An app to switch desktop environments?

I don’t think there’s anywhere else to file this idea so I’m going to put it here:

There should be a user friendly app for switching desktop environments in Ubuntu. I think in the Ubuntu Software Center it was possible to search for alternative desktop environments and install them, but this doesn’t seem to be possible in GNOME Software. Using the command-line isn’t particularly user-friendly. More ambitiously, said software perhaps could also give the option for a clean switch between two DEs by customizing DEs so that they can’t see the apps from a different DE suite (the app could make this fine grained) so they don’t clutter up their menu, this software could also remove DEs (perhaps it could time a task to remove the current DE is the user is on when they load up another DE) and do full removals by removing apps from that DE app suite (the app could make this fine grained).

This is particularly important given the recent controversial GNOME Files changes and the fact that the developers (at least, in the nautilus IRC) recommend people switching to an alternative desktop environment if they don’t like GNOME’s design decisions (and they say that GNOME celebrates this because other DEs are good!). There’s currently no user-friendly way of doing this, having an app to handle this would make this process more user-friendly since someone could search for ‘desktop environments’ or ‘KDE’ or ‘MATE’ etc in GNOME Software and they would find this app.

The app should use the flavour meta-packages to switch desktop environments so that they look good and Ubuntu-y, but the app could also have the option of just installing the plain more upstream packages.

The app could also do a little animation after installing a different DE showing how to login to it from the desktop manager that the user decides to use.

I’m not a developer and shouldn’t have much time. I learnt some qBASIC and Little Man Computer (an Assembly simulator written in Java) in GCSE but aside from that haven’t got very far with programming. Obviously someone who actually wants to do this work should do it and if no-one is able or willing to then this will never happen, it’s just a suggestion :slight_smile:

Alternatively, it should be possible for GNOME Software to see flavour metapackages, presumably this would be an Ubuntu bug rather than an upstream one? I think searching for ‘KDE’ and it bringing up a more useful fine-grained app would be a better user experience though because switching DE is quite complex.


A Filter for the DEs would be a great improvement already. Don’t know if this was on your mind, too? =)
When I am in GNOME there is no reason why I would like to install the mate/xface/kde file explorer :smile:
I am not talking about additional software like kdenlive, which is a great addition, just a core app filter.

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I do like the idea of a simple application with a bunch of buttons to let you choose a desktop like you switch TV channels. It would need to be very careful about what it installs and removes, and probably alert the user if something critical was going to get removed.

It could be as simple as installing the “ubuntu-desktop” task vs the “kubuntu-desktop” task, and removing the ones you don’t want. I’m not sure how feasible it is to ‘hide’ applications from the ‘other’ desktop really.

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Yeah probably not easy since Main Menu (alacarte) changes quite a few different DE’s app menus… I think it should be done though, as @frederik-f says, the status quo is very messy… This is very much a meta issue though and I’m not sure how it could be fixed but it should be. Maybe the DE installer app could modify the app menu every time you load a DE where you’ve chosen to hide other DE’s apps from it, though I’m not sure how performant that would be, and it would require a lot of trust in the app.

Okay moving this into the other issue =)

This is a separate issue and off-topic.

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This feels like a can of worms. DE-hopping can ruin your OS install and user profile real quick if you don’t know what you’re doing, and if you do you already know how to do this anyway.

There was a distro named Hybryde Linux made by Olivier Larrieu from 2011 to 2013, which had that ability to change DEs. His creation allowed users to switch between various desktops (Cinnamon, Enlightenment, FVWM, GNOME, KDE, LXDE, MATE, Openbox, Unity, Xfce) without logout and login back, in the same session. Hybryde Linux was based on Ubuntu and there were 4 releases.

An old youtube video

An old Noobslab article

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