Desktop Environment Discussion


So this thread:

had me thinking about my experiences with desktop environments on linux. My experience has been through Ubuntu and Mint before I tried PureOS.

I always got along with KDE I guess, although I was annoyed by having a taskbar and a status bar, and I never really figured out how to minimize or hide one of these. It should be mentioned that I am an avid windows user. Before they included telemetry I would have been a staunch defender of windows being the best OS out there. As such many of my preferences are formed because of how Windows operates.

Gnome was a breath of fresh air to me. The way it handles multiple desktops is brilliant, but really only shines on single display setups. The keyboard shortcuts to move between these desktops is genius and it all just is so smooth. (I’m sure the i7 and 16gb of RAM are helping in that department.)


So I’m wondering what other DE do you like and why. As I’m new to really using Linux now (as I’ve used it on servers for many years already), I’m curious if I’m missing things.


To answer your question my brethren. I’m particularly partial to Cinnamon. I like it because it’s beautiful, functional, and flexible. It also has many themes available. I like the layout but it’s top heavy. Oh well! Nothing 16 Gigs of RAM can’t bulldoze.


I tried cinnamon on Mint one time, and I’ll admit I didn’t enough time with it to really experience it, but to me it felt like it was trying to be like Windows too much, and let’s just face it, after Windows 10, MS is the king of giving you a Windows experience.

So what about Cinnamon do you really like?

For me in GNOME it is just the way workflow is not impacted when transitioning to other programs or desktops. It feels VERY windows like without being windows at all. If that makes sense.

Heck if Linux ran just like Windows with the same look, that is what I would prefer.


Well, i3wm is the best DE so far. A simple tiling manager that is highly extendable. Not for everyone since it required extensive customization to suit your workflow. The default is pretty ugly and required some customization to theme. But after get used to it, it is difficult to go back any stacking windows where you need to waste time to move floating windows around.


No DE, but as it seems you like the un-intrusive way of gnome, have a look for FocusWriter (like Word, Writer, but you really only see your text and a nice background - if you need more, you’ve got to move your mouse to the edges).


I am a longtime Plasma/KDE-User, I do not like Gnome, maybe because I am not used to it.
It is sad that Plasma/KDE, which I have installed under PureOS does not get the love, it deserves.
the packages in PureOS are fare behind the debian-testing pakages .


Ok but what about Plasma do you like so much? What specifically do you prefer over Gnome?

i3wm is interesting. I wonder if everything has to be symmetric. Can I size windows to whatever size I want and will it remember that sizes and position when I close and reopen that window?


Astonishing to hear that from somebody who came from Windows :wink: Conceptually, I think Gnome kinda goes the macOS way (less is more), while KDE/Plasma is close to Windows, where you can customize almost anything to your needs (more so than on Windows). Take the task/status bar that you seem to dislike: It is 100% under your control. With the configure button, usually to the right, you can remove it. Or move it to the left/right top edge, and while at it, reduce it’s height so it’s like on Gnome. Or reduce it’s width, so it’s like on macOS. Or make it auto-hide, as also possible on Windows. Or, or, or… Or discover the details. Many of the widgets that you can put on such a bar (of course you can have multiple of them…) make good use of, for example, the mouse wheel. Volume: up/down. Taskbar-widget switches tasks, Desktop-widget switches desktops. And of course each widget has shortcut settings, so you might be able to switch the same way as on Gnome (IDK, find out).

In recent years, Gnome learned a few tricks that made it less frustrating for me to use it, like multiple-tabs in the terminal, editor and file manager. In Plasma, this is so basic and old it’s almost not worth to be mentioned. In Konsole, you can even change the name of these tabs(double-click, and of course mouse wheel while over the tab also does what you’d expect…), and in Dolphin you can have a two-pane-view (midnight-commander-style) and have tabs on both sides. Ctrl+I filters inside a folder while unfortunately Ctrl-F always seems broken to me. No big deal, as I always have the embedded Konsole pane open, so I can just find & grep stuff. Or i could use KFind instead. The context menu in Dolphin offers many goodies, e.g. diff selected files. Or compress. Or unzip. Or… Kate has good syntax highlighting, sessions and lots of other goodies.

These apps, Dolphin, Kate, Konsole, are probably the main reason I prefer Plasma, because they are the tools I rely most on.
But it also just always amazed me just how complete the KDE application suite is (when I started, there was no Plasma). When I first used Amarok, it just was the most awesome player I had ever seen. K3B could easily replace Nero burning ROM. Marble, a Google-Earth clone? Sure, why not… Or, let’s just make our own productivity suite, including KOffice, vector drawing, paint, video editing… and so much more.
I like how complete it is, even though I use Inkscape and LibreOffice instead of what KDE offers :wink:


Hahaha, yeah, I’ve only experienced Plasma just from using it, and not customizing anything. My friend swears by it as well. He said that Gnome is also super basic with a few tricks.

The big thing for me is the ability to make multiple desktops. I tend to break down all chat, web browsing, email, and the terminal on one screen, then I have a play screen for steam, then a work screen with workstation, then another work screen with an IDE open. I’ve found this really helps to keep me focused, and if I need something in one of the other desktops, a simple keyboard shortcut with an arrow and I’m there. Now all of this only make sense on a laptop, where you are usually confined to a single screen. On a desktop Gnome with multiple screens is a drag.


I like it, but never really got around to make real use of it. I don’t even know how old that feature is, it probably has been on all non-spartanic Linux desktops in this millenium. Then, when people got bored, about ten years ago, they added some fancy eye candy stuff like rotating desktop cubes or wobbly windows (both Gnome and KDE).


For me it is a lifesaver. My 11-incher has screen good enough for one window at a time. I configured keyboard keys to switch between desktops back and forth. Fast and convenient. I typically use 5 to 12 desktops a a time.


For me the Activities (I think, that is what you call desktops) is the most important feature of Plasma. I have the wish, to separate my tasks, which works very well in Plasma. I got so much used to it, that I really miss this feature in Gnome. If you do ot have any use for it, then maybe Gnome is better for you.


To remember a random layout you just create by hand, and then remember it next time automatically, it is not possible. However, what you could do is saving a commonly used layout and reuse it anytime by configing a shortcut, and there are even a better way to do. I will explain below.

i3wm has the concept of workspace. Use Win + 1 - 0 to open the workspace by default. You could define infinite workspace as long as you have no conflicting keyboard shortcut. So, for example, I use workspace 4 as my “IDE” for coding. I saved a layout to have a larger console on top for using editor like vim, and a smaller console below to type command for testing code. I config it so that when I type Win + 4, the two console windows with defined layout is started automatically. I could work immediately when I enter my workspace.

Good thing about i3wm is very lightweight that you could easily multitask in different workspace. For example, I could open a steam game in full screen on one workspace. Then, I am stuck in game and would like to open some guide in the internet. I could then go to workspace 2 by clicking Win + 2, which I config that the browser would automatically starts. Then go back to the game immediately when you are done. Unlike any traditional windows manager, the transition is instant and no need to quit the full screen game and then re-enter it with lag. You could even have the game and the site in parallel if your screen size is large.

Even the screen is small, you could benefit from instant transition to different application like GIMP, a browser, and text editor without moving your mouse. Of course, it is possible to config keyboard shortcut on Gnome and KDE. But even then, the bulk of DE makes transition to different application slower, which is neglectable when you are just using one application - the browser all the time, and just use some app occasionally. But if you need to use multiple applications and move around different application a lot. Then that lag starts irritate you. If no shortcut, then It is more pain to have multiple application floating around and you need mouse click on window to use an unfocused application. The annoyance stacks up if you are busy and your time waste on moving windows around.


The point of i3wm, being a tiling window manager, is that you shouldn’t be wasting your time sizing windows. In other words, your window manager should be doing that for you as you have more important things to do. I suggest looking at some youtube videos in order to better understand what a tiling window manager provides before jumping in.