Unlike Windows and OS X, Linux allows you to fully customize not only the look and feel of your desktop, but also its functionality and settings, thanks to a host of desktop environments it offers. Different desktop environments offer different styles and options, and unavoidably, with choice often comes confusion.
Here’s an overview of the current most popular Linux desktop environments, so you can have a better idea about their core differences, what each has to offer and what could potentially suit you best.
Gnome, which stands for GNU Network Object Model Environment, is one of the oldest and most widely used Linux desktop environments. Its design goals include simplicity, accessibility, and ease of internationalization and localization.
The project was initiated in August 1997 by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena as a reaction against KDE. While Gnome 2.x was one of the most popular and well received versions of the desktop environment, Gnome 3.x, its latest offering which seems to be more inclined towards handheld devices, failed to impress a large section of its users.
Gnome’s user interface starts in the Activities Overview mode, which allows you to launch new applications, switch windows, and move them between workspaces. The dashboard on the left contains your favorite as well as currently active applications.
There’s a Show Applications icon at the bottom, clicking on which displays all applications installed on your system.You can also search for a specific application by using the search bar present at the top of the screen.
Pros: The interface is fast; Supports a lot of keyboard shortcuts.
Cons: Application search isn’t very smart; Requires time to become proficient.
Based on Gnome 3.x, the Cinnamon desktop environment aims to provide innovative features along with a Gnome 2.x-like user experience. The idea is to make users feel at home and provide them with an easy to use and comfortable desktop experience. At present, it is the default desktop for Linux Mint, but can also be installed on other Linux distros.
Cinnamon came into existence in 2012 after Gnome transitioned from version 2 to version 3, as the team behind Linux Mint felt that the new version did not fit the design goals they had in mind for the distribution. It started as a Gnome 3.x-based frontend, but soon became a complete desktop environment built on Gnome technologies.
Cinnamon provides a powerful and customizable, yet easy to use desktop layout. Out of the box, the desktop environment’s UI features a single panel located at the bottom of the screen, with applications menu on the left, and system tray, clock, notifications, and more on the right.
Applications can be added to your panel by right clicking on their icon and choosing ‘Add to panel’. You can easily change the panel layout to place it at the top or both top as well as bottom, or change its look and feel with applets and themes.
Pros: Combines the power of Gnome with its in-house features and applications; Easy to navigate.
Cons: Requires 3D acceleration, which means it might not work well for you depending on your machine’s graphics card and/or drivers; It might not be as stable as some of the more mature and established desktops.
Full Story: Six Popular Linux Desktop Environments – TechSpot.