Linux Desktop Shells I have found that the desktop shells are a very confusing area for new Linux users. Most users may have seen other Operating Systems (OS) such as Microsoft Windows. Other systems allow for the changing of the image displayed behind the icons (background), fonts, colors, etc. With Linux it is possible to completely change the whole desktop shell to another type to allow for more functionality. Some users may prefer one desktop to another and can install their preferred desktop on any Linux system they use. NOTE: It is possible to create a Theme to save and use within the shell on any system so that the systems look the same with the distro being the only change. By doing this, a user can have what seems to be the same system as before, but with a more stable OS. Some popular desktop shells are: Enlightenment Unity GNOME KDE XFCE Cinnamon MATE LXDE There are many others, but these seem to be the most popular ones available. So, let's look into getting these various shells installed. NOTE: The instructions are for Debian based systems. First, we need to know a specific Personal Package Archive (PPA) for obtaining the necessary files and the name to use for the install. These are as follows: Enlightenment: ppa:vase/ppa enlightenment Unity: ppa:unity-team/ppa unity GNOME: ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3 gnome-shell KDE: ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports kde-standard kubuntu-desktop XFCE: ppa:xubuntu-dev/xfce-4.12 xfce4 Cinnamon: ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable cinnamon MATE: ppa:gfunkmonk/mate-desktop mate-core LXDE: ppa:lxde/ppa lxde In a terminal, perform the following commands: Code: sudo add-apt-repository ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install name NOTE: You may want to check the Internet for an updated PPA for a newer version of the listed desktop shell. Once installed, you logout and then login again. During login, you should be allowed to make a selection of the desktop type. In the desktop type, select the new desktop you installed. If it does not work, you should be shown an error and returned to the login screen. If an error has occurred, simply change the desktop type back to what it had been or select 'default'. NOTE: 'Default' should start the desktop which was originally loaded with the Linux distro. For example, in Figure 1 you can see my default shell (enlightenment) and in Figure 2 you can see GNOME. FIGURE 1 FIGURE 2 Now let's look into a Red Hat system like Fedora. Here, I went into 'Packages' as shown in Figure 3. FIGURE 3 As you can see in the left column, you can choose the following desktops: GNOME Desktop KDE Desktop XFCE Desktop Other Desktops Select one of the three in the left pane (not Other Desktops) and search for the name of the desktop and '-desktop'. For example, click on KDE and search for KDE-desktop. You should then see the item appear and you check it and select to apply changes. Under 'Other Desktops', you can search for Enlightenment, Cinnamon-desktop, Mate-desktop and lxde-desktop. If you are using Apper, you can select all of the desktops, except Unity, from the “Categories” section. To add Unity, you need to add the repository by performing the following in a terminal: Code: sudo su cd /etc/yum.repos.d/ wget http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/GNOME:/Ayatana/Fedora_17/GNOME:Ayatana.repo Go back into your package software and search for 'Unity'. Once it appears, select it, and install it. NOTE: It seems this only works on Fedora 17. I tried on Fedora 20, but received many dependency errors. So, let's look a the various desktops on a Fedora 20 system (Unity is the only exception). Enlightenment Here you can see a few icons on the screen. The main way to maneuver through the system is the lower panel which contains quite a few options, such as: a terminal shortcut, volume settings, battery level (for mobile devices), etc. FIGURE 4 Unity Unity (the screenshot is taken from Ubuntu) has icons along the left side of the screen which allows for manipulation of the system and starting applications. FIGURE 5 GNOME GNOME is a very simplistic screen which has the 'Activities' button in the top left corner to gain access to all necessary tools. FIGURE 6 KDE KDE has a window which allows for the holding of icons which can also be placed directly on the desktop. The Desktop button in the top right allows for desktop configuration. The icon in the bottom right allows for maneuvering through the system as well as using the left mouse button. FIGURE 7 XFCE XFCE shows a list of all mounted partitions. There is a tray of icons for instant access to certain applications in the bottom center. To access the full list of installed applications, there is an applications menu button in the top left of the screen. FIGURE 8 Cinnamon Cinnamon is a desktop shell which has the menu bar on the bottom of the screen. Icons can be placed on the desktop for quick access to the applications. FIGURE 9 MATE MATE offers three drop-down list buttons: Applications, Places and Systems as you can see in Figure 10. FIGURE 10 LXDE LXDE has a menu button in the bottom left which opens the various folders and icons to start your applications. Applications can be placed on the desktop as with any other desktop shell. FIGURE 11 NOTE: Be aware that the desktops can vary from system to system as the main defaults are taken from the Linux distro, such as the background wallpaper. As a desktop version is upgraded some items may change again.