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Distribution: Debian Wheezy / BackTrack 5/ Linux Mint 17
As root, run "apt-get --purge remove gnome-panel" (without the quotes). This will remove the complete package. To remove kde, do the same thing and insert kde where gnome is. Afterwards, I would run "apt-get clean" (without the quotes). This will clean out the local repository which after a while will eat up a lot of disk space. Hope this helps.
Try aptitude. It has special category for both kde and gnome so you can easily see what packages are currently installed. Aptitude has a help screen (press "?") that explains the keyboard shortcuts. Basically you navigate by moving the highlighted area with cursor/arrow keys and Enter. You mark packages to be removed with "-" or to be purged (removes also config files) with "_". Then you press "g" once to see a list of all the planned changes, and "g" again to execute these changes. If you notice that aptitude wants to remove/purge packages that you want to keep, mark them with "+" to cancel the removal. "q" will always take you back to the previous screen.
Distribution: Debian Wheezy / BackTrack 5/ Linux Mint 17
I did not know about aptitude, I'll have to look at that. I do have a question that relates to this thread. I see all of these packages and applications that run under KDE. If I remove KDE, will these applications not run? I have not removed KDE because of this questrion, but I am not running it as a desktop, so if it can be removed, I want to.
Debian's Advanced Package Tool (APT) sorts dependencies between packages into three groups: necessary, recommended, and suggested. Apt-get and aptitude handle these dependencies in a different manner -- while apt-get installs only necessary dependencies, aptitude installs both necessary and recommended dependencies. (You can change aptitude's defaults in the settings menu but I wouldn't recommend trying this, because it may have unexpected results if you've already installed packages with aptitude.)
So how can you utilize the differences between apt-get and aptitude? If you want as slim system as possible, with as little unnecessary packages as possible, then use apt-get. (You can still use aptitude as a browser to see what packages are installed/available.) Personally I mostly use aptitude because I've found that the recommended dependencies are often quite useful. But sometimes (usually when installing kde or gnome related apps) I notice that aptitude wants to install lots and lots of packages as dependencies. In these cases I may install the package with apt-get instead to avoid installing the "recommended" dependencies.
I see all of these packages and applications that run under KDE. If I remove KDE, will these applications not run?
If you remove kde (maybe using aptitude) and some apps you want to keep get also removed, you can re-install those packages with apt-get, which should ensure that you only install the dependencies that are necessary for running these applications. Unfortunately many kde and gnome applications are so intimately tied with kde/gnome libraries that even with apt-get you end up installing quite a lot of stuff. Then you'll just have to decide if you really need these specific apps or if there is some other application that does the same job without requiring all those kde/gnome dependencies to run.
I would use synaptic instead of aptitude, but that's just personal preference. If you do "apt-get remove --purge gnome" or the same command for kde, apt will tell you which other packages that will remove. One suggestion, rather than try to remove them piecemeal, is to remove the whole lot (both gnome and kde) and the REINSTALL the ones you really need. I think you'll find, since you already have a working desktop environment, that it isn't many. The effort of manually reinstalling them will ensure that you're fairly discriminating.
Hmm, you certainly have a lot of stuff in that small hd.
Another alternative would be to start from scratch, format the hd (with dd and knoppix), do a minimal install, then use apt-get to install XFCE4 plus the apps you NEED. It shouldn't go over 1 MB total, that leave you with 5 GB to play with.
Isn't there a command for apt-get that will install recommended packages as well as dependecies? I always assumed there was one, but I haven't read the apt-get man/howto enough to find it yet. And by default does Synaptic install or not-install recommended packages?