My Search for a new Desktop environment

So I’m not in love with Gnome 3, I actually use Gnome Classic as a desktop. I’ve been having some issues with Classic view as well. So I went on an exploration trip for a new Desktop, I’ve tried Mate (Basically Gnome 2), Xfce, KDE, LXQt, LXDE and Cinnamon.

I decided to load them into a VM and tried QEMU/ KVM I couldn’t get it to allow internet connection so I wound up using Gnome Boxes. I didn’t use VirtualBox or VMWare because the machine I’m using is pretty wimpy and I was trying for lean and mean. I had tried both of them and because the computer I’m using has a severe case of Pussitus, they locked the machine (damn resource hogs anyway) or pegged my poor little CPU.

Either way, Gnome Boxes did the trick and allowed me to create VM images and separate installs of each Desktop environment.

I used Debian Bookworm’s net install “CD” to install most of the VM images I created.

So here we go with what I’ve found so far.

Mate

I like it, it takes me back to the good old days of Gnome 2. Probably because it is that, it’s a continuation of the Gnome 2 Desktop Environment project actually.

I love the fact the menu is organized so far. I haven’t installed a lot of things yet so we’ll see if it changes as I add things.

Below is a Screenshot of the desktop and the Mate Terminal. Notice how the font colors change for directories and actually does it on words like for and other words found in programming languages.

Or as I like to call it; has a Linux style terminal instead of a Microsoft style terminal.


So I played around a little more with Mate, You can add things to the top bar (panel) and they appear on the left of the clock & Network Icons, I found a font I liked also, I had to go to https://wallpapersafari.com/ for the Dragon. Yes Gnome / Mate could use some artists like KDE has (Heavy SIGH) someday they’ll get artists :frowning: someday. Anyway the only thing I don’t like is you can’t center the clock anymore in the top panel, however; if I remember correctly it was a royal pain to keep it there so maybe they dropped the idea.

XFCE

This DE (desktop Environment) has come a long ways since I used it last on Sun Solaris 8 and is pretty nice looking as well. By long way I mean like the distance from the Earth to Jupiter.

The menu is pretty good in organization and they do the different colored text for Directories etc. as well. I don’t get the bottom bar/panel (?) but it still looks very nice. And it has a top bar that’s pretty functional but if you add Widgets (or whatever they’re called) it doesn’t let you choose where, it just sticks them on the right hand side (after the username) whether you like it or not (Pinko commie bastards anyway… hmmf).

KDE

It’s as close as you can get to Windows without actually running Windows. However; Plasma is very nice and seems to handle Graphics very well (it is on a Virtual Machine so it might not play nice on an actual machine).

I will give KDE two things:

  1. The wallpaper selection is AMAZING, I guess the artsy type use this DE.

  2. Their update tool should be the standard for GUI Updaters, HOLY TUNA IS IT NICE!!! It called “Apper” and uses “Discover” to manage it. If it’s not listed in there it’s one of three things:

a) Your in the wrong category
b) It’s not available for your Distro
c) The software doesn’t exist.

I didn’t install Snap or Flatpack so I couldn’t speak to that, but the organization, categorizing, and descriptions … OH MOMMY, I’m in HEAT!! Why oh why can’t the others do that!? the other part of this called “Discover” it has all of the Details about the apps:


I only have a couple of things to be nit-picky about, 1) When I was installing it I received a Security warning about Encfs having multiple vulnerabilities:


2) The Application Launcher Icon (lower left corner) they should have stayed with the “K” emblem and not whatever the thing on the lower left corner is supposed to be.

  1. The number of packages installed by default; 1,698 of them, the others I tried were around 1,200 – 1,250.

LXQt

It’s okay, I like the fact it gives Desktop Icons and it sort of allows customization, but not my favorite.

LXDE

Well, I didn’t need a cold shower after this one either, but it’s not too bad. I’m not in love with the cascading menus (Can anyone say Windows 98? I knew you could) I actually did not miss that “feature” when it went away… at all. I didn’t remember how much I disliked it until I installed this DE, then I remembered what a P.I.A it was (but it’s still better than Windows 10’s “Menu”). And I really dislike where the “Leave” button is (aka Power button) on the lower right. Especially when the same options are in the app launcher (lower left corner), let’s not visit the department of redundant actions from the redundant department of redundancy Please? And no top bar or anyway to add it. If you want a different Wallpaper than what comes with the install you’ll have to Google one up or have a Wallpaper site to get it from. Then again you could go to KDE’s Web site and grab one of those too I guess.

I was going to check out Cinnamon but after Mint with a Cinnamon/ Mate desktop I decided against it. I wasn’t very impressed with it, if it’s your cup of tea, more power to you but I wasn’t wanting more of it after about 2 minutes. But for the Linux newbie, definitely the one to use. If it leaves you baffled on how to use it, please go get a MAC (just kidding, don’t be going all ballistic over it) .

I’m sure your wondering what I dislike about Gnome 3, well, I am thinking I’m going to switch to Mate I like it better (I missed having a top panel that’s usable) When Gnome 3 is available for a Mobile device I’ll probably use it then.

Here’s the default installation and part of why I don’t like Gnome3.

Reason one:
So when you first sign in you get this screen, you can either click on a desktop or the application you want. You can also click on the 3×3 dots (I think it’s called a waffle?) to see all your apps, which looks like this:


From here you can either search for the application or scroll through them until you find what you need. It’d be good on a smartphone or other mobile device, but it’s absolutely horrid for a desktop.

It does have a normal “Gnome” backgrounds:


See my comments in KDE concerning artwork and wallpapers. Yes Gnome could use some artsy types.

So basically Gnome 3 has been converted (for better or worse) to a mobile desktop environment. Okay, great, but they forgot the desktop functionality completely and it sucks rocks.

I am currently using Gnome Classic and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be either.


But it is more of a desktop environment than Gnome 3. Even with adding the Applications extension the menu is a horrid, disorganized mess:

There’s things that are under 2 or 3 different sections as well as I can’t customize the menu to get it to where I want it (for example SelekTOR is in 3 different categories, it really should be only in one of them).

So I’m probably going to go to Mate (it’s actually pronounced Ma-Tay as per the website https://mate-desktop.org/), it seems to have more of what I want from a DE. I didn’t write this to discourage anyone from using whichever DE they want, I’m just throwing my opinions out there and giving my 2 cents.

Thanks for reading this, hopefully it was worth your time.

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Great read!

I like the list you’ve built here because it’s also very hardware friendly, and most of the DEs you list revolve around what you described at the outset.

From your list, XFCE mated (no pun intended) to i3wm is more my comfort zone. I can’t go back from the WM and its time saving shortcuts. :hook: :confounded:

Sometimes I regret using i3 because since then, every DE choice depends on if I can set up a window manager and the same shortcuts.

Thanks for the link to that wallpapers website. My go-to for walls is: https://wallhaven.cc/

Maybe you wanna try out Budgie some time :slight_smile:

it’s based on GTK, and uses many of the same components you already know from GNOME (e.g a fork of their Settings app)

Other than that, its highly extensible using tons of community made applets online, which can be used on panels

Alternatively, you should try out using extensions on GNOME, they allow you to change many (if not all) of the behaviors you’ve mentioned you dislike : P

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I took a peek at both links, the i3wm looks pretty nice. Especially the panels all one one screen, that’s a great idea for single monitors. Then you can have multiple screens open and see things your working on side by side. I may have to try that on a VM and test it out, but I’d have to find a video with better sound, dude needs to turn up his mike (could be me or my system). I checked out the wall paper site you posted and it’s bookmarked, yeah I kinda liked it :wink:

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Hi TGRush, Welcome to our little place.
I actually use Gnome Extensions, there’s not everything in there. I’ve heard of Budgie but it isn’t in the list when you install Debian (initially) I guess I should have screenshot the list it shows in Debian, eh, Hindsight 20/20 as usual.
Anyway is there a video or documentation on how to switch to it? I’d be interested in checking it out.

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It’s definitely his mic. :joy: i had the same issue with video.

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If you’ve already had GNOME installed, you can pretty much just sudo apt remove gnome-session and then sudo apt install budgie-session if I’m not mistaken

(in a TTY of course, you wouldn’t wanna remove a running desktop lol)

most the dependencies are the same, on recent versions of Budgie, even the Settings is a fork of Gnome-Settings

Nice write up, very well considered.

I ran Solus with Budgie for a while and while I loved the desktop I had to move on as there were other issues with Solus at the time, but I would give Budgie a solid +1 as an option.

These days I have opted for Gnome 3 with extensions and it gives me a solid reliable DE. I was a big fan of I3wm but since moving to a 3 screen setup ( 1 x 27" in the center with a 23" either side ) I like the flexibility that Gnome 3 offers to randomly reposition and resize things on a whim which is great when dealing with unexpected tasks and workloads.

I will no doubt have another stab at I3 in the future but for now I’m happy with what I have.

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The only window manager I do like is Fluxbox because it has buttons to place and size windows to the left or right half of the screen and allows storing window position and size in an editable apps file.

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Welcome to our community! Glad you are here. Fluxbox is cool. I see the last release is 2015. Is it still actively maintained? I used Openbox a while back. But also not really popular and was last released in 2015.

So Update:
I loaded Debian Cinnamon desktop so I had a “sacrificial lamb” to try Budgie and BOY DID I GET A SHOCK! Holy Windows 10 without the Windows logos! WHAT SMF (Sick Mother Forker) dreamed up that?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU! Ya just had to bring Windows 10 to Linux? … Did your parents not have any children that lived? AWW, You poor thing you.
Anyway, enough of my rant - for now at least, I did try adding Budgie to it via Synaptic all 222 packages. I’m thinking I’ll try it on G3 to see if it makes that useful, I couldn’t tell where Budgie began and Cinnamon left off and which option was for what. It didn’t change the appearance (unfortunately) SOoooooooooooo back to spinning up a VM. Windows 10 … WTF :crazy_face: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :crazy_face: :face_vomiting:

Other update:
Installed G3 again so I could try budgie (I’m always open to suggestions).
Found yet another thing I disliked about Debian Cinnamon You can’t choose other desktops before you log in. Anyways, back to the original thought and no “squirrel!” moments.
So I found this Install Budgie on Debian and tried to follow it and went back to Synaptic (apt couldn’t find budgie? GRRRR) and added Budgie restarted the VM and changed desktops to Budgie.


TADA!
I like they use the GNOME Emblem (the foot lower left) and you can add a top bar too. It does muff up your Icon placement if you choose to have them on the desktop though.
The menu is a wannabe Windows 10 (Again, why oh WHY?!) but better organized than G3.
It has an app called “Plank” which is were the icons in the bottom center came from.
And it appears you can do Window Tiling via an app called Workplace switcher ( I think) but over all, Mate is where I’m going next.

I’m just not in love with any of the alternatives.
But I’m going to look into I3 on XFCE a little more. I’m liking the tiled windows Idea the more I think about it and wanna play in that sandbox (yes I’ll fight the kitty’s for my turn) Blame Hayden for that idea :hugs: :face_with_monocle: :partying_face: :rofl:
That’s it for now. Have a wonderful… wait I’d probably better explain something.
The reason I went off (well sorta, most of it was sarcastic) on Cinnamon looking like a Linux version of Windows 10 is because I use Linux to GET AWAY from that interface. Bringing to Linux (In my evil little view of the world) is just horrid for an idea.
Especially if one of the reasons you run Linux is to get away from Microsoft’s interface and refuse to pay for a MAC. Although I’ve thought about installing BSD on a VM just to monkey around with it.
Okay now I’m off to my hot pink colored sky with puffy green and fluorescent yellow clouds with Tux and Beastie roasting Windows over an open fire :smiley:

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Awesome! Nice work. Thanks for the updates. I will soon join in on the fun. Moving alway to a rolling distro. Leaning towards Kali Linux or Arch Linux; both I have good history with.

I will again run Gnome3 with Pop shell. Which is what I’m using now, and my experience is pretty much exactly like i3wm but I have all the conveniences of a DE.

XFCE + i3WM is great. My laptop is pretty fast and I prefer the Gnome3 because of this, I’m using transparent backgrounds and other MacOS eye candy. If hardware was an issue then XFCE + i3 for the win.

See screenshots of my current Gnome3 + pop shell (window tiling) here.

image

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It cracks me up that people are in love with Kali but won’t install Debian testing. Kali is based off Debian testing, so I guess I use a “Rolling Release” too… wait! I DID NOT just admit to that it was my evil twin, I swear!
Anyway, I read what you wrote about tiling and I might do another couple of VMs before I slaughter my Gnome installation and go to Mate, I’ll have to see if Pop is in the Debian Distro, And because I’ve heard so many people brag it up I might try Arch, I’m still tossing around the Linux from Scratch Idea but I’m not sure I’m growed up enough yet. :wink:

Yes, my reason for going with Kali is exactly because it “starts with” (based on) Debian testing.

I guess the similar can be said about Debian-based Ubuntu.

I wrote a bit more about it here - a stable non-root Debian-testing rolling release, managed by the Kali team, albeit a bit outdated article that gets updated occasionally, and also here - install without root for a rolling release Debian managed by Kali.

In short, Kali has, over the years, made the non-root and non-pentest tools default and easier to achieve than when I first started using and then writing about it.

I don’t think Arch is really as Linux from Scratch as maybe 10 years ago it was closer to that. Nowadays, after installing Arch Linux, you can have DE and/or WM up and running in just a couple of commands. Or, even easier, check out ArchInstall (how-to video)

I would say Slackware and Gentoo are the more time-taking distros, all 3 of these are very rewarding.

Ever try Parrot? Parrot Security it has tools the same caliber, if not the same as, Kali. To me it was a Mac lovers dream, round buttons, Menu on the left, Green, orange, Red, for Max, Minimize, Close the window etc.