Linux: How to Switch to LXDE, Xfce

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

This page tells you how install and use another desktop environment, such as Xfce, LXDE.

First, some basic explanations.

What is Window Manager, X11, Desktop?

The term Shell, or GUI Shell, is sometimes used to refer to a core part of Desktop Environment. Not to be confused with the command line “shell” (aka terminal, console, bash), which is a older, more widely understood, term.

What is GTK? What's qt?

GTK+ and qt are graphical user interface programing frameworks.

Almost all Linux GUI apps are written using either the GTK+ or Qt.

For most Linux GUI app, you have to check which lib it's from. For example, the apps in Ubuntu are mostly GTK+ based apps. If a GUI app says it's written in GTK+, that means you must have Gnome installed or you have to install the GTK+ lib.

Most apps from Gnome desktop are using GTK. Most apps from KDE desktop are using Qt. When a app is using GTK, it often require other libs from Gnome, but not always. Same for Qt with KDE.

What are the popular {Window Managers, Desktops} for Linux?


LXDE is the most efficient desktop, uses the least amount of memory and CPU.

linux lxde screenshot 2013-06-02
Linux LXDE desk environment
# install lxde desktop
sudo apt-get install lxde lxsession

or, also install all of its light-weight apps. Recommended:

# install full lxde environment
sudo apt-get install lubuntu-desktop

After install, just re-login. In the login panel, there's a menu to let you choose from installed Window Managers.

Note: “Lubuntu” means Ubuntu with LXDE desktop.

〔➤see Linux: LXDE Keyboard Shortcuts ⌨


xfce desktop screenshot 2012-10-15
Xfce desktop. 〔➤see Xah Linux Box Config
# install xfce desktop
sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop

“Xubuntu” means Ubuntu with Xfce desktop.

〔➤see Linux: Xfce Keyboard Shortcuts ⌨

How to install/switch to a different Linux desktop?

For others, do apt-cache search name to find the package name.

〔➤see Linux: Package System {dpkg, apt-get} Tutorial

Ubuntu Unity

Ubuntu Unity 5.12 2012-april 2
Ubuntu's Unity 5.12 interface, as of .

Unity is a new desktop introduced in Ubuntu around 2012.

It made a significant change from the traditional desktop. Many operations has become “smart”. They also use much more memory and CPU. Often have fancy visual effects such as transparency, animation, etc.

The “smart” behavior is great for beginner. But for advanced users, it is unpredicable and annoying. So, switch to xfce or lxde.

thanks to Casey Webster for tips.