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Hello All, I've been searching yet I cannot seem to find a good answer to my question. What is the difference between a standalone window manager and a desktop environment. ...
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  1. #1
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    Desktop Environment vs Window Manager: Build a DE from a WM


    Hello All,

    I've been searching yet I cannot seem to find a good answer to my question. What is the difference between a standalone window manager and a desktop environment. I have used both, and know the general differences.

    Essentially I would like to know what parts (daemons, programs, settings managers) of GNOME or KDE I'd have to add to a window manager such as Openbox to achieve all of the features of a desktop environment.

    Ultimately, I'd like to create a sleek compilation of programs that would provide only the functions of a DE which I value.

    Any insight is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    -Derek

  2. #2
    Linux Guru jmadero's Avatar
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    Did you read this: Flipping the Linux switch: Desktop environments vs. window managers

    I think the definition is pretty...loose? I use Enlightenment and they call it a Window Manager but I think that it's clearly a DE. In terms of what you'll need to add, really depends on what you want your DE to do
    Bodhi 1.3 & Bodhi 1.4 using E17
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    Thanks,

    I'm trying to find out what my options are. I know GNOME provides extra things: such as panels, settings manager, wallpaper, etc. I'd like to compile some sort of list of the extras so that I can see what I would like/need, and what I wouldn't.

    -Derek

  4. #4
    oz
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    Quote Originally Posted by faustism View Post
    I'm trying to find out what my options are. I know GNOME provides extra things: such as panels, settings manager, wallpaper, etc. I'd like to compile some sort of list of the extras so that I can see what I would like/need, and what I wouldn't.
    So far as I know, there are go rules as to what must go into a desktop environment, and I've seen window managers that have most of what you've posted above. The desktop environments that I've used will generally come with at least a terminal app, file manager app, and a text editor app, along with things like a window manager, background setter, panels, apps menu, etc. I think it's pretty much up to the DE developer what other apps come with it.

    You can check the list of packages that install on a basic Gnome, KDE, or Xfce system to see what all goes into them.
    oz

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    Just Joined! Sidekick's Avatar
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    I found this on Linux Mint's forums. Linux "veterans" have called it the best "layman's language" description of the different window managers and desktop environments. I don't have enough posts here to put in a link. But put your www" in front of this:

    forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=90&t=54945&start=0#p314893

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    Linux Newbie SL6-A1000's Avatar
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    I have a feeling and people can correct me if i am wrong or pointing out the obvious...

    But the biggest difference between a DE and a WM is that a WM sits directly on top of the Xorg environment and is well... a GUI directly to that environment. While a DE uses Xorg but it also runs a shell layer like GNOME Shell, unity shell, cinnamone, etc.. between Xorg and the actual interface. The shell i believe provides better graphics and other features that i am not sure about.

    Which i am pretty sure but not 100% sure that, that is one of the main reasons why most WM's are lightweight in comparision to most DE's.

    The benefits of either are reasonably obvious.

    I hope that is what you meant???

    If i was you i wouldn't try altering GNOME once installed unless your absolutely sure you know what your doing. Both GNOME and KDE i think are very complex. You'd be better off to run the lightweight environments or something like MATE or Trinity which are forks of both KDE3 and GNOME2 but are not as heavy as there counterparts
    Last edited by SL6-A1000; 03-30-2012 at 12:44 AM.

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    Just Joined! Randicus's Avatar
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    To build a basic DE, start with a WM. You mentioned Openbox, which is my favourite. Add a panel, and if you want desk-top icons, you will need a programme like idesk, to name one of a few, but I cannot remember the other names at the moment. As already mentioned, if you do not already have a file manager and terminal, add those. I use Openbox with fbpanel. This set-up has all the functionality of a DE, except desk-top icons, which I do not care about.

    In my opinion, there is no need to drag in Gnome or KDE elements. Otherwise one might as well use one of those DEs. For example, using the panel will require installing a host of dependent packages.

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    Thank you for all the great feedback.

    I understand most of the user-facing parts of the desktop environment like taskbars, menus, launchers, and the various apps included and how they fit into the scheme of things, but I don't believe that just installing nautilus and gnome panel and mutter/metacity (and other bundled apps the user sees) will actually recreate gnome.

    I have been under the impression that desktop environments provide more background software (like services/daemons ie. gnome-settings-manager, gnome-keyring-manager, and I think there are probably many more) that are not necessarily elements the user directly interfaces with, but do affect the user experience.

    For example, I know without a desktop environment, automounting doesn't happen by default. There is some sort of system tool (included in the DE) that provides this functionality. I would like to include in my system the tools that accomplish automounting, easy mouse/touchpad configuration, and maybe other feature of gnome that lie beneath the surface.

    Is there any way I could just see a list of something of what gnome starts? I haven't been able to locate it. In xfce there is even a "Start GNOME Services" checkbox in the startup settings, but it is unclear what "services" this entails.

    Thanks
    -Derek

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    Just Joined! Randicus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by faustism View Post
    ... but I don't believe that just installing nautilus and gnome panel and mutter/metacity (and other bundled apps the user sees) will actually recreate gnome.
    I do not know which OS you are using, but with Synaptic I can see the dependencies that come with chosen applications. Nautilus drags in quite a few. Gnome panel would also have a few, if not many. I cannot say how many, because I have never looked at it.
    I have been under the impression that desktop environments provide more background software (like services/daemons ie. gnome-settings-manager, gnome-keyring-manager, and I think there are probably many more) that are not necessarily elements the user directly interfaces with, but do affect the user experience.
    Gnome panel will have more icons (shortcuts) to applications than something like Openbox. That is an effect on the user experience. Whether or not it is necessary is a matter of individual preference.
    Which keyring manager is used will depend on both the DE and OS.
    For example, I know without a desktop environment, automounting doesn't happen by default.
    Openbox automatically mounts devices with Debian. XFCE has automatic mounting with Debian, but when I tried it with Slackware it did not.

    KDE has a few features the Gnome does not, such as a fount adding utility and locale manager, but overall, the difference between DEs is mainly cosmetic. Most, if not all, of the features you mention are parts of the OS. (I say most, if not all, because I am not an expert. If I am wrong, someone will point it out.)

    As I mentioned above, I have Openbox with fbpanel. No desk-top icons. No bells. No whistles. I have all of the necessary features that full-fledged DEs have.

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    A window manager is an integral part of a DE. All DEs have window managers - i.e. KDE uses kwin, Xfce uses xfwm, LXDE uses openbox and gnome uses metacity/mutter. What makes a DE is the inclusion of things like e.g. session and volume managers, power management utilities, configuration tools, file managers and other apps specific to the DE.

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