Linux is a versatile and customizable open source operating system. You can make the Linux distros as per your requirement. Ubuntu is one of the best Linux distro out there which comes pre-packed with unity desktop environment, Ubuntu gnome, Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu cinnamon etc. There are some other distros, which based on Ubuntu but comes with a different Desktop Environment i.e Elementary OS, Linux Mint OS, Lubuntu, Kubuntu and much more.

So if you are running Ubuntu unity desktop, and want to get the taste of another desktop, what should you do? Will you install all the desktop one by one? The answer is no. You can try all but one by one. This will save your Linux system and time as well.

SEE MORE – All in One Best Ubuntu Themes that will Blow Your Mind

Best and Amazing Desktop Environment for Ubuntu

Keeping this thought in mind, I am going to share a list of different desktop environments and shells, which can be installed on different Ubuntu versions through Terminal.

1. GNOME Shell

Gnome desktop is used by officially supported Ubuntu Gnome flavor, and developed for Gnome 3 by the Gnome Project. Gnome shell is a powerful desktop environment, which takes hardware acceleration like Ubuntu unity. This shell is having a powerful extension store, which enhances the utility of the desktop. Gnome shell does not offer any minimize functionality of the window, rather it gives emphasis on active overview and workspace to manage open windows.

Install Gnome Shell on Ubuntu/Linux Mint
Install Gnome Shell on Ubuntu/Linux Mint | Source – askubuntu.com

Run the following command to Install Gnome 3.20 in Ubuntu and Linux Mint.

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3-staging
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gnome-shell

Though Gnome shell is heavily developed, but sometimes it may cause a problem to your system. so if you want to revert back to an earlier phase, do follow the sequence very carefully.

Uninstall ubuntu gnome desktop and its dependencies. Run the command…

sudo apt-get remove ubuntu-gnome-desktop
sudo apt-get remove gnome-shell
sudo apt-get remove --auto-remove ubuntu-gnome-desktop

This will remove all the Gnome files and dependencies, which are no longer required. Now it’s time to purge system configuration file. Follow the command in Terminal.

sudo apt-get purge ubuntu-gnome-desktop
sudo apt-get purge --auto-remove ubuntu-gnome-desktop
sudo apt-get autoremove
Now you have to restore system earlier login screen.
sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm
sudo apt-get remove gdm
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop
sudo apt-get install unity
At this moment, if you get a problem during login screen, then you have to enter Text Terminal by pressing Control+Alt+F1 while rebooting and run the following command.
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop
sudo apt-get install --reinstall lightdm

2. Xfce

Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment, which takes fewer resources, and does not demand hardware acceleration to run. It’s basically made for a Unix-like distro. Xfce is very fast and user-friendly. This handy desktop environment comes with some unique apps and panel extension, which increase the utility of the system. Install it by the following command.

READ MORE : Top Things To Do After Installing Ubuntu

xfce4 desktop environment install on ubuntu
xfce4 desktop environment install on Ubuntu|Image Source-blog.sudobits.com
sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop

To install additional apps and extension, use following command.

sudo apt-get install xfce4-goodies

To install Xfce 4.12 on Ubuntu 14.04 and 15.04:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:xubuntu-dev/xfce-4.12
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install xfce4

To uninstall PPA:

sudo apt-get install ppa-purge
sudo ppa-purge ppa:xubuntu-dev/xfce-4.12

3. KDE Plasma

After Gnome, KDE Plasma is the most used and customized desktop environment. It’s highly customizable, and the range of options is just incredible. Unlike ubuntu unity 3D, it demands accelerated hardware for a smooth run. To install run the following command in Terminal.

SEE MORE – Top 10 Best Things To Do After Installing Fedora

Install KDE Plasma On Ubuntu
Install KDE Plasma On Ubuntu|Image Source – Techmint

To install Plasma 5.6

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get full-upgrade

To remove

sudo apt-get install ppa-purge
sudo ppa-purge ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports

Or

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop

4. LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment)

LXDE is an incredibly lightweight desktop environment, which gives focus on high performances by using less resource. It does not need any hardware acceleration, rather it can be run on a very old machine. It’s very fast, have huge customization, and takes less memory. Run the following code in Terminal.

LXDE Desktop Environment
LXDE Desktop Environment|Image source-lxde.org
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install lxde

5. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a very popular desktop environment. It’s the default DE on Linux mint. This desktop environment comes from Gnome shell, thus it demands high hardware acceleration and a 3D environment. This desktop is helpful to those users, who come from windows OS. With the help of extension manager, cinnamon can do lots of productivity task.

SEE MORE –  Top 10 Best Things To Do After Installing Linux Mint

Installing Cinnamon Desktop on Ubuntu
Installing Cinnamon Desktop on Ubuntu|Image Source-Techmint News

Run the following command to install Cinnamon 3.0 Desktop on Ubuntu.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:embrosyn/cinnamon
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install cinnamon

To remove Cinnamon 3.0 from the system, run the command.

sudo apt-get remove cinnamon
sudo apt-get autoremove

6. Pantheon

Pantheon is lightweight and modular based desktop environment used in elementary OS as default user interface. The GUI is similar to apple’s mac OS. This DE can be installed on any machine running Ubuntu.

install Pantheon on Ubuntu
Install Pantheon on Ubuntu|Image source-linuxg.net

To install Pantheon on Ubuntu 16.04

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/daily
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/os-patches
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/testing
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mpstark/elementary-tweaks-daily
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get install elementary-theme elementary-icon-theme elementary-default-settings elementary-desktop

Or if the above does not work…

SEE MORE – Best and Useful Ubuntu Software That Will Make You More Productive

Ubuntu — 12.04 and up

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/daily
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install elementary-desktop

7. GNOME Flashback (Ubuntu Classic/GNOME Panel)

Gnome Flashback is basic and classic desktop environment, which gives a pure taste of ubuntu. It’s lightweight and fast. Basically, it’s based on early version of the ubuntu.

Gnome Fallback-Flashback In Ubuntu-Linux Mint
Gnome Fallback-Flashback In Ubuntu-Linux Mint|Image Source-Noobslab.com

For ubuntu 16.04 or latest

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-flashback

For ubuntu 12.04-13.10

sudo apt-get install gnome-panel

or

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback

8. Install MATE Desktop on Ubuntu Systems

MATE is a forked version of Gnome 2. When Gnome 3 created, many users wanted to stay with the old version of gnome 2. Thus this desktop environment is being made to have the old taste. This DE can be used on an old laptop.

Install MATE Desktop on Ubuntu 16.04. Run the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/xenial-mate
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install mate-dock-applet

To uninstall and remove Mate Desktop:

sudo apt-get install ppa-purge
sudo ppa-purge ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/xenial-mate

Install MATE Desktop on Ubuntu 15.10. Run the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/wily-mate
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install mate-dock-applet

To uninstall and remove Mate Desktop:

sudo apt-get install ppa-purge
sudo ppa-purge ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/wily-mate

9. Unity 8/Next (Desktop mode)

We all heard about ubuntu touch, which is used as mobile OS on ubuntu phone and tablets. Unity 8 is used as a user interface on that mobile devices. And it will eventually replace the traditional unity 7.

READ MORE : 9 Awesome Tips To Speed Up Ubuntu Unity Desktop

Though this DE still has not come to desktop ubuntu, but you can get a taste of using it. Remember this DE is in early stage and under heavy development, thus provides an unstable system and lots of security bug. Use at your own risk.

Unity 8 desktop environment
Unity 8 desktop environment|Image Source-Ubuntu.com

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

sudo apt-get install unity8-desktop-session-mir

Add the Stable Phone Overlay PPA

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ci-train-ppa-service/stable-phone-overlay
sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Ubuntu 14.10 and 15.04

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install unity8-lxc

Ubuntu 12.04 and 14.04:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:unity8-desktop-session-team/unity8-preview-lxc
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install unity8-lxc


For setting up run the following command

sudo unity8-lxc-setup

To remove Unity 8 use this command:

sudo apt-get remove unity8-lxc

10. Budgie

Budgie is a regular and flagship DE made for Solus OS. This DE provides customization about desktop widgets, themes, icon theme, dark theme mode and in-depth features of the panel. Here you can install this desktop environment by the following command into Terminal.

Install Budgie Desktop in Ubuntu
Install Budgie Desktop in Ubuntu|Image Source-webupd8.org
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:budgie-remix/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install budgie-desktop

To remove or purge

sudo apt-get install ppa-purge
sudo ppa-purge ppa:budgie-remix/ppa

11. Awesome

Awesome is less power hog desktop environment, which gives a lot of control over the system. To install this environment, just run the following command in Terminal

sudo apt-get install awesome

12. Qtile

To get highly customized and organized desktop environment, use Qtile. This DE is solely written in python and does its job nicely. To get it, run the following command…

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:tycho-s/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install qtile

13. Razor-qt

This DE is very lightweight and available to install on ubuntu. Follow the command to install.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:razor-qt
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install razorqt

Final Thought

Here you must remember not to install many desktop environments at a go, which can damage your ubuntu or Linux mint system. Before installing any DE, you must understand the procedure, and how to uninstall or revert back to the earlier system. Many DE version changes often. So if you find any DE listed here is old, then let me know.

SEE MORE – All in One Best Ubuntu Themes that will Blow Your Mind

What Did You Do?

Did you install any DE from here ? Which one did you like most? Share your experiences and suggestions in the comment section.

4 COMMENTS

    • Thanks for the comment. Yes you are very correct, it is a window manager but also considered as lightweight Desktop Environment. Many task can be done like other Desktop environment. Basically it makes an unique tilling window interface for perfoming the specific job.

  1. Hi it’s awesome work here dude!! but when i installed pantheon desktop on my laptop. After logging out/restart lightdm didn’t give me option to log in to pantheon. what it does, it just mix both unity and pantheon. where did i go wrong ?

    • Hellow Waqar, glad that you like the tutorial. Pantheon is nice looking desktop environment but comes with some issue when you go for installing it on latest Ubuntu version. You can see this Link https://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1918649 for more information of fixing the issue. If it does not solve the problem, it’s always better to open an issue ticket on Ubuntu official forum. There are many enthusiastic Linux lover, who is ready to help you for any issue. I hope this will help you.

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