From Windows XP to GNOME – Windows XP vs. GNOME Desktop


After you have installed one of the user-friendly Linux distributions (such as Ubuntu), the first thing you will notice is the differences in the two desktops. In the images below you see the Windows XP desktop and the GNOME desktop. The first thing you will notice (besides the background images) is that GNOME has two panels running and XP only has one. But before we examine the actual differences, let’s take a look at what each desktop offers.

XP: Panel (taskbar): Outside of desktop icons, this is where all applications are launched and small dockable applications live. Panel shortcut icons: Small icons that launch applications.Notification Area: Area of panel that houses tiny applets that give information and house applets that have no normal presence on the desktop. Desktop icons: Icons used to launch applications from the desktop.Show Desktop button: This button will hide all maximized windows so you can see your desktop.

GNOME: Panels: Same as XP, only GNOME defaults to two panels. You can move Panel elements around and combine everything on a single panel and then delete the now-empty panel so it looks much more like the XP desktop. Panel Launchers: Icons that launch applications from the Panel. Desktop Icons: Icons that launch applications from the desktop area. Notification area: This is where tiny applets live that give information and launch some configuration tools (such as networking or printing). Main Menu: This is where all applications are launched. Window List: This serves the same purpose as the XP Window list.

Windows XP and GNOME Desktops

The Windows XP desktop
The GNOME desktop


As stated GNOME defaults to three main menus versus the XP one. From the images below GNOME splits the Start menu into three sections.

  • Applications: This is where applications are launched.
  • Places: File manager bookmarks as well as extra, external, and/or removable drives.
  • System: This is where all Preferences and Administrative tasks are found.

Windows XP places all of this into one menu.

XP vs GNOME menus

Windows XP Start Menu
GNOME Applications menu
GNOME Places menu
GNOME System menu

XP vs GNOME menus

With Windows XP you have a single window, the Control Panel, where all administrative tasks are handled. With GNOME all of these tasks are found in a single menu – each having their own menu entry.

XP vs GNOME menus

XP Control Panel
GNOME System menu entries

XP vs GNOME Desktop Menus

Believe it or not both XP and GNOME function in very similar ways. If you right click the desktop you will get similar menus that offer some similar functionality.

XP vs GNOME menus

XP Left Click Menu
GNOME Left Click Menu

Final Thoughts

Although the underlying systems (Linux vs. Windows) are very much different, the graphical interfaces that serve to bridge the user to the operating system function in very similar ways. At first you might think you will never be able to understand the GNOME desktop, but very quickly you will find this interface seamless and simple to use.

This post is part of the series: Migrating from Windows XP to Linux

How to migrate your Windows XP desktop environment to Linux KDE or GNOME. Simple step-by-step guides to migrating from Windows to Linux.
  1. Migrate from Windows XP to GNOME With Ease
  2. Migrate from Windows XP to KDE With Ease