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Desktop enviroments

One of the things newcomers to Linux often find surprising is the fact that there are several desktop environments to choose from. With Windows or Mac OS X each release has one desktop interface and if you don't like it, you have no other options. With Linux systems there are alternatives you can try instead. Welcome to the world of choice!

If you download a Mageia Live CD, you can choose between the Plasma edition, GNOME edition and XFCE edition. These three are deemed the most popular desktop environments for Linux systems at present, but there are others available which can be installed from within Mageia. If you download the classic installation , you have the ability to choose from a number of alternatives during the installation process.

Desktop Galore

As of Mageia 6: more than 20 desktop environments and window managers are officially supported. In essence, making Mageia a decent choice for those who desire a customisable graphical user interface. The desktops you can choose from are the following:

Installing and using other desktop environments

Installing a desktop environment works in the same way as installing other software and is done through the Software Manager ("Install & Remove Software"), which is accessed via the Mageia Control Center or the application menu on the panel. To help you find what you want more quickly, select "Meta packages" from the drop-down menu on the left above the list of categories. Then open the "Graphical desktop" menu and select the desktop you want.


You will see a list of the metapackages which contain all the software needed to run your chosen desktop. Unless your computer is very low on resources, it is best to choose a full installation rather than a minimal one. As with other software, when you check the box next to an item you will be given a list of the packages which will be included if it is installed. Accept this to return to the list of metapackages, click "Apply", then confirm the installation of the packages when prompted and installation will begin.

Individual packages

In addition to the desktop environments installed by a 'task-' meta package, Mageia includes a number of other desktops installable as individual packages.

These include :

  • IceWM - A basic Windows 95 style desktop which comes pre-installed on mageia as a backup desktop
  • Fluxbox - Very minimalist
  • Matchbox - Intended for small screen devices such as telephones.
  • openbox - Similar to Fluxbox
  • Pekwm - A light window manager

Logging in to other desktop environments

You may have as many desktop environments installed as you wish. You can try them all out until you find the one you are most comfortable with.

Tip: In general desktop environments do not interfere with each other with the exception of LXDE and XFCE. You may find that if you use XFCE, then switch to LXDE, then when you return to XFCE the window decorations may be missing, and the number of desktops has changed. If you experience this problem log out, and log back in with IceWM (IceWM is a very basic desktop environment installed by Mageia as a backup desktop environment.). Then delete the hidden folder in your /home directory called .cache. Now log out and you should be able to log in with XFCE normally again.

There are two ways of selecting other desktop environments at boot.

  • If when you first installed Mageia you selected KDE/Plasma5 as your primary desktop, then your login screen is called 'sddm'. It was KDM until Mageia 5. With sddm you will see that on the login screen, underneath the username and password boxes, there is a pencil-and-paper icon. Clicking on this will bring up a list of desktops from which you can choose the one you want to log in to for that session.
    If you selected Gnome as your primary desktop, then you will be using 'gdm' as your display manager, and the selection for which desktop to use will be a drop down menu.
  • If you prefer automatic login, you can use the Boot menu of the Mageia Control Center to set Mageia to log you in to your chosen desktop automatically on startup:


Another way to change the environment is to disconnect the session. Thus you get again your prefered Display Manager and can then select the environment/Desktop.