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March 19th, 2015

What’s Your Desktop Environment?

The Linux distro poll is over and we’re crunching the numbers for an article to go up later today. However, first we want to introduce our second annual Desktop Environment poll.

It only seems fitting, somehow, that we would follow up our what’s-your-distro poll with a Linux desktop poll. After all, we see and interact with our desktop everyday — but we never “see” our operating systems — meaning most users actually have a better understanding of their desktop environment or window manager than they do with the underlying distro. So much so, that many users — especially outside of the *nix world, often think of their desktop environment as the operating system.

[yop_poll id=”44″]

Take Windows, for example, where outside Windows 8, there’s pretty much been only one desktop environment since Windows 95, so Windows users can be excused for thinking that the user interface is the actual Windows operating system. The same could be said of the Apple ecosystem, where the OS X operating system is considered by most users as being one and the same with the OS X user interface.

This isn’t the case so much with Linux, because users can choose from a long list of desktop environments to install atop any distro, changing the entire look and feel of their system. You can have Mageia and PCLinuxOS both running KDE natively — but you also can run KDE as your desktop in Fedora, even though Fedora defaults to GNOME.

And although KDE is always KDE, meaning it’s pretty much the same no matter what the distro, there will be differences between the KDE experience across various distros. The same would be true of any other Linux desktop, from Enlightenment to Xfce.

So, what desktop do you use?

In our last desktop poll, which went up in January of last year, KDE won by a landslide, pulling in 372 out of a total of 529 votes — a whopping 70.3 percent. Second place wasn’t even close: GNOME 3 with 43 votes, or 8.1 percent. Third place honors went to Cinnamon, with 31 votes for a 5.9 percent showing.

This year’s poll asks the simple question, “What Linux desktop environment do you use most often?” A field of eight popular desktop environment are offered as choices, along with an “other” option, with a text box for typing in a name for a write-in vote. Those placing write-in votes should only write-in the name of one desktop. Write-in votes that include more than one desktop will not be counted. Users who prefer a simple window manager over a full blown DE should write-in the name of the window manager they most often use — we’re counting those too.

The poll went up on our front page a little after midnight this morning and will run through Wednesday night. Access to the poll is available either through this article, or on our front page.

We’re also interested in the reasons behind your desktop choice, so we’re asking you to let us know in the comment section below. We’ll fill you in on the results one week from today.

35 comments to What’s Your Desktop Environment?

  • cmcanulty

    seems odd you don’t have unity on list

  • Uncle Ed

    The reason I use KDE is lethargy; I can use it to do what I want to do and don’t have any strong desire to learn to do it another way. Rather the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” perspective. I survive using XFCE (both of these are Linux Mint) on a limited machine because it doesn’t take much effort to accommodate and I don’t take on serious projects on that machine.

    Also, if I were to change, I’d pretty much have to change my wife’s computer and convincing her to change without an obvious benefit to her doesn’t make much sense.

    Can anybody set the bar lower than that?

  • Hunkah

    I’ve converted about 15 people from windows to using (whatever distro)/Cinnamon and every single one of them love it. No learning curve and no issues.

  • joncr

    Very odd that Unity is not on the list. 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’.

    As long as I can use the mouse wheel to scroll between workspaces, I’m OK. KDE brings way too much to the table for my tastes, plus I turn off almost every effect. Nor do I use any KDE/QT apps, so why bother?

    XFCE window buttons blink sometimes. That’s enough not to use it. It’s not 1998, so stop blinging!

  • Abdel

    Depends on what hardware I use. Unity and Gnome for powerful machines. Xfce for middle-range ones. LXDE, Enlightenment and Openbox for the less powerful ones.

  • Johan

    Well I’m a KDE user running openSUSE. The huge benefit is that I can test different DE’s (Enlightenment,Gnome, LXDE, XFCE, IceVm etc) whitout have to install different versions on the same computer(like i e Unbuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu etc).

  • DocB

    Same to me, openSUSE with KDE, one some older Laptops I use LXDE…but there’s a huge gap in useability. I can bridge it, my wife probably not. So she’s getting KDE all over the place

  • fraterchaos

    I voted xfce which is technically correct, although my xfce is a VERY heavily tweaked unstable Compiz/XFCE…

  • @cmcanulty
    @joncr

    The absense of Unity was definitely an accidental omission by us. As an excuse: there were two of us working on this poll, it was late at night and both of us had worked all day at our day jobs, and neither one of us has ever used Ubuntu. But still…

    The good news is that no DE is left off, because of the “other” write-in option. I can tell you that as I write tis, Unity currently has 4.5 percent of the total vote — which would currently put it in fifth place.

  • Duncan

    I use a slimmed-down kde4/plasma-desktop, for the same reason I use gentoo, serious configurability/customizability.

    Tho 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. Basically, the only things kde on my desktop now are the base desktop itself (plasma), the window manager (kwin), gwenview as an image manager, and some kde games including kpat (patience/solitare) and palapeli (jigsaw puzzler).

    I not only turn off at runtime but actually build kde (gentoo, remember) without semantic-desktop support, which in my experience is about the fastest way to nearly half performance to no actually useful purpose I’ve found. Without it, kde’s *DEFINITELY* lighter in dependencies and runs signficantly faster on even relatively new hardware (6-core amd fx6100 clocked to 3.6 GHz, 16-gig RAM, pair of fast SSDs in btrfs raid1 mode, amd turks graphics with native freedomware drivers, triple full-hd monitors). It even runs well on my aging gen-1.5 32-bit only netbook (single-core w/hyperthreading 32-bit-only atom n270 @ 1.6 GHz, maxed-out 1.5 gig RAM, 120 GB spinning-rust hard drive, gentoo build done in a 32-bit chroot on the main machine). =:^)

    FWIW, should the upcoming kde5 upgrade not go well, I’ll probably try lxqt and enlightenment first. It’ll be much simpler to switch now than it would have been with the kde4 upgrade, as I really don’t run so much kde any more and it’s mainly the desktop core I’d be switching. But all indications are it’ll be a much smoother upgrade this time around. (I actually tried it a couple times some months ago, but at the time kwin5 was crashing, and given the inability to keep both kde4 and kde5 desktops around on the same system without jumping thru seriously convoluted hoops, I couldn’t keep kde5 around to play with and try to get working, as I had to unmerge it when I remerged kde4 (from binpkgs) to get a working desktop once again. I need to try it again one of these days…)

    Duncan

  • Colonel Panik

    With MATE my desktop looks like a Gnome desktop of the
    single digit Ubuntu area.

    For a long time everything has been right where it should be.
    This is correct and good.

    How many people voted multiple times?

  • @Colonel Although there are work arounds to defeat the poll vote limit, it’s not worth the bother for most users. In other words, the polling software won’t let you vote more than once unless you fool it into thinking you’re a new voter.

  • tracyanne

    I use Unity most, it’s on my primary laptop. My Recording Studio Laptop runs UbuntuStudio, so That’s XFCE, my Media Centre runs Ubuntu with GNOME 3 Legacy, and finally a spare machine runs Linux Mint with Cinnamon. My partner runs Xubuntu with, of course, XFCE.

    I guess FOSS Force dislikes Unity so much they won’t include it as an option.

  • Peter

    Some times KDE on Fedora feels like the unwanted stepchild, but the new Fedora 22 KDE-spin alpha release looks really interesting.

  • Don Cosner

    I had to go with Xfce, it has all the features I want. Other DE’s keep taking away and adding back features but Xfce takes a conservative approach to development.

    I end up with a light, feature rich and very customizable system. Xfce 4.12 added refinments to an already great DE and it’s faster and lighter than ever.

    Xfce can be customized to look just as modern as the more choices and it just plain works!

  • J

    KDE on Mepis 12 beta, totally tweaked and stable !

    But I also dual boot with MX-14 which has xfce and a old Acer laptop bor ONLY banking with Anti-X, I think with lxde.

    They are all good, but I am still more comfortable with KDE.

  • Fettoosh

    Yeap, KDE just works and has everything a user needs and wants.

  • Ken Roberts

    @Duncan – Blame your distro for kde lack of configurability – kde on slackware is very configurable.

  • Ray

    I used different different desktop enviroment, including Cinnamon on Linux Mint, Gnome 3 on Ubuntu Gnome, and Unity on Ubuntu. I find myself keep going back to Gnome 3 due to the clean, uncluttered desktop but I do use the Tweak Tool to add some customization that prefer. I do miss the ability to see multiple clocks/time zones that Unity offers.

  • archuser

    I have tried all DE’s in Linux and all suck big time hence went back to windows 10 and very satisfied.

  • Stephen Green

    Me? I’m no geek. Just an old retired blue collar worker. Linux is my OS. Has been since Suse 8.1

  • Angus

    My DE of choice depends on hardware amd whether it’s a desktop or server.

    After initially getting use to desktop menus with search capabilities and compiz features. I could not go back to so called classic DEs

    I have no issue with learning new things, and use Ubuntu LTS distros for desktop and Ubuntu LTS Server and CentOS for servers

    On my Lenovo X60 i have been using Gnome/Compiz/Cairo Docks since Ubuntu 10.04.
    Since it has a samll screen, this set up allows me use all application full screen by hiding and unhiding docks.

    On my ASUS G71Gx i use GNOME3 and sometimes Gnome Classic

  • Unbenkownst

    @Duncan, @Ken

    As a longtime user of KDE (both 3 and 4), 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). Duncan, could you elaborate regarding what is missing from KDE3 in KDE4?

    As of late, I have been using Xfce most often, because I’m trying to make old machines come to life again (m-m-mwahaha), but my favorite is KDE. I can adapt Xfce, Lxde and jwm to my preferred settings, but I couldn’t configure Mate, Cinnamon or Gnome (2 and 3) the same way — either because of my ignorance or because they really won’t allow me.

  • Tim Schutte – Fluxbox is a window manager, not a desktop environment. Write it in if you want, but technically it’s not a DE.

    No Unity? Write it in. Ironic that Unity comes on a distribution that doesn’t even mention Linux on it’s home page — you have to dig a few levels down to even see Linux mentioned (as opposed to most distros which have Linux prominently displayed) — but never mind.

  • Unbeknownst

    Hello all,

    Just found an article (by Scott Gilbertson) over at Ars about Mint 17, which has the info I needed to make Cinnamon more configurable.

    The article reads: “Among the more noticeable changes in Cinnamon 2.2 is the revamped system settings panel, which is no longer divided up into the somewhat arbitrary sections “normal” and “advanced.” Here there are just settings. The various settings panels are all in one place and have been reorganized into some basic categories that make it easy to find what you’re looking for, while also allowing you to change it.”

    That is basically like KDE Configuration, I believe.

    I wonder if they’ll make the same for Mate.

  • Duncan

    @Ken, @Unbeknownst

    Gentoo is (pretty much) ultimately configurable, including at build-time since you tell a package what to build against via gentoo USE flags. As such, dependencies that a binary-distro package maintainer must choose to either build against (and thus require as runtime deps) and make those options available even if few use them, or not build against and thus not have those options available even for the people that /could/ use them, are end-user (well, gentoo’s end user is the admin) configurable on gentoo, because an admin sets USE flags and the build only builds against and runtime-deps on the ones the admin chose to enable.

    What happens with most binary distros is one of two things. One, if a distro has a preferred base (like gnome for fedora), it can choose to build in optional support for that in almost all cases, while not building in optional support for other options (like kde) in most cases. That’s where spins can come in as the package alternatives in the spins can prefer whatever the spin is based on instead of the normal distro default. Two, a distro can choose to enable support for pretty much everything (unless it’s an either/or option), taking the extra dependency bloat but supporting pretty much all optional functionality. But then someone not liking kde only gnome, or not liking gnome only kde, or not liking either, preferring enlightenment or the like, will still end up with much of at least the base levels of both kde and gnome installed, because once the package is built against them it won’t run without the libraries being present.

    But with a well setup sources-based distro, the admin setting up the system makes those choices, and can have a system as deps heavy or light as the want, based on options only available at build time. This can be handled mostly manually, as LFS/Linux-from-scratch does, or automatically, with build-scripts (gentoo calls them ebuilds) that expose options upstream made available at build-time as flags (gentoo calls them USE flags), in a systematized way so a user can pick the ones they want system-wide and in general have it “just work”, with the actual build and installs automated by the script system.

    Similarly, consider a baseline media player like mplayer/mpv/xine. These have, I believe, optional support for something like three-dozen codec families, some of which can be provided by several different codec packages. Many of these codecs are patent encumbered and thus shipping binary versions is restricted, the reason the big distros don’t tend to include support for mp3, etc. Others are obscure corner-cases that few will ever use — how many people will ever need sound-tracker support (Commodore64 IIRC, or was it Amiga?)? But if you have a collection of those files…

    A good from-sources distro like gentoo makes those support and dependency choices available to the admin doing the build and install, and if that admin doesn’t believe he’s going to use sound-tracker support, he can simply turn it off and avoid that dependency. If he knows he has a bunch of those files, turn it on. And if he doesn’t now, but inherits them or discovers the community on the net and gets a bunch of them, it’s a simple USE flag flip and package rebuild, and there’s the support. Or if he turned everything on at first and the unnecesary upgrades for packages he never uses are getting to him, dial back at one of those upgrades, and don’t worry about it any more. (I’d guess a lot of new gentooers turn on more than they need, then over a few years dial back.)

    And significantly, at least under US law, source code is free speech and generally not patent encumbered. Gentoo then has a bindist option, which when enabled, forces off distribution-restricted stuff, whether it be for patent or other reasons (GPL incompatible licensed components in a GPLed package, for instance). The end user thus gets that choice and responsibility for it, as well, thus saving gentooers from having to enable unofficial repos in ordered to get this stuff, if they live where it’s legal or if they’re willing to take the responsibility themselves.

    So what I’m talking about here isn’t distro configurability, it’s upstream kde. But this post is long enough, so I’ll put that in the next one.

  • Duncan

    (@Ken, @Unbeknownst, continued from previous post.)

    OK, to kde4’s options, vs. kde3.

    What I was talking about was stuff that’s pretty much mandatory in kde4, at least to get full functionality. Arguably these are power-user options, but they’re options that are either not there or broken in kde4, that worked just fine in kde3. Here’s a listing of three.

    * Semantic-desktop. While this can be turned off at runtime in kde4, and most of kde can even be built without it if the appropriate options are set at build-time (as I’ve done on gentoo), it seriously hobbles various kde4 apps and components that worked just fine without it in kde3.

    For instance, in kde3, in the properties sheet for image files, kde3 had a tab that would display information such as the resolution, and often metadata such as what brand and model of camera took the shot, whether it was “photoshopped” and what effects were added/tweaked, etc.

    In kde4, if semantec-desktop isn’t at least built (I’m not sure if it has to be turned on or not), that tab is either blank (earlier kde4, or maybe it was when I was building with semantic-desktop but had it runtime-disabled) or not there at all (current kde4, built without semantic-desktop). What ever happened to consideration for people not wanting anything to do with the semantic-desktop indexing, etc, not even wanting it installed so turning it off at build-time, but still being interested in metadata like this? In kde4, it’s impossible to do without semantic-desktop and still have access to this sort of metadata in the property sheet.

    And most people running kde don’t even get the choice not to install the semantic-desktop stuff, because as I explained in the previous post, they’re running binary distros that enabled it at build-time, making it a mandatory runtime dep, whether they want/need/use it or not.

    * Akonadified kdepim. Some people just want email that works, not some fancy database-backed thing that keeps losing mail, etc, regardless of how easy it might make unifying all things kdepim in the kontact suite, other components of which people may not use at all.

    In kde3 and early kde4, before akonadified kmail in kdepim-4.6, this was possible. Now, users who just want email that works, and who don’t care about the other kdepim stuff (except an address book), must choose a non-kde solution, as there simply ISN’T any kde solution filling that hole, any longer.

    AFAIK the closest thing would be the IMAP-only qt-based trojita, but that leaves POP3 users in the lurch.

    Many users have switched to non-kde solutions as a result. Some switched to thunderbird or evolution, altho those are database-based as well, but at least their usage is reasonably /mature/ and doesn’t lose the mail like kmail was doing for many of the people who ended up leaving it. Others, including me, switched to claws-mail (or its close relative sylpheed, from which it forked).

    * Multi-key hotkeys.

    Many people have fancy keyboards with “extra” keys, these days. Kde3’s khotkeys could be configured such that these keys acted in practice as a menu-launcher key, with second and third keys (not X-modifier keys such as shift and ctrl, non-modifiers such as the letter and number keys, other “extra” keys, etc) chained to the first.

    For instance, I could setup khotkeys so say the xf86search key was a “launcher”, followed by “g” for games, “f” for file-management activities, “t” for terminals, etc, followed by a specific key for whatever app (say launcher, g/games, p/patience (kpat) (with other third keys activating other games), or launcher, t/terminals, s/superuser, or launcher, f/files, g/gwenview.

    That’s STILL broken in kde4, tho from the bug, apparently it should work in qt5/kde5. Individual keys can be modified, but they can’t be chained (shift-xf86search works, as does ctrl-alt-xf86search, but not xf86search, g, p).

    I happened to have a whole set of app-launchers and scripted-action launchers setup to work that way, and the option simply isn’t there in kde4. When I switched I was in a world of hurt at first, searching for a non-kde alternative. The best one I found, IIRC, was bindkeys. It had even more advanced functionality, but the advanced functionality was (IIRC) lisp-based.

    So I thought I was going to have to learn lisp. But after studying the documentation for a few hours and then going to bed, when I woke up I realized something about it that I hadn’t, before.

    What I realized was that instead of actually chaining keys, the effect would be the same if I had the first key launch a single-menu app as the second level, that had as menu entries all the categories represented by the second keys. And activating an entry on that second level menu could in turn launch a third level, say with all the games if I had hit g at the second level.

    As it happens I don’t know anything fancy like C/C++ or even Python/Perl, but I know bash shell and how to pipe input to output with various CLI tools such as grep/sed/awk/head/cut/etc. And I already knew how to do most of what I needed in bash, setting up a script to present a menu and take just a single key, then use that key to select an action and do it.

    And what I couldn’t do directly in bash, I could do with konsole calls, kwin window rules, etc. And I didn’t have to learn lisp or whatever new language to do it!

    So, it might be ugly, and the konsole windows and bash invocations aren’t as fast as a direct X/qt/kde-based C++ program or whatever would be, but I hacked up a solution that works. I setup khotkeys with the first key, the “launcher”. When I press that key, khotkeys responds by invoking a script, that calls another script that launches a konsole window, with my custom menu script executing inside. This menu script is fed an appropriate menu file, depending on what level menu I’m invoking.

    So I have a top level menu file with all the categories, g/games, f/files, t/terminals, n/net, c/config, etc. Then I have menu files for each category. The files category menu file, for instance, has f/fileman (whatever I have as my default, dolphin, for the time being), g/gwenview, e/editor (kwrite), etc.

    And despite khotkeys4 being broken so it doesn’t take chained hotkeys, it took a bunch of hacking, but I can still invoke my text editor (kwrite) using three keystrokes: launch (xf86search or whatever, I know where the key is on the keyboard and it’s “launch” for me), f (files), e (editor, kwrite). The first one, the original launch, is still handled by the broken khotkeys4 that can only handle one key at a time, which invokes the menu scripts for the others.

    That’s the kind of broken kde4 configurability I was talking about.

    But I still use kde4 as my desktop, just a much slimmed down kde4, little more than the core desktop itself, because so much else ended up unconfigurable and broken during the course of kde4, either from the beginning, or with kmail, from half way thru. Oh, well… As I believe I said in my first reply, that makes it a lot easier to leave kde entirely, should it pull another trick like that, breaking what remains.

    Also, ironically, with so little of kde4 left installed and nothing seriously critical but the desktop left that could break, I began testing first the rcs, then the betas, and eventually I was running live-git sources, first for the branch, and later as kde4 development slowed, for kde4 development trunk or branch itself. Back when if kmail broke I would have been in bad shape I was afraid to try that, but after I dumped kmail and the core kde plasma desktop itself was the only critical bit of kde I had left, I was free to run live-git without having to worry so much. =:^)

    I’ve tried kde5 a couple times too, but kwin5 apparently didn’t like my radeon hardware and native freedomware drivers and was crashing, so, because it wasn’t possible to keep a working kde4 installed along side a testing kde5, I had to unmerge kde5 again to remerge a working kde4. That was months ago now, however, and it’d hopefully work, now, but I’ve not had time to try it again, recently.

  • netscarf

    Greetings all,

    I’m running Netrunner with kde5 on my home computer… i7 proc, 8gb ram, 32 gb ssd, 1tb storage hd. I have not had any trouble with plasma 5, and am quite pleased with the new look…

    For mobile computing, I’m running LinuxLite with xfce om my Dell 2110 netbook… Atom N470 proc, 2gb ram, 160gb hd.

    Although I like Netrunner, and kde better, I put in my vote for xfce. The netbook is the computer I use most of the time…

    Wish kde would run better on the netbook, but even with everything turned off, it’s like ice skating through mud. I might try the new kubuntu when it comes out in April, as it might be netrunner thats slowing it down, not kde.

    As for other De’s I find both Gnome, and Unity to… Different. If I wanted to think different, I’d get a mac. Haven’t tried Cinnamon, Mate, or Enlightenment, as I prefer Qt to Gtk. As for Lxde/Lxqt, not being able to autohide the panel is a deal breaker for me. I only recently became aware of Pantheon, and will probably play with it when I get my regular laptop (dell with i5 proc, 4gb ram, 320gb hd) screen replaced.

    Regards, Netscarf

  • Unbekownst

    @Duncan,

    First of all, thanks for the detailed discussion about Akonadi etc. I thought I deactivated everything but turns out there is a config file with an option to prevent it from starting. It’s the second example of that kind in KDE (i.e. having to edit a config file), the other being the acceleration of the mousewheel.

    But let’s look at your observations:

    KDE4 probably has all the information you want and saw in KDE3, probably just in different places. Konqueror is able to display a popup whe the mouse pointer hovers on an image with resolution etc. Dolphin has a side bar with a lot of info. For greater detail, including possibly all the information you mentioned, one can use Gwenview, which can show a lot of info besides the common ones, like EXIF, IPTC and XMP. I tested and saw it works, though I myself have no use for them. For others who want to understand what is that all about, maybe this link could be helpful: http://graphicssoft.about.com/od/glossary/f/metadata.htm .

    I’ve seen all that after disabling the semantic desktop, since it’s metadata it’s accessible by just examining the picture. I just looked at pictures with Gwenview and could see that info by opening a side bar (F4) and clicking on “more…” to get more info. What the semantic desktop might provide (I’m just guessing here) is a search based on those properties.

    The number of properties is somewhat staggering (easily filling a page), so I the use of a specialized browser like Gwenview is actually pretty reasonable. Besides that, these properties seem to be xml-like, so one may have to turn exhibition of them on more often than would be comfortable. I’m really out of my league here.

    I don’t use kdepim and cannot really appreciate how useful it could be or how this could be inconvenient; also, I’m kinda conservative regarding some applications. In my view, Chrome fails to work in certain pages which work well with Firefox. Being conservative regarding email, I also prefer Firefox to Claws (I used it eons ago in slow machines… Claws was a lot faster). I don’t recall losing mail except when having hardware problems.

    Regarding your preferred use of hotkeys, I don’t know any way of implementing the functionality you want, which I think is something like the old 1-2-3 menu, where the “/” was used as shortcut and then one would use simple keys in chain, as you describe, to activate the various commands and options the Lotus app offered.

    I also admire your persistence in devising your solution using bash.

    Another possible way, also requiring some work on your part, would be to assign a shortcut key to KDE’s main menu and then modify the accelerators according to your preferences. I just tested with the Mute keyI have on my keyboard, then activate one of the games I have installed just by pressing the keys to select submenus until I reached the game accelerator.
    Something like Mute-g-a-c, Mute for Menu, g for games, a for Arcade and c for Crack Attack.
    Maybe that would be acceptable if you’re willing to adapt to something perhaps not entirely to your tastes…

  • Lizbeth

    Mate/gnome2 has been my mainstay. I have tried every desktop and always come back to mate. I can have it configured they way that works for me in just a few clicks, which isn’t very different from the unity configuration except I have the desktop switcher on the top task bar where it properly belongs. Until unity fixes this error on their part I will NEVER use unity.

  • […] KDE? According to your comments, there were two major reasons: stability and configurability, with many of you saying, “It […]

  • NeurOSick

    Unity and maybe the futur version of Gnome 3.16 🙂