Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stop the Linux Desktop Madness: You Have Options

by Dietrich Schmitz

With all of the insane decision making that has taken place at Canonical with Unity and The Gnome Project with Gnome 3.8 just out, it can make a grown Man cry in despair.

But fear not.  Hope is on the horizon.  You do fortunately have Desktop alternatives to avoid the madness and chaos that looms.

I'll cover a few of them here so at least you are apprised of your options.


I currently enjoy the serenity of this nimble Desktop.  It's truly a great option for those suffering refugees coming away from a bad experience with the terror of Unity and Gnome 3.x.  The beauty of Xfce is that it uses GTk2 libaries and will take you back to a Gnome 2.x experience albeit with a slice of Xf playing into the mix.  It really does the job of giving you what you want and a large degree of flexibility in configuration options.  Best of all, its memory footprint is meager and you'll discover that it breathes life back into your rig as screens snap up crisply with no delay.  Add a few nice themes and fonts and enable the built-in compositor and, presto change-o, you have the essential ingredients for a truly efficient but pleasant Desktop Environment.  Having dependencies on GTk2 means that there is no reliance upon Gnome whatsoever, which should be in your best interests and incorporated into your strategy for avoiding pain.


Even leaner than Xfce, LXDE brings a somewhat spartan GUI experience but really gets the job done.  It isn't sexy by any means but for the minimalists, having the DE sip ram reigns supreme.  LXDE does that exceedingly well.


It was over a year ago that Clem Lefevre of Linux Mint fame chose to fork Gnome 2.3x to MATE.  During that same period, he also chose to fork Gnome 3.x to Cinnamon.  It was truly ambitious for an outfit with limited resources such as Mint to have undertaken at the time, but Clem prevailed and succeeded in doing so.  The key issue to be mindful of with MATE and Cinnamon is that both suffer from falling behind on code maintenance, especially MATE.   Still, if you long for the good old days and miss Gnome 2.3x, then, by all means, jump on MATE and feel immediate relief as the nostalgia sets in. [Edit: MATE released version 1.6 on 4/3/2013, so that's a plus; also I have been advised that Clem forked Cinnamon, not MATE see the comments directly below from +Maik Adamietz who clarified the issue on my private LA G+ community site. ]

Maik Adamietz6:52 PM (edited)

+Dietrich Schmitz i just noticed something in the MATE part. It wasn't Clement Lefebvre (Clem) at all who chose to fork Gnome 2.3x to MATE. Clem just jumped in on the MATE project as project management, he manages the releases, does the communication and provides the hosting.

Perberos (a guy from Arch) was the one who decided to fork Gnome 2.3X into MATE. He's the one that is the projects founder, developer and packaging MATE for Arch Linux:

True is that Clem forked Gnome 3 into Cinnamon.
Collapse this comment

KDE Plasma Workspaces

What can I say about KDE?  +Aaron Seigo, I take my hat off to you and the KDE Team.  This is the true benchmark for all other Linux Desktop Environments to be measured by.  I won't equivocate  and will simply say that if your PC has 4GB ram, go straight to KDE and enjoy the luxury and prestige of running a DE replete with eye candy and an unparalleled feature set.  KDE truly is the champion Desktop Environment, bar none.


Well, +Aaron Seigo and Team are at it again.  They've got a new lightweight KDE desktop in the works.  It's not soup yet, but it will be only a matter of time before we can sink our teeth into this DE.  I for one am looking forward to giving it a spin.  Aaron give me a heads up when you have something, yes?


Well, this is ambitious and quite clever and I am happy to see that it was done by someone. Razor-Qt gives the immediate feeling of KDE yet gets you all of the basics with no fanfare.  Of course, it uses the Qt framework which gives it that tell tale look of quality and style that I enjoy and you will too.  The memory footprint is lean and this will be an obvious choice for those with older PCs configured with less ram as well as Netbook users like myself.

[Edit: 4/28/2013 19:33 GMT-5 Someone gave me a heads up in the comments section, I forgot Enlightenment E17.  Eeeek. Major blunder and effusive apologies.]

Other Desktop Window Managers (WMs)

I would be remiss and catch major flack from the readers if I failed to mention a few of the Window Managers that have gained popularity among the technophiles.  WMs tend to be exceedingly lightweight in memory consumption and awesomely fast, yet, they might also be less user-friendly.  They do in truth have a performance edge, no question, but reaching proficiency and configuration can both be a challenge.

I'll just give a mention on each because, really, I am an ignoramous extraordinaire when it comes to WMs, I readily admit.  A few of my friends' DEs look like they work for the NASA Space Center and it scares me. ;)

Tiling Window Managers

  • Awesome
  • i3
  • dwm
  • Matchbox
  • Tritium
  • wmii
  • xmonad

Stacking Window Managers

  • Awesome
  • FluxBox
  • OpenBox
  • IceWM
  • Sawfish
  • Window Maker

I see it coming--I've left someone's favorite WM out of the list.  Hanging my head in shame--I am not worthy. ;)  Seriously, there are so many and I can only say go and look on Wikipedia and sample from their lists and decide if  WMs are for you.

Well, as you can plainly see, you are not a caged animal and do have a recourse.  There are so many good GUI options from which to choose that one can be quite happy and maintain one's sanity in the presence of such disasters the likes of Unity and Gnome 3.8.

Get out there and give them a try.  There is hope and You have options.

-- Dietrich

Enhanced by Zemanta


Post a Comment