Change the Desktop Environment Edit on GitHub

Pop!_OS and Ubuntu both include the GNOME desktop environment by default. A desktop environment is responsible for the look and feel of the graphical desktop, and includes many of the key programs that get used every day.

You can install an alternative desktop environment using the instructions below. If you run into trouble while using an alternative desktop environment, you may wish to revert to the default environment. To ensure the default GNOME desktop environment is installed in Pop!_OS, install the pop-desktop package:

sudo apt install pop-desktop

For Ubuntu, install the ubuntu-desktop package instead:

sudo apt install ubuntu-desktop

The desktop environment is basically the top graphical layer of the OS. The desktop environment is launched by a display manager; Pop!_OS and Ubuntu both use GDM (GNOME Display Manager) by default.

If multiple desktop environments are installed, GDM will display a gear icon, which will allow you to select the desktop environment you want to launch. You will need to either reboot or restart your display manager using sudo systemctl restart gdm before a newly-installed desktop environment will show up in the list of options.

Login2


MATE

MATE is a simple and attractive desktop using traditional concepts. MATE is a fork of GNOME 2.

MATE

This command will install MATE and its dependencies:

sudo apt install mate-desktop-environment mate-desktop-environment-extras ubuntu-mate-themes

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is used in Linux Mint by default. Cinnamon strives to provide a traditional experience and is a fork of GNOME 3.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is installed with:

sudo apt install cinnamon-desktop-environment

GNOME

While Pop and Ubuntu contain GNOME by default, both include a number of customizations to GNOME. You can also install a vanilla GNOME session to get the upstream GNOME experience.

GNOME

You can install the vanilla GNOME session using this command:

sudo apt install gnome-session

KDE Plasma

The KDE Plasma desktop environment is a familiar working environment and looks similar to Windows’ desktop. It is highly customizable and looks clean.

KDE Plasma

The KDE Plasma desktop and its dependencies can be installed with this command:

sudo apt install kde-standard

While installing KDE, you’ll be prompted to choose a display manager:

Display Manager Section

Press Enter to select the OK option. (If the OK option is not selected, press Tab to select it.) At the list, press Enter again to keep gdm3 as your display manager:

Display Manager Section


UKUI

UKUI is a lightweight desktop environment based on a pluggable framework for Linux and other UNIX-like distributions. It provides a simple experience for browsing, searching, and managing your computer. It is developed using GTK and Qt.

UKUI

UKUI can be installed with:

sudo apt install ukui-desktop-environment

XFCE

XFCE embodies the traditional UNIX philosophy of modularity and re-usability. This environment provides a good amount of conformity for the programs written for it. XFCE also provides a highly customizable environment, while being leaner on resources.

Xfce

You can install XFCE and its dependencies with this command:

sudo apt install xfce4 xfce4-goodies

While installing XFCE, you’ll see a prompt to select your default display manager:

Display Manager Section

Press Enter to select the OK option. (If the OK option is not selected, press Tab to select it.) At the list, press Enter again to keep gdm3 as your display manager:

Display Manager Section


LXDE

The Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment is a fast and energy-saving desktop environment. It looks similar to older versions of Windows. This is a lean desktop environment and can help extend battery life in laptops.

LXDE

LXDE can be installed with:

sudo apt install lxde

While installing LXDE, you’ll see a prompt to select your default display manager:

Display Manager Section

Press Enter to select the OK option. (If the OK option is not selected, press Tab to select it.) At the list, press Enter again to keep gdm3 as your display manager:

Display Manager Section


LXQt

LXQt is a lightweight Qt desktop environment. It’s being developed as a successor to LXDE. It is focused on being a classic desktop with a modern look and feel.

LXQt

LXQt can be installed with:

sudo apt install lxqt

Troubleshooting

Desktop environments can interfere with each other or change system-wide settings. Issues with a desktop environment’s appearance can generally be fixed by changing the theme in the Appearance control panel.

Customize Notification Dialog

Xfce will change the notification dialog to its own. It can be configured with this command:

xfce4-notifyd-config

Remove Duplicate Options From Login Screen

Some desktop environments provide more than one session. For example, Cinnamon provides both a 2D and a 3D session. The options available at login are located in the /usr/share/xessions directory, and unneeded options can be removed by deleting the corresponding files. For example, to remove Cinnamon’s extra option:

sudo rm /usr/share/xsessions/cinnamon2d.desktop

Change Automatic Startup Programs

Some desktop environments configure additional programs to start at boot. To change them, run the Startup Applications program and turn off any unwanted startup programs.

Double Lock Screen Passwords

GNOME does not use a screensaver (only a lock screen), but other desktop environments may install the classic GNOME screensaver package as a dependency. If you’re being prompted for a password twice after suspending or locking the screen, disable the second prompt with this command:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.screensaver lock-enabled false

Or, if that doesn’t stop the second prompt, uninstall the redundant screensaver with this command:

sudo apt purge gnome-screensaver

Enable Cinnamon Lock Screen

If Cinnamon’s desktop lock screen isn’t functioning, this command will re-enable it:

gsettings set org.cinnamon.desktop.lockdown disable-lock-screen false

Removing Desktop Environments

If you no longer want to use a desktop environment, it can be removed by using:

sudo apt autoremove --purge ...

For example, to remove KDE:

sudo apt autoremove --purge kde-standard

Article last modified: 2021-02-15