10 Best and Most Popular Linux Desktop Environments of All Time

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Aaron Kili

Aaron Kili is a Linux and F.O.S.S enthusiast, an upcoming Linux SysAdmin, web developer, and currently a content creator for TecMint who loves working with computers and strongly believes in sharing knowledge.

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39 Responses

  1. Bo says:

    Plasma, Gnome, and Enlightenment wants Wayland. Unity is Dead. Lxqt and Mate are trying to use MIR or Kwin as Window mangers. The rest of them will have to stick with X11. Do you want X 11 Forever. Sway seems interesting.

  2. Cem says:

    KDE is (as far as i know) the only desktop environment that launch an application as another user. That’s good plus.

    • Aaron Kili says:


      Yap, KDE is really cool; it offers numerous useful functionalities for a desktop user. But it tends to consume a lot of RAM(especially when you have small RAM), i tried it before but now an using Cinnamon.

  3. Mak says:

    Thank you Aaron for this piece – your work is excellent! I am late in this discussion but Canonical is changing from Unity back to Gnome shell and I am very happy. I hated Unity
    Here is the link to Mark’s announcement https://insights.ubuntu.com/2017/04/05/growing-ubuntu-for-cloud-and-iot-rather-than-phone-and-convergence/

  4. Joseph says:

    By far the most popular desktops are unity and cinnamon at my university (I teach CS/IS and some graphic design). It is not even close. Mint is the most popular desktop distro here while Ubuntu is the most popular overall but that is split between the desktop version and the server which we use frequently at the university for class projects (terminal only).

    Gnome3 itself is probably no longer in the top 5. I have seen a lot of students give up on Debian because of Gnome3 (usually new students who don’t know they can remove gnome or don’t want to bother). Some Mac students lean toward elementary OS. Mate and LXis definitely popular because a lot of kids have older laptops and when Cinnamon is too much they default to lubuntu.

    Realistically its probably:

    1 – Cinnamon (I would say about 1/3 of our kids use this)
    2 – Unity (I would say another 1/3 use this)
    3 – KDE (maybe 1 out of every 10)
    4 – Mate (almost all the lower end PC’s who cant run Unity or Cinnamon well)
    5 – Pantheon (some of the mac laptop kids prefer this)
    6 – LXDE (when Mate is still too slow and they insist on a IDE… mainly due to Lununtu)

    Gnome3 (i would say 1 student every semester so about 1/100 or so).

  5. Whid says:

    Canonical almost lost me back in 2011 when they “forced” Unity on the world, but after 6 months on the “Mint lifeboat”, I found my way back and they completely won me over. In my opinion, Unity is just so much more polished and well designed in comparison to anything else out there. Just wish it was a bit better optimized but feel this will improve in Unity 8 which will shave off all the Compiz hackery.

    The only other DE I use frequently is GNOME 3 – I use it on my HTPC and it’s surprisingly well laid out as a “from your couch” interface. I dabble with other DEs from time to time, but nothing else has really “spoken” to me yet. Enlightenment is nice but unpolished, and I’ve never been a KDE man. Cinnamon reminds me too much of Windows. I did use XFCE for a period out of nostalgia for GNOME 2 (did the same recently with MATE), but always seem to come crawling back to Unity.

  6. Ryan says:

    I just wanted to say “Thanks for the list”. I’m always looking for something new to mess with, and my current usage is as follows (all on top of Slackware):

    KDE Plasma (for when I’m lazy or “need” things done “for” me; also love the polish and commercial feel – sometimes)

    Xfce (when I want speed and simplicity; I treat it as a glorified WM, for when I want to polish my command line skills, but still want/need a graphical interface for other tasks)

    Enlightenment (for when I want to feel uber cool and have a fully customized desktop and act like I know how to use it :P )

    Keep up the good work!

  7. lzone says:

    Are you kidding me ? Where is i3wm.org ? That’s the best one. Obviously It’s not for everyone.

    • Robert says:

      Desktop Environments are not Window Managers. i3wm is a WM like openbox, fluxbox, metacity, kwin, pantheon. Don’t mess with them.

  8. Aaron Kili K says:


    That is true, Metacity was the default window manager in GNOME 2. Many thanks for the useful correction.

  9. Hannar says:

    Clarification on Gnome 3 desktop, Mutter is the default window manager and not Metacity. Avid Mate user but finding Gnome 3 more and more appealing…

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