If you hesitate trying Linux because its many distributions seem daunting, you might first consider which Linux desktop environment you prefer. A Linux desktop environment is a set of programs that provides a user interface for Linux. For example, a desktop environment lets you:
- Open menus to select files or launch applications.
- Open, resize and move application windows.
- Configure your system settings.
This document can help you find a favorite Linux desktop environment, and thereby narrow your search for a Linux distribution.
Studying Linux Desktop Environments – In comparison with the vast array of LInux distributions, there are relatively few Linux desktop environments, including:
Although these desktop environments have many similarities, you might prefer particular characteristics after you read (and inspect screenshots in) the above desktop-environment websites. Initially, you can use any LInux distribution to evaluate a particular desktop environment. Within almost any Linux distribution, you can find more than one Linux desktop environment. For example, while the main Ubuntu distribution uses its own Unity desktop environment, the Ubuntu community provides derivative distributions that use other Linux desktop environments:
- Kubuntu uses KDE
- Lubuntu uses LXDE
- Xubuntu (pronounced “zubuntu”) uses Xfce
Comparing Linux Desktop Environments – You can use rewritable live discs (CDs or DVDs) to evaluate and compare Linux desktop environments. For example, after examining various Linux desktop environments, such as those listed in the Studying Desktop Environments section above, you can evaluate (test, experiment with) multiple desktop environments. Use the following general procedure:
- Choose two or more Linux desktop environments that currently interest you, such as KDE and LXDE.
- Select any Linux distribution that uses one of your selected environments, such as Kubuntu that uses KDE, download its ISO file, and then burn its image to a live disc. Note: In case you want to evaluate a LInux desktop environment for which you cannot download an ISO for a live CD, you can install a Linux distribution into a spare PC, such as an old laptop.
- Repeat step 2 for each of your other selected Linux distributions and environments, such as Lubunutu that uses LXDE.
- Back up your PC data in case you accidentally install a Linux distribution over your current operating system. For more information, please see How to Back Up Data on Your PC
- Boot and run one of your live discs without installing its Linux distribution. Write down its desktop-environment characteristics that you especially like, or dislike.
- Repeat step 5 for each other live disc.
Linux Library “Linux Desktop Environments”, LinuxLibrary.org