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This question exists as it fills a specific criterion. While you are encouraged to help maintain its answers, please understand that "big list" questions are not generally allowed on Ask Ubuntu and will likely be closed per the FAQ. More information on the software-recommendation tag.

What kinds of desktop environments or shells are there for Ubuntu users to install?

Please list one desktop environment or shell per post with:

  • a description on why you like or suggest it (features, performance, etc.),
  • a good screenshot, preferably of it running on Ubuntu and showing off some of its features,
  • the minimal requirements required for it to be usable, If there is any setting to lower it's requirements(Like kde's low-fat profile), please mention how to enable said setting
  • some instructions on how to set it up, if in the repositories, please provide a software centre link

Currently most popular: Gnome Shell

share|improve this question
7  
Excellent question. For more obscure candidates, Wikipedia has articles comparing desktop environments and window managers. – Dan Dascalescu Dec 28 '12 at 11:57
4  
This would be great for discourse.ubuntu.com – djeikyb Dec 29 '13 at 1:27
    
is this the full list? Does the answers cover all of the desktop environments? – Mina Michael Feb 16 '14 at 20:13
    
@MinaMichael Not the entire list but.. it's a lot :) You can contribute if you know of any other desktop environments :)? – Amith KK Feb 17 '14 at 4:54
    
It should be noted that this list just a list of desktop environments (since that what the question asked). It is also possible to go "old school" and run a window manager (e.g. twm, fvwm and others) without any desktop environment. This approach, however, is probably not appropriate for non-experts because configuration typically involves manually editing configuration files without the help of GUI tools. – David C. Dec 4 '15 at 18:33

25 Answers 25

GNOME Shell

GNOME Shell Application Overview
GNOME Shell's Application Overview on Ubuntu GNOME 16.04LTS with GNOME 3.18

GNOME Shell is the "official" shell developed for GNOME 3 by the GNOME project. It is the default interface used by the officially-supported Ubuntu GNOME flavor.

Features

  • Uses Mutter instead of Compiz for the window manager.
  • The Activities Overview provides an easy way to view all your open windows, drag windows between workspaces, search for applications, and more.
  • The Notifications system is designed to help you quickly respond to notifications in place or to return to them at a convenient time.
  • Extensions is a powerful feature that enables you to extend the functionality and interface of GNOME Shell. Have a look at GNOME Shell Extensions website to see the available ones. For more information on how to install these extensions, see the answers to this question.
  • By default, windows cannot be minimized in GNOME Shell, as the use of Activities Overview and Workspaces are supposed to replace that. This could need some getting used to at first. Or alternatively, you can use the GNOME Tweak Tool to enable the minimize window button.
  • GNOME Shell uses automatic workspace management; at any given moment, it only keeps open as many workspaces as you have active windows on, plus an extra empty one to start more windows. When you remove all the windows from a workspace, that workspace will be removed until you need it again. Alternatively, you can use the GNOME Tweak Tool to set a static number of workspaces.

System Requirements

GNOME Shell requires hardware acceleration, and has roughly similar requirements to Unity. As of the time that this was written, the GNOME developers aim to have GNOME Shell able to run on any hardware that is at most four to five years old.

How To Get It?

Ubuntu GNOME includes a full blown GNOME desktop environment installed and used by default. This is the recommended method to get GNOME Shell installed in Ubuntu, if you don't plan to use Unity, KDE or any other desktop environment.

GNOME Shell is available in the official Ubuntu repositories. To install it on an existing install, click here:
Install GNOME Shell

Or run this in Terminal:

sudo apt install gnome-shell

Or if you prefer the GUI way, search for "gnome shell" in GNOME Software (or Ubuntu Software Center in older Ubuntu versions) and install the gnome-shell package. More instructions on how to install it can be found here.

share|improve this answer
    
Excuse me, Why Ubuntu doesn't use gnome as default desktop environment? – Daniyal May 11 '15 at 20:21
    
One of the reasons is that GNOME 3 was in development when Unity was launched. Plus, the direction that Unity takes is sometimes very different from that of GNOME. Its ultimately down to the Ubuntu devs decision. – Abhay Rana May 13 '15 at 5:54
    
can gnome-shell work on ubuntu 16.04? – Karim Samir May 1 at 20:25

Unity (Installed by default)

Unity 7.4 on Ubuntu 16.04LTS
Application Lens in Unity Dash

Founded in 2010, the Unity project started by Mark Shuttleworth and Canonical has gone on to deliver a consistent user experience for desktop and netbook users alike. Putting great design at the heart of the project, Unity and its technologies such as Application indicators, System indicators, and Notify OSD, have strived to solve common problems in the Free Software desktop while optimizing the experience for touch, consistency and collaboration.

Unity is the default shell for GNOME 3 used by Ubuntu.

Features

  • Unity is powered by Compiz window manager.
  • The Launcher is one of the key components of Unity desktop. It keeps track of currently-running applications and lets you pin your favorite applications for easy access.
  • The Dash allows you to search for applications, files, music, and videos, and shows you items that you have used recently. It can be launched by either clicking the 'Ubuntu Button' in Launcher or by pressing the Super key.
  • The topbar (known as Unity Panel) provides application and system indicators on the right corner. Unity Panel has a unique feature when compared to other desktops: it absorbs and integrates the titlebar and menubar of maximized apps, thereby freeing more vertical space for displaying useful content.
  • A global menu, similar to that used in Mac OS X, shows the application menu in Unity Panel. You can reveal the menu by hovering mouse over the left portion of Unity Panel, or by holding Alt. Alternatively, you can enable Locally Integrated Menus (LIM) to move the application menu into window titlebar.
  • The HUD is another unique feature of Unity. Hit Alt key to launch it and search for application menu items easily. Very useful for working with menu heavy apps like office suites, image editors, graphics tools, etc.

System Requirements

Unity Shell requires a 3D graphics card and hardware acceleration to run. However, it does have a 'low graphics mode' to run on less powerful hardware. See How do I know if my video card can run Unity? to determine whether your hardware can support Unity.

How To Get It?

Unity is the interface shipped with the main Ubuntu flavor. So, the recommended way to get Unity is to download and try the installation image from Ubuntu official website. However, if you are running a flavor of Ubuntu with a different desktop, you can still easily install it by clicking here:
Install Unity

Or by running this command in Terminal:

sudo apt install ubuntu-desktop
share|improve this answer
    
Compiz is currently disabled by nVidia Stereo glasses driver, which disables Unity 3D. – DragonLord Apr 4 '14 at 3:13

Xfce

xubuntu 14.04 Xubuntu 14.04; screenshot from xubuntu.org

Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for UNIX-like operating systems. It aims to be fast and low on system resources, while still being visually appealing and user friendly. It comes with various additional apps and panel plug-ins which greatly enhance the functionality of the DE.

How to get it

Click this link to install the XFCEInstall XFCE package. You can also find it in the Ubuntu Software Center, or type in a terminal:

sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop

There are more instructions here.

Ubuntu has an XFCE spin called Xubuntu (pictured above). It is recommended to install it using the official image (.iso) that can be downloaded at this page.

share|improve this answer
    
The favourite of mine. Despite the fact it is meant to be "lightweight", Gnome (2) and KDE (4) have always seemed faster and more stable for me, but I still prefer XFCE for the rest of what I get from it. – Ivan Nov 13 '11 at 20:25
    
I think "lightweight" here refers more to memory usage. – Chan-Ho Suh Apr 24 '12 at 3:22
    
@Ivan I have found Xfce to run faster than newer versions of Gnome and KDE on aging hardware (it seems to demand less resources). – Tom Jan 20 '15 at 16:41
    
This is the one I use. I prefer my desktop to be as minimal as possible. I used fvwm for a long time, but it doesn't have drive-icons on the desktop, which are really necessary when using USB-based storage (since the /dev name for such media often changes). Xfce gives me my drive icons but still maintains a minimal and lightweight desktop. – David C. Dec 4 '15 at 18:25

KDE Plasma

Screenshot of KDE Plasma 5

KDE is probably the second most well-known DE available after GNOME.

Features

  • Very customizable, KDE looks and feel can be easily modified. The range of options is just incredible.
  • Choose your favorite way of launching apps from an Application Launcher, a conventional Menu and a Dashboard.
  • Panels can act like traditional task bars or docks.
  • Plasma widgets can be used in the background or in a panel.
  • Activities provide a way to organize your workspaces independently.

System Requirements

KDE is no lightweight system. It has similar requirements to Unity 3D but there is a "low-fat" setting for older systems.

How To Get It?

Ubuntu has an KDE Plasma flavor called Kubuntu. So, the recommended method to get Plasma desktop on Ubuntu is to download Kubuntu and liveboot or install it.

In case you're already running an Ubuntu flavor and wish to try the KDE Plasma desktop, you can install the kubuntu-desktop package available in Ubuntu repository. To do so, click here:
Install KDE Plasma for Ubuntu

Or run this command in Terminal:

sudo apt install kubuntu-desktop
share|improve this answer
3  
I think KDE is nice :D. Its just too sluggish for my computer. – Amith KK Oct 10 '11 at 15:32
2  
@AmithKK let's see if 11.10 low fat settings are good. Running KDE on ArchLinux is light and beautiful. – barraponto Oct 12 '11 at 19:37
3  
The best desktop environment which gives more 'freedom' than gnome! And what the heck you can even customize every inch of KDE unlike Gnome shell... – Ravi Feb 16 '13 at 7:47
    
I've used different desktops in parallel and I've found something I was not expecting: KDE4 feels lighter than Unity, and even than Xfce (the latop fan is even less heard) – cipricus Sep 18 '15 at 12:07

LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment)

Lubuntu desktop screenshot

LXDE is an extremely light desktop environment that focuses on high performance and low resource usage. It is currently the default desktop environment used by Lubuntu (pictured).

Features

  • Lightweight

    It needs less CPU and performs extremely well with reasonable memory.

  • Fast

    It runs well even on older computers produced in 1999, and it does not require 3D acceleration.

  • Energy saving

    It requires less energy to perform tasks to other systems on the market.

  • Simply Beautiful

    It includes an internationalized and polished user interface powered by GTK+ 2.

  • Easy to use

    It provides a choice to use the simple EeePC-like launcher user interface or a Windows-like application panel.

  • Customizable

    It is easy to customize the look and feel of LXDE.

  • Additional Features

    It offers additional features like tabbed file browsing or menu run dialogs known from operating systems such as OS X. Icons of new applications will show up on the desktop after installation.

  • Desktop independent

    Every component can be used independently from other components of LXDE offering the flexibility to use LXDE components with different Unix-like systems.

  • Standards compliant It follows standards as specified by freedesktop.org.

Source: http://lxde.org/lxde

System Requirements for Lubuntu (LXDE + Ubuntu)

Lubuntu can be installed on a Pentium II or Celeron system with 128 MB of RAM, but such a system would not perform well enough for daily use.

With 256MB - 384MB of RAM, the performance will be better and the system will be more usable.

With 512MB of RAM, you don't need to worry much.

The default "Desktop" installer requires 384-800 MB of RAM (depending on selected options). You can also use the "Alternate" installer, if you have problems.

How to get it

Click this link to install the LXDEInstall LXDE Desktop Environment, find it in the Ubuntu Software Center, or type sudo apt-get install lubuntu-desktop in a terminal. There are more instructions here.

Ubuntu has an LXDE spin called Lubuntu, it is recommended to install it from the official image (.iso) that can be downloaded at this page.

share|improve this answer
1  
@WarriorIng64 LXDE website down again. :( I think the screenshot was taken on an LXDE that was pretending to be Windows. – Oxwivi Nov 13 '11 at 19:25

Cinnamon

Cinnamon screenshot from WEBUP8

Cinnamon is a Gnome-Shell desktop fork. It is not strictly a Gnome-2 interface, although the developers aims are laudable - to produce a simpler more traditional desktop interface.

The desktop shares many traits of its closely related cousin - and can be extended through specific Cinnamon extensions.

Requirements are the same as Unity 3D & Gnome-Shell, in that it requires a 3D Graphics accelerated graphics card.

This is subject to change - Gnome-shell Mutter has been forked as well - called Muffin. It will be interesting to see what future requirements this will bring.


Linked Question:

  1. How do I install the Cinnamon Desktop?
share|improve this answer
2  
It might be worth mentioning that Cinnamon is the default desktop in Linux Mint. If you're thinking of installing Cinnamon on Ubuntu, you might want to check out Linux Mint, an Ubuntu derivative, instead. – Tony Apr 18 '13 at 13:41
    
@Tony - if you do go this route ... I'm afraid all further questions on this particular stackexchange site would be off-topic. Linux Mint questions though would be on-topic at unix.stackexchange.com – fossfreedom Apr 18 '13 at 13:43
    
@fossfreedom LM (excluding LMDE) is - technically, but not legally - Ubuntu with 3rd-party repos and packages activated and installed by default. Aside from the DE, and a few other packages, it uses the exact same repos and packages as the corresponding Ubuntu version. If a LM user has a question on something LM did not change, like a Ubuntu-maintained package, would that be on-topic here? If not, does that mean if a user's Ubuntu has been tainted with 3rd party packages, they too cannot get support here? – Jonathan Baldwin Dec 25 '13 at 21:57
    
@JonathanBaldwin - cinnamon via the packages in the universe repository or via the launchpad PPA are on-topic. However, linux mint the distro is much more than just PPA's and has fundamental differences from the official 'buntu based repos. The community has decided that because of this, linux mint and similar are off-topic - this meta covers this decision. meta.askubuntu.com/questions/684/… – fossfreedom Dec 25 '13 at 22:27
1  
@JonathanBaldwin - we are getting into conversation territory - please raise this as a Meta question or pop into the general chat room to discuss further. – fossfreedom Dec 28 '13 at 8:28

Pantheon

Pantheon screenshot, from Wikipedia

Pantheon is the desktop shell made for use in elementary OS Luna and later. It can also be set up for use in Ubuntu, however.

Features

  • The top panel is called the WingPanel. It's similar to a mix between the GNOME 2 and GNOME Shell panels.
  • Slingshot is the application launcher Pantheon uses.
  • Pantheon Wallpaper is used to manage the desktop wallpaper instead of Nautilus.
  • Plank is the new version of Docky, rewritten to use Vala instead of Mono. It sits at the bottom of the screen to act as a dock.
  • Cerebere is a program that sits in the background and oversees the operation of all the other components, restarting them as necessary if they crash.
  • Pantheon is designed to be lightweight and modular. You can pick and choose which components you want to use, replacing with with others as you see fit.

System Requirements

elementary OS Jupiter used GNOME 2 and an early version of the Plank. The elementary OS Luna release switched to GNOME 3 and Pantheon, and is supposed to be more lightweight. A machine that can comfortably run Ubuntu should have no problem handling Pantheon.

The elementary project has a Technical Specifications page in its user guide for elementary OS, which provides more information suggesting what is needed to ensure Pantheon runs smoothly.

How To Get It

See How to install the Pantheon desktop environment? for detailed instructions.

share|improve this answer
    
@Oxwivi This question covers shells, too. – Christopher Kyle Horton Oct 23 '11 at 12:20
    
@WarriorIng64 I know that, but the answer says Pantheon is a DE, I'm just pointing out that mistake. – Oxwivi Oct 23 '11 at 12:26
    
@Oxwivi Fixed now. – Christopher Kyle Horton Oct 23 '11 at 12:53
4  
I don't think Pantheon is stable yet. Everything I've seen has a recommendation against using it on production machines. This answer should probably have the same warning. – weberc2 Mar 29 '12 at 6:41
2  
It's stable now. – iamcreasy Dec 22 '14 at 8:49

MATE

Screenshot of Ubuntu MATE from official website

MATE is a fork of GNOME 2 created when GNOME 3 was announced and some users wanted to keep the traditional GNOME 2 interface going. It aims to be as close to traditional GNOME 2 interface as possible. The project is now primarily supported by the official Ubuntu MATE spin (pictured above) since 14.04.

Features

  • MATE is derived from and strives to remain as close to the traditional GNOME 2 desktop environment as possible. It caters specifically to those who do not like the new desktop metaphors introduced by Unity and GNOME Shell, yet do not want to switch to a different DE.
  • It comes with the forked variations of several GNOME applications.
  • MATE currently still uses GTK+2, although it may switch to GTK+3 in the future.
  • All conflicts between MATE and GNOME were resolved as of the 1.2 release, so that both DEs can be installed on the same system if one desires.

System Requirements

As MATE is extremely similar to the GNOME 2 it is based upon, it should have similar hardware requirements. Computers which could run Ubuntu 11.04 or previous in a GNOME 2 session should also be able to handle MATE. For example, it will not need 3D graphics support like Unity or GNOME Shell do. Additionally, you may want to look at this Linux Mint Forums post.

How To Get It

The easiest way to get a fully-supported MATE DE for an official Ubuntu spin is to use Ubuntu MATE. Download the .iso file from the "Download" page and use it to create a LiveUSB/DVD.

If you want to install MATE on a pre-existing regular Ubuntu setup, see How do I install MATE (the desktop environment)? for information on installation. Note that there are multiple ways to install it; some involve adding Linux Mint repositories and could potentially cause problems.

share|improve this answer
    
MATE supports GTK+3 now mate-desktop.com/blog/2015-11-05-mate-1-12-released – GeoMint Mar 4 at 19:50

GNOME Flashback (Ubuntu Classic/GNOME Panel)

GNOME Flashback 3.18.2

This is the basic or classic GNOME desktop, ported to use the new GTK3 and other modern technologies (the integration with GTK3 and other technologies is the key difference between GNOME Flashback and MATE). GNOME Flashback is the same desktop environment that was used in earlier versions of Ubuntu (Ubuntu 10.10 and earlier). But like everything else, there's been improvements in the new version.

Why use it today? Because it isn't a '3D' desktop environment like Unity, GNOME Shell or KDE and so it runs faster on older hardware. It's also a very efficient install on standard Ubuntu, there are few dependencies different to Unity and it won't pull in many extra applications. In short, if you want a pure 'Ubuntu' experience without the Unity, use GNOME Flashback.

Features (comparison to GNOME 2)

  • It still has the classic menu, but the System menu is gone since we now use the System Settings panel.
  • It can be customized the same way that Gnome Panel 2 was customized, except that you need to press and hold Alt while doing so.
  • It has all the same features that we previously had, but with fixes to make it more stable and useful: applets are grouped to the left, center or right, so applets never get shuffled, like in Gnome Panel 2. And the switch to GTK3 means much better support for vertical panels.

How to get it?

GNOME Flashback is available in the official Ubuntu repositories. To install it on an existing install, click here:
Install GNOME Flashback

Or you can use this command in Terminal: sudo apt install gnome-session-flashback


Linked Question:

  1. How to revert to GNOME Classic Desktop?
share|improve this answer
    
No love to Gnome Classic – Amith KK Oct 10 '11 at 15:20
2  
Gnome Panel is a shell. – Jo-Erlend Schinstad Oct 10 '11 at 15:51
    
Anybody concerned with how ugly and "un-Ubuntu" the above screenshot looks should note that is with the Adwaita theme in 11.10. In 12.04, it will look much better and more like classic Ubuntu. (webupd8.org) – Christopher Kyle Horton Mar 11 '12 at 10:20
1  
Now that 12.04 is released and uses the "fixed" look, should the first screenshot be removed in favor of just keeping the second one? – Christopher Kyle Horton May 8 '12 at 22:36
1  
MATE is way better than GNOME Fallback. – IAnsari Oct 1 '15 at 15:53

Awesome

Awesome on 12.04 - showing reconfigured default panel on top and conky on bottom Awesome on 12.04 - showing a tiling layout; Gnome Do window is floating

Features

Awesome is a desktop environment which masquerades as a window manager. By default, it comes with a basic top panel with a systray that can hold your favorite applets from Gnome, Xfce, etc. There are several well-known "widget" libraries which extend Awesome's basic functionality.

Awesome is a tiling window manager, which means that it can automatically arrange windows without overlapping and so that they fill up the screen. Windows can also be made to "float" (the standard behavior in Windows, OS X, etc.)

Awesome's tiling features have the following benefits:

  1. No wasted screen space.
  2. You don't have to fiddle around with the mouse/trackpad to arrange windows in a desired arrangement.
  3. Built-in tiling layouts cover frequent scenarios that arise.
  4. Tiling arrangements are easily scripted and can be invoked dynamically through keybindings.
  5. Mouse support is built-in throughout. For those that rely heavily on a mouse, this may help ease the transition from the typical floating window managers.

Awesome was designed to be highly customizable (see configuration section) and is particularly popular amongst "power users" who want a great deal of control over their desktop environment (Awesome has a strong following in the Arch Linux community, for example).

System requirements

Awesome is very lightweight. The Zenix distro uses it and can run with as little as 128MB of RAM (only 64MB with swap partition). On my system, I found it used less resources than LXDE! Awesome does not do compositing or any effects, so is useful for systems with older graphics (compositing can be enabled by using xcompmgr, etc.)

Installation

Installing Awesome is simple. Simply type sudo apt-get install awesome in the terminal to install Awesome from the Ubuntu repositories. The install will include an Awesome session in the login manager, Lightdm. Starting Awesome this way will avoid many headaches over configuring it to work with your wireless, display, etc.

Configuration

Awesome is configured via an external configuration file written in Lua (~/.config/awesome/rc.lua). Knowledge of Lua is not required and a lot can be done with simple extensions and modifications of the default rc.lua (/etc/xdg/awesome/rc.lua). Autostarting apps is simple: just add the appropriate "spawn" command at the end of your rc.lua, e.g. awful.util.spawn_with_shell("conky &") will run conky.

Regarding the two screenshots -- in the 'clean' version, the top panel is the default with five tags (or "workspaces") on the left and various vicious widgets running on on the right. nm-applet and pidgin are in the systray area. The bottom 'panel' is actually conky. In the 'dirty' version, conky is displaying track info from gmusicbrowser, the windows are tiled (with one Firefox window minimized to the tasklist area), and Gnome Do is floating in center.

share|improve this answer
2  
“Awesome” is not intuitive and comes with limited documentation (on Ubuntu at least). – Within hours I ended up with with two full-screen windows (browser windows actually) on one screen with no simple way to switch between them (<Mod4>-j/k didn’t do it.) – Robert Siemer Apr 30 '14 at 12:59

Enlightenment (E)

Enlightenment 0.17

Enlightenment sets itself apart for being very focused on eye-candy while still being extremely lightweight.

There are two usable versions of Enlightenment, E16 (the old version) and E17 (the new stable version).

E17 is more modern.

A non-exhaustive list of Enlightenment's features can be read about at this Wikipedia page.

For a guide on how to set up Enlightenment on your system, see this Ubuntu Documentation page, or maybe this question: How do I install Enlightenment (E17)?.

share|improve this answer
3  
It seems to have extremely, unbelievably efficient graphics engine. – Ivan Nov 13 '11 at 20:28
    
Which Linux distro has Enlightment as pre installed environment? – Woeitg Feb 15 at 9:59
    
@Woeistg Currently, there is no officially-recognized Ubuntu flavor which uses Enlightenment by default, and any other distro would be offtopic here. – Christopher Kyle Horton Feb 16 at 1:54

Chrome OS Desktop Environment

enter image description here

NOTE: The project seems to be dead as per April 2016.

This is the operating environment of Google's Chrome OS, and as far as I know, it works only on 64 bit machines.

To install the desktop environment, use the desktop environment, download it from here, and then install it by double clicking.

You can also use following commands to download and install from command prompt:

wget https://github.com/downloads/dz0ny/lightdm-login-chromeos/lightdm-login-chromiumos_1.0_amd64.deb  
sudo dpkg -i lightdm-login-chromiumos_1.0_amd64.deb

share|improve this answer
    
How well does this integrate into a Ubuntu based system? Does it work as a separate session? – Sonickyle27 Aug 6 '15 at 18:05
    
I'm trying to install this on 14.04, but failed.. – armanke13 Dec 2 '15 at 1:44

Mythbuntu

Mythbuntu screenshot

Mythbuntu uses XFCE, but also comes with some extra customizations. It is primarily intended for media PCs for use with MythTV.

System Requirements

A complete list of system requirements can be found at mythbuntu.org.

How To Get It

You can install the mythbuntu-desktop package using either apt-get or the Ubuntu Software Center. The Mythbuntu FAQ has more information on setup.

share|improve this answer
    
Interesting, but it sounds like Mythbuntu is its own OS, not a DE or shell you can apply to Ubuntu. Furthermore, it actually uses Xfce for its own default DE, which is already covered. – Christopher Kyle Horton Oct 15 '11 at 5:02
    
This is not a applicable DE or Shell, its a OS of its own. It uses Xfce and like @WarriorIng64 said, It is already covered – Amith KK Oct 17 '11 at 12:45
    
Mythbuntu is it's own OS, but so are Xubuntu and Kubuntu (both of which are covered above). It presents it's own "shell" on using the computer. But I don't think it is what the original question answer was looking for. – 8128 Oct 23 '11 at 13:10
1  
I would like to correct myself: it does appear you can apply it to Ubuntu, as a mythbuntu-desktop package exists in the Software Center. Editing to reflect that. – Christopher Kyle Horton Oct 24 '11 at 4:58
    
What about XBMC? There is XBMC xsession in lightdm when it's installed. – wrzomar Jul 5 '13 at 18:57

Qtile

Qtile screenshot

QTile is a window manager written entirely in Python. It's highly configurable using the Python language, and you can script it to do mostly whatever you feel like. As the name implies, it's a tiling window manager, which means you get a highly organized desktop.

How to get it

Packages are available for 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot), 12.04 (Precise Pangolin), 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal), 13.04 (Raring Ringtail), 13.10 (Saucy Salamander), 14.04 (Trusty Tahr), and 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn).

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:tycho-s/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install qtile

Installation info: http://docs.qtile.org/en/latest/manual/install/index.html

share|improve this answer
3  
Could you please include a description of why its good? – N.N. Mar 14 '12 at 18:05
    
I concur with N.N. here. It would be good if the "Features/System Requirements/How To Get It" sections like those in posts further above were added for better consistency with the desired style of this list. – Christopher Kyle Horton Mar 15 '12 at 4:32

i3wm

i3wm (improved tiling wm), is a dynamic, and tiling window manager. It is one of the simplest and cleanest tiling window manager, which keeps emphasis on simplicity, both of the code and configuration.

i3wm with vim and terminals open

Features

  • Well documented code.
  • Multi monitor support.
  • UTF-8 support.
  • Simple configuration (no programming language used)
  • Window management completely left for the user. Which means the user is free to try out different layouts dynamically.
  • Better handling of floating popups (most of the password, and other notifications doesn't show as tiles)
  • Different modes like in vim
  • IPC (using unix sockets) for extensibility.

Extras

  • great user support using the mailing list, IRC, and faq.
  • notification daemon (dunst), and j4status for more customization (from j4tools)

Installation

i3 can be installed using apt

sudo apt-get install i3

i3 has been used by some of the popular figures of linux. 1 2

share|improve this answer

Razor-qt

This is a very lightweight desktop environment, available for Ubuntu.

Steps to install:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:razor-qt
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install razorqt

enter image description here

Image from softpedia: Image of razor-qt from softpedia

share|improve this answer
    
The second image is KDE , not Razor-qt. – WinMacLinUser Mar 29 at 23:06

Unity 8/Next (Desktop mode)

Screenshot from Softpedia Image from Softpedia

Unity 8 (or Unity Next) is the interface used in Ubuntu Touch (for phones and tablets), and is planned to eventually replace the current version of Unity with a new desktop mode. At this time, it is still under heavy development, although a desktop preview is available.

Features

  • Compiz is dropped in favor of Qt, which should offer a more lightweight and smoother experience.
  • Similarly, Mir is favored over Wayland and the traditional X11 server.
  • A redesigned approach to scopes, lenses, the dash, etc.
  • A focus on convergence, meaning the same DE can be used on all form factors (phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer), modifying itself to suit the situation.
  • An interface which places heavy emphasis on edge swiping for revealing the launcher, indicator menus, app switcher, and app menus.

Of course, this list could change or expand as development progresses.

How to get it

Note: Unity 8 is still under heavy development and is not considered ready for the desktop. Obviously, bugs will be present, but also some parts may need to be optimized or added to better facilitate use with a mouse and keyboard.

If you still want to try it out, a daily build for the "Ubuntu Next" desktop is available for download. You can use it to create a LiveUSB/DVD like a regular image. If you get a terminal complaining about the image not being COM32 or similar when trying to boot from the live media, you can work around this by pressing Tab and entering either live or live-install (as seen from "Not a COM32R image" error when trying to install from a USB key ).

If you already have regular Ubuntu installed, you could also see How to install Unity 8? for installation instructions.

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Deepin DE

enter image description here

Deepin uses its own purpose-built desktop environment which is integrated with other first party applications, like Deepin Music, Deepin Movie, Deepin Store, and its own Control Center.

Community members have played a participatory role throughout development, both in China and internationally, and operate with the motto "Freedom, Openness, Sharing, Cooperation".The community also works with upstream Debian with the translation of documents into Chinese

If you too want to install it then open your terminal and type as

sudo -H gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

Then add deb lines like these at the end of the opened file, possibly replacing trusty with the codename of another Ubuntu release (but don't make any other changes):

deb http://packages.linuxdeepin.com/deepin trusty main non-free universe
deb-src http://packages.linuxdeepin.com/deepin trusty main non-free universe

Currently the repository has versions for trusty (Ubuntu 14.04 LTS) and precise (Ubuntu 12.04 LTS). You can browse the repository to see what releases are supported, when you install. To find the codename for your Ubuntu release, see the Releases wiki page or run lsb_release -c. If no version is available specifically for your release, you can try the version built for another release (pick one close to yours if possible).

After adding the appropriate lines, save the file, quit the text editor, and return to the terminal.

Paste these lines one by one:

wget http://packages.linuxdeepin.com/deepin/project/deepin-keyring.gpg
gpg --import deepin-keyring.gpg
sudo gpg --export --armor 209088E7 | sudo apt-key add -

Then we are almost done. in the terminal paste these lines one by one

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install dde-meta-core

Thats it, That will install deepin DE in your computer and from login screen you can choose the DE.

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How to install it in Ubuntu 12.04? I tried to change raring in this line : deb http://packages.linuxdeepin.com/deepin raring main non-free universe and the other to precise but it didn't work. Would you please guide me how to do? – Saurav Kumar Oct 10 '13 at 13:59

Trinity

TDE screenshot

Trinity desktop environment, a fork of KDE3, is another option not available on Ubuntu by default without additional repositories. To install, follow the instructions:

  • For precise, add the deb source in sources.list:

    deb http://ppa.quickbuild.pearsoncomputing.net/trinity/trinity-v3.5.13/ubuntu precise main
    deb-src http://ppa.quickbuild.pearsoncomputing.net/trinity/trinity-v3.5.13/ubuntu precise main
    deb http://ppa.quickbuild.pearsoncomputing.net/trinity/trinity-builddeps-v3.5.13/ubuntu precise main
    deb-src http://ppa.quickbuild.pearsoncomputing.net/trinity/trinity-builddeps-v3.5.13/ubuntu precise main
    
  • Add the GPG key:

    sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.quickbuild.pearsoncomputing.net --recv-keys 2B8638D0
    
  • Finally, download the packages:

    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install kubuntu-default-settings-trinity kubuntu-desktop-trinity
    

For other versions of Ubuntu, refer the full documentation here.

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subtle

subtle is a manual tiling window manager with a rather uncommon approach of tiling: Instead of relying on predefined layouts, subtle divides the screen into a grid with customizeable slots (called gravities).

Features

  • Strict tagging: Unlike other tiling window managers, subtle doesn't allow weak tagging and always maps windows to virtual desktops (called views) with matching tags, regardless of the current active view.
  • Builtin system tray
  • Extendable builtin panel
  • Customizeable key/mouse actions
  • Focus on scripting, uses Ruby
  • Commandline client
  • Extended window tagging
  • Compliance (EWMH / ICCCM / MWM / XDG Base Directory)
  • Multihead support (Xinerama / XRandR)

How To Get It

subtle is available on 13.04 official repositories. For 12.10 or earlier, check this wiki for details.

sudo apt-get install subtle
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Consort (Discontinued)

SolusOS

Consort is a fork of GNOME 3 Fallback mode. It is designed to behave near exactly like GNOME 2 and is intended to enable existing users of GTK-2 to GTK-3.

Features:

  • Offers Gnome 2 based DM
  • Leveraging GTK-3 - can run applications for GNOME 3
  • lightweight/better performance ref

Distros formerly used

  • SolusOS
  • Colverleaf Linux

Download it here or use ppa

UPDATE:

This has been discontinued for the lack of manpower Closing Doors

Colverleaf Linux is now discontinued as a distro. Now developed as a OpenSuse Add-onref

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It is discontinued now... – AbrahamSustaita Jan 29 '14 at 19:17
    
@AbrahamSustaita Thank you for noticing, have updated accordingly. Also as a community wiki you can add the details yourself. – Avinash R Jan 30 '14 at 17:09
3  
Should this just be deleted if it is discontinued? – Christopher Kyle Horton Mar 27 '15 at 5:04
    
Discontinued does not mean the same as "not available" or "not usable", it is simply not developed anymore. It is still an option, though it may lack some features. – Hohmannfan May 8 at 21:54

Budgie

budgie-remix 16.04 Beta

Budgie is the flagship desktop of Solus Operating System. Designed from scratch with the modern user in mind, it focuses on simplicity and elegance.

Features

  • Tightly integrates with the GNOME stack, employing underlying technologies to offer an alternative desktop experience
  • Built exclusively for desktop users. No mobile or tablet here!
  • Gets out of your way and provides a clutter free desktop experience
  • Budgie Menu provides quick access to your apps, offering both category and compact views
  • The side panel Raven lets you access applets,notifications and customization center all in one place
  • Customize all aspects of your desktop including widget theme, icon theme, dark theme mode, as well as in-depth modification to panels, all right from Raven
  • With the Panel settings section, you can choose where the panel and its inner applets are located, as well as granular control over individual applet settings

System Requirements

Since Budgie uses the GNOME stack underneath, requirements are similar. Budgie's a bit lighter than Gnome Shell though.

How To Get It?

The best way to get Budgie desktop on Ubuntu is to try the unofficial flavor budgie-remix. However, if you wish to install it on an existing install of Ubuntu 16.04LTS or one of it's flavors, try the budgie-remix PPA:

sudo add-apt-repostory ppa:budgie-remix/ppa
sudo apt update

Then click here: Install via the software center, or run this:

sudo apt install budgie-desktop
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Openbox

openbox on debian

Openbox is a highly configurable, next generation window manager with extensive standards support. The box visual style is well known for its minimalistic appearance. Openbox uses the box visual style, while providing a greater number of options for theme developers than previous box implementations.

Openbox is a highly configurable window manager. It allows you to change almost every aspect of how you interact with your desktop and invent completely new ways to use and control it. It can be like a video game for controlling windows. But Openbox can also be kept extremely simple, as it is in the default setup, meaning that it can suit just about anybody. Openbox gives you control without making you do everything.

It is developed with GNOME and K desktop applications in mind, you can combine their ease and functionality with the power of Openbox.

This is the one used by the now discontinued Crunchbang #!

You can learn more here

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Hawaii (In Development)

enter image description here

The Hawaii Desktop is made by maui-project, here is their http://www.maui-project.org/

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2  
This answer needs information about its features, system requirements, and how to install it on Ubuntu. A link to the Maui project on its own is not sufficient. – Christopher Kyle Horton Mar 27 '15 at 6:29

KLyDE (In Development)

enter image description here

This is light version of the popular desktop KDE environment. Its still in development, and not directly available for people to install, but we can expect it soon.

Read more about the project here.

Please note that this is still in early development stages, and is not available for download or install, in any OS. I am mentioning this here just for the sake of completion.

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3  
KLyDE looks discontinued. All I'm finding about it through Google are news articles from 2013 and a SUSE Studio page saying it is abandoned. Furthermore, without instructions on how to install it in Ubuntu, this answer is not useful. – Christopher Kyle Horton Mar 27 '15 at 6:27

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