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Examples of Linux Desktops

written by: nancydehra•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 11/3/2009

Linux is similar to the UNIX operating system and is founded on the Linux kernel. The Linux operating system is open source and free which means that the code can be collaboratively used, modified without cost and can be distributed commercially and non-commercially.

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    A graphical user interface or a Linux Desktop is always in demand. So what is a Linux Desktop? Essentially, it is a graphical interface or desktop environment [DE] that connects to the Linux operating system. The desktop applications are configured for different tasks such as productivity, graphics, multimedia, and development. Distributions like Ubuntu, Red Hat, SuSE, and Mandriva come with Linux desktop software that usually alternate between the two primary DEs, KDE or GNOME.

    KDE or K Desktop Environment has been in existence for a long time. It ships with all apps or utilities that are normally needed for your desktop. It is also the best option for newbies who are migrating from a Windows environment since it allows users to rely less on the command line interface. It also has several apps that allow you to change its GUI settings conveniently. Add to that the scores of apps that it ships with covering office, multimedia, feed collectors, groupware, etc., plus even more in software repositories including games and you have an effective DE. However, KDE is considered less stable than GNOME. Sometimes, the settings that you customized may not be retained.

    GNOME is an acronym for the GNU Object Model Environment. It is the more stable DE among the prevalent DEs. Like KDE, it has a long history in the Linux realm. The GNOME apps are governed by GNOME HIG or GNOME Human Interface Guidelines. This makes them more intuitive, understandable and easy to use. Though GNOME DE doesn’t come equipped with windowing effects, distributions tend to bundle Compiz-Fusion as a bridge to enhance the functionality of your desktop. Desktops are very attractive with quality, usability and productivity. There is a wide community for support or plain chatting.

    However, if you are new user or even worse, if you are migrating from Windows, then GNOME is not for you. It can even look ugly and utterly lacking polish. Though you can change this, it will mean a lot of work for newbies or users who are just getting familiar with Linux. The DE also relies heavily on command line interface.

    Overall, if you are a moderate to advanced user, then you might prefer GNOME for its stability. If you are a new user, you may want to opt for KDE for its lesser reliance on the command line interface. Of course, you can mix both too combining the best of both worlds!