Linux is all about choice. You can choose a distribution that best suits your needs, software that helps make you more productive, servers that serve your business, and a desktop that makes your experience efficient and effective.
It’s that last bit I want to address—the desktop. For many, the choice of Linux distro begins and ends with the desktop. Why? Because many of the Linux desktops and window managers are as unique as the people who use them. And for some users, the best Linux GUI acts as an extension of their fingers. But what desktop environment is best suited for which type of user? Let’s find out.
GNOME 3 (or GNOME Shell) was much maligned when it was first released, because the developers made a drastic paradigm shift from GNOME 2. In the end, the developers created an elegant desktop that is the best at “getting out of the way” of you doing work. GNOME 3 did away with visible panels, desktop launchers, and unwieldy system trays that took up screen real estate and served as distractions from keeping you on task.
To make up for those subtractions, the developers created GNOME Extensions, which can extend the functionality of the desktop to suit your needs. This makes GNOME the perfect Linux desktop for creators. Whether you’re a developer, a designer, a writer, an illustrator, a musician, or a creator of just about anything, GNOME should be your desktop of choice. You’ll find GNOME as the default desktop in Ubuntu, Debian, Arch Linux, and other open source Linux distributions. As well, GNOME can be installed on Linux distros such as Linux Mint.
Admins need an open source Linux desktop environment that is all about efficiency. KDE offers a desktop metaphor that is as easy to use as it is familiar to anyone who has worked with any Windows operating system user interface (up to Windows 7). But KDE is much more than a simple Windows knockoff–it comes with a number of unique features, including global edit mode, night control panel, and desktop widgets.
But KDE is not as locked down as any Windows interface; with KDE, you have a good deal of control over how the interface looks and behaves, so you can make it as complicated or as simple as you like.
One of the best things about KDE is its speed and reliability. This isn’t the KDE of old, where you always felt like it would crash when you were trying to work—KDE is now as reliable as any desktop environment on the market. You’ll find versions of KDE available for Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Arch Linux, and other Linux distributions.
For all of these reasons, KDE is the ideal desktop for admins.
The Pantheon desktop is the open source desktop environment for elementary OS. Of all the Linux distributions on the market, elementary OS is the standout for new users. A big reason why is the Pantheon desktop environment. Pantheon is one of the most elegant and simple to use Linux desktops; users of all skill levels should be comfortable using the graphical user interface.
Many Linux desktop environments are criticized for including too many bells and whistles, causing new users to freeze up in confusion. Pantheon, on the other hand, is as bare-bones as you can get while still being full-featured and functional. But don’t let the idea of bare bones turn you off—Pantheon includes everything you need to work, including a beautiful alert system, an unrivaled AppCenter, a quick access calendar, and more. Add to that an exceptional beauty, and you have the makings of the perfect desktop for new users. This is why my default answer to “Which Linux distribution is best for new users?” is, without fail, elementary OS. So to every new user out there, Pantheon is the Linux desktop environment for you.
Deepin Desktop is a special kind of open source desktop because of its focus on aesthetics. When you get your first look at the Deepin Desktop, you wonder if you’ve either discovered an operating system from the future or a work of art—it’s that gorgeous. No other Linux desktop environment or window manager on the market can come close to the artistic wonder that is Deepin.
But Deepin Desktop isn’t just a pretty face, as it includes a few very handy GUI tools, such as the Deepin Control Panel, which serves in the form of an always-ready desktop sidebar. With a single click, the Control Panel slides out, where you can take care of nearly any configuration for your system—and even that Control Panel is a thing of beauty.
So for any user who likes their Linux desktops to be stunningly beautiful and highly functional, your first (and last) stop should be on the Deepin Desktop.