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Desktop environment

From Academic Kids

In graphical computing, a desktop environment (DE) offers a complete graphical user interface (GUI) solution to operate a computer. The name is derived from the desktop metaphor used by most of these interfaces. A DE provides icons, toolbars, applications, applets, and abilities like drag and drop. As a whole, the particularities of design and function of a desktop environment endow it with a distinctive look and feel.

The desktop environments for the popular operating systems Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X are, in their intended use, relatively static. This assures a consistent user experience. However, there are alternative themes and third-party software that can completely change both the appearance of common interface elements such as windows, buttons and icons and the interface model itself (in Windows this is accomplished by replacing the default Explorer shell).

On systems running the X Window System (typically Unix systems), the desktop environment is much more flexible. In this context, a DE typically consists of a window manager, a set of themes, and programs and libraries for managing the desktop. All of these individual modules can be exchanged and individually configured to achieve a unique combination, but most desktop environments provide a default configuration that requires minimal user input.

Not all of the program code that is part of a DE has effects which are directly visible to the user. Some of it may be low-level code. KDE, for example, provides so-called io slaves which give the user access to a wide range of virtual devices. These io slaves are not available outside the KDE environment.

Well-known desktop environments examples (specially for Unices), include GNOME, KDE, CDE, Xfce and Blackbox; however, a number of other desktop environments also exist, including (but not limited to): EDE, UDE, Mezzo, ROX Desktop, GEM, PerlTop, XPde, Xito, IRIX Interactive Desktop and arm0nia.

Some window managers also include elements reminiscent of those found in desktop environments, most prominently Enlightenment.de:Desktop-Environment es:Entorno de escritorio simple:Desktop environment nl:Desktopomgeving

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