It didn’t take nearly as long to count the votes for our desktop poll as it did for last week’s distro poll, mainly due to the fact that not as many of you voted, but also because there aren’t nearly as many desktop environments and window managers as their are Linux distros. Also, unlike the distro poll, there was a clear cut winner instead of a virtual tie.
Actually, of course, it’s not about winners and losers. It’s about what you like. It’s about preferences. After all, unless you’re a diehard command line person, the desktop is how you interact with your computer.
Again this year, KDE tops the list with a commanding lead, piling up over a quarter of the 617 votes cast. This is a huge drop from the 70 percent showing it made the last time we conducted a desktop poll, back in January and February of last year. In that poll, however, users were only given three desktop choices — KDE, GNOME 3 and Cinnamon. This year, voters were served up a menu that included eight popular desktops from which to choose. As in last year’s poll, voters could also opt to place write-in votes.
Why KDE? According to your comments, there were two major reasons: stability and configurability, with many of you saying, “It just works.” But there seemed to be some disagreement over whether KDE’s legendary configurability is as great as it once was.
“I use a slimmed-down KDE4 Plasma desktop for the same reason I use Gentoo, serious configurability/customizability,” wrote a reader named Duncan. “Though, unfortunately, KDE4 lost a lot of that configurability, that being the biggest reason I use a lot less KDE now than I did back in the KDE3 era.”
Not so fast, chimed in another reader with the handle Unbenkownst: “I don’t think KDE4 has less options than KDE3 — though that might really have been the case on the first versions, maybe up to KDE4.3.”
Xfice took second place, with nearly 18 percent of the vote. Although this strong showing might seem a little surprising to some, the use of this lightweight but conventional desktop has definitely been on the rise in recent years: compare this year’s 110 votes with last year’s 22 write-in votes for example.
“I had to go with Xfce, it has all the features I want,” wrote Don Cosner. “Other DE’s keep taking away and adding back features, but Xfce takes a conservative approach to development.” Others mentioned Xfce’s sparing use of system resources as being important to them.
From the looks of things, GNOME might finally be on something of a comeback after several years of declining use. A year ago, in a field of three, which should’ve worked to its advantage, the once most popular Linux desktop picked up less than six percent of the votes cast. This year, as one out of eight, it made an impressive third place showing with over fifteen percent of the vote. We’ll be interested in seeing if this is the beginning of a trend.
Although we only allowed voters to choose one desktop in the poll, many of you indicated that you use multiple desktops — sometimes on the same machine and often across many machines.
“Depends on what hardware I use,” wrote Abdel. “Unity and Gnome for powerful machines. Xfce for middle-range ones. LXDE, Enlightenment and Openbox for the less powerful ones.”
A regular commenter on FOSS Force, tracyanne, also uses multiple desktops. “I use Unity most; it’s on my primary laptop. My recording studio laptop runs Ubuntu Studio, so that’s Xfce, my media center runs Ubuntu with GNOME 3 Legacy, and finally, a spare machine runs Linux Mint with Cinnamon. My partner runs Xubuntu with, of course, Xfce,” she wrote, then added: “I guess FOSS Force dislikes Unity so much they won’t include it as an option.”
Oops! We forgot to include Unity as a poll answer — and many of you noticed.
“Seems odd you don’t have Unity on list,” wrote cmcanulty. Another reader, joncr, agreed: “Suggests either obvious error or obvious bias. Whatever the final result, a batch of trollers will use it to trumpet ‘Unity No One’s Favorite.'”
The omission was merely a mistake, and not meant as editorial commentary. When we realized what we’d done, we had a collective palm-to-face Homer Simpson “Doh!” moment, and a few of us even muttered the “S” word under our breaths. We apologize to the folks at Canonical and to all the folks who work and play using Ubuntu and the Unity desktop.
In spite of this omission, Unity did pretty good for itself as a write-in candidate. With 30 votes, it picked up more write-ins than any other desktop and took sixth place in our poll overall.
The poll also revealed that many of you opt to use window managers instead of full fledged desktop environments, as six separate window managers picked up a total of 33 votes.
Thanks to all of you for taking part. We’ll do it again next year.