I know that a Window Manager just manages windows, and can basically be used with any DE. My question is what is the difference between a display manager and a desktop environment? I ask this because I run i3-gaps on Arch Linux, and I want to be able to have multiple display managers/window managers/desktop environments, just so things aren't boring.

  • The display manager typically is a GUI login manager. The desktop environment is a GUI environment for working on the computer after you're logged in. – fixer1234 Sep 1 '15 at 4:21

According to Wikipedia, a Display Manager (such as KDM) is a graphical login utility, from which you can choose a user to log in as and a desktop environment (and/or window manager) to run.

A Desktop Environment is a collection of software to implement the "desktop" GUI paradigm, with things like icons, a graphical file browser, a clock, a notification area, wallpaper, settings management tool, and so on. They often provide support for inter-process activities such as cut/copy/paste and drag-and-drop. Some DEs aim to provide an extensive suite of software that all works together, including things like a web browser, email client, chat client, text editor, archive manager, office document suite, and so on.

In theory, all three of DM, WM, and DE are independent. In practice, there's usually, at a minimum, better integration if you use ones that are developed together (you can run KDE apps on GNOME, but since KDE uses QT and GNOME uses GTK, they won't have the same look-and-feel and GNOME tools that edit the way apps look in GTK may have no affect for QT apps).

  • Cool, I figured that out earlier, I left the post up in case anyone else was wondering :) Another quick question, when I go to a virtual console, I can't switch back to my DE. I am running LightDM and the DE i use the most is Cinnamon, but with the w command, it says my cinnamon session is at :0 -_- – Charles Staal Sep 2 '15 at 0:46
  • Cool; I learned something looking up the answer myself. Would be good to mark the question as answered, so anybody else searching for this info can see it has an answer. As for virtual consoles and window managers, I've had no problem switching off of the X11 console and then back to it. Have you simply tried all of them, until one drops you into a GUI instead of a command line? Which one its on seems to very. – CBHacking Sep 2 '15 at 0:51
  • CBHacking Yes, I have. It' so weird it's like it's not in a real session, under TTY it says :0 when I do the W command. – Charles Staal Sep 2 '15 at 0:54

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