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Encyclopedia > Comparison of X Window System desktop environments

A desktop environment is a collection of software designed to give functionality and a certain look and feel to an operating system. Information in this article or section has not been verified against sources and may not be reliable. ... Look and feel refers to design aspects of a graphical user interface - in terms of both colours, shapes, layout, typefaces, etc (the look); and, the behaviour of dynamic elements such as buttons, boxes, and menus (the feel). It is used in reference to both software and websites. ... It has been suggested that Maintenance OS be merged into this article or section. ...


This article applies to operating systems which are capable of running the X Window System such as GNU/Linux and BSD.[1] Popular proprietary operating systems such as Microsoft Windows are incapable of natively running the X Window system. However, third party X servers like Xming are available for Microsoft Windows which make the system capable of running the X Window system.[2] This article can hence apply to such a system too. An exception is to be noted. Mac OS X currently includes X11.app, its own implementation of the X Window system. Since X11.app is incapable of running different desktop environments, this article does not apply to Mac OS X. It has been suggested that Maintenance OS be merged into this article or section. ... GNOME 2. ... Unix systems filiation. ... BSD redirects here; for other uses see BSD (disambiguation). ... Windows redirects here. ... Mac OS X (official IPA pronunciation: ) is a line of proprietary, graphical operating systems developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc. ... X11. ...

Contents

Elements of a desktop environment

A desktop environment (DE) can be broken up into several components that function independently and interact with one another to provide the look and feel and functionality of the desktop environment. The most fundamental part of a DE is the window manager or WM. A window manager creates a certain way for application windows to present themselves to the user. It manages the various application windows, keeping track of which ones are open and providing features to switch between them. The next most important thing in a DE is a file manager. This application manages files/ folders and presents them in a way that the user finds convenient. It provides some basic file operations like viewing, copying/ moving to different locations and deleting. DEs usually provide a way to set wallpapers and screensavers, display icons on the desktop, and perform some administrative tasks. They may optionally include word processors, CD/DVD writing applications, web browsers and e-mail clients. A window manager is computer software that controls the placement and appearance of windows within a windowing system in a graphical user interface. ... A screenshot of File Manager displaying a folder and the contents of the C drive. ...


Some exceptions must be noted here. Window managers like Fluxbox, wmii and Ratpoison are capable of operating independently of a desktop environment and were written with this objective in mind. Additional hand-picked applications add functionality and hence render them capable of operating as a full-blown DE. For this reason, they are considered to be lightweight desktop environments. This contrasts the behaviour of WMs like Metacity and KWin which were not written with the objective of operating independently of a DE. }} }}{{#if:|}}{{#if:Unix-like|}}{{#if:|}} }}{{#if:MIT|}} In Unix (and others including GNU/Linux) computing, Fluxbox is a window manager for the X Window System based on Blackbox 0. ... The correct title of this article is . ... In Unix computing, Ratpoison is a minimalist window manager for the X Window System. ... Metacity is the default window manager for the GNOME desktop environment. ... In Unix computing, Kwin is a window manager for the X Window System. ...


Popular GNU/Linux distributions like Fedora and Ubuntu usually give the user a GNOME or KDE desktop environment by default.[3] These desktop environments are considered to be easy and intuitive to learn and use.[4] Unix systems filiation. ... Fedora (previously called Fedora Core) is a yum and RPM-based GNU/Linux distribution, developed by the community-supported Fedora Project and sponsored by Red Hat. ... Ubuntu (IPA pronunciation ) is a predominantly desktop-oriented Linux distribution, based on Debian GNU/Linux but with a stronger focus on usability, regular releases, and ease of installation. ...


KDE and GNOME are written almost completely on special software libraries Qt and GTK respectively.[5] This usually means that virtually every component of the desktop environment including the file manager explicitly depends on that library for its functioning. KDE (K Desktop Environment) (IPA: ) is a free software project which aims to be a powerful system for an easy-to-use desktop environment. ... This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... In computer science, a library is a collection of subprograms used to develop software. ... For other uses, see Qt. ... The title given to this article is incorrect due to technical limitations. ... A screenshot of File Manager displaying a folder and the contents of the C drive. ...

KDE file manager Dolphin running under GNOME

Obviously, nothing prevents the user from installing any number of software libraries of his/her choice. In practice, software written on major libraries can be run under any desktop environment. Running a package designed for one desktop (which essentially means that it's written using the same libraries as the desktop itself is) within a different desktop can be visually displeasing. Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ...


Choosing the right desktop environment is essential to ensure streamlined work flow. Some of the differences influencing a choice are:

  • Look and feel of the desktop environment. The user will be more comfortable with a certain Look and feel that he/she is already familiar with.
  • Flexibility and configurability of the desktop environment. A sophisticated user might want a highly configurable desktop environment to make the desktop environment work the way he/she wants. A normal user might just want an easy-to-use environment to which he/she will adjust.
  • Personal preferences for choice of software, which has two aspects:
  • Each desktop environment comes packaged with various default software and various "ways things are done" under that desktop. A normal user might like highly graphical interfaces to change various settings while a sophisticated user might just prefer to use CLI tools.
  • Desktops are also often closely tied into various major functional components of the desktop manager (example: file manager, browser, word processor); whilst "mix and match" is possible, it is generally pleasing to make choices which result in a consistent look and feel of programs under the chosen desktop environment.

Look and feel refers to design aspects of a graphical user interface - in terms of both colours, shapes, layout, typefaces, etc (the look); and, the behaviour of dynamic elements such as buttons, boxes, and menus (the feel). It is used in reference to both software and websites. ... CLI is an acronym (or, strictly speaking, an initialism) for Command line interface Call Level Interface Common language interface (Commonly believed, but not official for Common Language Infrastructure) Common Language Infrastructure CLear Interrupts Composite Leading Indicator Caller Line Identification (telephony) Celebrity Love Island Critical Language Institute This page concerning a... A screenshot of File Manager displaying a folder and the contents of the C drive. ... Browsing redirects here Browser can refer to: Browser - a type of herbivore whose nutrition generally comes from high growing plants, like trees, rather than a grazer that eats from the ground. ... A word processor (also more formally known as a document preparation system) is a computer application used for the production (including composition, editing, formatting, and possibly printing) of any sort of viewable or printed material. ...

Desktop comparison information

Outer view of different classes of desktop environments

For convenience, the desktop environments have been classified into five classes only for the purpose of representation in this table. The classes are listed approximately in the order magnitude of size of project. Note that many desktop environments are not in the table, but nearly all desktop environments should fall into one of the five categories.

GNOME KDE Xfce and ROX Enlightenment Blackbox and its derivatives Ratpoison, wmii, dwm and Ion
Main objective[6] Creating an attractive desktop environment using outstanding graphical design that can be used by everyone Lightweight. Well designed, clearly presented for productivity. Go faster while conserving resources Advanced graphical libraries, tools and environments Fast, lightweight. Nearly zero library dependencies. No additional software packaged. Ultra low memory consumption Super-minimalistic. No fancy graphics. Scant, if any, window decoration. Belief in concise, elegant code
Programming language[7] GTK+ is written in C Qt is written in C++ Mainly C since the GTK+ toolkit is written in C C C++ CL, Lua, ?, Lua
Additional library deps[8] GNOME KDELibs Some GNOME libraries EFL None None
Toolkit used[9] GTK+ and GTK+ 2 Qt GTK+ and GTK+ 2 Provided by EFL None None
Size (base system, X installed)[10] ~180 MB ~210 MB Xfce: ~15 MB, ROX: ~780 KB DR16: ~3 MB, DR17: ? Blackbox: ~350 KB, Fluxbox: ~800 KB The wmii package is close to 10,000 lines of code and 90 kB in size

Xfce ([1]) is a free software desktop environment for Unix and other Unix-like platforms, such as Linux, Solaris and BSD. Its configuration is entirely mouse-driven and the configuration files are hidden from the casual user. ... A screenshot of the ROX desktop. ... Enlightenment, also known simply as E, is an open source window manager for the X Window System which can be used alone or in conjunction with a desktop environment such as GNOME or KDE. It has a rich feature set, including extensive support for themes and good performance. ... In Unix computing, Blackbox is a window manager for the X Window System. ... In Unix computing, Ratpoison is a minimalist window manager for the X Window System. ... The correct title of this article is . ... dwm is a dynamic window manager for X11. ... Categories: Software stubs | Free software | X window managers ... kdelibs is a collection of libraries that provides frameworks and functionality for developers of KDE-compatible software. ...

Default programs packaged

This table shows basic information on the default programs of some desktop environments for the X Window System: GNOME 2. ...

GNOME KDE Xfce ROX Desktop
X window manager Metacity KWin Xfwm4 OroboROX
File manager Nautilus Konqueror[11] Thunar ROX Filer
Widget toolkit GTK+ Qt GTK+ GTK+
Terminal emulator GNOME Terminal Konsole Terminal ROXTerm
Text editor gedit Kate Mousepad Edit
Video player Totem Kaffeine Xfmedia mplayer-rox
Audio player Rhythmbox Amarok Xfmedia MusicBox
CD burners GnomeBaker K3b Xfburn RoxISO
CD ripper Sound Juicer Konqueror none none
Image viewer Eye of GNOME KView none none
Office suite GNOME Office KOffice none none
Web browser Epiphany Konqueror none none
E-mail client Novell Evolution KMail none none

This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... KDE (K Desktop Environment) (IPA: ) is a free software project which aims to be a powerful system for an easy-to-use desktop environment. ... Xfce ([1]) is a free software desktop environment for Unix and other Unix-like platforms, such as Linux, Solaris and BSD. Its configuration is entirely mouse-driven and the configuration files are hidden from the casual user. ... A screenshot of the ROX desktop. ... An X window manager is software that controls the placement and appearance of windows under the X Window System, a windowing system mainly used on Unix-like systems. ... Metacity is the default window manager for the GNOME desktop environment. ... In Unix computing, Kwin is a window manager for the X Window System. ... In Unix computing, Xfwm is a window manager for the X Window System. ... A screenshot of File Manager displaying a folder and the contents of the C drive. ... Nautilus is the official file manager for the GNOME desktop. ... Konqueror is a file manager, web browser and file viewer, which was developed as part of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) by volunteers and runs on most Unix-like operating systems. ... Thunar is the name of the project dedicated at developing a file manager for the 4. ... In computer programming, widget toolkits (or GUI toolkits) are sets of basic building units for graphical user interfaces. ... GTK+, or the GIMP Toolkit, is one of the two most popular widget toolkits for the X Window System for creating graphical user interfaces. ... For other uses, see Qt. ... GTK+, or the GIMP Toolkit, is one of the two most popular widget toolkits for the X Window System for creating graphical user interfaces. ... GTK+, or the GIMP Toolkit, is one of the two most popular widget toolkits for the X Window System for creating graphical user interfaces. ... Apple Terminal. ... GNOME terminal, also identified as gnome-terminal, is a terminal emulator written by Havoc Pennington and others. ... Konsole is a free terminal emulator for the KDE Desktop Environment. ... Terminal is Xfces terminal emulator, replacing xterm as default. ... Notepad is the standard text editor for Microsoft Windows A text editor is a piece of computer software for editing plain text. ... The correct title of this article is gedit. ... In computing, Kate is a text editor for KDE. The acronym Kate stands for KDE advanced text editor. Kate has been part of the kdebase package since KDE release 2. ... A video player is a kind of media player for playing back digital video data from media such as optical discs (for example, DVD, VCD), as well as from files of appropriate formats such as MPEG, AVI, RealVideo, and QuickTime. ... Totem Movie Player is a media player (audio and video) for the GNOME personal computer desktop environment which runs on Linux, Solaris, BSD and other UNIX and UNIX-like systems. ... Kaffeine is a full featured media player for UNIX based machines running the KDE (K Desktop Environment). ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... An audio player is a kind of media player for playing back digital audio, including optical discs such as CDs, SACDs, DVD-Audio, HDCD, and audio files. ... Rhythmbox is an audio player that plays and helps organize digital music. ... Amarok is a free software music player for Linux and other varieties of Unix. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Optical disc authoring software is computer software for authoring optical discs including CD-ROMs and DVDs. ... GnomeBaker is a free CD/DVD authoring application for GNU/Linux and other Unix-like operating systems. ... K3b is a free software CD and DVD authoring application for GNU/Linux and other Unix-like operating systems designed for KDE. It provides a graphical user interface to perform most CD/DVD burning tasks like creating an Audio CD from a set of audio files or copying a CD... A CD ripper, CD grabber or CD extractor is a piece of software designed to extract raw digital audio (in format commonly called CDDA) from a compact disc to a file or other output. ... Sound Juicer is a CD ripping tool. ... Konqueror is a file manager, web browser and file viewer, which was developed as part of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) by volunteers and runs on most Unix-like operating systems. ... An image viewer or image browser is a computer program that displays a stored graphical image; it can often handle various graphics file formats. ... Eye of GNOME is a simple image viewer for the GNOME desktop environment. ... Kuickshow is a simple image viewer for the KDE operating-system. ... In computing, an office suite, sometimes called an office application suite or productivity suite is a software suite intended to be used by typical clerical and knowledge workers. ... GNOME Office is an office suite containing: Abiword word processor Gnumeric spreadsheet GNOME-DB, software that provides database connectivity. ... KWord screenshot KSpread screenshot Winner of the GUI and Functionality Design Competition for KOffice 2 Proposition made to the GUI and Functionality Design Competition for KOffice 2 KOffice is an office suite for the K Desktop Environment (KDE). ... An example of a web browser (Internet Explorer), displaying the English Wikipedia main page. ... Epiphany is a web browser for the GNOME computer desktop. ... Konqueror is a file manager, web browser and file viewer, which was developed as part of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) by volunteers and runs on most Unix-like operating systems. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Evolution or Novell Evolution (formerly Ximian Evolution, prior to Novells 2003 acquisition of Ximian) is the official personal information manager and workgroup information management tool for GNOME. It combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions. ... KMail is the email client of the KDE Desktop Environment. ...

Comparison of ease of use and stability

GNOME and KDE Xfce and ROX Enlightenment Blackbox and its derivatives Ratpoison, wmii, dwm and Ion
Level of expertise required GNOME and KDE clearly specify ease of use as one of their primary project objectives XFCE and ROX Desktop have their own share of graphical applications making a user's life easier Enlightenment uses very radical and unique concepts which require a little bit of patience to learn[12] Reading the documentation is an absolute necessity to even change menu[13] Without the documentation, it is practically impossible to even launch an application in these desktop environments[14]
Ease of use/ configuration Graphical applications such as KDE's control centre make performing administrative tasks easy for a new user Not as many extensive applications to perform administrative tasks ? No additional graphical applications are included although some are available to do common *box-related tasks[15] No graphical applications for configuring these desktops are available. Documentation-guided editing by hand of files is the only way to configure these desktops
Stability Although many bugs have been reported, the size of these projects is also huge.[16] ? ? Being small projects, they have fewer moving parts and therefore fewer bugs Although ratpoison has a few bugs, wmii is inherently very stable[17]

GNOME's graphical file manager Nautilus is very easy to use and is packed with a lot of features making it easy for new GNU/Linux users to easily pick up and understand its working.[18] KDE's Konqueror too is very easy to use, both as a file manager and as a web browser.[19] Both GNOME and KDE come with many pre-packaged graphical configuration tools, reducing the need to manually edit configuration files for new users. They have extensive bundled software such as graphical menu editors, text editors, audio players, and software for doing administrative work. All applications installed in most distributions are automatically added to the GNOME and KDE menus. No major configuration changes are necessary to begin working. However, by using graphical tools, the extent to which the desktops can be configured is determined by the power provided by those tools.



Blackbox, Fluxbox, Ratpoison, Ion and wmii expect users to edit configuration files by hand to configure virtually every aspect of the desktop environment and is hence highly configurable.[20] A new user, however, will feel uncomfortable without any graphical tools. All five desktop environments also do not provide any additional software like file managers, text editors or web browsers.[21] Some users state they prefer these desktops over traditional "bloated" desktops as they claim it increases their productivity significantly.[citation needed]


Compatibility and interoperability issues

Although there are some major issues with using some applications made for KDE on GNOME and vice versa, they are likely to be ironed out in future. An example of such an issue would be using k3b on GNOME and using the "Send to trash" feature from the interface. The feature fails due to the simple fact that GNOME and KDE don't use the same trash:// protocols. Some desktop environments claim that they support applications made for other desktops explicitly. For example, Fluxbox states KDE support in its feature list.[22] Using software made specifically for the desktop environment in use or Window Manager agnostic software is a way to avoid these issues.


Notes

  1. ^ XFree86 Official Website line 5
  2. ^ Xming project homepage on SourceForge
  3. ^ The official full ISO CD of Ubuntu Dapper forcea a GNOME environment on the user, Kubuntu forces KDE. Fedora 7 official full ISO DVD by default installs the GNOME desktop environment
  4. ^ The Ubuntu tagline: Linux for human beings. It uses the GNOME desktop environment. Kubuntu: KDE.
  5. ^ Official websites of GNOME and KDE
  6. ^ Excerpts from official websites
  7. ^ Analysis of source code tells the programming language used
  8. ^ Dependency list for metapackages
  9. ^ Excerpts from official websites
  10. ^ Reported apt-get installation size on a very basic Debian GNU/Linux system with X
  11. ^ In KDE 4 the default file manager will be Dolphin. However, Konqueror will still be available.
  12. ^ The EFL has several components specialising in its own tasks. EFL is based on some unique ideas.
  13. ^ Fluxbox wiki FAQs
  14. ^ Guide to wmii-3
  15. ^ Examples include fluxconf, fbdesk and fbpager for fluxbox.
  16. ^ Official bug trackers of GNOME and KDE
  17. ^ This is due to its 9P base
  18. ^ Official Nautilus screenshots page
  19. ^ Official Konqueror features page
  20. ^ An article on various window managers
  21. ^ Their official websites: Blackbox, Fluxbox, Ion, Ratpoison, and wmii
  22. ^ Fluxbox official website line 15

Dolphin is a new File Manager for KDE 4. ... Konqueror is a file manager, web browser and file viewer, which was developed as part of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) by volunteers and runs on most Unix-like operating systems. ...

References

See also

A windowing system is a graphical user interface (GUI) which uses the window as one of its primary metaphors. ... GNOME 2. ... Unix systems filiation. ... The following tables compare general and technical information for a number of file managers. ... Software bloat, or bloatware, is a term used in both a neutral and disparaging sense, to describe the tendency of newer computer programs to be larger, or to use larger amounts of system resources (mass storage space, processing power or memory) than older versions of the same programs, without concomitant... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... freedesktop. ...

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