Top 9 Best Linux Desktop Environments You Should Know

Linux Desktop Environments can be overwhelming for new Linux users. Each desktop environment has its own look and feel, features, and user interface. Distro hopping is very familiar among new Linux users. When you try different Linux distributions, you can see that there is a mixture of using different desktop environments.

Ubuntu, Pop OS, and Fedora use GNOME, Manjaro uses XFCE, KDE Neon uses KDE Plasma, Elementary OS uses Pantheon, Solas uses Budgie, Deepin uses Deepin DE, and Linux Mint uses Cinnamon by default.

In this article, I will be going over all the major Linux Desktop Environments to give you a complete overview to get started.

What Is A Linux Desktop Environment?

A Linux Desktop Environment is a graphical user interface (GUI) for the Linux operating system. It provides a complete and cohesive user experience for interacting with the system.

It includes a window manager, file manager, application launcher, settings manager, and other utilities. These applications allow users to manage files, launch applications, customize settings, and interact with the system in a user-friendly way.

Some popular Linux DE like GNOME, KDE Plasma, XFCE, and Cinnamon have their unique look and feel and are developed to meet different user needs and preferences.

Linux users can choose the Desktop Environment that best suits their needs and customize it to their liking, making it one of the key advantages of the Linux platform.

A Desktop Environment Is Not A Linux Distribution

Often time people get confused between these two terms: a desktop environment and a Linux distribution. People started distro-hopping just because they do not find it appealing or certain features are missing. This is because every Linux distribution comes with its own selected desktop environment. For example, Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora use Gnome. On the other hand, Manjaro uses XFCE.

Many Linux distributions have multiple flavors of different desktop environments. For example, Ubuntu has Ubuntu Flavors, and Fedora has Fedora spins. Note that, you can install any desktop environment on any Linux distribution. You don’t need to do distro-hopping to try out other desktop environments.

If you like a Linux distribution and its package manager but do not like the look and feel or you just need certain features, you can easily install your desired desktop environment without installing a new Linux distribution.

Every distribution is indeed optimized for its default desktop environment. But if you know how Linux works, you can easily set up your Linux system without any major hassle.

How Many Desktop Environments Are There In Linux?

There are many Desktop Environments (DEs) available for Linux. The exact number depends on how you define a DE, as some people may consider some window managers to be DEs, while others do not.

That being said, some of the most popular Linux DEs are GNOME, KDE Plasma, XFCE, LXDE, Cinnamon, and MATE. Additionally, there are some newer DEs like Budgie, Deepin, and Pantheon that are gaining popularity.

In general, Linux offers a wide range of Desktop Environments to choose from. Each with its unique features and advantages, allowing users to customize and optimize their Linux experience to their needs and preferences.

What Are The Most Popular Linux Desktop Environments?

There are many Desktop Environments available for Linux, each with its unique features and advantages. Some of the most popular Linux Desktop Environments are:

  • KDE Plasma
  • XFCE
  • MATE
  • Budgie
  • Cinnamon
  • LXQt
  • Pantheon
  • Deepin DE

These Desktop Environments are some of the most popular and widely used in the Linux community. But there are many other DEs available, each with its own unique set of features and advantages. Now, let’s see what these desktop environments have to offer.

GNOME – User Friendly Linux Desktop

GNOME Linux Desktop Environment

GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) is a popular Desktop Environment for Linux. It’s a modern and user-friendly DE that offers a simple and clean interface.

Its main focus is on productivity and efficiency. It offers a simple and clean interface, with an intuitive design that makes it easy to navigate and find what you need. GNOME is designed to run on modern hardware and requires a bit more hardware resources.

It also offers a range of extensions that allow users to customize their desktop experience by adding new features and functionality.

GNOME is widely used by many popular Linux distributions, including Fedora, Debian, and Ubuntu. Its focus on user-friendliness and productivity has made it a popular choice for users who want a modern and intuitive interface that is easy to use and customizable.


  • Modern and beautiful user interface
  • Customizable through Gnome Shell Extensions
  • User-friendly desktop environment


  • Needs modern hardware
  • Resource hungry
  • Not suitable for older computers

KDE Plasma – Most Customizable Linux Desktop Environment

KDE Plasma Desktop Environment

KDE Plasma is a desktop environment that you can customize a lot. It offers many options to change the way your desktop looks and works, making it perfect for people who want a personalized experience.

KDE Plasma has many features that make it powerful and easy to use. You can use it effectively even if you’re new to it. Many Linux distributions, including KDE Neon, Kubuntu, and openSUSE, use KDE Plasma.

It’s a great choice for people who want a desktop environment that they can customize to their liking and use to be productive.


  • Modern and beautiful user interface
  • Highly Customizable
  • Traditional desktop layout makes it easy to use
  • Feature-rich desktop environment
  • Fast


  • Needs Modern Hardware
  • Too Many Customization Options Could Be Overwhelming
  • Requires A Learning Curve

XFCE – Most Lightweight Linux Desktop Environment

XFCE Desktop Environment

XFCE is a type of desktop environment that is known for being very lightweight and fast. It has a simple and minimalistic interface, which means it doesn’t require a lot of computer resources to run. It’s also customizable, so users can change its appearance if they want to.

XFCE has features and tools that make it a capable and efficient desktop environment despite its lightweight design. It’s used by many Linux distributions, including Xubuntu, Manjaro, and Fedora XFCE Spin, and is a popular choice for users who want a fast and lightweight desktop environment.


  • Lightweight desktop environment suitable for older computers
  • Highly Customizable
  • Fast & Stable


  • The default Interface looks dated
  • Lack of animations and transitions

MATE – Classic And Lightweight

MATE Desktop Environment

MATE is a desktop environment that is simple and easy to use. It is very lightweight and does not require much computer power. Although it may look outdated, it works well for everyday tasks.

MATE has a classic look that is similar to older versions of Windows or other classic desktop environments. It also has many useful features and tools that make it a good desktop environment.

MATE is used by many popular Linux distributions, including Ubuntu MATE, Manjaro, and Fedora MATE Spin. It is a great choice for users who want a traditional and user-friendly desktop environment that is lightweight and has all the necessary features and tools for productivity and performance.


  • Lightweight desktop environment suitable for older computers
  • Customizable
  • Fast & Stable


  • The default Interface looks dated
  • Lack of animations and transitions

Budgie – Modern And User-friendly

Budgie Desktop Environment

Budgie is a desktop environment for Linux and other Unix-like operating systems. Initially, it was slow and had bugs, but the developers have been working on improving it over time.

Budgie is designed to be simple, user-friendly, and modern. It’s a great choice for those who want a polished and modern desktop experience. Many popular Linux distributions, such as Solus, Ubuntu Budgie, and Arch Linux, use Budgie. It offers many useful features and tools, making it efficient and capable.


  • Unique Design
  • Beautiful user interface
  • Customizable


  • Need modern hardware
  • Resource hungry
  • Less adopted by other distributions. Manual installation is needed.

Cinnamon – Traditional Layout Design And Highly Customizable

Cinnamon Desktop Environment

Cinnamon Desktop Environment is a modern and customizable desktop environment for Linux. It is designed to provide a user-friendly and modern desktop experience that is both elegant and customizable.

Cinnamon offers customization options such as themes, applets, and desklets, that users can use to personalize their desktops according to their preferences. It is the default desktop environment for Linux Mint, and it was created by the Linux Mint team.

Cinnamon is known for its modern and elegant design, which provides a polished and sleek desktop experience that is both easy to use and familiar. It also has various useful features and tools, making it a capable and efficient desktop environment.

Cinnamon is widely used by many popular Linux distributions such as Linux Mint, Manjaro, and Fedora. It’s a popular choice for users who want to switch to Linux because of its focus on providing a user-friendly and customizable desktop environment. Cinnamon is a modern and elegant desktop environment that has all the necessary features and tools.


  • Customizable
  • Easy to use
  • Feature-rich


  • Need modern hardware
  • Resource hungry

Pantheon – macOS Inspired Desktop Environment

Pantheon Desktop Environment

Pantheon is a modern and easy-to-use Desktop Environment (DE) that is mainly used in the Elementary OS. It is designed to be user-friendly and productive, with a unique and intuitive interface. The desktop interface is inspired by macOS and provides a similar look.

Pantheon is visually stunning and minimalist, making it a distinctive feature of this DE. It delivers a polished and modern desktop experience that is both visually appealing and efficient. Additionally, Pantheon comes with several useful features and tools, which makes it a capable and effective desktop environment.

Pantheon is commonly used in the Elementary OS but is also available for other Linux distributions. The focus on delivering a minimalist and visually stunning desktop experience has made Pantheon a popular choice for users who want an elegant and modern DE that is customizable and user-friendly.


  • macOS-like look & feel
  • Minimal design
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight


  • Not very customizable
  • Limited features

LXQT – Low Resource Linux Desktop Environment

LXQt Desktop Environment

LXQt is a lightweight and classic desktop environment for Linux that is designed to be fast, flexible, and user-friendly. It is created as a successor to the LXDE desktop environment and can support the latest technologies.

LXQt is made with the Qt framework and is highly customizable, allowing users to modify and adjust the desktop environment to suit their needs. It has various lightweight components, such as the Openbox window manager, PCManFM-Qt file manager, and the LXQt Panel taskbar.

LXQt is an ideal choice for users with older hardware or limited system resources, as it uses low system resources. It is also highly adaptable, supporting multiple desktop layouts, customizable keyboard shortcuts, and several configuration options.

LXQt includes pre-installed applications, such as the LXQt Configuration Center for managing system settings, the QTerminal emulator, and the LXImage image viewer. It also provides multiple virtual desktops, window snapping, and other productivity features.


  • Extremely lightweight
  • Customizable
  • Fast & stable


  • The default Interface looks dated
  • Lack of animations and transitions

Deepin DE – Best Looking Linux Desktop Environment

Deepin Desktop Environment

Deepin Linux is well-known for its attractive appearance, which is thanks to its unique custom-built Desktop Environment called Deepin DE. This modern and stylish desktop environment is designed to be productive and visually appealing. However, it requires modern hardware and system resources to work properly and may not be suitable for older hardware.

Deepin DE offers a range of useful features and custom-made tools that are specifically designed for the Deepin desktop. These components, including the File Manager and Settings app, are custom-designed to work seamlessly throughout the system.

Although Deepin DE is the default desktop environment for Deepin Linux, it is also available for other Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu Deepin. Its popularity is due to its user-friendly and highly customizable interface, making it an ideal choice for those who want a modern and visually stunning desktop experience.


  • Modern
  • Eye candy desktop environment
  • Custom-made apps for better system-wide integration


  • Needs modern hardware
  • Resource hungry

Linux Desktop Environments Comparison

Here is a basic comparison table of these Linux desktop environments.

Desktop Environment Widget Toolkit Display Manager Window Manager File Manager RAM Usage (Approx.)
GNOME gtk3 gdm mutter nautilus 800 MB
KDE Plasma qt5-base sddm kwin dolphin 600 MB
XFCE gtk3 lightdm-gtk-greeter xfwm4 thunar 400 MB
MATE gtk3 lightdm-gtk-greeter marco caja 400 MB
Budgie gtk3 gdm budgie-desktop nautilus 900 MB
Cinnamon gtk3 lightdm-gtk-greeter muffin nemo 900 MB
LXQt qt5-base sddm Openbox pcmanfm-qt 300 MB
Pantheon gtk3 lightdm-pantheon-greeter gala pantheon-files 800 MB
Deepin DE gtk3 qt5-base deepin-session-ui deepin-wm deepin-file-manager 1.2 GB

My Thoughts

Linux distributions and Desktop Environments are completely different things. You can install any Linux Desktop Environment on any distribution you want. Desktop environments are the visual presentation of a distribution.

If you want features, looks, and all the modern technologies, you have to sacrifice performance. And if you want performance, you need to sacrifice looks and features. There is no perfect distro or desktop environment. Every distro and desktop environment has its advantages and disadvantages.

If you want looks, features, and the latest technologies, Gnome and KDE can deliver but also require more hardware horsepower. If you want performance, XFCE, MATE, and LXQt can deliver but you will not get the modern look and feel.

It all depends on how you want to use your computer. You have to find the right setup that allows you to do what you want to do. It’s about finding the perfect balance for your needs.

Every desktop environment has its user base and community. You need to research and test different distributions to find the one that suits your needs and goals.


I hope you now understand the concept of a Linux distribution and a desktop environment. If you have any questions, you can always comment down below.

If you like this article, you can share this on social media and help others understand this topic.


What are the best Linux desktop environments?

There are many Desktop Environments available for Linux, each with its unique features and advantages. Some of the most popular and best Linux Desktop Environments are:
2. KDE Plasma
5. Budgie
6. Cinnamon
7. LXQt
8. Pantheon
9. Deepin DE

What is the easiest Linux desktop environment?

There is no straightforward answer. Each desktop environment has its unique set of features and user base. If you want a general answer, GNOME, KDE, and XFCE would be on the list.

Is Xfce better than GNOME?

Both XFCE and GNOME are well-optimized Linux Desktop Environments. XFCE requires fewer hardware resources but is also pretty bland. Whereas GNOME requires modern hardware for its modern look and feel. Both are capable of doing modern-day tasks.

Which is better KDE or Xfce?

KDE is a featured-pack Linux Desktop Environment. This often time confuses its users. Too many features make it hard for general users with less technical knowledge. On the other hand, XFCE offers basic features and runs on almost any machine. If you prefer features, YES, KDE is better than XFCE. And if you want simplicity, XFCE makes more sense.

Which is faster KDE or GNOME?

In terms of RAM usage, KDE uses less RAM than GNOME. But this doesn’t declare which one is the fastest. KDE offers features and GNOME offers simplicity. If you have a modern computer, both are equally good.

Does Xfce use less RAM?

Yes, XFCE is a lightweight Linux Desktop Environment. The base XFCE uses 300-500 MB of RAM depending on the distribution you are running.

Which uses more RAM GNOME or KDE?

KDE uses around 600 MB of RAM whereas GNOME uses around 800 MB of RAM at boot. But when you start using your computer, you won’t see any major difference.

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