Desktop Resources


  • X
  • KDE
  • Other Desktop Environments
  • Window Managers
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Some explanation of terms: 'X' is the graphical environment for Linux, a suite of programs. In contrast to operating system like MS Windows or Mac OS, it is not an integral part of the operating system itself, it's just an add-on.
To make sufficient use of X, you will need a window manager or a desktop environment like KDE or GNOME .
Desktop environments aren't window managers. They provide another layer between X and a window manager, e.g. for things like drag 'n' drop, a common look and feel etc. KDE uses its own default window manager, kwin, GNOME comes with Sawfish or Metacity.
You can use any other window manager on top of these environments as long as it is compatible with ('aware of') them. Or you can skip the extra layer and run a manager directly on 'X'.
KDE and GNOME come with their own set of programs. You can run these programs on every environment / manager, provided you have the basic libraries of the environment those apps were written for installed.

  • Note: On a machine which is intended to be used only as a server you usually do not install X there in order to make it faster. The graphical environment has been developed for users on their home computers to make their lives easier.


Also referred to as XFree86, X11 or X Window System.
If you are looking for a quick way to make yourself unpopular with senior Linux users, call it 'X Windows' ;-).

Local X documentation is stored in the '/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/doc' directory. Every major X component has its own man page. This documentation is also available online via the XFree86 Support Page.

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The 'Kool' Desktop Environment is the default desktop for the Mandrake Linux distribution.

key sequences

  • <Ctrl><Alt><Esc> … to kill a hanging program by clicking its window with the mouse
  • <Ctrl><Esc> … to get a list of the running applications
  • <Alt><Tab> … to change between application windows (<Shift> inverts the direction)
  • <Ctrl><Alt><Del> … to shutdown and reboot the system
  • <Ctrl><Alt><Backspace> … to log out from KDE


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GNOME stands for 'GNU Network Object Model Environment'. It is 'the other' big free desktop environment for Unix systems.

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Other Desktop Environments

Apart from the big guys KDE and GNOME , there are other desktop environment projects. These projects usually have the advantage of using much less system resources than those two.

  • XFce uses the GTK+ widget set like GNOME . It builds the foundation for the 'XFwm' window manager and comes with utilities like the XFTree file manager or XFSamba, an SMB share browser. You can use the XFce Panel with other window managers. You can install XFce from your Mandrake Linux CD.
  • ROX Desktop is possibly the most original desktop environment available for Linux. In contrast to KDE and GNOME , it does not try to emulate the concepts of the MS Windows graphical shell but concentrates on the file system. OS/2 and Mac OS users may find some similarities to their respective operating systems, but ROX is worth a shot for everyone who is interested in new ideas and different desktop concepts.
    You can get ROX from the "contrib" section of Mandrakelinux. If you are using the download edition this may mean setting up a urpmi source for it. Make sure to read the excellent help files on the project website. The FAQ (Rox FAQ) is a good place to start.
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Window Managers

Without them, you won't be able to see anything on X. There are lots of them out there, some of them are compatible to either KDE or GNOME (or even both), some of them are not.
'Compatibility' here means that you can use these managers on top of GNOME or KDE. This doesn't affect your ability to run applications written with GNOME or KDE in mind. You can run those on every window manager.
Using a 'simple' manager instead of a full-blown 'environment' can save you quite a bit of system resources.


  • Window Managers for X. This site offers a comprehensive list of window managers along with screen shots, descriptions and links.
  • Freshmeat Themes contains everything to make your manager look even prettier. Some themes are perfect in slowing down X to a scrawl on older machines, though ...
A small selection of managers:
  • Blackbox is designed for speed. Minimal KDE support, no GNOME support. Can be installed from your Mandrake Linux CD.
    Blackbox has spawned several other interesting window manager projects like ~FluxBox (on your Mandrake Linux CD) and Waimea (requires compiling).
  • Enlightenment ('E'). If you're a in it for the looks and an insane number of configuration possibilities, that's the one for you. Compatible with GNOME and KDE in newer releases. Can be installed from your Mandrake Linux CD.
  • FVWM is the mother of all window managers ;-). Still to be configured via text-files, but arguably the most configurable window manager out there. Compatible with GNOME. Can be installed from your Mandrake Linux CD.
  • IceWM the goal of IceWM is speed, simplicity, and not getting in the user's way. Usable with GNOME and KDE environments. There's also a light version (icewm-light) with minimal features. Both can be installed from your Mandrake Linux CD. Some more links on IceWM:,,,,
  • Window Maker is a medium-sized, small, quite fast, easy configurable, KDE and GNOME compatible window manager. Window Maker is an offshoot of the ~AfterStep WM and part of the GNUstep project. Can be installed from your Mandrake Linux CD.
  • wm2. Arguably the smallest manager available: no icons, no extensible root menus, toolbars or reconfigurability. So, what's the use? Well, if you just need to start X to run some big app or game, wm2 will leave you with as much free memory as possible.
section index

Related Resources:

Window Managers for X

Revision / Modified: July 3, 2002
Author: Tom Berger Revised again November 25, 2005 by Dylan.

Legal: This page is covered by the GNU Free Documentation License. Standard disclaimers of warranty apply. Copyright LSTB and Mandrakesoft.

KB - Desktop Resources
Version 1.18 last modified by mimosinnet on 22/05/2006 at 14:37


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Creator: AdminWiki on 2004/03/22 09:45
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