It is quite difficult to get a profound overview of the available desktop environments and window managers. To experience their look and feel in action without the hassle of permanently altering my existing system, I am currently searching for a way to try out most of the major ones without permanently installing them. When using Live CDs, this poses quite a hassle, because normally, the Live Medium of one distribution (or spin) only includes one Desktop Setup. So one would have to burn a new CD for each test.

Is there a distribution that ships a live medium providing many desktop environments?

My ideal compilation would contain most of the following.

  • GNOME Shell
  • Unitiy
  • KDE
  • Razor-qt
  • Cinnamon
  • MATE
  • LXDE
  • Xfce
  • Enlightenment
  • one of fluxbox, openbox or blackbox
  • a tiling window manager
  • 1
    A little less work, you can download the Live distro .iso files and run them in virtual machines using VirtualBox.
    – slm
    Jan 25, 2014 at 14:57
  • I also thought of that, but found that, virtualisation, especially on a weaker machine, makes it unable to render some of the more complex graphical and animation features, which distorts a realistic impression.
    – XZS
    Jan 25, 2014 at 15:02
  • True, I usually search for full reviews of the different distros just to see what they're like. But it's read only.
    – slm
    Jan 25, 2014 at 15:33
  • I've found that when you install DE etc. from the ground up, you don't get to see all the integrated work that some distros do i.e. menus, docks etc. But still, I've installed many and then it's as easy as selecting which type of session you want to login after from a graphical login manager like slim(press F1 at login with that one to see choices). Sometimes I've resorted to grml+grub to explore some distros when I didn't have a thumbdrive/cd handy... Finally, indeed VMs are great!
    – user44370
    Jan 25, 2014 at 23:28

1 Answer 1


Installing multiple DE's and such shouldn't alter the system in a way that affects any of the others much -- e.g., installing GNOME will not step on KDE's toes. Installing multiple display managers (the GUI login: KDM, GDM, XDM, etc.) may create a hassle, but I don't think you need to install GDM in order to install GNOME, and so on.

They probably don't require all that much disk space, either. You entire list might fit in a few GB.

That said, I haven't gone that far myself and can't say for sure that you won't regret it at some point. The best way to do this would be if you have a small (5-10 GB) partition to spare. Install a fresh system there and then add all the software you want; switching GUI environments is as simple as modifying an ~/.xinitrc. You could even create different users for each one, to completely compartmentalize any configuration. I am sure all major distros have the entire list available, with the exception of the distro specific ones like Unity (?) and Cinnamon.

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