Top 12 Best and Popular Linux Desktop Environments


MATE Desktop Environment is the continuation of GNOME 2 (now-unmaintained code base of GNOME 2). It provides an intuitive and attractive desktop environment using traditional metaphors for Linux and other Unix-like operating systems.

Many users liked this desktop, and found it simple, configurable, and comfortable to use. It’s one of the best alternative desktop environment for lower-end & older hardware with very less resouce utilization and higher performance. Also recognized as a Lightweight Desktop Environment.

MATE is under active development to add support for new technologies, fixing bugs, and improving the software as support libraries and other dependent software to improve a traditional desktop experience.

It has good relationship with GNU/Linux distributions and made it easy for packagers to include the Mate Desktop in their distributions.

As we already discussed in GNOME topic, after the release of GNOME 3 on 2011. Many users refused to accept the new interface design of GNOME which leads to create MATE desktop environment and called for continued development of GNOME 2.

An Argentine user of Arch Linux started the MATE (traditional GNOME 2 desktop metaphor) project to satisfy the users whoever dissatisfied from GNOME 3 new design to meet this demand.

It is named after the South American plant yerba mate, mate. It uses all capital letters for name MATE because of FOSS nomenclature like KDE and LXDE. The use of a new name, instead of GNOME, to avoids conflicts with GNOME 3.

MATE has forked a number of applications from GNOME Core Applications and changed the name, also written several other applications from scratch. Most of them used names from Spanish.

Linux Mint is one of the popular Linux distribution shipped with MATE as their default desktop environment, Ubuntu MATE distro too and reset of the distributions offering a MATE flavor.

MATE History & Details

  • MATE was initially announced on the Arch Linux forum on 18 June 2011
  • MATE 1.2 was released on 16 April 2012
  • MATE 1.16 was released on 21 Septemper 2016
  • Since January 2014, became official community package.
  • Uses Marco as the default window manager
  • Uses MATE Terminal is the official Terminal emulator
  • Uses GTK+ 3 is a Widget toolkit
  • Uses Caja is a file manager
  • mate-session is a session manager

[ac-button size=”large” color=”blue” style=”flat” icon=”fa-link” url=”” target=”_blank”]How to install MATE on Linux[/ac-button]


5) Unity

Unity is a graphical shell that runs on top of GNOME desktop environment and developed by Canonical Ltd for Ubuntu distributions.

Unity is not a collection of applications Unlike GNOME, KDE, Xfce, and LXDE but it is designed to use existing programs, like that way its running on top of GNOME and uses all the GNOME core applications.

Initially unity was developed and designed for netbooks to use more space on the limited screen size, including top menu bar & vertical application launcher (window switcher on left side).

Unity have different user interface among other DE’s. It has a Dash that allows the user to quickly search installed applications, recent files, bookmarks, etc.,. from the local system and remotely (Twitter, Google Docs, etc.)

Ubuntu originally used the full GNOME desktop environment. First time Unity shipped with Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) as a default user interface instead of GNOME Shell on April 2011.

In December 2010, some users requested that the Unity launcher (or dock) be movable from the left to other sides of the screen, but Mark Shuttleworth stated in reply, It’s not possible because of our broader design goals. so we won’t implement that. Finally it has been officially implemented in Ubuntu 16.04.

Finally Unity 8 shipped with Ubuntu 16.10 as a preview but not as default. Still Unity 8 under development, i can’t guess when it will be available for production.

Unity has introduced lots of new technology among other DE’s such as Head-up display (HUD), Lens, etc,., Unity doesn’t have much customize option by default and required third party tweak tool such as Unity Tweak Tool & CompizConfig Settings Manager for further customization.

Unity offers a simple and easy to use interface. Many beginners are by default choosing Ubuntu because of the simplicity but Some people saying that Unity is slow in some cases, especially because of Compiz window manager but i didn’t face any slowness.

Unity gained good number of users. Ubuntu is one of the most popular Linux distribution shipped with Unity as their default desktop environment.

Unity History & Details

  • Unity shipped with Ubuntu 11.04 on April 2011
  • Finally Unity 8 shipped with Ubuntu 16.10 as a preview but not as default.
  • Uses Compiz as the default window manager
  • Uses Unity is the official user interface
  • Uses GTK+3 is a Widget toolkit
  • Uses nautilus is a file manager
  • GDM (GNOME Display Manager) is a Display manager


About Magesh Maruthamuthu

Love to play with all Linux distribution

View all posts by Magesh Maruthamuthu

One Comment on “Top 12 Best and Popular Linux Desktop Environments”

  1. Puppy Linux has been around since 2003 and has been in the top-10 at distrowatch. Puppy is still very active and there are many offshoots, such at Fatdog and Quirky.

    The desktop is provided by ROX-Filer and JWM.

    ROX-Filer is a file manager on steroids, that also provides the desktop icons and wallpaper, JWM is a window manager that also provides the tray.

    This would rate at the top in small size and speed.

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