With the Gnome project radically overhauling its desktop environment with Gnome3 and Ubuntu switching to the Unity environment, many Linux desktop users could be looking for alternatives this month. Here, then, are a few viable alternatives it you’re not sold on Gnome3 or Unity.
XFCE is designed to be lightweight, fast and attractive. It may not provide the flashy eye-candy provided by the likes of KDE or Gnome but it is quick. A lot of attention has gone into making XFCE as lightweight as possible without sacrificing good looks. XFCE has most of its own applications, including the Thunar file manager and a system monitor but it also uses some of Gnome’s applications. Right now XFCE’s biggest advantage is that it uses the very traditional desktop-file manager metaphor which users are used to. Meanwhile Gnome and Unity are moving away from this style of desktop to something significantly different.
LXDE is also a lightweight desktop environment for Linux but newer on the scene than XFCE. LXDE has many of its own applications but also borrows fairly extensively from Gnome and XFCE for the bits it doesn’t have. LXDE is not as polished as many of the other desktop environments available but with a little perseverance it can be one of the quickest and most attractive desktops around. LXDE is, however, very, very economical with resources and regularly outperforms other environments in resource tests.
Enlightenment has come to represent graphical beauty. Enlightenment is both a desktop environment and a set of libraries for building appealing desktop environments. Because Enlightenment uses its own libraries and toolkit it is built from the ground up to be flexible and nimble while still being attractive to look at. Enlightenment is probably not for users that just want a working desktop. But it is perfect for tinkerers, who want to tweak everything to make their desktop “just so”.
KDE ranks alongside Gnome as one of the “big two” when it comes to Linux desktop environments. And in this time of uncertainty for Gnome users many may consider switching to KDE. KDE is not designed to be lightweight. This doesn’t mean it is cumbersome but it is packed with features and desktop bling. KDE is popular with users that switch from Windows as it more closely resembles the Windows experience. This will be even more so now that Gnome3 and Unity are dropping traditional desktop metaphors in favour of entirely new approaches.
Deciding on a new desktop for a Linux machine is very much about choice. For a simple, easy experience XFCE is perhaps the best choice. Enlightenment is a good choice if configurability and design is important to you. KDE is an all-purpose and stable alternative to Gnome.
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