Help answer threads with 0 replies.
Go Back > Forums > Linux Forums > Linux - Newbie
User Name
Linux - Newbie This Linux forum is for members that are new to Linux.
Just starting out and have a question? If it is not in the man pages or the how-to's this is the place!


  Search this Thread
Old 10-11-2014, 06:35 PM   #1
Registered: Feb 2005
Location: UK
Distribution: Knoppix 3.7
Posts: 285

Rep: Reputation: 35
Someone explain Window Managers to me please

I've been doing some reading but Im getting more and more confused, I'd just like to be certain.

So I know you have 2 base GUI's as such, KDE and Gnome.

I also know there are many others, like Fluxbox, XFCE,LXDE, etc etc.

My question is this:

Are KDE, Gnome, Fluxbox, XFCE, etc all equals OR are the others all based on KDE or Gnome?

I.E can you have JUST fluxbox installed and be fully operational. Or do you need KDE/Gnome underneath and the others run on top/along side it?

I hope that makes sense? I'm not asking which is best, or which has what functionality etc. This is an architectural question really.
Old 10-11-2014, 07:41 PM   #2
Fred Caro
Registered: May 2007
Posts: 999

Rep: Reputation: 166Reputation: 166
Window managers are x clients, so the server (or in this case the Xserver, the daemon service) is present but that is interpreted by the window manager that includes gui enviornment (desktop) software. Gnome and KDE managers CAN run each other on the desktop but only one can be run with the Xserver. However, you can have both KDE and Gnome installed and boot either at run time (the start)but the gui is either governed by KDE or Gnome once you have started it.
If you want to run GNU/linux on a slow system there are many recomendations out there.

Old 10-11-2014, 07:57 PM   #3
LQ 5k Club
Registered: Mar 2008
Location: Waaaaay out West Texas
Distribution: AntiX 17 , ChromeOS
Posts: 5,075
Blog Entries: 20

Rep: Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326Reputation: 2326
I.E can you have JUST fluxbox installed and be fully operational
Sure can. That was when I ran a wbar & conky in fluxbox Window manager. Just Fluxbox only.


Think of it as a pile

On the top you have the desktop environments, Xfce, KDE, Gnome, Mate, Cinnamon etc. These provide a cohesive environment with configuration tools and in some cases a selection of specially created applications
Under them you have the Window managers. These draw windows. Desktop environments have their own window managers:

Xfce has Xfwm4
KDE has Kwin

There are also stand alone window managers such as


These can be used on their own or to handle the window drawing for a desktop environment. They are typically very lightweight and specialized. You do not have to stick with a desktop environment's default window manager. In the past I have run Xfce with Kwin which gave me all the funky effects but installed a huge amount of KDE and meant that many things had to be configured twice. I like to make things easy on myself.

Under that, you will have the display managers such as lightdm, kdm and gdm. These will give you your graphical login, start up your chosen environment and set up your session.

Under that you have xorg which handles all the low level stuff such as talking to the kernel and so on. There are some interesting things happening down here. A new display server called wayland is gaining traction. It's faster and lighter than the venerable xorg but lacks some of it's tricks such as running a program on computer a and showing the window on computer b. Canonical (Ubuntu) are also writing their own called Mir because... well I don't really know why but any guess I may make would sound paranoid and bitter

From Elija . A online bro of mine from Ireland.

Last edited by rokytnji; 10-11-2014 at 07:59 PM.
Old 10-11-2014, 08:02 PM   #4
Registered: Mar 2008
Posts: 16,350

Rep: Reputation: 2376Reputation: 2376Reputation: 2376Reputation: 2376Reputation: 2376Reputation: 2376Reputation: 2376Reputation: 2376Reputation: 2376Reputation: 2376Reputation: 2376
For the most part all of the common window managers are separate. They have no or little in common. A few of the third tier WM's may have parts in common or base in common but KDE and Gnome have little in common.

Just as you can have none installed you can also have only one. There is a slight problem however. Some gui based apps may require that you install parts of some other window manager to get it to run. Not the entire set but some subset. If you have KDE and want a gnome app to run you'd need some support.

To make stuff more complex one might code an app in QT. Then you may need support from QT in some cases. QT is not a windows manager just a way to make a gui based app.

Are they equal, no.

While X and variations of X exist and are used, the way they work is similar in some respects and much different in others. A few versions of basic windows like x still exist. MetroX, CDE and a few others are still out there.

Last edited by jefro; 10-11-2014 at 08:04 PM.
Old 10-11-2014, 09:30 PM   #5
LQ Guru
Registered: Jan 2006
Location: Virginia, USA
Distribution: Slackware, Debian, Mageia, and whatever VMs I happen to be playing with
Posts: 12,128
Blog Entries: 14

Rep: Reputation: 3067Reputation: 3067Reputation: 3067Reputation: 3067Reputation: 3067Reputation: 3067Reputation: 3067Reputation: 3067Reputation: 3067Reputation: 3067Reputation: 3067
The short version is that Window Managers are designed primarily to start and stop programs. Desktop Environments provide widgets and gadgets (the terminology can vary) that do other stuff in addition to the primary function of starting and stopping programs. Window Managers tend to use much less memory and are more responsive than Desktop Environments.

Configuring Desktop Environments is done mainly through editing text configuration files in a text editor; Desktop Environments normally provide GUI applications for configuration.

Fluxbox is based on Blackbox, so Blackbox and Fluxbox share some similarities.

I am a big fan of Fluxbox. It is highly configurable, has a minimal system tray, and can be made quite beautiful to look at, though, out of the box, it defines plain. You can see some of my Fluxbox configurations, as well as a few other GUIs, here (don't be deterred by the name of the website).

Last edited by frankbell; 10-11-2014 at 09:32 PM.
Old 10-12-2014, 11:01 AM   #6
Senior Member
Registered: Jul 2006
Location: London
Distribution: CentOS, Salix
Posts: 4,435

Rep: Reputation: 1360Reputation: 1360Reputation: 1360Reputation: 1360Reputation: 1360Reputation: 1360Reputation: 1360Reputation: 1360Reputation: 1360Reputation: 1360
I can't better rokytnji's account, but you might like to look at these pages

A very simple stand-alone window manager can be perfectly serviceable. The first GUI I ever had was Icewm, now used by AntiX, which I still like. But sometimes you need something fancy that just isn't available without a desktop, like the panel indicator that shows which of my 3 keyboard drivers is currently in use.
Old 10-12-2014, 06:22 PM   #7
Registered: Feb 2005
Location: UK
Distribution: Knoppix 3.7
Posts: 285

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 35
Thanks guys!!

Makes much more sense!


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Window Managers thorn168 General 21 05-10-2006 11:37 AM
Window Managers vs Window Shell Environments DJOtaku Linux - General 7 08-09-2005 12:43 PM
window managers jonhewer Linux - Newbie 14 05-08-2005 03:43 AM
Window Managers vs. Desktop Managers mikeshn Linux - General 4 02-11-2004 11:31 AM
Window Managers floyd Linux - General 31 04-26-2003 12:18 AM

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:27 PM.

Main Menu
Write for LQ is looking for people interested in writing Editorials, Articles, Reviews, and more. If you'd like to contribute content, let us know.
Main Menu
RSS1  Latest Threads
RSS1  LQ News
Twitter: @linuxquestions
Facebook: linuxquestions Google+: linuxquestions
Open Source Consulting | Domain Registration