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Desktop environment

A desktop environment is a graphical layer between the user and the computer. In the UNIX context, a desktop manager is a graphical environment that runs inside an X session. It enables the user through mouse and keyboard interaction to access the underlying features of the operating systems. A full desktop environment (as opposed to a window manager) usually provides a set of software for the most common needs (file access, web browsing, printing…).

A desktop environment usually consists of many of the following components:

  • A native window manager to manage window placement and arrangements (some desktop environments may additionally be able to use third party Window Managers).
  • A session manager (to save and restore user's sessions).
  • A desktop manager (to manage the user's desktop, i.e. background, icons, multiple workspaces etc.)
  • A panel with menus for launching applications and additional widgets including notifications and messages.
  • A file browser.
  • A task manager to manage running applications and background tasks.
  • At least one basic graphical text editor (if not more).
  • Desktop configuration GUIs, including colours, themes, fonts etc.
  • Common utilities such as a console terminal, internet browser, power manager, bluetooth, network manager, clipboard manager and so on.
  • System administration GUIs for common actions such as printer configuration, removable device management, file associations etc.
  • Several commonly desktop applications including media player, movie player, document viewer, graphics viewer etc.

In addition, Desktop Environments usually provide integration with features such as display and ACPI power management, useful for notebooks/laptops. Modern Desktop Environments also provide or integrate with a desktop compositing engine which allows for graphical special effects such as 3D flipping of workspaces, window translucency, simple animations and shadows, but this requires 3D hardware acceleration enabled and can consume additional system resources.

Available environments

  • KDE: the K Desktop Environment.
  • XFCE: a lightweight environment based on the GTK toolkit.

Other environments

  • GNOME: since version 10.2, Gnome is no longer part of Slackware. Several community driven projects provide packages for those willing to use Gnome in Slackware.


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