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Today for the first time, I heard about "graphical shell" from that Unity of Ubuntu :

Unity is a graphical shell for the GNOME desktop environment developed by Canonical Ltd.

and

Graphical shells provide means for manipulating programs based on graphical user interface (GUI), by allowing for operations such as opening, closing, moving and resizing windows, as well as switching focus between windows. Graphical shells may be included with desktop environments or come separately, even as a set of loosely coupled utilities.

I want to fit this new concept "graphical shell" into what I have heard about the hierarchy of "windowing system, window manager, desktop environment".

Where does "graphical shell" stand in the hierarchy of "windowing system, window manager, desktop enviroment"? Is it part of one of the three?

Unity and its alternative GNOME Shell both seem to be part of the GNOME desktop environment. So I guess graphical shells belong to desktop environments. But the quote says "Graphical shells may be included with desktop environments or come separately, even as a set of loosely coupled utilities."

Also there is this table seeming to suggest something.

Thanks.

1 Answer 1

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The graphical shell is a collection of multiple things, including the window manager, a file manager application, and utility applications like a toolbar and application launcher. It's a somewhat nebulous term that refers to all the GUI tools needed to provide the basic interface to the environment.

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  • Thanks. Unity and its alternative GNOME Shell both seem to be part of the GNOME desktop environment. So I guess graphical shells belong to desktop environments? But the quote says "Graphical shells may be included with desktop environments or come separately, even as a set of loosely coupled utilities."
    – Tim
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 19:49
  • Usually they're included. But it's possible to mix utilities from different sources to create your own, custom graphical shell.
    – Barmar
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 19:52

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