Best Linux desktop: which is ideal for you?

Get the features, the looks and the freedom with the ultimate desktop environment

Of course, it is a little bit about form, and we think the incarnation of LXDE in Lubuntu has the best theme and set up, so it's a great place to start for people new to this environment.

Verdict

Best for: Low resource use
Avoid if: You like graphical effects
Try on: Lubuntu
In a nutshell: A great desktop for older machines

A few unusual choices

Enlightenment

Enlightenment

There's no way to hide the fact that Enlightenment is about eye candy. Things fade, pop and shimmer with glee any time you do anything. Some people find all these distractions and window dressing (sic) a bit too much, but for others it adds a sense of humour to their computing.

Enlightenment describes itself as a desktop shell, which means it's desktop environment without any applications supplied. Since the styling is so different from the others (from which you'll need to take software) this means the result is a system that looks inconsistent. However, if you like desktop effects, but don't like KDE, Enlightenment may be for you.

Sugar

Sugar

When Nicholas Negroponte founded One Laptop Per Child, the project kicked off with extremely limited hardware, so the developers set about creating a desktop environment that was both very light on resources and very child-friendly. Given that most of their target users had never seen a computer let alone used one before, it had to be easy to use as well.

Sugar is the result of this. It's a little too simplistic for most uses, but it's excellent for kids with its big blocky icons and a high-contrast colour scheme that make it great for their first digital steps. Try a Fedora spin here http://wiki.sugarlabs.org/go/Sugar_on_a_Stick.

Openbox

Openbox

We said at the start that a desktop environment is a tricky thing to define. Openbox is a perfect example of why. A number of the other desktop environments use Openbox as their window manager of choice (such as LXDE and razorQT). However, with some configuration, it can be turned into a desktop environment in its own right, and that's exactly what the developers of CrunchBang have done.

It's stripped bare environment that perhaps has something in common with Gnome 3, though not quite to that extreme. It's minimalism has endeared it to sysadmins and hardcore users that appreciate the lack of desktop bloat.

Puppy

Puppy

This distro has built a desktop environment around JWM, a slim window manager that's not used in many other setups. As you may be able to guess, this is one designed to be frugal with resources. The end result is pleasant, though not spectacular, and works admirably on older hardware.

It's designed in the traditional fashion and does a good job of just staying out of the way. It can look a bit dated when compared to it's more resouce-intensive cousins, but as many people find that endearing as annoying. Not many people would pick this for a new machine, but it does a great job of keeping machines running that would otherwise be scrapped.

Xmonad

Xmonad

If there's one desktop environment that stands out from all the others we have here it's this one. Before you start using it, it's best to forget everything you think you know about how a desktop should work. Right, have you done that?

The desktop in Xmonad is split into tiles, each of which contains an application. You can shuffle the tiles around, change their sizes, and focus. You can also use the mouse within the tiles, but not to sort out the desktop like you would with windows. The result looks a little peculiar, but it is surprisingly usable once you get used to the new layout.