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I was wondering what commands/utilities can be used in terminal to know the types of windowing system (such as X window system), window manager (such as Metacity, KWin, Window Maker) and desktop environment (such as KDE, Gnome) of a Linux or other Unix-like operating systems?

Thanks!

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    So you want to know what's installed, what's default or what's running? – bahamat Feb 14 '11 at 16:14
  • @bahamat: what is running. That is why I want to know if there are some system files or commands for me to check that. But if you also know how to check for what's installed, what's default, then I also would like to know. Thanks! – Tim Feb 14 '11 at 17:49
  • What do you want to do with this information? (Windowing system is at least almost always X windows) – pjc50 Feb 15 '11 at 15:38
  • @pjc50: different types come with different sets of applications. I need the info to decide whether an application is for mine. – Tim Feb 15 '11 at 15:41
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    For desktop environment, I came across env | grep XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP. – user15760 May 7 '13 at 17:41
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From Ask Ubuntu.SE:

If you have wmctrl installed, wmctrl -m will identify the window manager for you.

Thomas already mentioned the XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP environment variable for identifying the desktop environment.

And from this thread here in Unix & Linux SE: the XDG_SESSION_TYPE environment variable can be used to identify whether the windowing system is X11 or Wayland.

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With difficulty.

There is no centralized system for keeping track of these things.

  • On Debian-derived Linuxes you might try the alternatives system.
  • You could query the package manager, and if you find only one Foo installed, you can be pretty sure which Foo is in use.
  • You could try parsing the output of ps. Or equivalently of reading /proc on systems that have it.

Possibly the most reliable thing is to ask the user.

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One of the answers in the comments works for me in Kali (probably in other Debian-based distros as well)

env | grep XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP

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