I was wondering, is there any differences between Debian Standard and GNOME versions?

Isn't Debian under GNOME by default?


Debian Live Standard is Debian without the Graphical User Interface.

Debian Live Gnome is Debian Standard with Gnome.


TLDR; see Ivan's answer below https://unix.stackexchange.com/a/203328/25985

People coming from monolithic mainstream OS's like windows or OSX are often confused by the heterogeneous nature of GNU/Linux.

By "heterogeneous" vs. "monolithic" I mean that while windows and OSX are both essentially gigantic, singular pieces of integrated software, linux is a collection of pieces and often one piece can be interchanged with a different, parallel piece. Thus the final product varies a great deal; it is easy to end up with a system that may be completely unrecognizable to another linux user.

The formal name of the OS is actually GNU/Linux because "linux" is just the kernel (below, I use small l "linux" in the colloquial sense and capital L "Linux" to refer to just the kernel). The fundamental userspace (native libraries, common unix tools) is a completely separate project usable with various unix-like kernels, including Linux, although Linux is by far the most popular one. So first, beware of these two distinct, independent organizations:

  • The Linux Foundation, responsible for the kernel.
  • GNU, responsible for the fundamental userland. GNU is (or was, originally) also the umbrella for GNOME.

Both the GNU stuff and the Linux kernel are publicly distributed as source code. However, that's not much good to most people unless it is compiled into binary executable form. Because that is a complex task, various pre-compiled GNU/Linux distributions exist, of which Debian is one. Point being, Debian doesn't actually write most of the software in the distribution -- the GNU and Linux crew did.

Distributions generally contain a lot more software than the kernel and fundamental userspace, however. For example, the basic layer of the graphical desktop used on linux is the Xorg server. Xorg is another independent organization, and X is also used on other (unix-like) operating systems. X itself is a sort of minimal, behind-the-scenes entity from a user perspective. It does not provide snazzy widget sets, etc; these come from a window manager (WM) and, optionally, a desktop environment (DE).

There are a variety of DE's available for use with X on linux. GNOME is one of them, and it is the default used by Debian for distributions that come with a GUI. Note that you don't have to use GNOME with Debian, you could also use one of the other available DEs (and/or WMs).

So, to answer your question more specifically:

Isn't Debian under Gnome by default ?

No. Debian is an independent organization, and Gnome is a project maintained by GNU, a separate independent organization. Your version of Gnome was compiled from the GNU source code by Debian.

  • 2
    Thanks for your answer, it learned me a lot of things, but what I don't understand is that, when I pick up the Debian DVD for an install, there is no different versions. However, on the Debian live project, there is. So in that case what WM is used with the standard versions ? (And GNU and Linux are distinct kernel? ) – PeterFour Aug 17 '13 at 18:50
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    The GNU project does have kernels, but other GNU software does not require them, which is how their userspace came to be used with the linux kernel. The reason the DVD's usually only contain one version is I presume space. BTW: you don't need to re-install if you want to use the DE that comes with another "version". You can just install that DE, and then configure your system to use it instead (which may be fairly simple if the distro provides a chooser, you'll find out when you reboot). – goldilocks Aug 17 '13 at 18:54
  • @goldilocks yeah it might be space, because when you install debian with the DVD images on the website, if you want to install the WM it uses internet and APT. But you made me want to know more about the GNU and Linux differences, I didn't know that much. Do you have any useful link ? – PeterFour Aug 17 '13 at 19:23
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    You didn't answer the question, is there any differences between Debian Standard and GNOME versions – Jürgen Paul Oct 11 '13 at 21:01
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    @PineappleUndertheSea You're right. I described the software stack of the GNOME version but did not say anything about the standard version. The standard version does not include any GUI, although it is possible to add one to it after the install. These versions all use the same binary repositories -- which you install doesn't really matter, since one can be converted to another in a few minutes (sans downloading). Just don't confuse "version" in this sense with "release" (eg, 6.0 squeeze, 7.0 wheezy), which is the more common (and significant) use of the term (eg, "I'm using version 7"). – goldilocks Oct 12 '13 at 14:23

I was looking at the directory
There you can find the following files for Gnome version
- debian-live-7.8.0-amd64-gnome-desktop.iso
- debian-live-7.8.0-amd64-gnome-desktop.iso.contents
- debian-live-7.8.0-amd64-gnome-desktop.iso.packages
as well as the equivalent ones for standard version

The .iso file of Gnome is 1.2 GB while the standard .iso is just 461 MB, so Gnome version should contain more things.

Doing a diff between the *.iso.contents files shows, quite surprisingly, no difference.

Doing a diff between the *.iso.packages files shows differences.

My conclusion is that the standard version does not include a desktop environment and is just command line. On the other hand, the Gnome version includes many Gnome packages from Gnome Desktop Environment such as Nautilus, Gedit, Libre Office, etc.


Goldilocks took care of the second question, but, as someone coming from Ubuntu, I was more interested in the first. Or, to put it more clearly for anyone like me who lands here, it seems that "standard" is Debian without a desktop GUI, rather than with a default GUI such as Ubuntu's "unity," and Debian + GNOME is Debian packaged with GNOME as the desktop GUI. This is my preliminary conclusion based on what I've found so far, I'll come back and edit this if I find otherwise.


Debian Live Standard is a very basic command line system without either x11 or any kind of GUI environment.

At best, it is useable as a basic server, but if you don't have a landline connection, e.g. if you depend on mobile broadband, then it is only useful for learning command line. Even if you copy the relevant .deb packages to /var/cache/apt/archives/ they still cannot be installed, because without an internet connection it is not possible to 'apt-get update'.

This is my experience.

However, the Debian Standard iso my be useful for building a 'Linux from Scratch'. I have not tried this yet.

  • Technically, those packages can be installed, either by way of dpkg -i or by apt-cdrom. The latter makes it possible to apt-get update from a non-network source - as the name implies, this was originally for CDs, but these days it works just as well with a USB key. The importance of this lies in that one can download the full set (or just the first few) of install CDs/DVDs (as opposed to live images) and use them to add packages without an internet connection. Of course, they probably won't be up-to-date but it's better than nothing. – Darael Dec 31 '15 at 14:45
  • Oh, also, the Debian Standard installation actually does happen to support USB ethernet, which is useful because that's what most phones appear to be when "tethered" - useful if your mobile data allowance is large enough to be helpful and your provider doesn't prohibit tethering. – Darael Dec 31 '15 at 14:47

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