My recent post about KDE 4.8 got me thinking about the state of the Linux desktop. Despite the popular cries of havoc and war, I believe the Linux desktop is in a very good place at the moment. Here's are some reasons why we should all be enjoying a true renaissance on the PC desktop, thanks to open source and Linux.
Just look at the landscape. Look at GNOME 3 and Ubuntu Unity. You may not like those particular desktop metaphors, but you can't deny that the developers of those desktops are bringing the best in innovation to the Linux desktop. Couple that with desktops such as Enlightenment and XFCE, and you have more innovation going on around the Linux desktop than any other area.
This is where no one can deny that the Linux desktop is in a place of pride. What other platform has so much variety to choose from? Think about it. If you want something somewhat traditional, go to KDE. Want a more multi-touch friendly, completely different desktop? Have at either GNOME 3 or Ubuntu Unity. What about something in between? You can go with the eye-candy rich E17 or the insanely lightweight and reliable XFCE.
Every Linux desktop offers a different selection of features. These features range from the standard to the extraordinary. This is one area where Linux has always been king. Few, if any, can compete with the agility and ability of open source developers to bring to life such an abundance of features. Does that mean every feature is a winner? Not necessarily. But out of the vast expanse of new features coming to the Linux desktop on a yearly basis, many are hits.
4: KDE 4.8 activities
I've always been a big fan of desktop activities. And with the rollout of 4.8, this feature has been made easier to use, better performing, and more reliable. If you've never experienced the desktop organization extravaganza that is KDE activities, KDE 4.8 is the perfect time to try it. With a quick access button, preconfigured activities, and a much more responsive and reliable system, this feature can easily become your best desktop friend in no time, letting you work far more efficiently and cleanly.
5: GNOME 3's progress
If you used GNOME 3 when it first arrived, you know what I'm talking about. When the modern-day GNOME warrior hit the desktop, it was not only filled with bugs, it was a hardly usable replacement for what was probably the most efficient and stable desktop available. That was then; this is now. GNOME 3 has come further in a shorter time than any other desktop in the history of computing. In less than a year, GNOME 3 has become an incredibly reliable and efficient desktop. Not many pieces of software can claim such improvement over such a short span of time.
6: Desktop-centric distributions
After the change Ubuntu made with Unity, a number of distributions reacted by creating releases based on specific desktops. The likes of Bodhi Linux have earned some serious popularity, thanks to Ubuntu 11.04 (and Unity). But even though most of these desktops have been around for a while, they didn't enjoy their current success prior to Unity. This also boosted the popularity of such distributions as Xubuntu and Kubuntu — still Ubuntu Linux, but with a different flavor on the desktop.
7: Linux Mint
I'm fairly certain that if Ubuntu Unity hadn't been given life, Linux Mint would not be where it is today. And Linux Mint is one of the finest desktop distributions, period. They have taken GNOME 3 and stretched it to include a number of extensions to make GNOME 3 a mashup of Classic GNOME and GNOME 3. It's a sight to behold and one of the single most user-friendly desktops you will ever use.
8: Ubuntu Unity
This one will raise eyebrows. But I include it for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I include Unity because it proves that Canonical is still committed to pushing envelopes others are only now learning to lick and fold. I also include Unity because the rise of this desktop has really tipped the apple cart of the Linux desktop, making the designers and developers realize that they can't just sit on reputations that have grown stale. Now every desktop of the Linux-verse is enjoying new life and development. Even if you abhor Ubuntu Unity, you have to give it credit for rejuvenating the Linux desktop.
9: GNOME 3 libs
If there's one thing the modern iteration of GNOME has done well, it's giving us the underpinning libraries known as GNOME 3 libs. Although this really isn't a topic of interest to most end users, it bears mentioning because these libraries have helped dramatically increase performance as well as make development much easier. And soon (if not already), Ubuntu Unity will begin the migration to the GNOME 3 libraries — which will greatly increase reliability and performance of the Unity desktop.
Let's face it. With the abundance of choices available on the Linux desktop, you are going to find a style perfectly suited to fit yours. And there is plenty of style going on. The renaissance we are seeing on the Linux desktop reminds me very much of the mid-to-late '90s, when there were so many cool Linux desktops, it was hard to decide which one you wanted to use. Now that style has been mixed in with incredible user-friendliness as well as features necessary for both home and company usage. So no matter what level of user you are, or how you are using the Linux desktop, you can do it with style.
I know many people are working under the assumption that the Linux desktop is dead. It's not. It's very much alive and very much flourishing. The growth that has occurred over the last year will continue to move the Linux desktop ahead into bigger, better, and bolder places. I don't know about you, but I'm excited about where the desktop is and where it's going.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.