Linux Tutorial Series

Linux Tutorial Series – 171 – Linux desktop – a couple of key terms

Here is the video version, if you prefer it:

In this article, I will mention a couple of key terms related to the Linux desktop. (Ward, 2014)⁠

The first one is the X Window System. It is just a framework – think of it as “bare bones” of a GUI (Graphical User Interface) environment. It is up to other programs to build upon this “bare bones” and construct the graphical user interface. (“X Window System,” n.d.)⁠

Desktop environment is a package that allows for cooperation of different applications in a graphical sense. For example, application A tells application B that it is 50% done with a certain task and the application B displays that on its status bar. GNOME and Unity are examples of a desktop environment.

Some other terms and their explanations: Window managers arrange windows on the screen and provide interactive decorations like title bars that allow the user to move and minimize windows. Common elements on desktop applications (such as buttons and toolbars) are called widgets. Toolkits are used to provide widgets because that speeds up development.

That’s it for this post. I never dug really deep into Linux desktop, but if you ever encounter any one of these terms, I hope you have some more clarity as to what they mean.

Hope you learned something useful!


Ward, B. (2014). How Linux Works: What Every Superuser Should Know (2nd ed.). No Starch Press. Pages 297-299

X Window System. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2020, from