Right now I'm using the KDE desktop on Fedora, but I want to switch to Gnome. Problem is, I have many things open right now (xterms, xemacs, etc, etc), and I don't want to close all of them, log out, switch, then reopen everything...that'd take way too long.

So my question is: is it possible to switch to Gnome without having to log out?? Or switch but NOT have to close and reopen everything?

4 Answers 4


I'd say ultimately no. Many things can be swapped out or used together like having both Gnome Terminal and Konsole open. You can also have Dolphin/Konqueror open with Nautilus. You can probably kill the Gnome Panel and start KDE's version of it, but switching the whole desktop is complicated by the session manager. The session manager is the one process started by the login manager that represents the session. If it exits, the session ends regardless of anything else running. When X11 sees the session end it will kill any existing connections to programs and restart the X server. Also, the session manager will restart any processes like Gnome Panel that it believes is vital to the session. You can change this for each process under preferences, but these settings will be saved making it difficult to try to restore your desktop to normal.


Back before session managers and desktop environments like Gnome and KDE, it was possible to swap out the running window manager. Sway you were switching from twm to blackbox, you could run killall twm && blackbox to kill off the old and without terminating the session, launch a new one.

These days with the complexity and layers going on, I don't think that is practical to do. In fact I wouldn't bother trying, you will just end up with a messy environment.

Instead if you if you frequently need access to the full environment provided by each (say for testing software) look into the fact that you can run more than one X server at once. You could get one going and login to Gnome on console 7 and have another full blown X server on console 8 with KDE, and switch back and forth on a wim with Ctrl+Alt+F7.

Another suggestion would be to run a Xephyr server which will basically allow you to run a second whole desktop environment inside a window of the first.

  • Thanks for the suggestions! I screwed up my KDE anyway and had to restart, so I just switched to Gnome. May 3, 2011 at 0:25

Digging through some OLD distro docs, it seems that once upon a time there was a utility called switchdesk that took care of the leg work needed to change Desktop Environments mid-stride. Several distros seem to still have it around, but the project doesn't seem to have a home on the web any more. If your distro has packages you might try it, but your millage will probably vary (for the worse).


FWIW you can switch from KDE (running Xorg) to Sway (or from anything Xorg to Sway for that matter). First launch your X DE, then open a new terminal Ctrl+Alt+F3 for example, type sway and voila. Beware of duplicate processes launching at startup though.

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