saneks wrote:xfce is lighter - create a live usb key, testdrive it and see what works better for you.
i have pretty hefty laptop.
but which would you say is more customisable and feature-rich?
can you still use gnome apps with Xfce?
You can use any packages in the repo under any DE.
Some will pull in more depends such as things written with for KDE (qt) on a gtk base DE like Gnome.
Xfce is a gtk base system.
As you can see in my sig I do not need a light DE. I use Xfce after years of running Gnome. The Xfce4.8 panel system is what the Gnome 2 panels wanted to grow up to be and never did.
The LMDE Xfce version is pretty nice.
The LMDE Mate DE which carries on the Gnome 2 panel system is pretty nice too. That install disk also installs Cinnamon which looks and feels similar of the old Gnome desktop. They are both all right.
I think you should get both images and give them a try out as a Live Session.
I am sticking with Xfce. You may prefer Gnome. All these DEs exist because someone wanted something different and others jumped in to help because they did too. There is one that fits you pretty well I am sure. it is your choice.
Took me several months of playing with a LOT of DEs when I decided that the direction Gnome was taking wasn't where I wanted to go. I settled on Xfce. If you did the same you may settle someplace else.
I also found that I really like OpenBox. You can do about anything you want to it. Another gtk base.
Back to applications. I am not a fan of KDE but the k3b disk burner is a real nice tool. I always install it. You will find that xfburn is probably the most reliable (Xfce default) and it will install under KDE or Gnome.
Dell XPS 420 Core2 Quad Q 6600, audigy5.1, Radeon HD 6450 - currently 4 320Gb HDD, Debian Squeeze for secure use, Debian testing for daily use, Debian Sid for fun.