4-decade long MS command line and Windows user learning Ubuntu. Please ELI actually 5: GNOME. I’m yet to find a Linux person who explain it simply.


Terminal and all that other shit, I follow you. Command lines. Fine. I don’t know what the Linux terms mean, but I understand command lines etc… But GNOME… what the fuck is it? Is it a suite? an environment? Every Linux user explains things like I’ve already been a user for a few years and all of them have forgotten what being NEW actually is.

Ironically, the WORST place to find Linux environments explained simply and clearly from the bottom up: The Internet.

This is where I remind and beg: Like. I’m. FIVE.

In: 81

There is a lot of stuff that needs to be run on top of the OS kernel to make what you would recognise as a desktop operating system, and there are multiple ways of achieving the same things. In Windows all the choices are made for you, e.g. you have dwm.exe which handles windowing, explorer.exe for file browsing, various programs that let you configure settings etc. This is your ‘desktop environment’ (DE).

On Linux, there are a lot more options, and GNOME is one of these options. It’s basically a small software suite that provides a uniform experience for common system operations.

Ubuntu has decided to run the GNOME desktop environment as part of its distro, other distros use other DEs like KDE.

Feel free to ask more questions in the replies and I will answer as best I can.

GNOME is a desktop environment. On Windows people have a single desktop environment with a few things they can configure, while on Linux they have many like GNOME, KDE, Xfce …

With KDE you can configure something that would be very close to the Windows desktop with lots of menus, while with GNOME the approach is different, the desktop is only secondary and in the basic GNOME configuration it’s pretty empty, the windows have a minimal set of buttons, etc. Other environments have their uses too, for example Xfce is lightweight and might be more suitable for older computers.

Edit, a short and simple explanation.

For all practical purposes, GNOME is the graphical parts of Ubuntu operating system. This means, among other things, a collection of all the key system applications (like file explorer).

Original explanation starts here:

GNOME is one of the desktop environments running between the lower graphics layers and your user inputs. That is, for handling the graphical user interface (GUI), including applications to manage all settings of the GUI.

There are two big desktop environments (KDE is the other), and a pile of smaller desktop environments for specific purposes like one optimised for slower system, or for minimalism for sake of minimalism.

Of the two big ones, GNOME likes to keep things simple whereas KDE wants to allow the user to customise everything should they so wish. These two approaches seem to divide the Linux users into two stable camps. You usually either swear by GNOME or by KDE and wonder why anyone would use the other (as both are for all practical purposes good enough to just work for all normal use cases).

As a very rough analogy, think about early Windows. When you booted, it loaded msdos then started a graphical interface (wn 3.1). When you boot a Linux system, it loads a graphical environment like gnome. There are other environments like KDE, they work the same way but have a different look and feel

Windows has everything of its own. Its own booting process, file system, terminal emulator (command prompt) and the Desktop Environment (the Desktop, My Documents,the media player, image previews, the Windows theme, icons and sounds, Recycle Bin, etc)

In linux based operating sysyems (or better GNU/linux), you can use different Desktop Environments (DE) talking to internals (the famous Linux Kernel)

You can switch using them as you prefer. They come with a set of tools and utilities.

Gnome and KDE are 2 popular Desktop Env that can be used with other parts to make a full working “distribution”, ready to be installed and used.

The choice of DEs is mostly esthetics (but many many people will strongly disagree with that 🙂