Originally posted by acid_kewpie
Gnome and KDE = desktop environments. These integrate their menuing systems, sound control, configuration, file associations and all that lush stuff in one single package along with their own... terminal emulator, text editor, web browser, mail client yada yada yada.
fluxbox and xfce = Window Manager. These put up a nice wallpaper, have a menu, give a window a title bar. generally not much else. you would tend to use third party apps to actually *DO* stuff.
long live window managers!
Actually xfce is a desktop environment..
Essentially the difference is whether it has a "desktop".
Window managers simply display the windows and add window decorations and change background/cursor. To give you a better idea of this, just manually run X :1
That'll put an X server on F8 (if you've got one already on F7) then run xterm -display :1
Then switch over, you'll see xterm there, you'll have a (very ugly) cursor, but you can't move the window about, there's no background, no menus etc.
Desktop environments at their simplest are the combination of a file manager and a window environment.
KDE sint' a window manager, however kwin is. You can run that just a window manager if you want.
Similarily gnome is a combination of it's own window manager and nautilus.
For a window manager I recommend fluxbox, As for file managers, I don't get on with any of them.