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Linux in a Nutshell, Fourth Edition by Aaron Weber, Stephen Figgins, Ellen Siever

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Chapter 16. Graphical Desktop Overview

Linux was criticized in the past for lacking an easy-to-use graphical desktop, but that has changed significantly. These days, there are several such desktops, as well as advanced alternatives aimed at experts, developers, and high-performance enthusiasts. This book covers three graphical configurations: two complete environments with their own application suites (GNOME in Chapter 17 and KDE in Chapter 18), and one traditional window manager ( fvwm2 in Chapter 19).

GNOME and KDE are the most commonly used desktops on Linux systems. KDE has been around longer, and as the default desktop for SuSE, has more of a European following. The GNOME project was started more recently, and its desktop, used as the default for Red Hat Linux, is more common in the United States. Many operating system vendors have produced unified themes for the two desktops, so that applications written with one toolkit appear consistent with those from the other.

Desktop Environments and Window Managers

The simplest graphical desktops consist of the X Window System, which displays the windows and graphics, and a window manager , which determines where windows are placed and how users interact with applications. A window manager, such as fvwm2, determines window “focus” (that is, which window is currently accepting input) and some keyboard shortcuts. Window managers often include some sort of control panel or task bar, but not always.

A desktop environment, in contrast, ...

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