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Best alternative Linux desktops: 5 reviewed and rated

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Software

The desktop on your Linux box used to stand for something very simple. If you were a KDE user, you valued control, power and the ability to customise.

In rough terms, if you used Gnome you wanted the desktop to get out of the way so you could get on with using your computer. If you used anything else, such as Xfce, LXDE or TekWM, you were running an ancient machine that would struggle with either of the big two of KDE and Gnome.

The change brought about by the release of KDE 4 changed all that. To compete, Gnome threw away its years of solidity for a new way of working; Unity arrived, with similar features to Gnome 3 but with the aim of tempting users away from Mac and Windows.

Brave as they were, these designs had much wrong with them, especially in the months following their release. Various products arrived to fill the gap.

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  • XWayland Gets Patches For Better EGLStreams Handling
    While the recently released X.Org Server 1.20 has initial support for XWayland with EGLStreams so X11 applications/games on Wayland can still benefit from hardware acceleration, in its current state it doesn't integrate too well with Wayland desktop compositors wishing to support it. That's changing with a new patch series.
  • Intel Mesa Driver Finally Supports Threaded OpenGL
    Based off the Gallium3D "mesa_glthread" work for threaded OpenGL that can provide a measurable win in some scenarios, the Intel i965 Mesa driver has implemented this support now too. Following the work squared away last year led in the RadeonSI driver, the Intel i965 OpenGL driver supports threaded OpenGL when the mesa_glthread=true environment variable is set.
  • Geometry & Tessellation Shaders For Mesa's OpenGL Compatibility Context
    With the recent Mesa 18.1 release there is OpenGL 3.1 support with the ARB_compatibility context for the key Gallium3D drivers, but Marek Olšák at AMD continues working on extending that functionality under the OpenGL compatibility context mode.
  • Mesa Begins Its Transition To Gitlab
    Following the news from earlier this month that FreeDesktop.org would move its infrastructure to Gitlab, the Mesa3D project has begun the process of adopting this Git-centered software.