After years of Linux I would like to give *BSD a try, but I'm uncertain if I should use FreeBSD or PC-BSD.

With KDE out-of-the-box and graphical package-manager and such, PC-BSD strikes me as simple to set-up and use. On the other hand, more people uses FreeBSD and it seems to be better documented, so it sets the standard. I'm leaning towards FreeBSD, but would still like something similar to GUI-goodness from PC-BSD.

So my question, can FreeBSD be set-up to work similar to PC-BSD? With KDE, GUI log-in prompt and GUI managing tools? Is it difficult, or just a matter of making the relevant packages from the port-tree? Would it perhaps even be possible to install PC-BSD packages directly on FreeBSD?

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    PC-BSD is based on FreeBSD so assuming that all required libraries are available, software packages for one should install and be executable on the other. They might not necessarily do what you expect in an unfamiliar environment, though. This does imply that one should be quite possible to set up the same way as the other (though I cannot comment on the amount of effort required as pretty much my only experience with any BSD is a brief dabble with FreeBSD and OpenBSD some years back). – a CVn Jun 7 '13 at 22:51
  • @MichaelKjörling PC-BSD is (almost) FreeBSD without the installation headaches ;) I've been using for some months now, and it is quite simple to install and maintain, and has all the flexibility and stability of FreeBSD – Barranka Nov 13 '13 at 17:59

PC-BSD is FreeBSD with many enhancements to make a convenient, comfortable desktop environment, their "Push Button Installer" package management tool, a network utility and a unified control panel for easy access to admin utilities. So, yes, FreeBSD can be made to work like PC-BSD—that's exactly what the PC-BSD team have done!

If you want a graphical desktop system to get you started learning *BSD, then I would think PC-BSD is the ideal place to start—it gets you up and running with one of several popular desktop environments from the get-go, so you can then focus on learning other aspects of the system. If, on the other hand, you want to get your hands dirty from the beginning, learning how to install FreeBSD and additional software, you can use the ports system to add the extras you want.

As for the documentation, the vast majority of documentation relevant to FreeBSD will also apply to PC-BSD without modification, so the PC-BSD team focus their efforts on documenting the differences.

You can install PBI packages on a FreeBSD system—simply install the ports-mgmt/pbi-manager port, which provides the command line utilities for managing PBI packages. There is also sysutils/easypbi, which aims to provide a simple interface for creating PBI modules from FreeBSD ports. There are also ports of the PC-BSD network utility, their warden jail utility and others.

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