I have a Windows laptop, but I like to use Linux as a development/coding environment. Currently I am currently running Ubuntu 12.04 as a guest OS with VirtualBox. Some of the issues with this setup are:

  • I need a lighter-weight distro - Ubuntu installs too many extraneous packages

  • I like to work in VirtualBox's "seamless" display mode - GNOME Terminal is the app I use the most. I'd like to find a window manager which gives me more vertical real estate. The GNOME desktop manager (the classic version) works pretty well, but I don't need the top menu bar or bottom task bar, and I could do with smaller title bars on windows.

Any suggestions on windows manangers, configuring GNOME or other Debian/Ubuntu compatible distros?


If your Linux VM is just for development, why do you need a desktop environment (or even X) on it?

You could run a VM without X (and all the baggage that comes with X) and connect to it with an ssh client (putty.exe). You can run multiple ssh connections to the VM and/or if you have GNU Screen or similar installed on the VM then you can have multiple terminal sessions inside the one ssh connection (you can also detach and re-attach to them at will).

If you want a stripped-down debian/ubuntu system then the easiest way to get it is to install the debian base system into a VM and then install only the packages you actually need with apt-get or aptitude or whatever.

If you need to run GUI Linux applications, there are X servers available for MS Windows, including free versions (it's been many years since i've needed anything like this so i can't recommend any) - this would allow you to run the GUI app on linux and have the program's window display on your MS Windows desktop.

  • actually GNOME Terminal is one of the main reasons for the graphical component; I haven't found a comparable tabbed terminal emulator on Windows – ErikR Aug 23 '12 at 4:58
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    For a tabbed terminal emulator, I have seen ConEmu being recommended on Super User. – Renan Aug 23 '12 at 5:06
  • Gnome Terminal is one of the Linux GUI applications you could run using a Windows X Server. – cas Aug 23 '12 at 8:03
  • Hm, I'm not following, why would you not need a desktop environment/X just because you do development? Doesn't that depend entirely what you are developing and what tools you use? – Emanuel Berg Aug 23 '12 at 8:03
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    That is why I asked it as a question, rather than made a statement. The question highlighted the possibility that X is not or may not be necessary for development work. user5402 also expressed a desire for a lighter-weight distro because "Ubuntu installs too many extraneous packages". Getting rid of X and Unity and gnome and so on is an easy way to get a lighter-weight linux VM. – cas Aug 23 '12 at 11:48

You could do with a minimal Debian/Ubuntu install, by individually selecting the packages you want.

But... Do you really need a GUI within the guest? You are better off ssh'ing to it using PuTTY and copying files from/to the VM using WinSCP or VirtualBox's shared folders.

If you do need graphical apps, Cygwin has a X server.

  • yes I have used Xming but I've had problems with copy/paste from Xming to Windows. – ErikR Aug 23 '12 at 5:04

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