Best Linux desktop: which is ideal for you?

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

Of course, it won't suit everyone. There's a guided tour to get you started here



As we've seen, there's a large range of lightweight desktops for Linux. However, almost all of them use the GTK toolkit which could cause problems as development has shifted to the less lightweight GTK 3. (LXDE has started work on a Qt version, but it could be some time before it's ready for mainstream use).

Many people also prefer the look and feel of Qt. RazorQT was created to fill this particular gap. It's built using the same Qt toolkit as KDE, but without any of the bloat. As yet, it doesn't have many applications, but works with the KDE ones. It's still young when compared to most of the other ones in this roundup, and we expect it to improve and start to challenge the other lightweight environments soon.


If you ask ten computer users what they want from a computer interface, you'll get ten different answers, so why should they all use the same desktop environment? The answer is simple: they shouldn't.

Because of this, we're not limiting ourselves to a single 'best desktop' because we don't think there is one, but we're not completely copping out. We're going to pick our favourite desktop in four categories: traditional, newstyle, tweakers and outlier. We feel this recognition of different styles of computer use has become especially important in the past couple of years as the desktop possibilities in Linux have diversified significantly.

There has always been a range of desktops, but now, more than ever before, there are a range of good desktops. Not all of them will suit everyone, but everyone, we think, will be able to find a desktop that works well for them.

For the traditionalists

We have to say that there are no bad choices in the category at the moment. Xfce, LXDE, Mate, Cinnamon and KDE are all great desktops. They all have good and bad points, but we think that most traditionalists would be happy with any of them. However, there has to be a winner, and we're picking Mate for the way it continues the Gnome 2 feel through to the present day.

For the brave new world

This one comes down to Gnome 3 and Unity. Plenty of people hate both, but there's definitely a demand for much bolder desktop designs. We're going to go with Unity as our top desktop for the brave new world simply because we can't align ourselves with Gnome's stripped bare design. We like we need a little bit more activity on the desktop. Yes, sometimes it distracts us, but that's not always a bad thing.

For the tweakers

Let's be honest, there was only ever going to be one winner here and it's KDE. Although, an honourable mention should go out to Cinnamon now that it includes desklets. Enlightenment is another option, though we feel it doesn't match KDE as a complete desktop environment. Maybe next year, KDE will have a challenger.

For the outliers

We're going to pick the desktop that adds the most to the world of desktops. That is, the one that has the most useful features that can't be done in any common environment. The winner offers a radically different way of doing things that we found surprisingly usable. In fact, we were tempted to switch. Hats off then to xmonad.