Lightweight Linux Desktop Environments

For many Linux enthusiasts, we get caught up in the world of KDE vs GNOME, along with the distros that come pre-installed with each. but it’s also worthwhile to remember that there also some great low impact desktop environments out there that use less resources. Are they any good? You better believe it, but first let’s look at what a desktop environment is and why you care.

Defining the desktop environment for Linux

In it’s simplest terms, this is the environment that people are dancing around in while working with the GUI realm of the Linux desktop. Not to be confused with themes or window managers. Themes help to make things look cool with colors, icons and desktop backgrounds. A window manager is merely something used to control some aspects of placement and appearance, but it is technically a bit different that a desktop environment.

This brings us a desktop environment. Basically this is something that often includes the windows manager, but then kicks it up a notch with greater integration. For instance, being able to drag a file into OpenShot video editor from within Nautilus for example. It places a huge focus on the integration into the greater scheme known as the Linux desktop. I will avoid going into X Windows as it would only further convoluted the issue. But you get the general idea from here.

Lightweight Linux Desktop Environments
Photo by j1mc

Best light weight desktop environments

Two of my favorites are as follows:

Xfce – Some will point out that it has become more bloated in recent releases thanks to some changes, I haven’t really found this to be the case myself. It provides a clear feel and will serve you very on the desktop for older computers. Xfce provides some noticeable performance advantages over GNOME or KDE. This is a great option for moderate desktop resources.

LXDE – When speed counts and the desktop resources are low, LXDE is what you’re going to want to run on your Linux box. Super light on CPU and RAM usage, this desktop is also considered a bit of an energy saver as an added bonus. This is a great desktop option when running a computer dating back to 2000 or older.