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Comparing the Two Linux Desktop Environments

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Being an open-source community-driven OS, Linux offers numerous desktops that appeal to your various computing tastes and priorities. Through this guide, the idea is to compare the two famous desktop environments: XFCE and KDE.

Both KDE and XFCE come loaded with features that distinguish them from the rest of the desktops within the Linux gamut. Nonetheless, you will notice some stark similarities and dissimilarities between the two desktops, as well.

XFCE and KDE rank well against each other. Here’s a detailed comparison to help you decide whether to use KDE or XFCE as your next Linux desktop.


Stability and Release Cycles

XFCE

XFCE system details

XFCE gives you a stable desktop experience, primarily due to its three-year LTS release cycle. Periodic updates are also provided in the interim to keep you updated with the latest innovations in the environment. The frequent releases are an admirable perk since XFCE’s community and support contribution is not as per KDE’s scale.

XFCE uses the GTK toolkit and continues to be an independent alternative to the GTK-built GNOME environment. It has been in the game for over 25 years and offers you more reliability for periodic and stable releases.

XFCE uses reusable components so that you can pick and choose what you need to drive stable performance on your existing hardware.

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KDE

KDE system requirements

KDE takes stability seriously with its well-publicized, meticulously documented release logs, which detail its minutest improvements. You can expect UI/UX improvements specific to applications within the software repository.

A lot of these improvements aren’t restricted to simply improving the desktop user experience. On the contrary, they improve the performance of the native applications as well.

You can expect minor crashes in bundled applications; alternatively, you also get better rendering UI elements, optimized memory usage, and layout changes for boosting productivity with subsequent updates.

Memory and Resource Utilization

XFCE

XFCE-Performance

XFCE offers you a lean and responsive front-end experience as a desktop environment, regardless of the host distribution. Even if you are running XFCE on a system with low hardware, you can expect a decent performance from the desktop environment.


If agile performance is what you are after, you might be biased about XFCE. Having said this, it has veritably less RAM usage than KDE plasma, using only 531MB idly, regardless of VM execution or native installation.

KDE

KDE Memory

You can attribute KDE’s idle RAM usage (around 726MB) to its aesthetic-heavy features. These features can make KDE seem like a desktop environment with bleeding-edge graphics, but they can bog down the most standard hardware.

You can further pick and choose which applications you wish to install while cutting down on a lot of system software, to get rid of bloatware and ease up on the RAM usage.

Related: The Best KDE-Based Distros for Avid Linux Users

Desktop Customizability

XFCE

XFCE defines productivity and performance with its bare minimalism. As highlighted before, XFCE allows you to pick and choose components on your use case basis.

The environment is hardware friendly and works well on low-end system configurations without compromising the quality and delivery of user experiences.

KDE

KDE customizability

You might be familiar with KDE’s customizability already. Customizations can be in terms of the UI/UX of the desktop environment, the available tooling, file management, and much more.

The ability to pick and choose widgets, themes, and applications allows you to ease up on the resources while keeping what you need.

Performance and Speed Optimization

XFCE

If you want a lightweight desktop environment, then look no further beyond XFCE’s modular build and Unix foundation. You can run multiple applications on XFCE while expecting stable and fast performance.

To expedite your workflows, XFCE utilizes nifty keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts use a functional application launching dock to launch some optional widgets.

KDE

Similar to XFCE, KDE doesn’t bog your system down by using a lot of resources. Its modular component customizations can help you set up a desktop suitable for multitasking performance.

KDE’s new Wayland protocol will fetch the latest advancements and enhancements for a more functional computing experience. These are available on desktops and tactile smart devices.

Related: Why KDE Is a Better Linux Desktop Than GNOME

Desktop Navigation

XFCE

Peppermint Desktop Environments

XFCE makes desktop navigation easier by assigning custom critical combinations to desktop, window operations, and even applications. You can customize and add multiple panels to your desktop to quickly launch programs and reach files/folders for separate use-cases.

XFCE has simple but intuitive desktop workspaces that help you get around disparate desktop layouts tailored for different workflows. You can further assign custom keyboard combinations from the window manager to make workspace-switching more accessible.


Related: Why You Should Try the Lightweight Xfce Desktop

KDE

KDE desktop

KDE Plasma utilizes Kickoff (applications menu) launcher to help you get to your favorite apps in no time. KDE’s KFind offers significant documentation to help you quickly find files on your Linux system.

The Konqueror file manager further helps you with file management. You can configure the View Mode to make folder trees coherent and maneuverable for your use.

KDE provides you with virtual desktops to prepare complete desktop suites dedicated to different purposes. You can invoke animated desktop switches with convenient keyboard combinations.

XFCE vs. KDE: The Final Verdict

As far as these two desktop contenders are concerned, they are neck and neck in the race. So what are the best use cases for both?

XFCE is minimalistic, lightweight, stable, modular, and highly configurable. It’s recommended for low-end systems with outdated hardware. However, it can still keep the machine functional for primary use.

You can use it for basic home computing, eLearning, entertainment, surfing, and office productivity. XFCE feels more electric and less steam-powered, with the full scope of its hardware support. It is fast, elegant, and handles various enterprise computing tasks relatively quickly.

KDE’s aesthetically pleasing, productivity-friendly desktop layout, and customizable UI make it an enjoyable environment to work in. KDE uses components of Qt in tandem with GTK for a better desktop experience, however.

KDE’s connectivity with mobile devices, rich software repo, and increasing compatibility for low-spec devices make it a versatile solution for medium to low-end systems.


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