install Ubuntu 21.04 on your hard disk.
5Things to do after installing Ubuntu.
6Navigating your way around the Desktop.
7Updating the system, install new software.
8Open source replacements for proprietary Windows desktop software.
9Get started with the power and flexibility of the terminal.
10We cover the basics of files and permissions.
11Getting help from your system.
12Learn all about the file system.
13Manipulating files from the shell.
14Maintain your system with these simple tips.
15Managing users on your system.
16Explore different desktops to GNOME 3.
17Gaming on Linux.
18Protect your privacy with this guide.
19Access the Windows desktop from Linux using a remote desktop client.
20Set up a virtual machine running Ubuntu as the host and openSUSE as the guest.
21Wine lets you run Windows programs on Linux without emulation.
22Extend your GNOME desktop with extensions and themes.
XUseful Linux commands.
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mod User
Mod User
2 years ago

Well, before coming to this article I only knew about KDE, xfce, Gnome etc. as Linux desktop environments.
But the way you represented it looks completely confusing to me at least from the naming conventions (Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Mate etc.).
But I must thank you for such a well organized content structure. I might have to go through some more article to connect the dots.

2 years ago
Reply to  Mod User

Kubuntu, Lubuntu,and Ubuntu MATE are Linux distributions (derivatives of Ubuntu), not desktop environments.

KDE, XFCE, GNOME are desktop environments.

The former can use the latter. For example Ubuntu MATE uses MATE as its default user interface.