I finally choose to KDE after used lots of desktop environments and window managers for many years. I think it is worth to write a summary of them.
If you want a simplest GUI environment, you just need a window manager. If you want more, you can install a panel, a file manager to take care your desktop(or just use feh to set a wallpaper).
The bright side to use a window manager combined with little programs is:
- It is fast.
- You feel like you can control everything.
- It is cool.
I have used openbox for a long time until I have installed Archlinux on a Macbook Pro. I can hardly found any performance difference between openbox and Gnome 3 after that. Desktop environment is not the biggest thing about performance. Thinking about Chrome, Firefox, Eclipse and so on. While you upgrade your RAM for these applications, you can use a more advanced desktop environment at the same time.
The truth about you can control everything is, you have to control them. You can configure other environment easily, too. Include the shortcuts, autostart programs and so on. (Except for Gnome, we will talk about it later).
It is cool about tilling window manager such as awesome. But it really makes a person crazy to use so many shortcuts. For example, I use shortcuts in chrome, vim, terminal, tmux, desktop eviroment and so on. I don’t think there are so many easy-to-press shortcuts. While you want tilling, you could use tmux or screen in your terminal, or using Gnome and KDE to till windows.
And the down side of them is:
- Difficult to configure unless you are skillful.
- Difficult to make it beautiful unless you have artistic talent.
- You need to install lots of programs to provide some useful feature and make it not so ugly. After that, you will find you have installed lots of libraries from other desktop environment.
LXDE is more like a pre-configured openbox environnent while xfce4 is like a simpler version of Gnome (or KDE) and comes with lots of useful panel utils. They are good trade-off between performance and completeness. I recommend to use them in your old PC.
It is a famous holy war between Gnome and KDE. I will talk about Gnome first.
I prefer Gnome at the earlier time because KDE “looks like Windows”. Gnome 2 is my first desktop environment and I love it. While Ubuntu uses Unity to instead it, I changed to Archlinux with Gnome 3. After a long time, I found MATE(a fork of Gnome 2) and Cinnamon(a fork of Gnome 3). The problem of Gnome 3 is it tries to take care of all thing but it is not so complete enough. MATE is as comfortable as Gnome 2 but it feels not so “modern”. Cinnamon is also good and I used it for a long time. Gnome 3 may not as good as people’s except but it has a good move. The biggest problem of Gnome is it uses dconfig! How could it just use a binary format to store configures. Why could not I just grep a setting but could only click and found it? It is the most silly thing in the non-Windows world.
So I decide to give KDE a try. I surprisingly found it provides a more complete environment than Gnome. It also tries to take over all things but it dose a good job. And it is really more beautiful and comes out with more good themes. I feels happy with it now.
Also Good to Try: Enlightenment(E17)
I’m amazing when I heard E17 have been developed for 12 years. And it finally released. I tried the developing E17 on archlinux and it seems good. But I did not use it for a long time. You can try it yourself.