Alternate Desktop Manager – Xfce / Fluxbox / Enlightenment / Blackbox / Openbox / Afterstep / FVWM / WindowMaker : Ubuntu (6.06.1 / 6.10)

By | 2006/12/18

How many of you have older hardware? I know I’ve got a few machines that I can’t take myself to throw away. It’s ok though because we all run Linux which is very kind to old hardware (Don’t throw away good hardware, use Ubuntu!) For those of us with even older hardware we might need to tone things down just a bit. How do we do that? We’ve got a few options, let me go over a few:

First, if we’re using GNOME (which is the default desktop manager) we can tell it to tone things down a bit using gconf-editor. Try the following and see how much difference it makes in your responsiveness:

ALT-F2 : gconf-editor
set "/apps/metacity/general/reduced_resources" to true

Or, if you’re using KDE you’ve got a few options as well. note: in my experience KDE is the least hardware friendly (as far as responsiveness and memory requirements). You can try running (or installing if it isn’t included) a program that will allow you to reduce the eye-candy level of KDE:


Now for those of you that have hardware that served back in the war, or want to venture into some new desktop manager options you can install any of the following:

Xfce - sudo aptitude install xubuntu-desktop
Fluxbox - sudo aptitude install fluxbox
Enlightenment - sudo aptitude install enlightenment
Blackbox - sudo aptitude install blackbox
Openbox - sudo aptitude install openbox
Afterstep - sudo aptitude install afterstep
FVWM - sudo aptitude install fvwm
WindowMaker - sudo aptitude install wmaker

note: you’ll also want to install a menu application that keeps the different Desktop Manager menus separate. Install the package menu using your preferred method (command line or Synaptic Package Manager) and, after installation run:

sudo update-menus

Now you might be wondering how to switch between these new desktop managers. It’s really simple and you can very easily have any / all of these installed at any time and switch between them all.

  1. Logout of your current desktop manager
  2. On the Login screen find the “Options” button
  3. Select “Sessions” and select your newly installed desktop manager

It will ask you if you’d like to switch to that manager just this time or if you’d like to make it the default. That is, of course, up to you. If you’d like like to give things a test-drive just use it for this session. You can easily switch between any desktop manager using the same method. So what are you waiting for? Check out some of the other available Desktop Managers and make your desktop completely unique to you! Ooh and, of course, many of these alternates are MUCH more lightweight and work GREAT on older hardware!

17 thoughts on “Alternate Desktop Manager – Xfce / Fluxbox / Enlightenment / Blackbox / Openbox / Afterstep / FVWM / WindowMaker : Ubuntu (6.06.1 / 6.10)

  1. Pepino


    which one would you suggest, if the computer only has 128MB RAM?


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  3. Ubuntu Tutorials

    Pepino – if the machine only has 128M I would definitely suggest something like Xfce or Fluxbox. Those two are really lightweight.

    Gnome or KDE won’t work very well with those resources. Give those other two a try.. some trial and error 😉

  4. Heathen Dan

    I second Xfce/Xubuntu. I’ve been using it since Dapper and it’s pretty light and tight. I suggest downloading and installing the Xubuntu CD instead of the apt-get route. Less clutter that way.

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  6. Kenneth

    Xfce looks nice. But, on older/under powered hardware, WinowMaker uses MUCH less memory and really makes the gui snappier. Especially when running Firefox 2.0, OpenOffice, the GIMP, or other largish applications. YMMV, but that has been my experience.

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  8. r5d

    You’re adressing people used to clicking things, right? The typical ubuntu-user?

    I seriously doubt that recommending WMs (yes, it’s called a “window manager”, the definition of the term “desktop” varies) like fvwm will have any effect other that an angry ‘apt-get remove $WM’ after some minutes

  9. jmage

    now wait im used to the normal gnome desktop. and though you are correct that WM is as you say a windows manager not a desktop manager, it isnt bad. and it isnt that hard to get used to. it has a learning curve of about 5-10 minutes for someone with a decent amount of linux experience. I just found this page and apt-got (lol) it about an hour or two ago and i havent booted back into gnome.or any of the other ones. I have found Xfce to STILL be slightly taxing. If you have limited memory i recommend fluxbox or WM. and openbox, enlightenment, blackbox, should be saved for the ppl who really love them, because honestly the end user of Ubuntu usually wont use the others all that much.

  10. tmx

    I am using xfce, but the main thing that is seemed missing for me is the thunar file manager does not have any pop up gui for when I move or copy one file to another location. I almost accidently moved all my home files to another folder trying to move the icons around in the desktop.

  11. tmx

    Sorry, it seem there is a progress bar, but it will not show up if I move files to the dekstop or around the desktop.

  12. Sourav Mohanty

    Does it work with KDE version as the command update-menu is not there in KDE.

  13. Vistaus

    Yes, it works on KDE. The command is “sudo update-menus” (without the quotes)

  14. jack

    Fluxbox is not only for low-end PC, I has many benefits on any level of PC, such as speed, stable, powerful/easy apps/menus/keys configuration.

  15. jordan

    manager does not have any pop up gui for when I move or copy one file to another location. I almost accidently moved all my home files to another folder trying to move the icons around in

  16. Kesha

    I started using XFce back in the early 3 series. It was great, fast, small footprint and yes it resembled CDE; which is my work environment in the lab. Made transition from desk to lab easier. I even got 3 people hooked on XFce. I shall convert the world, I tell you, oops did I say that out loud.
    Well, I have noticed in the 4 series, more prettiness; me likes that, and a longer start up time. Well, the system I am running on is not a slow machine by any account. So, I don’t mind the pokey startup, but at the same time, how often do I start XFce? Once a week, unless the power here at work takes a dive. Try running KDE or Gnome for a week straight. I get increased memory usage as time goes on with them.
    Just thought I would put my thoughts out.

  17. Remodeling

    Xfce has just enough “eye candy” with the Xfce4 window manager. I don’t add Compiz or any other stuff just to make it prettier. I have translucent panels, a panel that is invisible unless I mouse over it, and sweet little apps in the bottom panel that I like (weather, analog clock, stuff like that). It runs speedily and sweetly on my poor old hand-me-down Dell with it’s scant 512 RAM. I agree, Xfce strikes the perfect balance between features and speed. But most of all I love it’s simplicity! What can I say, some kids prefer simple things.


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