Awesome, e17, Fluxbox, KDE, LXDE, OpenBox, MATE, XFCE
So, I thought I would be cool and write a bit about some popular Desktop Environments (DE), and the time I spent with them. Some of you may not agree with me, so before you decide to complain about what I say, remember this is my opinion. If you like whichever one I may not like, don’t try to defend it to me, because I don’t care. Use it if you like it, if I don’t, big deal it’s not the end of the world.
Now with the disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin.
The first DE I’ll begin with is Awesome (In portage it’s under
The time I spent with Awesome was very brief. I can’t say that it was my favorite, and I can say I’ll never use it again. Usually, as far as tiling window managers (wm) go, I would be happy. Tiling WM’s make life easier. There’s no window placement as it does it for you. Now, maybe if I would have spent more time editing the config file and setting up to how I want it to, I’d like it better. But unfortunately, I just didn’t want to take the time to do that.
As far as functionality goes, I would say that Awesome was a pretty big disappointment. I know a lot of people like it, but it seems to be more of a hype thing than it is actually good. But again, maybe I just didn’t spend enough time with it.
There’s not much I can really say about it, it opened Terminal just fine, and pidgin, as well as Chromium, and it was nice that it had somewhat of a taskbar to navigate through my open windows. I appreciated that, but if it’s a tiling WM, why would it matter. I mean, I get wanting to minimize windows, but isn’t that what the other workspaces are for? Maybe that’s just me. Overall, if I were going to go with a tiling WM I’d probably stick with xmonad. And I know this review of Awesome is not very long, but I didn’t use it for very long, and I didn’t really like it.
The next DE I used was Enlightenment, or e17. (In the
e17 overlay, add with
Now to be fair, I have used e17 before. A very long time ago on Sabayon, they made their own spin of it. Now I haven’t used Sabayon in quite some time, so getting e17 on here was kind of fun. As I mentioned before, you have to add it with
layman, as it’s in an overlay.
Overall, I’d have to say that e17 is still a good DE. At first glance it looks clean, and runs pretty well from the get-go. I can’t say I’d use it full time, their way of focusing windows, themes, and left click for menu is not entirely my favorite. But as you can see, I changed the theme which was as simple as a left click, settings, “Appearance” or something along those lines. After that, you go to ~/Downloads (or wherever you downloaded the
theme.edj) and install it with their “Import” (might be install) tool. It’s pretty simple to do. I also changed the icon theme to the AwOken Theme.
As far as functionality, I would use this again, but it wouldn’t last very long. I would only use it every once in a while, and I’ll honestly probably get rid of it pretty soon here. I feel like e17 is one of those DE’s that you use every once in a while just for a quick change of things. I would definitely suggest this for other people to use. I liked how it was minimal and had it’s on effects.
The things I don’t like about it are that when you put your mouse to one side it will move you to the next workspace, using the keyboard shortcut:
alt+tab will force your cursor over the window it selects, the themes have very small icons, so if you want to minimize it takes a few tries and you could exit out of your current window. It defaults terminal as
xterm and nothing against it, but I don’t like
xterm. I don’t know what exactly it is, I just don’t like it. Now onto the next.
x11-wm/fluxbox in Portage)
Now, Fluxbox is a very fun DE. It’s one of my favorites. Not only is it very minimal and light, but you can edit your own menu and add in your own entries. You can use lxappearance (
lxde-base/lxappearance) to fix the ugliness when you use GTK based applications. That’s always a plus. If you don’t mind the ugliness then you don’t need to use it. I prefer everything to follow a certain theme, so I use it.
Overall, I would have to say that Fluxbox is one of the best DE’s I have used. Definitely one of the first things I install after I install my main DE of choice, which I’ll get to in a bit. I like how minimal Fluxbox is, while still looking sleek, as well as feeling like I have complete control over what’s going on. I have a lot of things installed, but not everything needs a menu entry. Some things such as VirtualBox (
app-emulation/virtualbox-bin), or htop (
sys-process/htop), as I can run those through a terminal if I need to use them. I like having Fluxbox around as a backup DE, or even just for a change of pace.
Functionality of Fluxbox is great. You can use it right away, and theming it is very simple. Even adding themes is simple as just adding them to
/usr/share/fluxbox/styles and then selecting it from the “Styles” menu. You can use any filemanager you’d like, I chose to use Thunar, but you could use pcmanfm or Dolphin, or even Nautilus. It’s a very small as well, so it doesn’t use much RAM or anything else. Though with my 6 GB of RAM, I don’t think it’s going to matter much. I will definitely keep using Fluxbox as time goes on. As lightweight as it is, you could run it on and old machine, or even a newer machine if you’d like. If you want a very minimal X environment, I would suggest Fluxbox.
Now onto KDE (
kde-base/kde-meta in Portage).
I have not used KDE in such a long time, last time was I believe Sabayon 5.5. And I will say that KDE has come a very long way from the last time I used it. KDE has never really been a favorite of mine, as it reminds me a lot of Windows. Some people may beg to differ, but it reminds me way too much of Windows.
I would consider using KDE again though, as it did not give me any problems. Konsole, KDE’s terminal (
kde-base/konsole), is very good. I enjoy the way that it works. With the tabs at the bottom, and it looks clean. I do not really like the desktop effects, though I have not been a fan of that since way back with Compiz-fusion and GNOME 2. Once I disabled those, KDE became much more usable for me. Dolphin filemanager works great, and theming it is very simple. It took me a while to figure out exactly what I was doing, or looking for as far as theming goes. It was a little confusing at first, but once I figured out how to do it, it was very easy. You can install themes directly from Kde-look, or from the theme options. It has a ‘search for new themes’ option which uses Kde-look. Very nice.
Functionality wise I will say again that KDE has come a long way. A lot more usable now than when I used it last, and it plays well with GTK based apps. Very easy to navigate, though a little resource heavy. I can’t say that I won’t use it again, because there’s a chance I will. I would definitely suggest KDE to someone first getting into Linux as it does have more of a Windows feel to it than maybe GNOME or XFCE. I used KDE for quite a bit of time, and I couldn’t find something wrong with it other than the Windows thing. Changing the settings is easy, changing the themes is easy, changing icons is easy. Changing the icon from the default KDE icon to the Gentoo icon was easy. It’s just all around pretty user friendly.
I would not use it as my fulltime desktop, but maybe the one I’ve been using has just spoiled me, but I would consider using it as a change of pace from time to time. I don’t know if it will ever not feel like Windows to me, but who knows, maybe one day I would use it full time. I can’t say I’ll never, but for the time being I won’t. I was pleasantly surprised with this one. It didn’t conflict or have any package blocks when I emerged it, which was a huge surprise. Another downside is that it is big, so if you are compiling it on Gentoo you may want to compile it over night. It was about 293 packages for me. I can’t say I was surprised though. It’s a very resource heavy DE.
But if you like desktop effects and all that, then use KDE. It’s doing a lot better now.
lxde-base/lxde-meta in Portage)
I have some mixed feelings about LXDE. On one hand it’s very minimal and light, as it’s based on Openbox. On the other hand I don’t really like it. I like that it’s light, and it’s pretty simple to edit themes and change the look of the panel, and menu icon.
I don’t know if I would use it as my main DE, though. If I had no choice I would choose it over Awesome though. The time I’ve spent using it, which is on more than one occasion, I have somewhat enjoyed it. Everything runs very smoothly, and again it’s very light. It does not require many dependencies and does not use very many resources. I like that, I don’t want something that is heavy. I have never successfully gotten my volume keys working on it though. I’m sure there’s a way, but I’ve never really looked into it.
Functionality is very good, though. It works very fast, logging into it takes less than a few seconds. You click on it from your desktop manager (lxdm, gdm, kdm, xdm, slim, lightdm), type in your password and it’s there. I do like that, I don’t want to wait for 5 minutes just to start using my computer. Changing the themes is as simple as opening the OpenBox configuration and setting what window borders to use. Changing the panel is as simple as a right click>Panel preferences>Appearance. It can use many of the different themes, GTK or QT, and it looks fairly decent. It can also use lxappearance to make the GTK apps look better. As you can see I’m very partial to darker themes, and having the ability to use that in LXDE definitely went a long way. I would have to say that I will probably use it again at some point, but I can’t say I’d use it as a main DE for any reason. It just doesn’t suit me.
The way I see LXDE is just OpenBox with the LXPanel. I assume you could install OpenBox and then just install the panel as well (
lxde-base/lxpanel) and it would be good to go. I can’t quite put my finger on what I don’t like about it, other than the volume issue, as it works very fast and very well. I don’t know if I would keep installed on a system though. I don’t even know if I’d use it for a change of pace. Though, it does just work, which is one thing a lot of people just want to have. I don’t blame them, don’t want to spend hours trying to get things to be how you want it to be, it just is with LXDE. I would definitely use it on a machine that had less power than this one does, maybe a netbook or a laptop that had a single core processor with 1 GB of RAM. I would say that if you have an older machine lying around that you want to put Linux on, LXDE would be the way to go.
x11-wm/openbox in Portage)
OpenBox is a very good DE if you like minimal things and relying on specific keybindings. You have to set those keybindings on things like Gentoo, but Archbang and Crunchbang both have them preset for you. I also have mixed feelings about OpenBox as I do with LXDE. Very light, and pretty much just works.
A lot the same as LXDE as far as theming goes. There is no panel, though you could add one, such as tint2 or LXPanel, or even the XFCE panel. It uses the pcmanfm, and also supports the lxappearance to make GTK apps look better while running it.
Functionality is very much the same as LXDE, and I would suggest it to some people, but not all. It’s not as tedious as Fluxbox is as far as editing menus, but it can be frustrating to use sometimes. I’ve found that to be true, at least. Starts out very bare, no wallpaper (on Gentoo), and the menu is also very bare. I did not change anything in the menu as I wanted to get started on this post. I can’t say that I would never use it, but I can’t say that I’ll keep it installed either. For me, I like having a panel there, and OpenBox, believe it or not, is a little too minimal for me.
That being said I don’t have much else to say about it. It’s pretty much 100% LXDE, because LXDE branched from OpenBox.
layman -a mate; mate-base/mate in Portage)
MATE is a very well put together project, and is definitely gaining a lot of popularity. It comes from some developers from Linux Mint, as far as I know, and it is very functional and has the good old GNOME 2 feel to it. The reason that it’s not readily available in Portage is because the default GNOME is still GNOME 2, but I have a feeling that will change soon.
Functionality is the same as it was in GNOME 2, same GTK themes, supports Compiz-Fusion, MATE-Terminal is identical (almost) to GNOME-terminal from GNOME 2. It’s just all around a good DE to use. If you want to use GNOME 2 and it’s no longer available to you, I would say use MATE. I can’t say enough that it’s almost identical to GNOME 2. I loved it the time that I used it, which mind you was for a few weeks. If you started out using GNOME 2 and were as upset as I was when it was done, using MATE is a huge nostalgia.
Most of your favorite applications have been renamed to be more MATE fitting, but as you use them, you will feel like you’re using GNOME 2. At least, that’s the feeling I got. All the settings were the same, and it even let’s you know when you’ve inserted a blank media (usb, DVD, CD) or a movie or data disc, that it’s been mounted. Theming it is as simple as getting something from Gnome-look and installing it from System>Settings>Appearance. You just install it the same way you would in GNOME 2. It’s awesome.
I don’t have anything bad to say about MATE, but for someone who never was a fan of GNOME I would not suggest you even want to try it, unless you go using it with an open mind.
Last but certainly not least, XFCE. (
xfce-base/xfce4-meta in Portage)
Just one screenshot, as you’ve probably seen enough of my XFCE installs.
I started using XFCE when GNOME 3 came along, because I hated it. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first, but when I started to get the hang of it, it became my favorite DE. I don’t think I could ever use something else. It’s very minimal, lighter on resources than GNOME or KDE, but not as light as LXDE, but that’s okay. It runs very fast, saves your last login so if you want to keep windows open you had, you can select that option and it will auto-open those windows on your next login. The panel has many add-ons and plugins, it also will run qt-apps as well as GTK apps (it’s based on GTK so I would hope so).
Functionality is very well. There are a few downsides to it sometimes though. The auto-opening of apps can get annoying sometimes, and trying to make it look like GNOME 2 is simple, but it’s never going to be the same. It runs well with Compiz-Fusion, and Xfce4-terminal can have transparency, as you can see from the screenshot. I don’t want to sound completely biased towards this, but it’s probably the best DE I’ve ever used. I’ve tried using other ones and they just don’t work for me.
I don’t really know what else to say (I’m not always the best at writing reviews on things) but if you want me to go in depth on one of these DE’s, please let me know and I will. Just let me know in the comments here, and let me know what you guys use, and why you use it. I always love to hear why someone uses something.
Thanks for reading.