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I am using Ubuntu 12.04. I want to try out KDE and other desktop environments.

But I'm not sure if I'll like them enough to switch permanently. I want to be safe and make a transition in a piecemeal fashion.

Is it possible to install KDE on Ubuntu and yet not do away with the default Unity shell?

Could I install multiple desktop environments and switch between them by tweaking some startup configuration and then rebooting?

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It is possible, to install KDE run sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends kubuntu-desktop. After you install it you can switch between Desktop Environments at the login screen.

This also works with most of the common DE's out there.

For Xubuntu (XFCE) sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends xubuntu-desktop

For Lubuntu (LXDE) sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends lubuntu-desktop

And Gnome Shell (Gnome 3) sudo apt-get install gnome-core

Theoretically you can have as many of these installed as you want, but I would only use one or two at time to avoid conflicts.

Note: If you plan on moving to a new DE completely, remove the --no-install-recommends from the commands above.

Removing

You can remove any of these with the purge command in apt, like this:

sudo apt-get purge gnome-core

or

sudo apt-get purge kubuntu-desktop

If you want to try Linux Mint's Cinnamon use these commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable  
sudo apt-get update  
sudo apt-get install cinnamon

To uninstall Cinnamon use sudo apt-get purge cinnamon and follow these instructions on removing PPA's.

I have personally run Unity and Kubuntu, Unity and Xubuntu and Unity and Gnome Shell. I have used Cinnamon a little bit too. KDE is by far the most customizable followed by XFCE in Xubuntu. Right now I just use Unity.

  • I just tried the xubuntu-desktop under 14.04 and found that it didn't show some of the basic icons, like trash or folders in the file manager. It also messed up the Unity environment (icons missing, different colours, etc). Even after purge, these issues remained... I was lucky, this was only a VirtualBox image and I had a snapshot from before I installed xubuntu-desktop. Anyway, can't recommend that workflow, at least not for 14.04. – FriendFX Jun 24 '14 at 3:07
  • @FriendFX Did you use --no-install-recommends? That could have been the issue. This post is on my list for a rewrite, it isn't terribly clear. – Seth Jun 24 '14 at 3:17
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    "KDE is by far the most customizable closely followed by ..." sounds like a contradiction to me... – azimut Oct 26 '15 at 23:46
  • KDE has been extremely unstable on Ubuntu 16.04. It's leaking memory like crazy and has to be restarted multiple times a day to respond again. At least that's my experience on multiple machines with it. I've been using it for over 6 months anyway in the hopes that a future update would fix it, but the Ubuntu repo is still not providing a fixed version. If you want KDE on 16.04, I recommend not using the latest version and not the outdated one from the Ubuntu repos. bug report – Forivin Nov 16 '17 at 12:27

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