The Linux interface is an OS desktop that you can customize to your liking or even choose a ready-made solution. This is the main advantage of the operating system.
There are various variations of desktop shells; some even have been in operation since 1998. However, the year the interface was created says nothing; the main thing is that it should be convenient and pleasant for the user to work with.
What is Linux
Linux is a family of operating systems (OS) based on the kernel of the same name. There is no single Linux OS, as with Windows or MacOS. Instead, several distributions (sets of files are required to install software). Each of them is designed to solve specific problems.
The creator of Linux is Linus Torvalds. The operating system was named after this American programmer. The specialist began developing the Unix family of operating systems in 1991. Already in 1994, the first version of the product was released. She was not popular at the time. Its users were only a few people.
Ten years later, the demand for the Linux operating system has skyrocketed. Many programmers started to like the concept of free software, so they took part in developing the operating system. In 1996, the Linux kernel developers decided that the company needed a mascot and logo. Linus Torvalds liked penguins, so this particular bird was chosen.
Where is Linux used?
Consider the main areas of application of Linux:
- Web servers. According to the analytical agency W3Techs, 75.1% of websites use Linux servers.
- Mobile devices. The Android OS, installed on mobile devices, operates based on the Linux kernel.
- Supercomputers. We are talking about special computers that are much faster and more productive than conventional PCs. Such devices require a special operating system designed to perform certain tasks. Linux is open source so programmers can adjust the OS to a particular supercomputer.
- Game consoles. At the moment, there are few games that Linux OS supports. However, it is worth noting that Steam is about to release its operating system – SteamOS. The user can get it along with the Steam Machine game console.
- IoT devices and smart technology. For example, Samsung released the Tize operating system, LG released WebOS, and Panasonic and Philips are based on FirefoxOS. All of these devices use Linux.
- Aviation and Transport. Tesla-embedded computers and Google’s self-driving vehicles run Linux OS. In addition, in 2006, the US Aviation Administration began using this operating system to track traffic.
How the OS is arranged
The Linux operating system is based on the modular principles, standards, and conventions that Unix developed back in the 70s and 80s. This OS uses a monolithic kernel. It manages various processes, network functions, peripherals, and file system access. In this case, device drivers can be implemented in two ways: either as modules loaded during the OS’s operation or embedded in the kernel itself.
It is impossible not to mention the programs that provide higher-level system functions when interacting with the kernel. A prime example is GNU custom components. This is an important element of almost all Linux systems. GNU components contain the most common implementations of the C library, popular operating system shells, and so on. These tools are necessary to perform important OS tasks.
The graphical user interface (GUI) is based on the X Window System in almost all Linux systems. In rare cases, Wayland is used.
Linux user interface
Users use command line interfaces (CLI) and graphical user interfaces (GUI) on Linux. If we are talking about embedded systems, the work is carried out through the controls of the hardware itself. A graphical user interface (UI) is most commonly installed on desktop systems. The command prompt can be opened using a terminal emulator window or a separate virtual console.
Almost all low-level components of the Linux interface (including custom GNU components) use only the command line. It is the best option for automating repetitive or delayed tasks. In addition, the command line allows you to use a very simple inter-process communication mechanism.
To access the command line from the Linux desktop, using a graphical terminal emulator program is not uncommon. At the same time, those distributions created specifically for servers can use the command line as the only interface.
In the case of desktop systems, the most common user interfaces are those based on desktop environments like GNOME, KDE Plasma Desktop, and Xfce.
However, there are other PIs. At the same time, the most common Linux user interfaces operate based on the X Window System, which provides network transparency. In addition, this system allows a graphical application installed on one PC to be displayed on another. The user can work with the program on both computers.
FVWM, Enlightenment, and Window Maker are the simplest X Window System window managers. They only have a few features. These programs allow you to control the placement and appearance of individual application windows. In addition, such managers interact with the X Window System. Since 2011, the GNOME desktop environment has been using Mutter. KWin was introduced to KDE in 2000. Xfwm has been the default in the Xfce shell since 1998. In this case, the user can easily install another window manager.
9 Most Popular Linux Desktop Shells
The user can install a desktop shell on their system. But if you are a beginner, it is recommended to download a ready-made distribution. In it, the environment will be preinstalled and configured, which will simplify the task. Let’s look at some shells.
KDE Plasma is considered to be the most functional desktop environment. In addition, it has a very pleasing appearance. KDE has many useful settings. If you try, the system can be transformed into something similar to Windows or macOS or make other design changes. There are many third-party extensions and widgets (plasmoids) on the Internet that you can install on KDE.
The interface of this shell is initially similar to Windows. At the bottom, there is a taskbar. There is a start menu, tray, and system clock. You can create and delete panels in unlimited quantities. If you want to change the appearance of the system completely, then experiment with the arrangement of the elements.
KDE comes with a set of useful applications. For example, one of the most powerful audio players, Amarok, can compete in its functionality with iTunes. The user will have access to KGet. This application will help you download files from the Internet. The set also includes the Konqueror browser and the handy Kopete messenger. A great addition would be KDE Connect, where you can link your Android mobile device to your desktop.
Due to its versatility, this shell will be useful to experienced users. KDE will also appeal to aesthetes who appreciate beautiful design.
Benefits of this shell:
- Stylish design.
- A large number of settings.
- Demanding. The shell consumes a large number of system resources.
- Inexperienced users will need help understanding the KDE settings.
Distributions: Kubuntu, openSUSE, Chakra.
This Linux user interface is well adapted to touchscreen devices. You will have access to pop-up menus, a drop-down list of applications (similar to Launchpad in macOS), and very large icons. Thus, GNOME is a rather bold decision. The shell is distinguished by its attractiveness and convenience. Conservative users can activate the GNOME Classic mode, which does not have all these advanced elements.
The shell is similar to macOS. At the top, the user sees a panel with a clock and a calendar in the middle. The system tray is located on the right side. The dock is on the left side. With it, you can launch applications and switch between them.
Built-in tools: system search, calendar, Nautilus file manager, Evolution mail client, Totem multimedia player. There are many extensions on the Internet that allow you to increase the shell’s functionality.
GNOME will be convenient for users of touchscreen devices. This shell will also appeal to macOS lovers.
- Beautiful design.
- Ease of use.
- High speed.
- Ability to install various extensions.
- A large number of settings.
- It consumes quite a lot of system resources.
- Specificity. GNOME may not appeal to people who do not use touch devices.
Distributions: Ubuntu, Fedora, Antergos.
Some time ago, GNOME 2 was considered the most minimalistic and simple shell. However, the creators wanted to add some useful features to it. As a result, GNOME 3 was released. Not all users liked the new features, so MATE was developed.
xternally, this shell is not much different from GNOME – the user sees two panels at the top and bottom. However, it has been adapted to modern tasks. For example, the top bar is used to access menus, icons, and the tray, while the bottom is used to switch between open programs and desktops. The user can move, delete and adjust the panels as he sees fit.
MATE consumes a small amount of CPU memory. Therefore, the shell can be installed on weak PCs. Among other things, it has a stylish appearance. MATE is perfect for owners of old and weak computers and people who want a nice but not demanding interface for the Linux system.
- High speed.
- Profitability (does not spend a lot of PC resources).
- A large number of settings.
- Many people think that MATE needs to be updated in design.
Distributions: Ubuntu MATE, Linux Mint MATE.
This is another fork of GNOME. It can be installed on more powerful PCs than in the case of MATE. This graphical shell was originally used only in Linux Mint. However, it began to be used in other distributions after a while.
Cinnamon stands out for its simplicity. This is a very handy shell for beginners. You can learn how to use it even if you’ve worked with Windows all your life. The fact is that Cinnamon is very similar in design to this OS (at the bottom is a panel with open applications, on the left is the main menu and quick launch icons, and on the right is the tray and clock).
However, simplicity is one of many advantages of this graphical environment. Cinnamon stands out for its functionality and customizability. The user can move panels and elements as he likes. This shell will appeal to Windows lovers, inexperienced users, and people needing a graphical environment.
- Moderately concise and attractive design.
- Ease of operation.
- A fairly large number of settings and applets.
- There are a few topics in the official repository. However, it is worth noting that you can download various options from Gnome Look or DeviantArt.
Distributions: Linux Mint.
This interface for the Linux operating system does not have many settings. The dock of this shell is similar to macOS, and the sidebar is reminiscent of Windows 10. Looking closely at the top bar with a tray, you will surely recognize GNOME. Together, however, these elements create a very unusual design. The graphical environment features a handy Raven panel on the right side of the screen.
With its help, the user can interact with the player, notifications, and calendar and open the system settings. If the top bar is moved to the bottom of the screen, the shell will look even more like Windows 10.
This graphical environment will be convenient for beginners who do not need fine-tuning. Experienced Linux users also install Budgie, usually for a change.
- Quite a convenient and simple interface.
- Nice appearance. Budgie looks good on any device (even netbooks and other gadgets with small screens).
- Uses a lot of system resources.
- It has a few settings.
Distributions: Solus Linux, Ubuntu Budgie.
This shell will give your old and low-powered computer a new life. The PC can surf the Internet, store documents, watch movies, and play music. Yes, the appearance of this graphical environment could be more attractive. However, instead, the user gets an optimized and fast shell. LXDE is similar in design to older versions of Mac OS X.
Owners of weak computers often use this interface for Linux OS. LXDE will work well even when MATE and Xfce slow down.
- Possibility of installation on a low-power PC.
- High speed.
- Not the most stylish interface (however, you can download beautiful themes).
On the one hand, there are fewer settings than in KDE; on the other hand, Xfce works on almost any computer. The minimalistic interface of this shell consumes very few system resources. Along with the graphical environment, you will receive the Thunar file manager. It has a convenient tabbed interface and a built-in tool that allows you to bulk rename files. By downloading third-party modules, you can extend the functionality of Xfce. Design themes will help diversify the design of the shell.
Xfce is suitable for owners of low-powered PCs and people who like minimalistic interfaces.
- It works fast and consumes little system resources.
- More functional and customizable than LXDE.
- Has a nice appearance (similar to Mac OS X Tiger).
- More demanding shell than LXDE.
Distributions: Xubuntu, Manjaro Linux.
Initially, the developers created this shell for Elementary OS. Pantheon is simple and attractive. It has a lot in common with the macOS interface. However, in the graphical shell for Linux, the window control buttons are slightly different, and the top bar is transparent. At the same time, “Close” is located on the left side of the screen, like the product from Apple.
The shell is quite easy to operate as it has few settings. The Plank dock looks stylish enough. At the same time, the interface only consumes a little of system resources.
Pantheon is suitable for macOS enthusiasts and inexperienced users.
- The highest speed of work.
- Beautiful animations of windows and panels.
- You will not be able to customize the design of the Pantheon.
Distributions: elementary OS.
Deepin Desktop Environment
Chinese programmers originally developed this interface for the operating system of the same name. However, the shell began to be used in other distributions after a while. It is very simple, comfortable, and has a beautiful design.
The most striking advantage of Deepin Desktop Environment is the universal transformable panel at the bottom of the screen. You can make something similar to the Windows 10 taskbar or the macOS dock from it. On the side, there is a slide-out panel with various settings and notifications.
Any user can use this graphical interface. Its bar quickly transforms into a macOS-like Launchpad dock and the Windows 10 taskbar.
- Laconic and convenient design.
- Ease of operation.
- A large number of preinstalled applications will likely not be useful to you.
Distributions: Deepin, Manjaro Linux.
Many people think that Linux OS is only useful for programmers and fans. IT specialists and ordinary users often use the system. The OS is completely free and has several other advantages. In particular, the Linux GUI can be customized so you always enjoy the system’s look.