KDE vs GNOME vs Xfce: Comparing Desktop Environments and Making the Best Choice

KDE, GNOME, and Xfce are the three most popular Linux desktop environments. Though each desktop offers a graphical user interface (GUI) for system interaction, there are different variations among all in terms of user interface, accessibility, design philosophy, resource utilization, and customization options. 

Many users who are not sufficiently familiar with Linux desktops use the default desktop environment bundled with their chosen Linux distribution, an integral part of the Unix/Linux operating systems. 

However, Linux professionals choose a distribution based on various factors such as performance, layout, accessibility, user experience, file management, etc. So, if you are a Linux user and find it challenging to choose the right option, you're at the right place. 

In this guide, we will explore the basics of Linux desktop environments KDE, GNOME, and Xfce in detail. In addition, we will compare the common features and differences between KDE vs. GNOME vs. XFCE desktops.

What Is a Desktop Environment in Linux?

In Linux, a desktop environment consists of a collection of elements bundled together to provide common graphical user interface (GUI) features, including icons, toolbars, wallpapers, and desktop widgets. It allows you to interact with Linux systems through a graphical interface, much like you do on other operating systems such as Windows and macOS, utilizing your mouse and keyboard.

The various desktop environments, KDE, GNOME, and Xfce, are available to significantly influence the appearance and user interaction on your Linux system. Each desktop environment comes with its suite of integrated applications and utilities, providing a consistent user experience. This includes essential tools like file explorers, desktop search, application menus, wallpaper and screensaver utilities, text editors, and more.

Without using a desktop environment, your Linux system would be limited to a terminal-like utility, facilitating interaction solely through commands.

Linux Desktop Environment Variants: (KDE or GNOME or Xfce)

There are a number of desktop environments available in Linux. Here, we will talk about the most widely used Linux desktop environments, KDE, GNOME, and Xfce.

What Is KDE?

KDE desktops, also known as K Desktop Environment, support the open-source graphical user interface and are compatible with various Linux operating systems such as OpenBSD, Solaris, and LinuxPPC. KDE is designed for users looking for heightened productivity and efficiency in daily data management tasks and provides a workstation environment that surpasses both Mac OS and Windows X. By installing KDE, users gain complete control over the interaction of its components, making it an advanced choice in desktop environments.

KDE is an ideal choice for users who want customized configurations, maximum performance, and time efficiency. It is best for individuals working with huge amounts of data, like programmers and illustrators, or those who appreciate having a variety of options and the ability to swiftly arrange their desktops. 

But before we wrap up our section on KDE, we need to answer one more question: What is KDE Plasma? The KDE Plasma is the latest version of KDE and is built on unique code, ensuring the portability of KDE technologies. It offers more advanced features, such as the touch-supported file manager Dolphin, an enhanced multitasking tool named KRunner, and a connectivity feature called KDE Connect.

What Is GNOME?

GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) is a well-established open-source graphical user interface designed for Linux-based systems. It offers a user-friendly graphical interface design and can be customized to resemble the look and feel of Windows or Mac OS.

GNOME comes with practical applications that serve similar purposes to those found in Microsoft Office, providing users with a familiar set of tools for productivity tasks. This includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and more. 

Overall, your description captures the essence of GNOME and its features accurately. If you're using Windows, giving GNOME a try means getting ready to join the Linux OS family.

If you're not a tech expert and want a user-friendly desktop environment, GNOME is good for beginners. It provides an object request broker (ORB) that supports the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) that offers an environment mimicking Windows. This means you can run both Windows apps and GNOME programs simultaneously. 

GNOME comes with some powerful applications like Nautilus (file manager), Eye of GNOME (image viewer), Evince (document viewer), and Epiphany (web browser). These applications are crafted to be user-friendly, offering a consistent user interface across the entire GNOME desktop environment.

What Is Xfce?

XFCE, which stands for XForms Common Environment, is an open-source desktop environment originally developed as the Linux version of the Common Desktop Environment (CDE) in 1996. After becoming independent from CDE, it adopted the name Xfce and was designed for Linux and Unix-like operating systems. 

Xfce is known for its lightweight and efficient nature, making it suitable for systems with lower hardware resources. It provides a graphical user interface (GUI) and a set of applications, offering a balance between functionality and resource efficiency. Xfce is often chosen as the default desktop environment for various Linux distributions due to its speed, simplicity, and customization options.

Basic Details Compared: KDE vs. GNOME vs. Xfce 

Let's begin by exploring the fundamental details of KDE, GNOME, and Xfce and then delve into the unique features of each desktop environment.

Basic Information




Compatible Operating Systems

Supports a diverse range of operating systems, including Linux, FreeBSD, Microsoft Windows, Solaris, and Mac OS.

Primarily designed for BSD, Linux, and Unix systems.

Geared towards Linux and Unix-like operating systems.









Initial Release




Current Generation

The latest version is KDE Plasma 5.

The current version is GNOME version 42.

The latest release is Xfce 4.16.

System Requirements

Requires a 1.0 GHz CPU and 615 MB of RAM.

Requires a 700 MHz CPU and 768 MB of RAM.

Recommends a 1.0 GHz+ CPU and 512 MiB+ RAM.


Utilizes the Qt toolkit.

Utilizes the GTK+ toolkit.

It also employs the GTK toolkit.

Feature Comparison: KDE vs. GNOME vs. Xfce

Since GNOME, Xfce, and KDE were all created a long time ago, their features have evolved over time. Thus, we aim to discuss the features of each desktop environment's most recent version for the purpose of accuracy. Below, we have compared the top three popular Linux desktop environments, KDE vs. GNOME vs. Xfce, based on features and user interaction:

Desktop Theme Customization

When we talk about customization of desktop themes in KDE, GNOME, and Xfce, Xfce's default desktop theme might not be visually appealing, but transforming it is a straightforward process. Users can easily identify a suitable theme and, with Xfce's assistance through the graphical user interface (GUI), promptly apply it to the correct directory. No additional tools are necessary for this task. 

In contrast, GNOME's desktop theme customization involves downloading and installing the GNOME Tweak Tool. Although this process is generally obstacle-free, it's essential to ensure the presence of the user themes extension, especially after installing the tweak tool. 

In KDE, extensive customization options are available within the system settings, offering a user-friendly interface for seamlessly adjusting the desktop's appearance to suit individual preferences.

Desktop Navigation

Desktop navigation varies across KDE vs. GNOME vs. Xfce, with each offering a unique user experience. Xfce stands out for its intuitive navigation, making it accessible for users familiar with GNOME or standard Windows operating systems. 

On the other hand, GNOME provides a minimalist control panel focused on user productivity without unnecessary complexity. Meanwhile, KDE offers a more traditional desktop experience with recognizable launchers, especially for users transitioning from a Windows environment, though some advanced features may be challenging to locate.

Development Policies

In terms of development policies, GNOME emphasizes autonomy, openness, globalization, and localization. KDE prioritizes a visually appealing interface, allowing for extensive user customization, while Xfce developers prioritize lightness and speed, positioning it as a contender in the efficiency domain.

User Experience and Customization

User experience and customization play a significant role in the KDE vs. GNOME vs. Xfce debate. KDE offers extensive customization options but may pose challenges for new users. On the other hand, GNOME stands out for its user-friendliness and adaptability, providing a streamlined overview option for managing open windows and applications. Xfce, known for its customizable, quick, and power-efficient desktop environment, utilizes minimal system resources but may have constrained animations and aesthetics.

Speed and Performance: Effectiveness

In terms of effectiveness and speed, both KDE and Xfce use modest system resources, but Xfce boasts a shorter loading time and a more lightweight environment.Thus, Xfce excels in running multiple applications simultaneously without performance concerns. 

On the other hand, KDE, implementing the Wayland protocol, aims to enhance the user experience, while GNOME, being resource-intensive, can consume up to 1.3 GB, potentially slowing down overall performance.

Users or Popularity 

The popularity of these desktop environments varies across Linux distributions. Ubuntu favors GNOME as its common desktop environment, while Linux Mint defaults to KDE.

Xfce, once a third choice, has gained competitiveness, particularly for its lightweight nature. Users often choose Xfce for its efficiency, making it a favorable option in the Linux desktop environment landscape.


In this article, we compared the three top Linux desktop environments: KDE vs. GNOME vs. Xfce. So, which is the best Linux desktop environment?

The competition among KDE, GNOME, and Xfce has entered a new phase. Considering the detailed information and features provided, your selection of the best desktop environment ultimately depends on your personal preferences for KDE, GNOME, or Xfce. 

These desktop environments have evolved significantly since their initial releases. However, it's important to note that security issues are on the rise, adding an important aspect to your decision-making process. Thus, it is recommended that you consider selecting a reliable Linux VPS service, as it could serve as the final layer of defense to protect your privacy and data.

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