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or maybe something else?

I am using Redhat OS.

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done :) I'd also wish the OP had pointed out what version of redhat he's using, since unless its RHEL, there hasn't been a redhat release in ages –  Journeyman Geek Jan 15 '10 at 13:27
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12 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Have a look at your installed applications. If a lot of them start with K - you're on KDE. If a lot of them start with G, you're on Gnome. Seriously. (Not very accurate if you have both installed though).

If you go to the About page of your computers settings panel, that should give you some clues.

Alternatively, look around on Google Images for screenshots of Gnome or KDE. It should be obvious once you have seen the basic look of the desktop environment.

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Since you can have both Gnome and KDE installed on the machine, and have access to both sets of programs in your menus, the first suggestion is not a foolproof method. The About panel is most likely the useful answer. –  Shannon Nelson Jan 20 '10 at 8:34
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I've tested the best tools I've found with

  1. GNOME under Linux Mint installed;
  2. GNOME under Linux Mint Live USB;
  3. MATE under Linux Mint;
  4. LXDE under Lubuntu;
  5. JWM under Puppy Linux (JWM is not a desktop environment but a stacking window manager).

My results:

  1. (so-so)
    env | grep DESKTOP_SESSION=

    1. DESKTOP_SESSION=gnome
    2. DESKTOP_SESSION=gnome
    3. DESKTOP_SESSION=default.desktop
    4. DESKTOP_SESSION=Lubuntu
    5. (nothing)
  2. (so-so)
    echo $GDMSESSION

    1. gnome
    2. gnome
    3. (nothing)
    4. Lubuntu
    5. (nothing)
  3. (well, but not perfect)
    pgrep -l "gnome|kde|mate|cinnamon|lxde|xfce|jwm"
    ps -A | egrep -i "gnome|kde|mate|cinnamon|lxde|xfce|jwm"

    1. (OK)
    2. (OK)
    3. (OK)
    4. (WRONG)
    5. (nothing) & (OK)
  4. (very well, but not perfect)

    1. (nothing);
    2. GNOME 2.32.0
    3. MATE
    4. LXDE (Lubuntu)
    5. Unknown (Window Manager: JWM)

CONCLUSION: A combination of HardInfo and the command

ps -A | egrep -i "gnome|kde|mate|cinnamon|lxde|xfce|jwm"

probably will give the desired answer.

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I have this function in my ~/.bash_aliases --

# open terminal function
    # if gnome is running
    if [ $(pgrep -c gnome-panel) -gt 0 ]; then
            echo "running gnome"
    # if xfce is running    
    elif [ $(pgrep -c xfce4-panel) -gt 0 ]; then
            echo "running xfce"
alias trm='open-terminal'
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To know the version of the installed DE we can open Synaptic and put its name in the "Quick filter" box. Below "Installed Version" we have the answer. Next to it, below "Latest Version", we can see the highest to what we can update it to (at least if we have just clicked on "Reload" and considering only stable software -by default the access to the developing versions is usually disabled-). If instead of Synaptic the considered distro uses PackageKit or other a similar solution shoul be avaiable.

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His question is about how to do this on RedHat OSes not Debian/Ubuntu! –  slm Apr 17 '13 at 12:56
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This command seems to be useful:

ls /usr/bin/*session*
  • in GNOME returns /usr/bin/gnome-session (and more)
  • in MATE returns /usr/bin/mate-session (and more)
  • in LXDE returns /usr/bin/lxsession (and more)
  • in JWM returns /usr/bin/icewm-session (should be jwm-session, not?!)
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It's not reliable because it only shows the installed session managers, not only the running one – and not all desktop environments actually have a matching *-session executable (as you noted for jwm), or any such program at all. –  grawity Apr 15 '13 at 1:01
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I've been testing also with KDE and my conclusion is:

a) Graphical way, with HardInfo: the answer is normally in "Operating System" > "Desktop Environment", but if not you can look to "Environment variables". HardInfo is ready with all the tested distros, except the one with KDE, but it can be easily and quickly installed (only 2 packages in Linux Mint 13).

b) Command line, with this command:

ps -A | egrep -i "gnome|kde|mate|cinnamon|lx|xfce|jwm"

The item that appears in more lines should be the answer (if there is a draw the item with "session" should be the solution).

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Since it has been more than 3 years ...I guess, OP has either found the answer by his own or somewhere else or decided to drop whole idea. –  JackLock Apr 15 '13 at 23:53
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In a terminal or console, you can run:

pgrep -l "gnome|kde|mate|cinnamon"


ps -A | egrep -i "gnome|kde|mate|cinnamon"

The item that appears in more lines should be the answer.

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You can run HardInfo. It's ready by default at least in Linux Mint; or you could install it (from Synaptic, ...).

You can run it:

  1. from the main menu > Search box > hardinfo, or
  2. from the main menu > All applications > System Tools or Administration > System Information, or
  3. from the main menu > All applications > All > System Information, or
  4. from a terminal or console > hardinfo > Enter, or
  5. from the Run Application dialog (Alt+F2) > hardinfo > Enter.

Once HardInfo opens you just need to need to click on the "Operating System" item and look to the "Desktop Environment" line.

Nowadays, apart from GNOME and KDE, you could find MATE, Cinnamon, ...

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A new user may not recognize the differences betwen KDE and Gnome in the screen captures above. Look at the position of the default panels (top with Gnome and bottom with KDE) not the color of the desktop or the apps that are open.

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A late agreement. For a while RedHat was normalizing both Gnome and KDE to the Bluecurve theme, blurring the lines even more. –  Rich Homolka Apr 15 '13 at 1:23
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Quick way #1: if you have a "System" menu entry on the top line, and there's an item in the menu that says "About Gnome", you're probably running Gnome.

Quick way #2:

ps -ef | grep gnome
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this is the best answer –  private data public channel 2 Sep 15 '13 at 14:37
Shorter version: pgrep -f gnome –  Demetri Oct 27 '13 at 23:04
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Open a terminal and type:

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This is the best answer. –  daxim Jan 15 '10 at 18:49
Not always true, as for someone could be just "default" –  dag729 Jan 18 '10 at 0:55
doesnt work for all cases.. i have ubuntu 12 and the above command gave just "ubuntu" as output. the command given by @Shannon Nelson worked. –  Tejas Patil Dec 20 '12 at 7:36
it works in my Ubuntu 12.10 KDE –  Felipe Alcacibar Mar 14 '13 at 22:01
l1zard@Marvin:~$ echo $DESKTOP_SESSION results in default which is not very useful –  l1zard Apr 16 '13 at 17:27
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This is what GNOME looks like:

enter image description here

This is KDE:

enter image description here

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