Linux is a versatile and customizable open source operating system. You can make the Linux distros as per your requirement. Ubuntu is one of the best Linux distro out there which comes pre-packed with unity desktop environment, Ubuntu Gnome, Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu cinnamon etc. There are some other distros, which based on Ubuntu but comes with a different Desktop Environment i.e Elementary OS, Linux Mint OS, Lubuntu, Kubuntu and much more.
So if you are running Ubuntu unity desktop, and want to get the taste of another desktop, what should you do? Will you install all the desktop one by one? The answer is no. You can try all but one by one. This will save your Linux system and time as well.
Best Linux Desktop Environment for Ubuntu
Keeping this thought in mind, I am going to share a list of Best Desktop Environment and shells, which can be installed on different Ubuntu versions through Terminal.
1. GNOME Shell
Gnome desktop is used by officially supported Ubuntu Gnome flavor, and developed for Gnome 3 by the Gnome Project. Gnome Shell is a powerful desktop environment, which makes hardware acceleration like Ubuntu Unity. This shell is having a powerful extension store, which enhances the utility of the desktop. Gnome shell does not offer any minimize functionality of the window, rather it gives emphasis on active overview and workspace to manage open windows.
Run the following command to Install Gnome in Ubuntu and Linux Mint.
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3 sudo apt-add-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3-staging sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install gnome-shell
Though Gnome shell is heavily developed, sometimes it may cause a problem to your system. so if you want to revert back to an earlier phase, do follow the sequence very carefully.
Uninstall ubuntu gnome desktop and its dependencies. Run the command…
sudo apt-get remove ubuntu-gnome-desktop sudo apt-get remove gnome-shell sudo apt-get remove --auto-remove ubuntu-gnome-desktop
This will remove all the Gnome files and dependencies, which are no longer required. Now it’s time to purge system configuration file. Follow the command in Terminal.
sudo apt-get purge ubuntu-gnome-desktop sudo apt-get purge --auto-remove ubuntu-gnome-desktop sudo apt-get autoremove
sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm sudo apt-get remove gdm sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop sudo apt-get install unity
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop sudo apt-get install --reinstall lightdm
Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment, which takes fewer resources, and does not demand hardware acceleration to run. It’s basically made for a Unix-like distro. Xfce is very fast and user-friendly. This handy desktop environment comes with some unique apps and panel extension, which increases the utility of the system. Install it by the following command.
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sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop
To install additional apps and extension, use the following command.
sudo apt-get install xfce4-goodies
To install Xfce 4.12 on Ubuntu 14.04 and 15.04:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xubuntu-dev/xfce-4.12 sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get dist-upgrade sudo apt-get install xfce4
To uninstall PPA:
sudo apt-get install ppa-purge sudo ppa-purge ppa:xubuntu-dev/xfce-4.12
3. KDE Plasma
After Gnome, KDE Plasma is the most used and customized desktop environment. It’s highly customizable, and the range of options is just incredible. Unlike Ubuntu Unity 3D, it demands accelerated hardware for a smooth run. To install run the following command in Terminal.
To install Plasma
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get full-upgrade
sudo apt-get install ppa-purge sudo ppa-purge ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get dist-upgrade sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop
4. LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment)
LXDE is an incredibly lightweight desktop environment, which gives focus on high performances by using less resource. It does not need any hardware acceleration, rather it can be run on a very old machine. It’s very fast, have huge customization, and takes less memory. Run the following code in Terminal.
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install lxde
Cinnamon is a very popular desktop environment. It’s the default DE on Linux Mint. This desktop environment comes from Gnome shell, thus it demands high hardware acceleration and a 3D environment. This desktop is helpful to those users, who come from windows OS. With the help of extension manager, cinnamon can do lots of productivity task.
Run the following command to install the latest Cinnamon Desktop on Ubuntu.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:embrosyn/cinnamon sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install cinnamon
To remove Cinnamon from the system, run the command.
sudo apt-get remove cinnamon sudo apt-get autoremove
Pantheon is lightweight and modular based desktop environment used in elementary OS as default user interface. The GUI is similar to Apple’s Mac OS. This DE can be installed on any machine running Ubuntu.
To install Pantheon on latest Ubuntu
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/daily sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/os-patches sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/testing sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mpstark/elementary-tweaks-daily sudo apt update sudo apt dist-upgrade sudo apt install elementary-theme elementary-icon-theme elementary-default-settings elementary-desktop
Or if the above does not work…
Ubuntu — 12.04 and up
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/daily sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install elementary-desktop
7. GNOME Flashback (Ubuntu Classic/GNOME Panel)
Gnome Flashback is basic and classic desktop environment, which gives a pure taste of Ubuntu. It’s lightweight and fast. Basically, it’s based on early version of the Ubuntu.
For ubuntu latest
sudo apt-get install gnome-session-flashback
For Ubuntu 12.04-13.10
sudo apt-get install gnome-panel
sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback
8. MATE Desktop
MATE is a forked version of Gnome 2. When Gnome 3 created, many users wanted to stay with the old version of Gnome 2. Thus this desktop environment is being made to have the old taste. This DE can be used on an old laptop.
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Install MATE Desktop on Latest Ubuntu. Run the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/xenial-mate sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get upgrade sudo apt-get install mate-dock-applet
To uninstall and remove Mate Desktop:
sudo apt-get install ppa-purge sudo ppa-purge ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/xenial-mate
Install MATE Desktop on Ubuntu 15.10. Run the following commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/wily-mate sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get upgrade sudo apt-get install mate-dock-applet
To uninstall and remove Mate Desktop:
sudo apt-get install ppa-purge sudo ppa-purge ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/wily-mate
9. Unity 8/Next (Desktop mode)
As it seems that Ubuntu is going to discontinue the development of homemade Unity desktop. But here I will be showing how to install Unity 8 for those who really want to taste this best desktop environment.
Remember this DE is in early stage and under heavy development, thus provides an unstable system and lots of security bug. Use at your own risk.
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
sudo apt-get install unity8-desktop-session-mir
Add the Stable Phone Overlay PPA
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ci-train-ppa-service/stable-phone-overlay sudo apt update sudo apt upgrade
Ubuntu 14.10 and 15.04
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install unity8-lxc
Ubuntu 12.04 and 14.04:
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:unity8-desktop-session-team/unity8-preview-lxc sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get upgrade sudo apt-get install unity8-lxc
For setting up run the following command
To remove Unity 8 use this command:
sudo apt-get remove unity8-lxc
Budgie is a regular and flagship DE made for Solus OS. This DE provides customization about desktop widgets, themes, icon theme, dark theme mode and in-depth features of the panel. Here you can install this desktop environment by the following command into Terminal.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:budgie-remix/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install budgie-desktop
To remove or purge
sudo apt-get install ppa-purge sudo ppa-purge ppa:budgie-remix/ppa
Awesome is less power hog desktop environment, which gives a lot of control over the system. To install this environment, just run the following command in Terminal
sudo apt-get install awesome
To get highly customized and organized desktop environment, use Qtile. This DE is solely written in Python and does its job nicely. To get it, run the following command…
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:tycho-s/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install qtile
This DE is very lightweight and available to install on Ubuntu. Follow the command to install.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:razor-qt sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install razorqt
#. i3 Window Manager on Ubuntu ( Mentionable)
i3wm is one of the popular tiling Window Manager which is quite easy to configure, learn and lightweight. It’s not a complete desktop environment rather it provides full functionality to control the windows of the screen. i3wm is available on Ubuntu repositories so you can install easily by running the following command.
sudo apt update sudo apt install i3
Here you must remember not to install many desktop environments at a go, which can damage your Ubuntu or Linux Mint system. Before installing any DE, you must understand the procedure, and how to uninstall or revert back to the earlier system. Many DE version changes often. So if you find any DE listed here is old, then let me know.
What Did You Do?
Did you install any DE from here? Which one did you like most? Share your experiences and suggestions in the comment section.