This post summarizes the main free/libre and open-source (FLOSS) desktop environments for Unix-like and Linux.
List of Linux Desktop Environments
List of Linux desktop environments:
- Common Desktop Environment (CDE)
- KDE Plasma
The most popular are KDE Plasma and GNOME.
Common Desktop Environment (CDE)
Common Desktop Environment (CDE) is a FLOSS desktop environment.
Since 2012, it is released under a GPLv2+ license. When it was released in 1993, it was proprietary software.
For many years it was the desktop environment for many commercial Unix distributions. It preceded other free desktop environments like KDE Plasma and GNOME.
KDE is a software community that develops FLOSS software.
The software currently known as KDE Plasma is KDE’s desktop environment.
The first product delivered by KDE gave name to the community. The desktop environment KDE, from the acronym Kool Desktop Environment, was released in 1996.
KDE Plasma was originally developed by Matthies Ettrich.
It uses the graphics library Qt. Qt is currently released under a GPL license.
Qt was a proprietary software owned by Troll Technology. This company allowed KDE project to make use for free of Qt, but some hackers were worried about the possibility of Troll Technology removing this permission without previous warning.
A FLOSS implementation of Qt, called Harmony, started to be developed, aiming to be a FLOSS replacement for Qt. The existence of this development together with the menace of a successful GNOME overtaking Qt forced Troll Technology to release the library under the Q Public License, that ensured that source code for derivatives were available.
This was not enough for the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and other FLOSS supporters that kept making pressure, an Qt was finally released under a GPL license in 2000.
GNOME was originally an acronym for GNU Network Object Model Environment.
It was originally developed by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena, and released in 1997.
GNOME uses GPL-ed graphics library GKT+.
Xfce is a FLOSS desktop environment.
It is lighter than GNOME and KDE, but heavier than LXDE.
Xubuntu OS is based on Xfce desktop environment.
LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) is FLOSS desktop environment.
It is older than LXQt, and it is based in GTK+ library.
LXDE is lighter than Xfce, GNOME and KDE, so they are probably the lightest and a good choice for devices with limited software.
Lubuntu OS is based on LXDE desktop environment.
LXQt (Lightweight X11 Qt) is a FOSS desktop environment.
LXQt is newer than LXDE, and it is based on the Qt library.
LXQt is the result of merging projects LXDE-Qt and Razor-qt, and it is supposed to supersede both of them.
LXQt is lighter than Xfce, GNOME and KDE, so they are probably the lightest and a good choice for devices with limited software.
Unity is a graphical user interface (GUI) that is a graphical shell for GNOME desktop environment originally. It was originally developed by British company Canonical and currently by the Unity7 Maintainers.
Its current version is Unity7, and its planned successor will be called UnityX.
Unity is the default GUI for Ubuntu’s flavour Ubuntu Unity.
Do not confuse Unity with Lomiri, previously known as Unity8.
Unlike Unity7, Lomiri is focused on touch screens and mobile OSs.
Unity7 evolves from Canonical’s development of Unity7, while Lomiri evolves from Canonical’s development of Unity8.
Cinnamon is a desktop environment. Linux distribution Linux Mint comes with this desktop environment as default.