Monday, May 4, 2009

Switch between GNOME and KDE in Ubuntu

In the open source world, there are two main desktop environments, GNOME and KDE. Some other options out there are also XFCE and Fluxbox. Ubuntu comes with GNOME installed as the default desktop environment. There are other versions of Ubuntu, also produced by Canonical, that use some of the other environment. Kubuntu uses KDE and Xubuntu uses KFCE.

I recently installed the latest version of Ubuntu and since virtually all of my Linux desktop experience has been with GNOME, I thought I would give KDE a try. Ubuntu makes it easy to try this out, type this at the Terminal:
sudo aptitude update
sudo aptitude install kubuntu-desktop
This is a fairly hefty install, but assuming you have broadband it shouldn't take too long. During the installation process you will be prompted if you want to use GDM or KDM as your default environment. GDM is the existing GNOME and KDM is the new KDE. Pick whichever you want to be the default when you log in.

After running the installation I saw a system notification telling me there were some updates available and it turns out most of them were for the just installed KDE environment so you should also probably check for updates too. Weird that these wouldn't be included along with the installation but oh well. Type this to install all available updates:
sudo aptitude update
sudo aptitude full-upgrade
Now your new KDE environment should be ready to go. In order to use it, you will have to log out, change environments, and log back in. So go ahead and log out. Click the options button at the bottom left corner of the screen and choose the "Select Session" option. A menu full of radio button will pop up. The selected option is probably "Last session." Choose the one for KDE and click the "Change Session" button. After logging in, you will be prompted whether or not you want to make KDE the default for future sessions or if you just want to use it for this session. Pick whichever you'd like.

After you log in you'll notice that there are some additional applications installed as well. Certain applications are written specifically for KDE and certain ones are written specifically for GNOME. You can install and run them on systems that are running the other environment, they just require some additional dependencies to work correctly. Now you get to have them all.

If later on you decide KDE is not for you and you want to remove it, just run this command:
sudo aptitude remove kubuntu-desktop
Conversely, if you decide you love KDE and want to ditch GNOME for good, run this:
sudo aptitude remove gnome-desktop
As for me, I have plenty of hard disk space on my desktop so I'll probably keep both around regardless of which I decide I like better.

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