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The title is quite exhaustive: is there a way to retrieve the desktop environment name (e.g. Gnome, Unity, XFCE, LXDE, KDE...) from the command line or using Python?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In a Terminal input:

echo $DESKTOP_SESSION 
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great! thank you very much –  giuspen Aug 25 '12 at 15:22
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Note that this will not always work as sometimes DESKTOP_SESSION is set to "Default" or in some cases not set at all (I think it's gdm/kdm that set this variable). A better approach would be to check for the running session process. –  don_crissti Aug 25 '12 at 17:39
    
I noticed there's also a varable XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP="LXDE" (or "Unity", in my two desktops), do you think it's reliable? –  giuspen Aug 26 '12 at 8:58
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@giuspen - discussed also here link. XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP is just a proposal, it's not part of the XDG spec and is discussed on various mailing lists, e.g. link. FIY I am on Gnome3/Arch64bit, I have all the xdg-* packages installed and this variable is unset. –  don_crissti Aug 26 '12 at 13:11
    
@don_crissti - thanks I read in the other discussion that you linked that XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP is deprecated. I will try to look at the running processes. –  giuspen Aug 26 '12 at 14:50

The question is rather broad... I think it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. I would check for the running desktop-session / wm / desktop-shell and only use environment variables as a complement, if at all.
Something like this:

pgrep -u $USER -xl "gnome-session|ksmserver|lxsession|mate-session|xfce4-session|whatever"

should return the current user running session. With so many forks (and forks on forks) the user might be using a different shell with that particular DE so you would have to check that too, e.g.:

pgrep -u $USER -xl "gnome-shell|plasma-desktop|unity-stuff|etc"

Then, some people use different WMs with those DEs. Some don't use a fully-fledged DE and opt for minimalist desktop managers or WMs on top of X. You could run:

pgrep -u $USER -xl "awesome|beryl|blackbox|compiz|dminiwm|dwm|e16|emerald|enlightenment|fluxbox|fvwm|i3|icewm|kwin|metacity|monsterwm|muffin|musca|openbox|pekwm|ratpoison|sawfish|scrotwm|stumpwm|subtle|wmaker|wmfs|wmii|xfwm4|xmonad"

But even then, you would still miss some stuff (e.g. mutter). Again, it all depends on your goals (ideally, you'd have to get familiar with the particulars of each DE+shell/WM in order to be able to get the expected result).

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