Monday 25th of September 2017

6 of the Best Lean Linux Desktop Environments
Mainstream Linux distributions typically default to one of two desktop environments, KDE or GNOME. Both of these environments provide users with an intuitive and attractive desktop, as well as offering a large raft of multimedia software, games, administration programs,

network tools, educational applications, utilities, artwork, web development tools and more. However, these two desktops focus more on providing users with a modern computing environment with all the bells and whistles featured in Windows Vista, rather than minimising the amount of system resources they need.

For users and developers who want to run an attractive Linux desktop on older hardware, netbooks, or mobile internet devices, neither KDE or GNOME may be a viable option, as they run too slowly on low spec machines (such as less than 256MB RAM and a 1 GHz processor). This article seeks to identify the best lean desktops for Linux, for users that have old or even ancient hardware.

First, let's clear up one area of frequent confusion; the difference between a desktop environment and a window manager. A desktop environment typically consists of icons, windows, toolbars, folders, wallpapers, and desktop widgets. They provide a collection of libraries and applications made to operate cohesively together. A desktop environment contains its own window manager, which is responsible for the placement and appearance of windows.

We have selected 6 of the best desktop environments that are good candidates for older hardware. These typically run well on a machine with a Pentium II 266MHz CPU and 128MB of RAM. All of the desktops are released under freely distributable licenses. If your Linux box is constantly swapping or feels sluggish in general use, try out one of the desktops featured below. It may just save you from discarding a perfectly good machine.

Now, let's explore the 6 desktops at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, providing a screenshot of the software in action, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, together with links to relevant resources and reviews.


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