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Ubuntu Desktop Environments

What is a Desktop Environment?

A desktop environment, in computing, is a desktop metaphor implementation made of a set of programs executing on the top of an operating system that distribute a common GUI. It is also sometimes defined as a graphical shell. A DE was mostly seen on personal computers until the mobile computer rise. Desktop graphic user interfaces help the user for easily accessing and editing files while they don't give access to every feature seen in the underlying operating system.

The traditional CLI is instead still used if complete control on the operating system is needed. A desktop environment composed of desktop widgets, wallpapers, folders, toolbars, windows, and icons. Also, a GUI might give drag and drop functionality and other aspects that create the desktop metaphor more flexible.

  • A desktop environment focuses to be an intuitive way of interacting with the computer with concepts that are the same as those applied if interacting with the physical world like windows and buttons.
  • While the desktop environment term originally defined a user interface style pursuing the desktop metaphor.
  • It also has come to define the programs that identify the metaphor itself.
  • This usage has been famous by projects like the GNOME, K Desktop Environment, and Common Desktop Environment.

Some Desktop Environments for Ubuntu

Usually, the desktop environment is the core of the Linux desktop system for how it feels and looks. If we do not get a great user experience, it will be hard to utilize a Linux distribution on our desktop. Trying out all desktop environments is a very tiring and time-consuming task. So, we have made a list of some best desktop environments present for Ubuntu along with their advantages and disadvantages.

Ubuntu Desktop Environments


It is one of the most famous desktop environments out there. Also, it is referred to as the plasma desktop. But it is extremely lightweight and highly customizable.

It appears as KDE has handled for beating XFCE is one of the lightest desktop environments. Not only restricted to the test of Jason, but we will also find several benchmark tests and comparisons that point to a similar result.

Also, KDE makes it simpler to connect our phone with our Linux system with the help of KDE Connect. We will also see the browser integration of Plasma that connects our phone directly to our browser to establish quick communication. It overall looks like KDE is an extremely lightweight and one of the most compact desktop environments as well.

As a default, a few distributions of Linux with KDE are KDE Neon, Kubuntu, and openSUSE.

Advantages of KDE

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Various useful built-in tools
  • Highly flexible and customizable experience
  • Polished and modern user interface

Disadvantages of KDE

  • The customization tools and options might be too overwhelming for beginners, leading to confusion.


This desktop environment works on the basis of GNOME 3. Initially, it was designed for the users who were not so happy with the current GNOME 3 (GNOME shell iteration). Even though it is based on the GNOME 2, the team of MATE has developed the desktop environment on many grounds. For getting some idea, we might wish to check out what MATE 20.04 has to provide.

MATE desktop is convenient for almost everyone, especially for those who liked the GNOME 2 but do not like the new GNOME. Also, it is worth noting that it's a lightweight DE in inclusion to the user experience. MATE provides a set of common applications and contains several useful built-in tools.

Ubuntu MATE is one of the Ubuntu official flavors that uses the MATE desktop. A few other famous distributions of Linux like Manjaro, Linux Mint, etc, also provide the editions of MATE of their distributions.

Advantages of MATE

  • Easy yet customizable
  • Lightweight
  • Robust and easy-to-use experience

Disadvantages of MATE

  • May not provide the most impulsive user experience


Arguably, GNOME is the most famous desktop environment. Many of the famous Linux distributions utilize it as a default desktop environment and it contains a few famous forks like Cinnamon. GNOME is developed to be customizable and easy to use. The user interface focuses to offer a special experience (type of tailored for both desktops and mobiles).

GNOME is unfortunately not a lightweight environment. So, it is not a great selection to proceed with if we are looking for installing a Linux distro on previous systems or computers with less than 4 GB RAM.

It is good to see that GNOME is concentrating on the performance side with their latest GNOME 3.36 version as well. So, if we wish for a good user experience that appears different from the traditional windows layout, we should go for GNOME. A few major distributions using GNOME are Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, Fedora, and Debian. Not to forget the 20.04 version of Pop OS that also provides several good things with the GNOME desktop environment.

Advantages of GNOME

  • Customizable
  • Can increase functionalities from GNOME Shell Extensions
  • Touch-friendly and modern user interface

Disadvantages of GNOME

  • User interface is not tailored for the users of Windows
  • Not suitable for previous computers


Undoubtedly, Cinnamon is also one of the most famous and best desktop environments of Linux alongside KDE and GNOME. Every credit goes to the community of Linux Mint, who forked out the shell of GNOME 3 and customized it for building and developing such a finer desktop.

The team of Linux Mint could not go for the GNOME shell because it did not fit their aims, but the alternative was not there. That is when a developed GNOME shell version was made and was known as MGSE (Mint GNOME Shell Extensions). But MGSE did not meet the Linux Mint team's expectations and they began the Cinnamon project for creating a forked graphical shell.

  • Cinnamon has fitted into a full desktop environment, but a few people still think it is a graphical shell. It's all about user experience, full of effects and animations.
  • Cinnamon is one such desktop that provides a more familiar and easier experience to people switching from Windows.
  • Besides, Linux Mint and other distributions of Linux have also accepted Cinnamon for giving users full and slick control of the desktop.
  • It includes unofficial variants of Ubuntu such as Manjaro Linux, Fedora, EndeavourOS, and Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix.

Advantages of Cinnamon

  • Easy designing and theming
  • Desklet
  • Snappy and fast
  • Windows-like and clean user interface

Disadvantages of Cinnamon

  • The user interface leaves much more to be wanted and is not that intuitive and modern-looking


It is another Ubuntu desktop environment that particularly focuses on machines with restricted hardware resources. It is a lightweight desktop environment that is developed according to the standards recommended by Xfce lacks special effects and animations. But it does not fail to add every necessary feature and component that one would expect from a famous lightweight desktop environment.

We still get a user-friendly and visually appealing graphical interface though it utilizes fewer resources of the system. Also, Xfce offers several plugins and applications that we can use for extending our desktop the way we like.

For instance, a DVD and CD burning application, iCal-based calendar, image viewer, application finder, sound mixer, text editor, and terminal emulator. Another important Xfce feature is support for many UNIX platforms. We can compile it for Ubuntu and other Unix-like operating systems like Mac OS X, Cygwin, Solaris, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and NetBSD. Also, there is an official flavor of Ubuntu, i.e., Xubuntu that provides the Xfce desktop.

Advantages of Xfce

  • Supports many Unix-like platforms
  • Best suitable for old hardware
  • Easy-to-use and simple

Disadvantages of Xfce

  • Lacks any type of animation which makes it realize very plain to use.
  • User experience can be better.


Deepin is the great desktop environment of Linux that also looks the same as macOS if we are looking for a visually engaging desktop. Deepin Desktop Environment is one of the most beautiful desktops integrated by Deepin Technology Co., Ltd. It's a default desktop within the Deepin Linux distribution via a similar company.

Also, it gives a layout and animation that enhances its feel and look besides its dignity. UbuntuDDE is the modern distribution of Linux that associates the power of Deepin and the Ubuntu desktop. It is however also available for installation on other distributions of Linux such as Fedora and Arch Linux.

Advantages of Deepin

  • Seamless Deepin control center and dock
  • Applications are specified with the Deepin GUI toolkit
  • Most attractive macOS-like user interface

Disadvantages of Deepin

  • Utilizes several system resources; so, is not suitable for earlier computers.


If we have ever listened to the Ubuntu-based Elementary OS, often known as the most attractive Linux distribution, we might be known to Pantheon (its default desktop environment).

The core applications of Pantheon, written in C and Vala, are either developed from the bottom to the right side or search for their roots inside the GNOME applications. The design Pantheon pursues a philosophy of minimizing the requirement of the command line.

Also, it is considered a classic and macOS-like desktop like the Deepin desktop. The desktop screen bottom offers a macOS-style dock in which the users can curve their favorite applications. Pantheon could be a good choice if we wish for a lightweight desktop environment without accommodating the looks.

Advantages of Pantheon

  • Lightweight and minimal
  • macOS resemblance
  • Attractive and clean user interface

Disadvantages of Pantheon

  • Getting used to the styles and Windows of the Apps could take some time.


The LXQt finds its home in the Linux distribution designed for carrying the tag, i.e., "lightweight desktop for Linux". The components and applications for this desktop environment are developed with KDE and Qt Frameworks 5. The Lightweight QT Desktop Environment may not please the users who see comfort in an attractive user interface advertising its graphics on the machines. But it will execute on older machines along with lesser display resolution and hardware resource scarcity.

Also, LXQT is considered a replacement for Xfce. Also, it's by default shipped in not to the official and most famous Lubuntu Ubuntu flavor. However, some Linux distributions publish an edition with the LXQt desktop as compared to Xfce.

Advantages of LXQt

  • Less resource utilization
  • Good user interface
  • Lightweight and fast

Disadvantages of LXQt

  • Not the most perceptive user interface experience


It is the Solus family face developed by the Solus Project. Raven is the USP of Budgie- an associated area for widgets, notifications, and many customization options. It permits an easy approach to the calendar and distinct control options for power options, audio playback, volume, etc.

Ubuntu Budgie is an official flavor of Ubuntu that by default offers the Budgie desktop. But like many other desktop environments, not many major distributions support it out of the box. So, if we wish for a Budgie desktop we should probably use either Solus operating system or Ubuntu Budgie.

Advantages of Budgie

  • Attractive user interface
  • Consolidated home for notifications
  • Luxurious and feature-rich desktop with the most latest technologies

Disadvantages of Budgie

  • Needs manual installation
  • Limited availability around distributions


This Desktop Environment is also known as E which offers a graphical shell that could be used with desktop environments such as GNOME and KDE. In case we choose to utilize it with EFL (libraries), it can perform as a full-fledged Desktop Environment of Linux.

Bodhi Linux, a famous and lightweight Linux distribution, was earlier imported with Enlightenment as the default desktop; now it applies an Enlightenment fork which is called Moksha desktop. This project of Linux desktop environment is currently developing the Wayland support with a goal to eventually transition move through X11 to Wayland with the latest 0.24.1 version of Enlightenment.

Primarily, Enlightenment is integrated on the Linux/GNU platform. So, most Linux/GNU distributions, including environments such as Tizen out-of-the-box supports Enlightenment. If we install any Enlightenment desktop, we get a variety of applications that are written with EFL such as Ephoto image viewer, Rage media player, and Terminology terminal emulator.

Advantages of Enlightenment

  • Fast and lightweight
  • Easy user interface

Common Desktop Environment

Common desktop environment or CDE is a desktop environment for OpenVMS and Unix-based systems. It has been the traditional Unix Desktop Environment collaborated with commercial workstations of Unix.

Since 1993, it has been in active development with the latest stable version being in January 2020. Since its publication as free software, it has been shipped to BSD and LINUX derivatives. The starting CDE development was a joint effort of USL, Sunsoft, IBM, and HP who published it under the title COSE (Common Open Software Environment).

Since its publication, HP declared it as a default Desktop Environment for all Unix systems. It completely became open-sourced with the source code being present on SourceForge in August 2012.

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