Home Linux Community Forums New to Linux Getting Started with Linux What's the difference between:Gnome +Mate / LXDE / KDE?

What's the difference between:Gnome +Mate / LXDE / KDE?

Link to this post 08 Apr 12

HI everyone. I just got into looking at the different Linux distress and deciding which one to choose and I have narrowed my choice down to either Mint or Ubuntu. I just don't know the difference between the different versions of each distribution. Thanks a lot for your help.


Link to this post 08 Apr 12

Gnome, Mate, KDE, LXDE and XFCE are all different Desktop Managers. One must try them to actually see the differences. I'm a fan of KDE, well, it's the most configurable to me. Other folks like the new look of Gnome (Gnome3), because it looks more like a modern day tablet or phone. Mate is a fork of Gnome 2. They forked it because many of the Gnome 2 fans did not like the new look of Gnome 3 (Mate is Gnome 2 unchanged). Cinnamon is another fork of Gnome 2, except that it uses the shell of Gnome 3. Unity is Ubuntu's answer to Gnome 3 and LXDE and XFCE are older, stable (but still improving) lighter desktop managers, and, there are many more.

If you're looking at Ubuntu, as I said before, they feature the Unity desktop. One of the other mods here favours it, as do many of the Ubuntu fans, although many of the older Ubuntu fans didn't like the new look and changed distros. BTW - The reason Ubuntu created Unity was because they didn't like the look of Gnome 3. Mint, which is/was a more user friendly version of Ubuntu, didn't like the new look of Unity, and, started creating their own desktop manager so they wouldn't have to use Unity. They created Cinnamon, which is a cross between Gnome 2 and Gnome 3 with the look and feel of Gnome 2.

Heh, confused yet? Which is the reason I said you have to try them for yourself to see which one you prefer. Live CD's are a good way to get a feel for a distro and their corresponding desktop managers. They run a bit slower than the installed to hard drive version would be, but they are good for testing and getting used to the look and feel.

Most of the different desktop managers have all the features that the others have, and, there's no reason why you couldn't run a Gnome based application in KDE or vice versa. When I switched to Gnome a few years back I used to run a lot of KDE applications with it. When I switched back to KDE, I continued to use some of the Gnome applications that I was comfortable with when I used Gnome.

The nice thing about Linux is you get to choose what you like and include it in the distro you're running. Or, you can choose a distro and then pick and choose the features you like during installation, so, it's not the same as the default version.

If you've looked at Ubuntu and Mint, give their Live CD's a try and see how they feel. I'm running Fedora right now, and, I can download Live CD's in many flavours. The default of Gnome 3, the KDE version, the XFCE version or the LXDE version. Even though Fedora defaults to Gnome 3, I decided to use the KDE version, and I chose that when installing. The install DVD has all the choices in one place, or, you can install directly from the Live CD's of each version.

If you have any other questions, please ask. I hope my answer helped more than it confused, heh.


Link to this post 09 Apr 12

Hey Tom,

Thanks for writing back and believe it or not, I only got confused when you started in on the Gnome 2/3 and anti-Unity Desktop manager stuff. So I appreciate you taking the time to type all of that out. I decided to download the distress for both the 32 and 64 bit versions of Mint and Ubuntu. I tried them both out in Virtualbox but I don't think I did them justice by doing that because I noticed a lag that I don't think would have existed if I had just installed them on a partition using Boot Camp. I couldn't find much information on the compatibility with a 2011 MBP other than "install the 32-bit version if you have any doubt about the compatibility." I would do that, but I was also like to take advantage of the 64-bit version and see how it would run under normal conditions when all system resources are available as opposed to only half. Thanks again for the first response and feel free to give me your advice on this.


Link to this post 10 Apr 12

Since you mentioned Boot Camp, I'm assuming you're using a MAC. In some cases installing Linux on a MAC is troublesome, but not always. I would advise going to the forums of the distro that you've chosen to install, and search for the model MAC you have and see if there are any problems or tricks that were used to successfully install (or just Google the info). If I'm wrong about you having a MAC, then .... nevermind. :D

If your choosing whether to use a 32 or 64 bit version of Linux, the choice is up to you, as long as your CPU is a 64 bit processor. To this day, I still use 32 bit on all my installs. The one I'm using right now is an AMD Phenom X4 and I know it sounds like blasphemy to some, but, I still find it easier to maintain a 32 bit OS. The reason is that even though applications are compiled for 64 bit, many still were written for 32 bit, and, have to use 32 bit libraries. I still say that once all applications are written explicitly for 64 bit, then, I'll start using 64 bit. Many of my Linux friends would disagree, but, that's the choice I make. If you have a spare partition, and, are just testing, you can install one, experiment with it, then install the other and see if it makes a difference for you. The choice is yours. I am not restricted using any system resources by using 32 bit.

BTW - I've never used a MAC or Boot Camp so I can't give you first hand knowledge. I only know that in the Fedora Forums, I see folks with MACs using the standard Fedora installer. I don't know what advantage or disadvantage using or not using Boot Camp will make.

Keep us informed of your progress.


Link to this post 10 Apr 12

As far as my knowledge, there is no diffs amongst all Linux os related the core architecture. It seems that, only GUI part might be changed in various Linux OS. There r so many flavors like SuSE, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Fedora, Mint, Debian and so on in which some r free / non free. It is not a matter either a pc 64/ 32 bit cause almost all Linux os supports both and they have super gui features that almost equiv to windows / mac. Actually, there r very little bit of diffs in all Linux flavors, while all r used more/less same kernel ver. I am not going to write a long story on Kernel,(hope u r well versed), though for more info it is better to link Though some of Linux flavors performs specific task or well equipped with our modern technology, if u r going to use Server, it is my opinion to consider either Red Hat / SuSE. If u r using Desktop then go for SuSE / Ubuntu / Fedora. Some people likes CentOS / Mint also. Basically, Linux is command line / terminal centric OS though modern Linux os supports wonderful GUI features also. I don't know whether u r using Mac, but it is also possible to install MAC on Linux env thru virtual box / boot camp / vmware. Even u can install triple boot without boot camp. Though I installed Mac on Linux thru vmware workstations.

Link to this post 10 Apr 12

Hey again Tom,

You have assumed correctly as I am using a Mac. And so far, it has been more troublesome that I thought it would be. It of course might be the way that I am choosing to install the different distros that is causing these problems, but I will let you know what I've done and see what you or others might say about it.

I did install both the 32 and 64-bit versions of Mint and Ubuntu and ran them via VirtualBox with all the proper settings and I was disappointed with the performance. That is most likely due to my system because I only have 4GB of RAM and only using half of the available RAM to run each of the Linux OSes is creating the bugs where there shouldn't be any. The menu bars on both of the distros disappear and I lose a lot of functionality which I don't think I would lose if I installed it via bootcamp.

Update: I deleted VirtualBox and will reinstall that at a later date if necessary but I will be installing Linux Mint via BootCamp along with WindowsXP(I need it for school). To make sure it works though and that it actually give e the option to select the Linux partition, I have to install and application called "rEFIt," that modifies the boot menu to allow for more than one bootcamp partition.

I agree with you on the 32 vs 64 bit. When I first got my iMac in 2009, they were just starting to rewrite all of the main system applications to work with the 64-bit architecture and I waited until all of the system apps were done that way before I configured the kernel to boot into 64-bit mode. I didn't see the point otherwise.

And as an aside, what got you interested in Linux in the first place? I am completely happy with my Mac and love the OS but there is just something about Linux that has grabbed my attention and it's almost becoming an obsession. One of the first things(if not the first thing) I do when I boot my computer is check Linux news and search around for distress that I like and things like that. Do you think that a burgeoning interest in coding and other computer stuff actually leads someone to a different OS?

And another aside, I am in college and getting very tired of the Microsoft monopoly in education. Apple might be on the side of the students in that regard, but the teachers and the systems still rely on Windows and Microsoft programs. I am just looking forward to the day when I will no longer need a Windows partition to fulfill class requirements.


Who we are ?

The Linux Foundation is a non-profit consortium dedicated to the growth of Linux.

More About the foundation...

Frequent Questions

Linux Training / Board