The hunt for the perfect Desktop Environment


I rather enjoy the ease of use of Cinnamon, which was my first desktop environment upon my return to the land of Linux. I originally had installed Mint, and Cinnamon is the default desktop environment for that distribution.

However, as it turns out, Cinnamon can be a little heavier on the system resources, and as I mentioned in Thursday’s post, I am on a mission to get the most out of this laptop (despite the specs of the laptop appearing as though it should be able to handle something a little more substantial).

So, upon my installation of Debian, I decided to see what environments would fit three primary criteria for me:

  1. Easy to use
  2. Easy to set up/configure/modify
  3. Not hog resources

There was a time when I wanted to make my desktop look like something out of some cyberpunk future. There was also a time when I thought fast, loud cars were cool. I’ve grown up and my tastes are a bit more sensible. I just want something that will get me from A to B without causing me too much headache.

Here’s the thing: I went through several environments at what felt like breakneck speed, trying to find the what works for me. My process looked something like this:

  1. Install the DE
  2. Click around a bit, see what the controls look like.
  3. Try to do some base configuring.
  4. Don’t like it.
  5. Remove.
  6. GOTO 1

I honestly don’t even remember all the environments I tried. I know for sure I attempted Cinnamon (I gave it a fair shake), MATE, Xfce, Openbox, and LXQt.


Like I mentioned above – I like Cinnamon. It’s a beautiful desktop environment. It just doesn’t share the inexplicably abundant yet limited resources of this laptop.


First, apparently this is pronounced “MOTT-AY” (rhymes with “latte”), not “MAYT” (rhymes with “late”). Who knew? Everyone but me, it seems.

That being said, I thought MATE was nice. I don’t really have much to say for it other than it still kinda slowed down the machine a bit. Otherwise, it was a solid environment and I really have no major complaints about it. It’s easy to use, and easy to configure. I just… didn’t care for it. Personal preference, I suppose.


Everyone in Fosstodon (you have joined Fosstadon, right?) mentioned that Xfce was a great light-weight desktop environment that I should check out. So I did. And guess what? It was nice! It was light weight. It was relatively easy to configure (except for some really strange clock bug that I never fully sorted out). Honestly, it was so dang good, I thought I had found the answer. But, I figured I’d try some others, just to make sure I wasn’t stopping too soon.


A good friend, and my go-to for computer-related questions told me to check out Openbox. Super lightweight, he said. Boy he wasn’t kidding. Upon installation, I was greeted with a blank screen. I thought I had messed something up on the install! But then a right-click on the desktop answered my question – it was all there.

I did a little digging, and found that Openbox was very customizable. I just didn’t have the patience to set it up. It was borderline not meeting criteria #1, and it definitely was a miss on criteria #2. Criteria #3 it passed with flying colors, but that wasn’t going to push this into the “daily driver” column.

*I have been informed that Openbox is considered a Window Manager as opposed to a Desktop Environment. That explains the lack of task bar, etc. That being said, I still didn’t like the extensive customization I needed to do to make it usable, so I still skipped it.


Another user over at Fosstodon (seriously, are you signed up yet?) recommended LXQt. They said it was even lighter on system resources than Xfce, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Folks, I’m sold. Incredibly easy to configure. So smooth and responsive. No major bells or whistles. Feels a lot like Xfce, and if I would bother to do the research, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t share a common ancestor.


TL;DR – I decided on LXQt for the time being. It’s simple enough to let me get the work done that I want to get done, without getting in my way with configurations and tweaking. I doesn’t bog down my system, and it’s easy on the eyes. Criteria 1, 2, 3 – check, check, check.

Questions? Want to know what those random icons are in my system tray? (That’s a question that I always have when I look at people’s screenshots — WHAT IS THAT!?!)

One thought on “The hunt for the perfect Desktop Environment

  1. Glad you found something you’re happy with. Are you still in LXQt now? I realise this post is a few months old at this point.
    Also, even though MATE is pronounced “ma-tay” I still pronounce it “mayt”. Just because I’m a rebel and that’s how I roll! 🙂


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