5 Alternatives To Unity For Ubuntu Users [Linux]

desktop environment selection border   5 Alternatives To Unity For Ubuntu Users [Linux]We’ve previously written about Ubuntu’s Unity desktop environment, which we touted as a “big leap forward” for Linux when it was introduced with Ubuntu 11.04. Unity was certainly a big leap in a new direction, but it left a lot of users behind.

Luckily, Linux is all about choice and Ubuntu’s software repositories contain a variety of excellent alternatives to Unity. Each desktop environment you install appears as an option when you click the gear icon on Ubuntu’s login screen. You can install as many as you want and find the one that’s right for you.

GNOME Shell (GNOME 3)

GNOME Shell is definitely the most obvious alternative to Unity, given that Ubuntu has historically shipped a pretty standard GNOME desktop environment. Ubuntu still includes most of GNOME 3; Unity just replaces the GNOME Shell launcher with Ubuntu’s own interface.

gnome shell   5 Alternatives To Unity For Ubuntu Users [Linux]

GNOME 3 feels pretty slick, but disaffected Unity users may be disappointed with what GNOME has become. Far from the traditional GNOME 2 interface, GNOME 3 includes its own full-screen application launcher and feels pretty similar to Unity. Some users will prefer GNOME Shell to Unity, but if you’re yearning for a more traditional interface, look elsewhere.

Click here to install GNOME Shell if you’re using Ubuntu. You can also search for it in the Ubuntu Software Center or use the following command:

sudo apt-get install gnome-shell

KDE

The KDE project alienated much of its own user base when KDE 4 was released, but it’s had a lot of time to add polish and work out the kinks. Currently at version 4.7, KDE has traditionally been the second most popular Linux desktop environment and primary alternative to GNOME.

kde desktop   5 Alternatives To Unity For Ubuntu Users [Linux]

KDE has its own alternatives to the GNOME applications you’re familiar with, but you can continue to use GNOME applications on KDE. They may look slightly out of place, since KDE uses the QT toolkit instead of GNOME’s GTK toolkit.

Click here to get KDE if you’re already using Ubuntu. You can also look for Kubuntu-Desktop in the Ubuntu Software Center or execute the following command:

sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop

The Kubuntu project provides a Ubuntu installer disc that comes with KDE instead of Unity.

XFCE

XFCE doesn’t try to reinvent the desktop like GNOME 3 and Unity do, but it does provide an environment that long-time GNOME 2 and Ubuntu users will feel at home with. XFCE was once GNOME’s less resource-intensive and more minimal cousin, but GNOME’s shift has made XFCE a distinct environment. XFCE uses the same GTK toolkit that GNOME does, so GNOME applications will fit right in on an XFCE desktop.

xfce   5 Alternatives To Unity For Ubuntu Users [Linux]

Did you know that Linus Torvalds, Linux’s creator, now uses XFCE? GNOME 3 pushed him to XFCE, just as KDE 4 pushed him to GNOME 2. Follow in Linus’s footsteps by clicking here, installing the Xubuntu-Desktop package from the Ubuntu Software Center or running the following command:

sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop

Use the Xubuntu installer disc to install Ubuntu with an XFCE desktop instead of Unity.

LXDE

LXDE is a lightweight desktop environment targeted at machines with less powerful hardware. LXDE’s focus on minimal resource consumption makes it a great choice if you’re looking for a desktop environment that doesn’t try to do too much and just gets out of your way. It’s lighter than Xubuntu’s XFCE desktop, which was previously considered the lightweight version of Ubuntu.

lxde   5 Alternatives To Unity For Ubuntu Users [Linux]

Check out our post about Lubuntu for a more in-depth overview of the LXDE desktop environment or click here to start installing LXDE if you’re sold on it. You can also grab the Lubuntu-Desktop package from the Ubuntu Software Center or use the following command:

sudo apt-get install lubuntu-desktop

Download an Lubuntu disk image if you want to install Ubuntu with LXDE from scratch.

Xmonad

For the Linux user who’s really sick of having their hand held, Xmonad is less a desktop environment and more a toolkit for building your own. Xmonad is a tiling window manager, so it arranges windows for you and doesn’t make you drag them around. That’s about all that Xmonad does for you — Xmonad doesn’t even provide an application launcher or panel by default, but you can add those yourself.

xmonad   5 Alternatives To Unity For Ubuntu Users [Linux]

Log into Xmonad and all you’ll see is the normal login screen background. From there, you can press Alt-Shift-Enter to open a terminal where you can launch additional applications. Check out the official Xmonad guided tour for an introduction to using Xmonad.

Click here to install Xmonad, grab it from the Ubuntu Software Center or run the following command:

sudo apt-get install xmonad

More Options

Ubuntu also provides GNOME Session Fallback, which appears as GNOME Classic on the login screen after you install it. Don’t let the name fool you — GNOME Session Fallback is just a hack on top of GNOME 3. It’s designed to function similarly to GNOME 2 and has the same basic menu structure, but GNOME 2 fans will notice a lot of features missing. Install it by clicking here or running the following command, if you’re interested:

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-fallback

If you just think Unity needs more configuration options, then Confity or the CompizConfig Settings Manager might do it for you.

So, do you have any other Unity alternatives to recommend? Or do you love Unity and think everyone should give it another chance? Let us know in the comments.

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7 Comments -

Anonymous

I switched to KDE and I have never been happier. It is currently the best desktop one can use on Linux. A lot of features, very customizable and it looks awesome.

Chris Hoffman

Yup, KDE and GNOME have always taken opposite approaches (well, GNOME 1 had a huge amount of options, but nevermind that.)

If you’re looking for a desktop environment with a ton of options and configurability, KDE is a really great choice.

rakete

… for KDE people :D
gnome, xfce and lxde are there and widly used for a reason: KDE is not for everyone. Me personally never liked it.
In my opinion it is way to clunky and looks to much like Win7 (I know KDE 4 came out before Vista Aero, so maybe Windows 7 is looking like KDE not the other way around, but anyway).

Chris Hoffman

Picking a favorite desktop environment is like picking a favorite color.

You really do have to try them all before you know which one you like best.

rakete

Yes, you are right. I did and my personal Chart is clear:

1. Unity
2. Gnome3 Fallback
3. xfce
4. lxde
5. Gnome Shell
6. Gnome2
7. KDE3
8. KDE4

I have not tried any other desktops so far. I Guess there are many people whoms charts are exactly the opposite, that are KDE people ;)

I like diversity, It keeps life interesting.

@waningmoon_tr

There’s another one in development at the minute, used and promoted by Linux Mint and that’s Mate. It recreates the Gnome 2 look and feel, so you can actually install it alongside Gnome 3 (which for obvious reasons you can’t do with standard Gnome 2). I quite like it, although I’ve grown accustomed to Gnome3 and it’s shell extensions.

Chris Hoffman

Mint is definitely doing some interesting things, especially with its new Cinnamon desktop.