I'm trying to understand the different desktop environments and how they work together on one machine.

If I install a new desktop environment, this shouldn't change the underlying linux base core, but should only install new GUI software that I the user interact with. This is how you can have multiple desktop environments on one system. Is this correct?

For instance, if I install Kubuntu (comes with KDE) and then install xfce, this should in principle be identical to installing Xubuntu (comes with xfce) then installing KDE, correct?
I guess the difference would be that Kubuntu and Xubuntu have different base packages and different "tweaks" so will look and act slightly differently, but you could in principle make the two systems identical, right?

  • 1
    As schaiba says, you have it right. The only hassle or complication I've found from using multiple DE's on one system is to do with the graphical login (XDM/KDM/GDM/whatever), which I generally don't use anyway (I boot to console). I have not used different DE's with the same user much, but I doubt they end up stepping on one other's toes significantly.
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 14:27

1 Answer 1


The answer to your first question is yes: the only things that change are basically the graphical desktop applications, the base system (e.g. kernel) remains the same. As per your second question, there might be minor interferences between the two DEs, but all in all, KDE and then XFCE should equal XFCE then KDE. I'd suggest you experiment and see for yourself, it's the best way to learn new stuff.

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