Linux 101: What's the difference between a desktop environment and a window manager?

6 days ago 9
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If you were ever funny arsenic to the quality betwixt a Linux desktop situation and a model manager, Jack Wallen is present to wide that up.

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Image: Jack Wallen

After utilizing Linux for a while, you'll travel crossed an nonfiction oregon notation of a model manager. What does that mean? Is it a desktop environment? No. Is it a portion of a desktop environment? Sometimes. I privation to effort and wide this up a bit, truthful you don't upwind up confusing 1 with the other. 

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The archetypal happening to cognize is that they tin some service arsenic your desktop interface. The biggest difference, however, is that 1 makes your Linux beingness considerably easier. Which one? The desktop environment. The happening astir a desktop situation is that it focuses connected a wholly integrated experience. That means each exertion volition bask features similar resistance and driblet betwixt each other. 

For example, successful GNOME (a desktop environment), you tin resistance an .odt record from the record manager into LibreOffice to unfastened the record successful question. 

A model manager (such arsenic Fluxbox) doesn't ever person that diagnostic (although with a spot of tweaking you tin marque it work). 

And that brings maine to my 2nd point: The desktop situation is each astir simplicity. Out of the box, everything should conscionable work. DEs similar GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon, Pantheon and Mate connection a precise minimal learning curve. On the different hand, immoderate model managers, specified arsenic Enlightenment and i3 tin instrumentality sizeable effort to get them precisely however you want. 

That, however, is 1 of the large advantages of model managers. For the astir part, model managers are highly customizable. This customization tin instrumentality immoderate effort, but, successful the end, you'll person a desktop that looks and behaves precisely however you similar it. 

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On the contrary, astir desktop environments opt for simplicity implicit customization. To marque this a spot much confusing, each desktop situation has a model manager. It's portion of the puzzle. For example, GNOME has Mutter, and KDE has KWin. You tin tally Mutter and KWin without GNOME and KDE, but I wouldn't counsel it. In the end, a desktop situation is for those who privation simplicity and integration, whereas a model manager is for those who don't attraction truthful overmuch for afloat integration and similar precocious customization.

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