The Most Popular Linux Desktop Environment: A Comprehensive Ranking

Choose the environment you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Apr 10, 2024 07:18
Welcome to StrawPoll, the home of infinite opinions and endless debates! Dive into the world of Linux desktop environments as we embark on a quest to crown the ultimate fan favorite. With thousands of tech-savvy users like yourself casting their votes, this ranking promises to be a thrilling race to the top. From the sleek sophistication of GNOME to the unparalleled customizability of KDE Plasma, which desktop environment will emerge victorious? Do you champion the lightweight champion LXQt or rally behind the ever-evolving Cinnamon? Perhaps you're a fan of a lesser-known contender waiting to shake up the rankings. Join the excitement, cast your vote, and discover the most popular Linux desktop environment now! And remember, if you can't find your top choice, you can always suggest an option and rally support for your beloved underdog. The power is in your hands - let the battle of the Linux desktop environments begin!

What Is the Most Popular Linux Desktop Environment?

  1. 1
    GNOME is one of the most popular Linux desktop environments because of its modern and intuitive interface. It is also highly customizable, making it a popular choice for power users.
    GNOME is a popular desktop environment for Linux operating systems. It aims to provide an intuitive and user-friendly interface, with a focus on simplicity and ease of use. GNOME offers a range of applications and features to enhance productivity and customization.
    • Latest Stable Version: GNOME 3.38
    • Released: August 2020
    • License: GNU Lesser General Public License
    • Default File Manager: Nautilus
    • Default Web Browser: Epiphany (GNOME Web)
  2. 2
    KDE Plasma
    KDE · GPL

    KDE Plasma

    KDE Community
    KDE Plasma is another popular Linux desktop environment known for its sleek and modern design. It is highly customizable and offers a range of features and tools for advanced users.
    KDE Plasma is a modern, feature-rich desktop environment for Linux systems. It provides a visually appealing and customizable user interface.
    • High Customization Options: Allows users to tweak and personalize their desktop experience
    • Powerful Application Launcher: Offers a quick and efficient way to launch applications and access system settings
    • Widgets and Panel System: Supports a wide range of desktop widgets and a flexible panel system for organizing and accessing important information
    • Efficient Window Management: Includes features like window tiling, desktop grid, and virtual desktops for effective multitasking
    • System Tray and Task Manager: Provides a system tray for managing notifications and an advanced task manager for monitoring running applications
  3. 3
    Xfce is a lightweight and fast desktop environment that is popular among users who prefer a more traditional desktop interface. It is designed to be easy to use and customizable.
    Xfce is a lightweight desktop environment for Unix-like operating systems. It aims to be fast, efficient, and user-friendly, providing a familiar desktop experience with a traditional layout. Xfce features a modular design, allowing users to customize their desktop environment according to their preferences.
    • Resource Usage: Low resource consumption, making it suitable for older hardware
    • Customization: Extensive options for customization and theming
    • Stability: Well-established and renowned for its stability
    • Usability: Intuitive and user-friendly interface
    • Speed: Blazing-fast performance with minimal system impact
  4. 4
    Cinnamon is a desktop environment that is designed to be easy to use and highly customizable. It is based on the GNOME desktop environment and is popular among Linux Mint users.
    Cinnamon is a popular gum flavor known for its spicy and warming taste reminiscent of the cinnamon spice. It offers a refreshing and invigorating chewing experience.
    • Flavor: Cinnamon
    • Brand: Wrigley's
    • Chewing Texture: Smooth
    • Sugar Content: Sugar-Free
    • Packaging: Individual Wrappers
  5. 5
    Mate is a desktop environment that is based on the GNOME 2 desktop environment. It is designed to be lightweight and fast, making it a popular choice for older hardware.
    The term 'mate' is a popular slang used in British English to refer to a friend, acquaintance, or companion. It is deeply embedded in the British culture and is widely used in informal conversations. The term is used to address someone casually, similar to 'buddy' or 'pal' in American English.
    • Usage: Casual slang
    • Meaning: Friend, acquaintance, companion
    • Origin: 19th century British working class
    • Alternatives: Pal, buddy, chum
    • Popularity: High, widely used in British English
  6. 6
    LXDE is a lightweight desktop environment that is designed to be fast and efficient. It is popular among users who prefer a simple and minimalist interface.
    LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment) is a lightweight desktop environment for Linux. It aims to provide a fast and energy-efficient desktop with low resource usage, suitable for older computers or systems with limited hardware capabilities.
    • Resource Usage: Low
    • Speed: Fast
    • Energy Efficiency: High
    • Customization Options: Limited
    • Memory Footprint: Small
  7. 7
    Unity is a desktop environment that was developed by Canonical for the Ubuntu operating system. It is designed to be user-friendly and intuitive, making it a popular choice among new Linux users.
    Unity is a powerful and versatile game development platform. It provides developers with a comprehensive set of tools and features to create stunning interactive experiences across various platforms.
    • Cross-platform development: Allows developers to build games once and deploy them to multiple platforms including PC, mobile, console, and VR/AR devices.
    • Real-time 3D rendering: Delivers high-quality and immersive visuals through advanced rendering techniques like physically based shading, global illumination, and post-processing effects.
    • Enhanced physics engine: Offers realistic physics simulations for accurate object movements, collisions, and interactions.
    • Integrated visual scripting system: Enables non-programmers to create game logic and behaviors using a node-based visual scripting system called 'Playmaker'.
    • Asset store: Provides a vast marketplace for developers to access ready-to-use assets, models, animations, and scripts, saving time and effort in asset creation.
  8. 8
    Budgie is a desktop environment that is designed to be modern and user-friendly. It is based on the GNOME desktop environment and is known for its elegant and minimalist design.
    Budgie is a lightweight and modern desktop environment for Linux systems. It aims to provide a simple, elegant, and user-friendly interface while remaining resource-efficient. The design of Budgie focuses on simplicity and minimalism, offering a clean and intuitive user experience.
    • Simplicity: Budgie offers a straightforward and easy-to-use interface.
    • Modern Design: The desktop environment features a visually appealing and sleek design.
    • Customization: Budgie allows users to customize their desktop experience through various settings and themes.
    • Raven Notification Center: It includes a built-in notification center called Raven, providing quick access to notifications, calendar, and system settings.
    • Applet Support: Budgie supports the use of applets, which are miniature programs that provide additional functionality on the desktop.
  9. 9
    Enlightenment is a desktop environment that is known for its unique and innovative design. It is highly customizable and offers a range of features and tools for advanced users.
    Enlightenment is a popular Linux desktop environment known for its elegant and visually appealing design. It provides a lightweight and highly configurable user interface, making it suitable for both low-end and high-end hardware. With a focus on speed and efficiency, Enlightenment offers a powerful and feature-rich environment while maintaining a low system resource footprint.
    • Window Manager: E17
    • Compositing Manager: Composite Manager
    • Widget Toolkit: Enlightenment Foundation Libraries (EFL)
    • File Manager: Enlightenment File Manager (EFM)
    • Application Launcher: Enlightenment Application Launcher (E17_Menu)
  10. 10
    Openbox is a window manager that is designed to be lightweight and fast. It is popular among users who prefer a minimalist interface and is often used in conjunction with other desktop environments.
    Openbox is a lightweight and highly customizable window manager for the X Window System. It provides a minimalist and efficient desktop environment, focusing primarily on window management. Openbox was initially created by Dana Jansens and is currently maintained by the Openbox community.
    • Lightweight: Openbox is known for its low resource usage, making it ideal for older hardware or systems with limited resources.
    • Customizable: Openbox allows users to extensively customize their desktop environment, providing them with full control over the appearance and behavior of their windows.
    • Window Management: Openbox excels in window management, offering features like dynamic window resizing, virtual desktops, application launching, and window tiling.
    • Extensibility: Openbox can be extended through the use of external scripts, allowing users to add additional functionality or automate tasks.
    • Standards-compliant: Openbox adheres to the X Window System standards, ensuring compatibility and interoperability with other applications and window managers.

Missing your favorite environment?


Ranking factors for popular environment

  1. User-friendliness
    The desktop environment should be easy to use and navigate for users of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced users. This includes intuitive menus, options, and layouts that make it easy to find and launch applications, manage files, and configure settings.
  2. Customizability
    The ability to personalize the look and feel of the desktop environment, including customizing appearance, themes, icons, and system behavior.
  3. Performance
    The desktop environment should be optimized for performance, making efficient use of system resources, and providing a smooth, responsive experience for the user.
  4. Stability
    A stable desktop environment ensures that users can work efficiently without crashes, freezes, or other unexpected behavior. This includes regular updates and patches to fix bugs and improve system stability.
  5. Compatibility
    The desktop environment should be compatible with a wide range of hardware, including older and newer computers, laptops, and touch-screen devices. It should also support various display configurations like HiDPI or multiple monitors.
  6. Features and Functionality
    The desktop environment should provide a comprehensive set of features and tools to help users perform their tasks effectively, such as a file manager, terminal emulator, text editor, and more, either built-in or through easily accessible third-party applications.
  7. Community and Support
    A large and active community of users and developers is crucial to provide support, share resources, and contribute to the development and improvement of the desktop environment.
  8. Accessibility
    The desktop environment should have features and options that cater to users with disabilities, including built-in screen readers, magnifiers, and keyboard navigation.
  9. Integration
    Seamless integration with popular applications and services, for example, online accounts synchronization or standardized settings managers, is essential for providing a smooth and cohesive user experience.
  10. Documentation and Learning Curve
    Good documentation, including guides, tutorials, and how-to articles, can help users learn their way around the desktop environment and troubleshoot issues more easily. The learning curve should also be considered, with more intuitive environments being easier for users to grasp quickly.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular Linux desktop environment. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or environment is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 208 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Movers & Shakers

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each environment once every 24 hours. The rank of each environment is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


More information on most popular linux desktop environment

Linux has become an increasingly popular operating system choice in recent years, thanks to its open-source nature and flexibility. One of the key features of Linux is the ability to customize the user interface to suit individual preferences. This has led to the development of various desktop environments, each with its own unique look and feel. From the sleek and modern GNOME to the classic and customizable XFCE, there's no shortage of options when it comes to Linux desktop environments. In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the most popular Linux desktop environments and explore what makes each one unique.

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