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6.4 Desktops

A desktop is a set of desktop tools and applications. The Microsoft Windows 9x desktop includes applications such as the Windows Explorer, accessories such as Notepad, games such as FreeCell and Minesweeper, and utilities such as the Control Panel and its applets. Although you can run X without a desktop, having a desktop helps you work more efficiently. The two most popular desktops used with X are KDE and GNOME.

6.4.1 KDE

KDE (the K Desktop Environment) is a freely available desktop that includes KWM, the K Window Manager, as an integral component. KDE provides a file manager, a help system, a configuration utility and a variety of accessories and applications, including:

  • Games such as Kmines, Kpoker, and Ktetris

  • Graphical applications such as Kfract, a fractal generator, and Kview, an image viewer

  • Multimedia applications such as Kmix, a sound mixer, and Kmedia, a media player

  • Network applications such as Kmail, a mail client, Knu, a network utility, and Krn, a news client

New KDE accessories and applications are available almost weekly. Work is underway on a complete open source office suite (KOffice) that runs under KDE. You can learn more about KDE and the status of KOffice by browsing the KDE web site at

Although KDE is freely redistributable, KDE uses the QT widget set to create user interface controls. This presents a problem, because QT is distributed under a non-free license that many developers dislike. Therefore, the most popular desktop environment in the U.S. has been, and continues to be, GNOME rather than KDE.

6.4.2 GNOME

GNOME is a freely available desktop that can be used with any of several window managers, including Enlightenment. Unlike KDE, GNOME is open source software.

One of GNOME's most interesting features is session awareness. When you re-enter GNOME, it reconfigures your desktop to match the state at the time you exited, by launching each application that was open when you exited. GNOME even restores each application to its former state by, for example, moving to the page that was open when you exited.

GNOME provides desktop tools similar to those of KDE, including:

  • Games such as FreeCell, Gnobots, Gnometris, and Gnome Mines

  • The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP)

  • Network applications such as Mailman, which helps you track your mailing lists; Talk, which lets you exchanged typed messages with another user in real time; and Synchronize, which lets you synchronize files on multiple systems

  • Multimedia applications such as Audio Mixer and CD Player

  • General applications such as gEdit, a text editor, Netscape Navigator, a Linux version of the popular browser, and Gnumeric, a spreadsheet

  • Utilities for configuring GNOME and your Linux system

GNOME developers, like KDE developers, release new applications regularly. Check the GNOME Web site at for the latest information.

Previous: 6.3 Window Managers Learning Debian GNU/Linux Next: 6.5 Using GNOME
6.3 Window Managers Book Index 6.5 Using GNOME

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