I have been using xterm for all my work. I realized that the features that desktop environments like GNOME has to provide are not of much use to me. Now, is it possible that I remove GNOME and KDE altogether and use some window manager only in run level 5 (X11) to play videos, use browser, and occasionally file manager like Nautilus. How can I do it? Is it a good idea? Which window manager would you suggest?

What I have done so far: I installed Window Maker. When I rebooted, I was offered one more choice at the time of login - GNOME, KDE, Window Maker. I chose Window Maker. It gives me multiple workspaces, customizable keyboard shortcuts, without usual desktop features like panel, notification area, desktop icons.

But I have observed that whenever I launch Nautilus, the desktop background changes to the one I set on GNOME and all desktop icons are restored as they were in GNOME, though the keyboard shortcuts of Window Maker still works. But to remove GNOME background and desktop icons I have to logout and login again.

How can I fix it so that launching of Nautilus does not bring GNOME background? Should I use some other file manager?


I have complied and installed dwm. It was not difficult at all. Though I needed to do the following steps to make dwm show in the menu of my login screen.

$ cd /usr/share/xsessions/  
$ vim dwm.desktop  

In the dwm.desktop I wrote:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment=To start dwm session

This time when I got to login, I got dwm in the menu.


I solved the nautilus problem using following steps.

$ gconftool-2 --recursive-list "/apps" |less

Here I searched for nautilus. It gave me

   show_icon_text = local_only
   start_with_sidebar = true
   click_policy = double
   background_color = #ffffff
   start_with_toolbar = true
   start_with_location_bar = true
   mouse_back_button = 8
   thumbnail_limit = 10485760
   directory_limit = -1

After that it was a simple matter of setting keys

$ gconftool-2 --get "/apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop"
$ true
$ gconftool-2 --set "/apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop" --type bool false
$ gconftool-2 --get "/apps/nautilus/preferences/exit_with_last_window
$ false
$ gconftool-2 --set "/apps/nautilus/preferences/exit_with_last_window" --type bool true
$ gconftool-2 --get "/apps/nautilus/preferences/media_automount_open
$ true
$ gconftool-2 --set "/apps/nautilus/preferences/media_automount_open" --type bool false

Useful links:

  • 3
    Maybe this should be two questions? I didn't even realize until I looked at the answers, but it seems to completely change direction after "Which window manager would you suggest?" Oct 12, 2010 at 15:20
  • @Michael: At the time of posting I was confused and thought it is not possible to use Linux without some desktop env and that is why Nautilus brings desktop icons. This became the reason of posting "two" questions in one thread, although at that time they seemed closely related. Oct 13, 2010 at 7:37

3 Answers 3


How can I fix it so that launching of Nautilus does not bring GNOME background?

The reason that this happens is that Nautilus is not only Gnome's file manager it's also responsible for drawing Gnome's desktop. So when you start nautilus it renders you desktop because it views that as one of it's responsibilities.

To disable this behavior, invoke it with the option --no-desktop or set the gconf key /apps/nautilus/preferences/show_desktop to false.

  • 1
    Thanks sepp2k. But what if some other application opens Nautilus? Like blueman-manager, an application I use to connect to my cell phone through bluetooth. Whenever I click on browse to see files on my cell phone, it open nautilus. Now how can I pass --no-desktop in this case? As I certainly have no control on blueman-manager. Oct 12, 2010 at 13:55
  • @Andrew: Good point. Using the gconf key should take care of that.
    – sepp2k
    Oct 12, 2010 at 13:58

I asked a similar question once. It is definitely a good idea if you find yourself ignoring the miscellaneous tools and features that come with the desktop environment.

The solution is, you don't need to install a desktop environment (or anything you don't use), just a window manager of your choice. I (also) asked another question about lightweight window managers. The summary is, if you want lots of effects go Compiz, otherwise choose a lightweight one like dwm.

Regarding Nautilus, do you really need it or some of it features? If not then you should probably switch to something else, maybe Thunar.

  • 3
    +1 for Suggesting looking for something besides nautilus. Which is really meant for gnome only. Oct 13, 2010 at 1:27
  • Thunar is really cool, but ( unless I'm mistaken ) still requires HAL.
    – Stefan
    Oct 13, 2010 at 8:56
  • @Stefan I'm not sure, is "requires HAL" a problem?
    – phunehehe
    Oct 13, 2010 at 18:22
  • 1
    its on its way out and being replaced with udev... so while its not a bad thing, its really just taking up space.
    – Stefan
    Oct 13, 2010 at 18:29
  • but according to wiki.ubuntu.com/Halsectomy, its has been fixed in upstream thunar :D
    – Stefan
    Oct 13, 2010 at 18:30

Dufresne and all who do not like crazy big enviroments,

I have my PC crashed so I experiment with debian (after many years on still-growing Lubuntu).

I have installed only debian standard without x11 windows. then I installed:

xorg - to have GUI
openbox - to have windows decorations and shortcuts
tint2 - to have a panel
jgmenu - to have a menu in left bottom corner (I am very conservative :-))
idesk - to have icons on the desktop
slock - to have locker and screensaver

I think now it is pretty enough, don't you think so? I always choose the smallest and fastest program for that task. As little daemons as possible. I will see during next months if it was a good decision. :-) Only big programs I have is LibreOffice, Gimp, Krusader, ffmpeg etc.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .