How you interact with your system heavily depends on what Desktop Environment you are using as it includes elements such as Icons, Animations, Wallpapers, and other User Experience (UX) related elements which are intended to provide a better user experience.
There are various open-source Desktop Environments available with their targeted audience such as KDE is meant for those who want to customize each element of their desktop. So if you want to change the Desktop Environment of Debian 11, we will show you how to guide each one.
But before the installation process, let’s discuss what Debian has to offer when it comes to Desktop Environment in its default repository.
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Desktop Environments in Debian 11
If you went with the net installer for Debian, you will be given various options to choose from such as GNOME (default), KDE, Xfce, Cinnamon, MATE, and LXDE. Each has a different problem to solve and different experiences to offer.
So let’s start the process of changing the Desktop Environment with multiple methods.
Change Desktop Environment in Debian 11
There are two ways to install/change Desktop Environment in Debian and we have mentioned both of them. As the default repository of Debian contains popular options, we won’t require to add separate PPAs and repositories to install most of them.
There are some prerequisites for changing the Desktop Environment
- You are required to have an internet connection as we are going to download Desktop Environments which are going to consume lots of bandwidth.
- Root access is required to change Desktop Environment. If you haven’t, you can elevate root privileges by this tutorial.
Method 1: Change Desktop Environment with Separate Command
This method will allow you to install Desktop Environments that are not available in the default repository of Debian and also you can install what’s available in its default repository too. So let’s start with the most famous Desktop Environment.
Installing GNOME Desktop Environment
GNOME is the default choice for the majority of Linux distros which includes Ubuntu, Pop_OS, and many others. So if you want to change your current Desktop Environment to GNOME, use the following command:
sudo apt install task-gnome-desktop
Installing Xfce Desktop Environment
Xfce is intended for users who have fewer resources to spend. Xfce is one of those Desktop Environments where developers are more focused on getting stability than the latest features. So if you are willing to add something lightweight yet stable, you should try Xfce.
To install Xfce, use the following command:
sudo apt install task-xfce-desktop
Hit Enter when it asks for your permission with given disk space and it will start downloading required packages and dependencies.
Installing MATE Desktop Environment
MATE is a fork of GNOME 2. When GNOME 3 was released, many users were not satisfied with the drastic change in the workflow so developers decided to create MATE which resembles GNOME 2. If you prefer a minimal and clutter-free Desktop, MATE is a great option.
To install MATE use the following command:
sudo apt install task-mate-desktop
Installing KDE Plasma Desktop Environment
KDE Plasma is targeted at those who are willing to change each element of their Desktop and make it according to their preference. You might be wondering about resources as there are numerous customization options but there is a catch!
In the recent release of KDE, developers have optimized it in such a way that it consumes fewer resources compared to GNOME so if you are searching for something which you can make your own, KDE is the way to go!
Use the following command to install KDE Plasma:
sudo apt install task-kde-desktop
Installing Cinnamon Desktop Environment
Cinnamon is yet another Desktop Environment based on GNOME. It is based on GNOME 3 which resembles Windows XP and makes it easier for new Linux users to switch from the previous Operating System, especially if they’re using Windows.
Cinnamon is focused on ease of use and provides you with GUI tools for almost every operation so that you can perform each operation without the intervention of Terminal (for the most part). So if you prefer something simple to use and configure, install Cinnamon Desktop Environment by the following command:
sudo apt install task-cinnamon-desktop
Need something extremely lightweight? you should use LXDE as it is the lightest Desktop Environment. It is so lightweight that developers of RaspberryPi use its base code to create Raspbian.
So if you want to revive your old machine, LXDE is a great option as it uses the least resources in the background. To install LXDE, use the following command:
sudo apt install task-lxde-desktop
Installing LXQt Desktop Environment
LXQt is a refined version of LXDE. As LXDE uses GTK 2, it felt decades old so developers decided to create LXQt to get users a refined experience. LXQt is quite similar to LXDE when it comes to resources so feel free to install LXQt by the following command:
sudo apt install task-lxqt-desktop
Budgie is derived from the Solus project and is known for being modern-looking and using fewer resources at the same time. As it is available in the default repository of Debian, we can easily install Budgie by the following command:
sudo apt install budgie-desktop budgie-indicator-applet python-psutil-doc
Method 2: Change Desktop Environment Using Tasksel
If you want to install multiple Desktop Environments or want to install them without any involvement of commands, this method is just for you. Tasksel is a GUI utility tool that lets you manage Desktop Environments with simple UI.
You just have to launch tasksel by the following command:
It will open a prompt from where you can choose single or multiple Desktop Environments at the same time and install them.
Once you select them and hit Enter, it will start installing packages.
Changing Distribution in Debian 11
Once you are done with downloading and installing Desktop Environment from the above methods, reboot your system but don’t log in directly as we are going to change our Desktop Environment from the log-in prompt.
Click on your Username and when you are about to enter a password, you will find a little gear icon. Click on that icon.
It will show you a list of installed Desktop Environments. As I went with LXQt, I would choose it.
Once you choose your desired Desktop Environment, log in with your usual credentials and you will see your intended Desktop Environment has been applied.
Frequently asked questions related to Desktop Environment
How do I change the desktop environment in Debian 11?
First, download the required Desktop Environment by this command: sudo tasksel
Reboot your system and choose desired Desktop Environment at the log-in screen
Can you change desktop environments in Linux?
Yes, you can easily download your desired Desktop Environment and change it even if it is not available on the default repository.
How do I replace Xfce with GNOME?
First, download Xfce packages by using this command: tasksel
Reboot your system and at your log-in screen, you can change Desktop Environment from GNOME to Xfce.
Which Desktop Environment do you Prefer the Most?
Changing Desktop Environment might sound difficult but by following the given guide on how to change Desktop Environment in Debian 11, you can easily shift to your desired Desktop Environment.