Maps and Tables

by Alphonse Eylenburg
eylenburg.github.io

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Comparison of Linux and Unix Desktop Environments

The below table shows a comparison of the main 15 desktop environments available for Linux and Unix.

There are the Big 2 - KDE and GNOME - as well as some smaller ones and lots of forks and variants of the big ones.

Especially since the controversial initial release of GNOME 3, there have been lots of variants and forks: Unity, Mate, Cinnamon, as well as Solus's Budgie, and elementaryOS's Pantheon (the latter two are not forks strictly speaking, however they use some core parts of the Gnome stack, e.g. Mutter as window manager or Gnome apps). Unity has been dropped by Canonical and is now developed by the UBports community, renamed to Lorimi, although the last stable version of Unity, Unity 7, is still available, e.g. in the Ubuntu Unity distribution.

KDE only had one notable fork, Trinity, which is based on KDE 3.

Other notable desktop environments include LXQt (a merger of LXDE and Razor-qt), Deepin Desktop, Lumina, and Enlightenment and its fork Moksha.

Comparison of Linux/Unix Desktop Environments

Source: eylenburg.github.io

Last updated: October 2021

The Two Main Competitors Popular Alternatives Niche Desktop Environments Very Niche Desktop Environments
KDE Plasma GNOME Xfce MATE Cinnamon LXQt Pantheon Deepin (DDE) Budgie UKUI Common (CDE) Enlightenment Trinity (TDE) Unity 7 Lumina
History
First release 1998 1999 1997 2011 2011 2013 2011 2013 2013 2016 1993 1996 2010 2010 2012
Forked from - - - GNOME 2 GNOME 3 LXDE & Razor-qt - - - MATE 1993 1996 KDE 3.5 GNOME 3 -
Raison d'être Creation of a free and non-commercial desktop environment for Linux Started as a GTK-based KDE alternative due to Qt's non-free license (until 1999) Originally started as a Linux clone of CDE Continuation of GNOME 2 when GNOME 3 was released Desktop environment created for the Linux Mint distribution Lightweight desktop environment, de facto successor of LXDE Desktop environment created for the elementary OS distribution Desktop environment created for the Deepin distribution Desktop environment created for the Solus distribution Desktop environment created for the Ubuntu Kylin distribution Former joint venture of HP, IBM, Sun and USL to create a standard UNIX desktop Sophisticated window manager that slowly turned into a desktop environment Continuation of KDE 3 when KDE Plasma 4 was released Desktop environment created for the Ubuntu distribution (until 2017) Desktop environment created for PC-BSD → TrueOS → Project Trident distribution
Application suite (readme)May include inactive, experimental or 3rd party apps.
blue/orange shading = KDE/GNOME app or fork;
blue/orange font = uses Qt/GTK
GUI toolkit Qt GTK GTK GTK GTK Qt GTK DTKfork of Qt GTKMigration to EFL announced Qt Motif EFL TQtfork of Qt 3 Nux Qt
Window manager KWin Mutter Xfwm4fork of Fvwm Marcofork of Metacity Muffinfork of Mutter Openboxfork of Blackbox Galafork of Mutter dde-kwinfork of KWin budgie-wmfork of Mutter ukui-kwinfork of KWin dtwm Enlightenmentfork of Fvwm TWinfork of KWin Compiz Fluxboxfork of Blackbox
Preferred display manager SDDM GDM LightDM LightDM LightDM SDDM LightDM LightDM LightDM LightDM dtlogin Entrance TDMfork of KDM LightDM SDDM
Embedded HTML engine QtWebViewBlink, fork of WebKit, fork of KHTML WebKitGTKWebKit, fork of KHTML - - WebKitGTKWebKit, fork of KHTML - WebKitGTKWebKit, fork of KHTML QtWebViewBlink, fork of WebKit, fork of KHTML WebKitGTKWebKit, fork of KHTML - - - KHTML WebKitGTKWebKit, fork of KHTML -
File manager Dolphin GNOME Files (Nautilus) Thunar Cajafork of Nautilus Muffinfork of Nautilus PCManFM-Qt Pantheon Files Deepin File Manager Nautilus or Nemofork of Nautilus Peony dtfile Enlightenment File Manager Konqueror Nautilus or Nemofork of Nautilus Insight
Archive manager Ark File Roller Xarchiver Engrampafork of File Roller File Roller - File Roller Deepin Compressor File Roller Engrampafork of File Roller Epack Ark File Roller Lumina Archiver
Document/PDF viewer Okular Evince - Atrilfork of Evince xreaderfork of Atril qpdfview Evince Deepin Reader Evince - - - KPDF Evince Lumina PDF Viewer
Image viewer & management Gwenview, digiKam eogEye of GNOME, Photos, Shotwell, gThumb Ristretto Eye of MATEfork of eog (Eye of GNOME) xviewerfork of eog (Eye of GNOME), pixfork of gThumb LXImage Pantheon Photos Deepin Image Viewer eog (Eye of GNOME) - dtimage Ephoto Gwenview, digiKam, Kuickshow eog (Eye of GNOME) Lumina Image Viewer
Text editor Kate, KWrite gedit Mousepad Plumafork of gedit xedfork of Pluma Featherpad Pantheon Code Deepin Editor gedit Plumafork of gedit dtpad Ecrire Kate, KWrite, KEdit gedit Lumina Text Editor
Terminal Konsole GNOME Terminal Xfce Terminal MATE Terminalfork of GNOME Terminal GNOME Terminal QTerminal Pantheon Terminal Deepin Terminal GNOME Terminal MATE Terminalfork of GNOME Terminal dtterm Terminology Konsole GNOME Terminal -
Calculator KCalc GNOME Calculator - MATE Calculatorfork of GNOME Calculator GNOME Calculator - Pantheon Calculator Deepin Calculator GNOME Calculator MATE Calculatorfork of GNOME Calculator dtcalc Equate KCalc GNOME Calculator Lumina Calculator
Media player Dragon, Kaffeine, KMPlayer GNOME Videos (Totem) Parole - xplayerfork of Totem - Pantheon Videos Deepin Movie - Kylin Video - Rage Kaffeine, KMPlayer GNOME Videos (Totem) Lumina Media Player
Music library Elisa, JuK, Strawberry Music, Lollypop, Rhythmbox Xfmpc - - - Pantheon Music Deepin Music - - - Enjoy Amarok, JuK Rhythmbox -
Email client KMail, Trojita Geary, Evolution - - - - Pantheon Mail - - - dtmail EmailExperimental KMail - -
Calendar KOrganizer GNOME Calendar, Evolution Orage - - - Pantheon Calendar Deepin Calendar - - dtcm - KOrganizer - -
System monitor Plasma System Monitor GNOME System Monitor Xfce Taskmanager MATE System Monitorfork of GNOME System Monitor GNOME System Monitor qps - Deepin System Monitor - UKUI System Monitor - Exterminator KSysGuard GNOME System Monitor -
Other notable programs Falkon (browser), Words (word processor), Sheets (spreadsheets), Stage (presentations), Krita (image editing/drawing), ShowFoto (image editing), KolourPaint (drawing), Flow (diagrams), Karbon (vector graphics), Kdenlive (video editor), Plan (project management), Kexi (databases), KTorrent, Konversation (IRC), Kopete (Instant Messenger), Akregator (RSS), KWave (sound editor), KMyMoney (personal finances), K3b (CD burner), KDevelop (IDE), KDE Connect Epiphany/GNOME Web (browser), AbiWord (word processor), Gnumeric (spreadsheets), GIMP (image editing), GNU Paint (drawing), Dia (diagrams), Inkscape (vector graphics), Pitivi (video editor), Planner (project management), Polari (IRC), Empathy (Instant Messenger), Boxes (Virtual Machines), Brasero (CD burner), Builder (IDE) Midori (browser), Xfburn (CD burner) - - - Epiphany (browser) - - - - EDI (IDE) Konqueror (browser), KWord (word processor), KSpread (spreadsheets), KPresenter (presentations), ShowFoto (image editing), KolourPaint (drawing), KChart & Kivio (diagrams), Karbon (vector graphics), Kdenlive (video editor), KPlato (project management), Kexi (databases), KTorrent, Konversation (IRC), Kopete (Instant Messenger), Akregator (RSS), KWave (sound editor), KMyMoney (personal finances), K3b (CD burner), KDevelop (IDE) - -
Resource use
Minimum/Average RAM useTest system: Ubuntu 20.04, virtual machine with 2 GB RAM, three different runs, RAM use in excess of base system (i.e. terminal only) 347/572 MB 408/737 MB 394/532 MB 376/487 MB 348/569 MB 243/462 MB 302/473 MB 490/640 MB 336/576 MB 438/632 MB 419/573 MBusing SparkyLinux binary; these numbers seem off given the fact that CDE was the standard Unix desktop in the 1990s 70/299 MB 185/380 MB 335/651 MB 93/242 MB
General features
Display server support X11 + Wayland X11 + Wayland X11 only X11 only X11 only X11 only X11 only X11 only X11 only X11 only X11 only X11 + Wayland X11 only X11 only X11 only
HiDPI support Yes (fractional scaling) Yes (fractional scaling) Yes (fractional scaling) Yes (2x scaling) Yes (2x scaling) No (only font size) Yes (2x scaling) Yes (fractional scaling) Yes (fractional scaling) Yes (2x scaling) No (only font size) Yes (fractional scaling) No (only font size) Yes (fractional scaling) No (only font size)
Preferred style of window decorations (SSD/CSD) Server-side decorations Client-side decorations Mixed (mostly SSD) Server-side decorations Server-side decorations Server-side decorations Client-side decorations Client-side decorations Client-side decorations Client-side decorations Server-side decorations Server-side decorations Server-side decorations Server-side decorations Server-side decorations
Theme support, including 3rd-party themes Yes Not OOTBneed to install gnome-tweaks and gnome-shell-extensions Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Colour and font only Yes Yes Yes Yes
Scheduled theme switch (e.g. dark theme at night) No No No No No No No No No No No No No No No
Night light (reduces blue light) Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes No Yes Yes No No No No No
Integration with online accounts Google, Owncloud Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google, Microsoft, Nextcloud - - Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google, Microsoft, Nextcloud - Fastmail, Last.fm - Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google, Microsoft, Nextcloud - - - - Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google, Microsoft, Nextcloud -
Panel elements w/o extensions or hidden settings/tweaks
App launcher: show all apps / sort apps by XDG category Yeswith alternative launcher/Yes Yes/Nobut can create custom app folders Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/Yes No/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/Yes No/Yes No/Yes No/Yes Yes/Yescan filter by category Yes/Yes
App launcher: search apps and settings Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Only apps Yes Only apps Yes Yes Yes(separate searches) Yes Yes
App launcher: quickly uninstall apps (e.g. right-click) No No No No No No No Yes No Yes No No No No No
Favourited/pinned apps in app launcher and panel in "Activities" dash in app launcher and panel in app launcher and panel in app launcher and panel in panel in panel in panel in panel in panel in panel in panel in panel in panel in app launcher and panel
Panel location changeable (e.g. bottom, top) Yes (all four sides) No Yes (all four sides) Yes (all four sides) Yes (all four sides) Yes (all four sides) No Yes (all four sides) Yes (all four sides) Yes (all four sides) Yes (moves like window) Yes (all four sides) Yes (all four sides) No Yes (all four sides)
Panel auto-hide function Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Nobut panel can be minimized like a normal window Yes Yes Yes Yes
Clock/volume/battery status in panel Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes No/No/No Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes
Network manager in panel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No
Keyboard layout switcher in panel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No
Notification list (e.g. new e-mail, updates available) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes No No
Icons for background apps (e.g. cloud sync, messenger) Yes LimitedGNOME does not support tray icons, but applications can use sticky notifications, similar to those on Android. However, this is not supported by all applications who would have otherwise shown tray icons. More info here: https://wiki.gnome.org/Initiatives/StatusIconMigration Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes
Option to have a global menubar (like macOS) Yes (not default) No No Yes (not default) No No No No Yes (not default) No No No Yes (not default) Yes (default but optional) No
Window management
Taskbar/dock: toggle between showing windows or apps Yes No (see note)dash (in "Activities" screen) shows running apps, panel shows only the one currently focused app Yes Yes Yes Yes No (dock shows apps) No (taskbar shows apps) Yes No (taskbar shows apps) No (only pinned apps shown) No (taskbar shows windows) Yes No (dock shows apps) Yes
Taskbar/dock: show window thumbnails Yes No No Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes No No No No No
Maximize window (without hiding panel/dock/taskbar) Yes Yes (right-click) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No (panel will be covered) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fullscreen (hides panel and other element) Yes keyboard shortcut only Yes (right-click only) keyboard shortcut only keyboard shortcut only keyboard shortcut only keyboard shortcut only No keyboard shortcut only No Yes Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) keyboard shortcut only keyboard shortcut only
Minimize Yes Yes (right-click) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes (right-click) Yes Yes Yes Yes (minimizes to desktop) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Show desktop (minimize all windows) Yes keyboard shortcut only Yes Yes Yes Yes No keyboard shortcut only Yes Yes No keyboard shortcut only Yes (right-click) keyboard shortcut only Yes
Keep window on top Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) No Yes (right-click) No No Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click)
Move to other workspace/show on all workspacesworkspace = virtual desktop Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) keyboard shortcut only/No Yes (right-click) drag & drop in taskview/No Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click) Yes (right-click)
Tile windows by moving them to the screen edge Yes (½ or ¼ screen) Yes (½ screen) Yes (½ or ¼ screen) Yes (½ or ¼ screen) Yes (½ or ¼ screen) No Yes (½ screen) No Yes (½ screen) Yes (½ or ¼ screen) No Yes (½ or ¼ screen) No Yes (½ screen) No
Move/resize windows using Alt + Left/Right Click Yes/Yes Yes/YesSuper key instead of Alt key Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/Yes No/No Yes/No No/No No/No Yes/No Yes/YesAlt + Middle Click Yes /Yes Yes/No Yes/Yes
Show overview of all windows (exposé) Yes Yes (current workspace) No No Yes No Yes Yes No Yes (current workspace) No No No keyboard shortcut only No
Show overview of all workspaces (virtual desktop grid) Yes Yes No No Yes No No Yes No Yes No No No No No
Virtual desktop cube Yes No No No No No No No No No No No No No No
File managerDolphinGNOME Files (Nautilus)ThunarCajaNemoPCManFM-QtPantheon FilesDeepin File ManagerPeonydtfileEnlightenment File ManagerKonquerorInsight
Icon/column/tree view Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/No Yes/Yes/in side panel Yes/Yes/in side panel Yes/Yes/in side panel Yes/Yes/in side panel Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/No Budgie does not have a standard file manager, it is up to the distribution to decide which file manager to ship. For example, Solus (the flagship distribution for Budgie) uses GNOME's Nautilus, while Ubuntu Budgie uses Cinnamon's Nemo. Yes/Yes/in side panel Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/No Yes/Yes/Yes Unity does not have a standard file manager, it is up to the distribution to decide which file manager to ship. For example, Ubuntu Unity uses Cinnamon's Nemo, but installing Unity on standard Ubuntu will default to GNOME's Nautilus. Yes/Yes/in side panel
Tabs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes
Split/dual-pane view Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No No No No No Yes Yes
Toggle to show/hide hidden files Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sort by: name/type/size/date Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes Yes/Yes/Yes/Yes
Thumbnail support in file manager Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Thumbnail support in file picker (open/save dialogue) Yes No No No No Yes No Yes No No No Yes No
Type-ahead find Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Filter files in active folder Yes No No No No Yes No No No Yes No Yes No
Recursive search Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Drag & drop to desktop/between folders Yes/Yeswill ask if file should be moved, copied, or linked No desktopGNOME does not support desktop icons or displaying files on the desktop/Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, GNOME will not ask what to do but will move the file(s) Yes/Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, Xfce will not ask what to do but will move the file(s) Yes/Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, MATE will not ask what to do but will move the file(s) Yes/Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, Cinnamon will not ask what to do but will move the file(s) Yes/Yeswill ask if file should be moved, copied, or linked No desktopPantheon does not support desktop icons or displaying files on the desktop/Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, Pantheon will not ask what to do but will create a link to the file Yes/Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, DDE will not ask what to do but will move the file(s) Yes/Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, UKUI will not ask what to do but will move the file(s) Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, CDE will not ask what to do but will create a link to the file/Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, CDE will not ask what to do but will move the file(s) Yes/Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, Enlightenment will not ask what to do but will move the file(s) Yes/Yeswill ask if file should be moved, copied, or linked YesLumina shows inconsistent behaviour and may either copy or move files/Yeswithout pressing modifier keys, Lumina will not ask what to do but will move the file(s)
Undo rename or deletion with Ctrl+Z Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No
Duplicate file options Keep new/old/rename Keep new/old/rename Keep new/old Keep new/old/rename Keep new/old/rename Keep new/old/rename Keep new/old/rename Keep new/old/rename Keep new/old/rename Keep new/old/rename Automatically renames Keep new/old/rename Automatically renames
Create new empy file Yes only from ~/Templates Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Compress files Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes
Select multiple files with Ctrl and Shift Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Invert selection Yes keyboard shortcut only Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No No Yes No
Open file with... (select application) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Edit, copy or paste folder location/path Yes keyboard shortcut only Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes keyboard shortcut only copy only No copy only Yes Yes
Distribution support
Reference distribution (closest to upstream) KDE Neon Fedora or GNOME OS - - Linux Mint - elementary OS Deepin Solus Ubuntu Kylin - - - Ubuntu Unity Project Trident
Number of supporting active distributions (Distrowatch.com) 53 74 94 51 29 27 3 8 12 n/a (1) n/a 19 2 3 1
Debian option during installation pre-selected at installation option during installation option during installation option during installation option during installation via 3rd party repository no builds available officially supported officially supported via 3rd party repository officially supported via 3rd party repository no builds available via 3rd party repository
Ubuntu default in Kubuntu default desktop (modifiedUbuntu comes with a heavily modified GNOME desktop by default, which is configured to look and behave similar to the previous default desktop Unity) default in Xubuntu default in Ubuntu MATE officially supported default in Lubuntu via elementary OS repository via 3rd party repository default in Ubuntu Budgie default in Ubuntu Kylin via 3rd party repository officially supported via 3rd party repository officially supported via 3rd party repository
Linux Mint via Ubuntu repository via Ubuntu repository default in Xfce Edition default in MATE Edition default in Cinnamon Edition via Ubuntu repository via elementary OS repository via 3rd party repository via Ubuntu repository via Ubuntu repository via 3rd party Ubuntu repository via Ubuntu repository via 3rd party repository via Ubuntu repository via 3rd party repository
Fedora default in KDE Spin default desktop default in Xfce Spin default in MATE Spin default in Cinnamon Spin default in LXQt Spin officially supported officially supported via 3rd party repository no builds available via 3rd party repository officially supported via 3rd party repository no builds available officially supported
Red Hat Enterprise Linux via EPEL repository default desktop via EPEL repository no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available via 3rd party repository no builds available via 3rd party repository no builds available no builds available
Mageia pre-selected at installation option during installation option during installation option during installation option during installation officially supported no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available officially supported via 3rd party repository no builds available no builds available
SUSE Linux Enterprise via SUSE Package Hub default desktop via SUSE Package Hub via SUSE Package Hub via SUSE Package Hub no builds available no builds available no builds available via SUSE Package Hub no builds available no builds available via SUSE Package Hub via 3rd party repository no builds available no builds available
OpenSUSE option during installation option during installation option during installation officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported no builds available available in OBS officially supported via 3rd party repository no builds available available in OBS
Slackware pre-selected at installation via 3rd party repository option during installation via 3rd party repository via 3rd party repository via 3rd party repository no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available available as SlackBuild available as SlackBuild via 3rd party repository no builds available available as SlackBuild
Gentoo officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported no builds available no builds available officially supported officially supported via 3rd party repository officially supported
Arch officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported officially supported available in AUR officially supported officially supported officially supported available in AUR officially supported via 3rd party repository via 3rd party repository available in AUR
FreeBSD officially supported officially supported officially supporteddefault desktop for MidnightBSD officially supporteddefault desktop for GhostBSD officially supported officially supported no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available officially supported officially supported no builds available no builds available officially supported
NetBSD only Plasma 4 available officially supported officially supported officially supported no builds available officially supported no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available officially supported no builds available no builds available no builds available
OpenBSD only Plasma 4 available officially supported officially supported officially supported no builds available officially supported no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available officially supported no builds available no builds available officially supported
Solaris no builds available default desktop no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available
Illumos only Plasma 4 available only GNOME 2 available officially supportedavailable in OpenIndiana or Joyent repositories; default desktop for Tribblix officially supportedavailable in OpenIndiana or Joyent repositories; default desktop for OpenIndiana no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available no builds available officially supportedavailable in OpenIndiana or Joyent repositories no builds available no builds available no builds available
Usage share (estimate)
GamingOnLinux.com User Statistics 31.2% 30.9% 10.6% 3.6% 8.6% 0.7% 0.6% n/a 1.6% n/a n/a n/a n/a 1.0% n/a
Arch (no default desktop) - installations 34.4% 27.5% 18.9% 7.1% 6.7% 2.8% 0.0% 5.0% 1.5% 0.2% 0.1% 1.7% 0.2% 0.0% 0.1%
OpenSUSE (no default desktop) - 2020 EoY survey 64.6% 15.8% 9.7% 0.9% 1.1% 1.2% 0.1% n/a n/a n/a n/a 0.4% n/a n/a n/a
Debian (GNOME is pre-selected option) - installations 9.8% 23.7% 14.1% 6.8% 5.0% 1.6% n/a 0.2% 0.1% 0.1% n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Ubuntu (modified GNOME is default desktop) - installations 9.6% 48.0% (6.5%)48.0% = Ubuntu-Desktop, a modified version of GNOME; 6.5% = vanilla GNOME 4.7% 0.2% 0.4% 1.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% n/a 0.5% 0.0% 23.8% 0.0%
Non-technical information
License GPL GPL GPL, LGPL, BSD GPL, LGPLv2 GPL GPL, LGLP GPL GPL GPL, LGPL GPL LGPL BSD GPL GPL, LGPL BSD
Corporate and government backing Blue Systems, Canonical, Google, Qt Group, SUSE IBM (Red Hat), Canonical, Google, SUSE, System76 - - - - Elementary Inc. Union Tech 统信软件, Chinese government - Canonical, Chinese government - Samsung - - -
Politics and activism Climate activismEndorsement of "climate strike" Racism/sexismExplicit acceptance of anti-White racism and misandry in Code of Conduct, activism against RMS/FSFrecurring activism against Richard M. Stallman, e.g. GNOME Foundation signed the 2021 open letter to remove RMS from all leadership positions and called for the removal of the entire Board of the Free Software Foundation, endorsement of BLM"Black Lives Matter"
Other active or experimental desktop environments for Linux/Unix (examples):
Using EFL:Mokshafork of Enlightenment, used in Bodhi Linux
Using Flutter:Pangolin Desktop UIused in dahliaOS
Using Fyne:FyneDesk
Using GNUstep:Nextspace
Using GTK:COSMICbased on GNOME, used in Pop!_OS, Endless Shellfork of GNOME, used in Endless OS, GNOME Classic, GNOME Flashback, JADE, Manokwarifork of GNOME, used in BlankOn Linux, Material Shellbased on GNOME, LXDE, Pearl DEemploying Compiz, used in Pearl Linux, PIXEL Desktopfork of LXDE, used in Raspberry Pi OS, Sugar, Regolithemploying i3, used in Regolith Linux, XFast
Using Motif:Maxx Interactive
Using Qt:Cutefish, Draco DEfork of Lumina, hello Desktopused in helloSystem, Jing Desktop Environmentfork of KDE Plasma, used in JingOS, KDE Liquidshell, Liri Shellused in Liri OS, NX Desktopfork of KDE Plasma, used in Nitrux, theShell
Other:Fvwm-Crystalbased on Fvwm window manager, nsCDEbased on Fvwm window manager, PsychDOS
Not for X11 or WaylandAquaused in macOS, Aura Shellused in Chrome OS, Durdenfor Arcan display server, egmdefor Mir display server
Stand-alone window managers for Linux/Unix (examples):
Stacking and compositing window managers:2bwm, 9wm, AfterStep, amiwm, berry, Blackbox, Compiz, CTWM, cwm, eggwm, evilwm, Fluxbox, Flwm, Fvwm, Goomwwm, IceWM, jbwm, JWM, Karmen, lwm, Matchbox, MWM, olwm, Openbox, pawm, PekWM, Qvwm, Sawfish, Scwm, sowm, swm, TinyWM, twm, tvtwm, ukwm, UWM, vwm, vtwm, Wind, WindowMaker, WindowLab, Wio, wm2
Tiling and dynamic window managers:Alopex, awesome, Bspwm, dwm, echinus, EXWM, FrankenWM, Herbstluftwm, i3, Ion, Larswm, NotionWM, Qtile, Ratpoison, spectrwm, StumpWM, subtle, Sway, Velox, Wingo, WMFS2, wmii, xmonad
Active smartphone GUIs for Linux/Unix (examples):
Using EFL:Tizen UIusing Enlightenment window manager
Using GTK:Hildonused in Maemo Leste, Phoshused in PureOS
Using Qt:Glacier UXused in Nemo Mobile, KDE Plasma Mobiledefault UI on PinePhone, Lomirisuccessor of Unity 7, used in Ubuntu Touch, Luna Nextused in Open webOS, Sailfish UIused in Sailfish OS
Using Xlib:Sxmo
Not for X11 or Wayland:Galaused in KaiOS and its predecessor FirefoxOS, Springboardused in iOS/iPadOS, various Android interfaces (incl. for forks such as HarmonyOS or Fire OS)e.g. Stock Android as well as custom UIs by manufacturers such as Amazon (FireOS), Asus, HTC, Huawei, Meizu, OnePlus, OPPO, Samsung, Sony, and Xiaomi
Discontinued or dormant desktop environments for Linux/Unix (examples):
Using FLTK:Equinox (EDE)
Using GNUstep / OpenStep:Etoile, NeXTSTEP Desktop
Using GTK:Consort, GPEfor smartphones, Java Desktop Systemfork of GNOME, used in Solaris, Maynard, Mezzo, ROX Desktop, Vera
Using Motif:IRIX Interactive Desktopused in IRIX, HP VUEused in HP-UX
Using OLIT/Xview:openlookfork of Open Windows, Open Windowsused in Solaris
Using Qt:BE::SHell, Elokab, Hawaii, Innova, Kuartet, MoonlightDE, OPIE, Papyros, Razor-qton of the predecessors of LXQt, Unity 2D
Using Xlib/XCB:Unix DE (UDE)
Other:Bada GUIfor smartphones running Samsung Bada OS, Fvwm-Nightshadebased on Fvwm window manager, Project Looking Glassusing Java 3D
Active desktop environments for non-Linux/Unix operating systems (examples):
For AmigaOS-like operating systems:Workbenchused in AmigaOS, Ambientused in MorphOS, Magellanused in Icaros, Wandererused in AROS
For Haiku:OpenTracker
For OpenVMS:DECWindows
For RISC OS:Pinboard
For Unix-like operating systemOrbitalused in Redox OS, rioused in 9legacy, 9front, Harvey OS etc., Screenused in QNX, SerenityOS GUI, skiftOS GUI, wmused in Inferno, XaAESused in FreeMiNT
For Windows-like operating systems:Windows Shellused in Microsoft Windows, ReactOS Explorerused in ReactOS, Workspace Shellused in ArcaOS
For other operating systemsErmineused in Fuchsia, Sculptused in Genode, Yutaniused in ToaruOS; the unnamed GUIs of the following OS: Bluebottle, ChrysaLisp, DawnOS, DexOS, Essence, Ghost, HelenOS, KolibriOS, MenuetOS, Mezzano, MonaOS, PhantomOS, Solar OS, SymbOS, Visopsys

RAM Use

Below is a graph showing the RAM use in excess of the 261 MB used by the base system (without GDM3 or X.Org running).

RAM Use by Desktop Environment

This is based on 3 test runs:

Results:

  1. Enlightenment: 70 MB. (best performance: run 3, Ubuntu 20.04 + Enlightenment from Ubuntu repository)
  2. Lumina: 93 MB. (best performance: run 1, Ubuntu 20.04 Lumina Remix)
  3. Trinity: 185 MB. (best performance: run 1, Ubuntu 20.04 + Trinity from developer's PPA)
  4. LXQt: 243 MB. (best performance: run 1, Lubuntu 20.04)
  5. Pantheon: 302 MB. (best performance: run 1, elementary OS Hera based on Ubuntu 18.04)
  6. Unity: 335 MB. (best performance: run 3, Ubuntu 20.04 + Unity from Ubuntu repository)
  7. Budgie: 336 MB. (best performance: run 3, Ubuntu 20.04 + Budgie from Ubuntu repository)
  8. KDE Plasma: 347 MB. (best performance: run 1, Kubuntu 20.04)
  9. Cinnamon: 348 MB. (best performance: run 3, Ubuntu 20.04 + Cinnamon from Ubuntu repository)
  10. MATE: 376 MB. (best performance: run 3, Ubuntu 20.04 + MATE from Ubuntu repository)
  11. Xfce: 394 MB. (best performance: run 1, Xubuntu 20.04)
  12. GNOME: 408 MB. (best performance: run 3, Ubuntu 20.04 + Gnome-Shell from Ubuntu repository)
  13. CDE: 419 MB. (best performance: run 1, Ubuntu 20.04 + CDE from SparkyLinux repository)
  14. UKUI: 438 MB. (best performance: run 3, Ubuntu 20.04 + UKUI from Ubuntu repository)
  15. Deepin: 490 MB. (best performance: run 3, Ubuntu 20.04 + Deepin from UbuntuDDE PPA)

Having a closer look

Budgie

Common Desktop Environment (CDE)

Cinnamon

Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE)

Enlightenment

GNOME

KDE Plasma

Lumina

LXQt

MATE

Pantheon

Trinity Desktop Environment (TDE)

UKUI (Ubuntu Kylin User Interface)

Unity 7

Xfce