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Desktop Environments

Since Ubuntu 11.4, Ubuntu has been focusing more and more on their homegrown desktop Unity. You may love it or not, but a lot of us don’t. Fortunately, as with all things Linux, there are many alternative options. If you'd like to try, here are 5 great options that you might find you like better.




1. Gnome 3 with Gnome Shell

Gnome was one of the first desktop environments for Linux, and still is a big player in the field. When they recently released version 3, it was a complete overhaul of both the desktop interface and much of the software behind it. Currently, Ubuntu uses Gnome 3′s backend software with the Unity desktop. But if you want the full Gnome 3 experience you need Gnome Shell.

Here are several sites that descripe Gnome shell in detail: one two three.

Gnome shell can be installed through the Ubuntu Software Center, or from the command line with
sudo apt-get install gnome-shell

2. KDE

The other big kid on the block is KDE. KDE packs a full suite of mature and capable software, a beautiful desktop, and decades of Linux desktop design experience. A full KDE installation is a pretty hefty thing, and for all its fine points, KDE might not be a great option for low end or mobile computers.

KDE can be installed through the Ubuntu Software Center or from the command line with
sudo apt-get install kde-standard


or if you want, download Kubuntu, which comes with KDE as the default DE.
3. XFCE

XFCE was known as “Gnome Lite”. It uses similar backend software (such as GTK) and has an overall look and feel similar to the Gnome 2.x series. It’s generally regarded as lighter and faster than Gnome, however most of those comparisons were made prior to Gnome 3.


XFCE can be installed through the Ubuntu Software Center or from the command line with
sudo apt-get install xfce4


or download Xubuntu which comes with XFCE.
4. LXDE

A lightweight option that’s been growing in popularity lately is LXDE. It’s a desktop environment built around the OpenBox window manager. It includes several small apps and utilities like the PCManFM file manager and a custom panel and terminal.

LXDE is a fairly nice setup, particularly on lower-end machines, but it’s been this author’s experience that LXDE and its related apps always seem to have the feel of being almost done. If you’re the type of user who likes everything to be smoothly polished, feature-complete, and rock-solid – LXDE might not be great for you. If, however, you need something light, fast, and simple – I highly recommend you try it out. It may not be your dream desktop, but it’s almost there.

LXDE can be installed through the Ubuntu Software Center or from the command line with
sudo apt-get install lxde
Please note that in the login screen there appear some openbox login options. On my system these don't work.


5. Enlightenment (E17)

Once considered a thing of myth and legend, E17 is now a part of Ubuntu 11.10′s online repositories. Many years of development have gone in to this release, and it’s got loads of features. This is a desktop that aims to do it all – high performance, high productivity, extreme flexibility, and loads of eye candy. Chances are it does not much resemble any desktop environment you’ve used before, so if you decide to take the plunge, be prepared for a little bit of a learning curve.

Once you’ve learned to do things the “enlightened” way, it may be tough to switch back. E17 can be installed through the Ubuntu Software Center or from the command line with
sudo apt-get install e17

6. Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spinoff from Gnome 3 specially written for Linux Mint. It is so good, that many people install it in Ubuntu and run it instead of Gnome, Unity or KDE.

Install Cinnamon 1.8 in Ubuntu

Cinnamon 1.8 will be available by default in Linux Mint 15 (Cinnamon Edition - RC should be out mid-may) and it should also be available in the "Romeo" repository for Linux Mint 13 and 14 soon.

Ubuntu Precise, Quantal, Raring and Saucy users can install the latest Cinnamon via PPA:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install cinnamon

Once installed, log out and select Cinnamon from the login screen.


7. Jolicloud

Jolicloud are offering users of Ubuntu a new, web-orientated experience for their desktop. The ‘Jolicloud Desktop Environment’ puts a HTML5 launcher with shortcuts to popular websites and services front and center, in place of the traditional desktop. Social and cloud storage accounts can be connected to it, making managing your online files and keeping tabs on your social networks easier. The interface is the same as that used by the French company’s Ubuntu 10.04-based ‘JoliOS’ and their recently launched online ‘JoliDrive’ hub. Managing Files You can manage files Locally, Online, Use Web Apps and Local Apps Jolicloud are offering users of Ubuntu a new, web-orientated experience for their desktop. The ‘Jolicloud Desktop Environment’ puts a HTML5 launcher with shortcuts to popular websites and services front and center, in place of the traditional desktop. Social and cloud storage accounts can be connected to it, making managing your online files and keeping tabs on your social networks easier. The interface is the same as that used by the French company’s Ubuntu 10.04-based ‘JoliOS’ and their recently launched online ‘JoliDrive’ hub. Managing Files You can manage files Locally, Online, Use Web Apps and Local Apps You can’t logout of Jolicloud session without signing into Jolicloud Search bar doesn’t include results from local apps or files Icon theme defaults to hi-color, resulting in a mish-mash look GTK theme not respected – resulting in Windows 95 grey menus making an appearance Install Joli Desktop Environment in Ubuntu JolieDE, currently in beta, is available to install on Ubuntu 12.04 and 12.10. It doesn’t replace or remove Unity, instead it runs as a separate session selected from the Unity login screen. 

To install it you first need to add the Jolicloud Team PPA. This is best done by pasting the following command into the Terminal application: 
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:jolicloud-team/ppa && sudo apt-get update 
After running the above, and putting in your user password when prompted, you can enter the following command to install jolicloud.
sudo apt-get install jolicloud-desktop-environment

Once installed proceed to log out. Click the session-selector icon (the little ubuntu icon in the upper-right of the login box) in the Unity Greeter and, from the menu that appears, choose ‘Jolicloud’ then ‘Ok’.

Login as normal and the Jolicloud desktop will load.

Next time you reboot Jolicloud will still be selected as the default session. When tou login into another Desktop Environment that will default the next time.To stop logging in to Jolicloud you need to go back to the session selector and choose Ubuntu, GNOME, XFCE, or other, click ‘OK’, and then log in.

Reinstall the original splashscreen

After doing some digging through the file system I figured it out. A symbolic link in /etc/alternatives controls what Plymouth uses for the splash screen. To change the splash screen from Kubuntu back to Ubuntu, open a terminal and enter the following commands.
Change splash to Ubuntu
sudo rm /etc/alternatives/default.plymouth
sudo ln -s /lib/plymouth/themes/ubuntu-logo/ubuntu-logo.plymouth /etc/alternatives/default.plymouth
Change splash to Kubuntu
sudo rm /etc/alternatives/default.plymouth
sudo ln -s /lib/plymouth/themes/kubuntu-logo/kubuntu-logo.plymouth /etc/alternatives/default.plymouth

Change splash to Xubuntu
sudo rm /etc/alternatives/default.plymouth
sudo ln -s /lib/plymouth/themes/xubuntu-logo/xubuntu-logo.plymouth /etc/alternatives/default.plymouth
 
There are also additional themes that you can find for installation in the Synaptic Package Manager. Changing to one of them works in a similar fashion.

I just discovered an easier way. Use the following terminal command.

sudo update-alternatives --config default.plymouth 

and select your choice from the listed options.





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