Desktop Environment

Updated: 2020-06-29

The most popular Linux desktop environments: GNOME and KDE. Others include Cinnamon, XFCE, etc.

Desktop Environment is not a must for Linux, e.g. Ubuntu Server edition ships without a desktop. Desktop is just another software running in Linux, and it can be swapped, e.g. Ubuntu has several other flavors with different desktop environments: Kubuntu uses KDE, Xubuntu uses XFCE, etc.

X11 vs vs XDG vs

  • X11, a.k.a. X Window System, provides a basic framework for GUI. X protocol had been version 11 since 1987, thus X11.
  • is a popular open source implementation of X11.
  • XDG stands for X Development Group, the old name of
  • is part of Foundation.


  • Wayland is intended as a simpler replacement for X.
  • GNOME and KDE are expected to be ported to it.