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Old 06-21-2011, 11:26 AM   #1
kelleydv
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What is a Desktop?


I'm in the newbie forum, which should be appropriate.

I want to understand how desktop environments relate to linux, and eventually be able to choose a desktop to my liking, on a linux distro of my liking. I don't know if I really understand though.

So, do desktop environments such as KDE, GNOME, xfce, etc. rest "on top" of the linux version (ubuntu, debian, mint, dsl, etc.) and are they mix-and-matchable in most cases?

If I used KDE on Ubuntu (Kubuntu), would there be a big difference from KDE on Fedora as far as the user experience? My intellectual (not practical) understanding, which I think is wrong, is that there would be a big difference, like in the available settings, options, applications, etc. because Ubuntu or Fedora is where all the applications reside, and KDE is simply the GUI for interacting with them. This seems partially correct, but I think I'm missing something.

I want to find out which linux distribution suits my needs and tastes most, so right now I'm installing different ones on old pc's lying around (they've been relegated to closets with "window's sickness" and assumed unusable). I eventually want to help others set up stable and useful computers too, so I'm trying to gain some knowledge and experience.
 
Old 06-21-2011, 11:30 AM   #2
acid_kewpie
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No, there's not a huge difference at all. The distro will provide alternative tools for package management etc, but they are not part of the distro. You're free to put whatever DE / WM you like ontop of your X session, but some are more easily installed and switched to than others, which does depend on the distro and their package repository contents etc.
 
Old 06-21-2011, 11:34 AM   #3
kelleydv
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Thanks, acid_kewpie. Is the main difference between, for example, Fedora and Ubuntu the drivers/hardware support that ships with the distro?
 
Old 06-21-2011, 11:39 AM   #4
TobiSGD
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The main difference between those two distros is their intention. While Fedora is a cutting edge distribution that acts as testbed for Red Hat Enterprise Linux Ubuntu is a somewhat cutting edge distribution that is aimed to be easy to use.
 
Old 06-21-2011, 11:43 AM   #5
catkin
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Yes -- desktops are layered on top of Linux + GNU etc. + X.

The term "desktop" is not defined except by usage. Typically a desktop comprises:
  • A window manager.
  • A Session Manager (logon/off, start-apps-on-logon, session save-and-restore ...).
  • The Desktop itself, running in a set of windows provided by the window manager, including:
    • Wallpaper
    • Icons (documents, links, launchers)
    • Panels (menus, launchers, separators, window list, workspace chooser, system notification area ...)
    • Multiple workspaces
    • A file manager (directory browsing, file browsing, context menus).
    • A help system
    • Running applications.
freedesktop.org publish specifications to which desktops more-or-less adhere. In principle those specifications allow different desktop components to be used interchangeably. In practice not all components play together nicely.

EDIT: most (all?) window managers can be skinned with a choice of themes. Desktops also include GUI tools for software administration and configurations; mostly these are alternatives to command line tools to do the same job -- and mostly they do not implement as much functionality and sometimes they are buggier

Last edited by catkin; 06-21-2011 at 11:48 AM.
 
Old 06-21-2011, 05:18 PM   #6
MTK358
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TobiSGD View Post
The main difference between those two distros is their intention. While Fedora is a cutting edge distribution that acts as testbed for Red Hat Enterprise Linux Ubuntu is a somewhat cutting edge distribution that is aimed to be easy to use.
Also, they use different package managers.

Anyway, the GUI is just a user-space application (X Window System), not part of the OS (like in Windows). Also, it had no built-in concepts of things like GUI controls, panels, window titlebars, desktop icons, etc., it's just a way for programs to draw on the screen and get input. A desktop environment is just a suite of X Window System applications to provide a full desktop experience (catkin listed these nicely).

Also, note that the GUI controls (the proper term for them is "widget") are not part of X nor are they part of the desktop. They are provided by "GUI toolkits" that contain functions to create widgets, arrange them, and get input from them. The most popular are GTK+ (used in GNOME, Xfce) and Qt (used in KDE). There are others, but you will rarely come across apps that use them.

Last edited by MTK358; 06-21-2011 at 05:25 PM.
 
  


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