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Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 4:46 pm
by widgeteye
I was reading up on installing and changing desktop environments in Mint and found comments that it wasn't advisable. I found this on https://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/1079 Which is a tutorial on How to Install and Manage Multiple Desktop Environments.

But at the bottom in the comments I found this statement:

"Whilst this sounds like and is an easy thing to do, users should be aware that using different DEs on the same system with the same home can lead to strange problems and errors. Installing another DE can change system files and dependencies, alter default system and application settings, and create incompatibilities. A browse through the forums will show the kind of strange issues that can arise, this is why there are different editions of Mint rather than a single one (size issues aside). "

Which admittedly is a 3 year old comment. But I am wondering if this is still or ever was a true statement.

I have never run into a problem installing and using multiple desktops in any other Linux distribution and am wondering if this is a problem with Mint.

Thanks for the info.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 5:36 pm
by Cosmo.
The quoted statement is still true.

If you want directly compare several DEs, install VirtualBox and install the editions in question as virtual machine. This is safe and gives the advantage, that you do not have to bother, if an unexpected reaction is caused by a compatibility problem.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 6:08 pm
by widgeteye
OK thanks for the info, that was important to know.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 7:23 am
by Paladin2019
I had about 5 or 6 DEs installed in my early experiments with linux (specifically Ubuntu 14.04). It worked, but it was a mess. Each DE brought in its own programs so there were lots of redundant text editors, video players, file managers etc. and some settings went a bit weird. Once they were installed they dug in so deep they were pretty much impossible to remove so when I settled on Xfce I wiped the drive and started again with just one DE.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 7:34 am
by GlennJohnson
I've been booting multiple installs of Linux along with Windows XP and Windows 7 for years. Sometimes as many as 15 OS's across 2 hard disks. Ive never any issues with any of the operating systems that were caused by multi-booting.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 7:47 am
by Moem
GlennJohnson wrote:I've been booting multiple installs of Linux along with Windows XP and Windows 7 for years.
Several seperate installations is a very different thing from one installation with several desktop environments, which seems to be what the OP was asking about.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 8:27 am
by Hoser Rob
widgeteye wrote:I was reading up on installing and changing desktop environments in Mint and found comments that it wasn't advisable. I found this on https://community.linuxmint.com/tutorial/view/1079 Which is a tutorial on How to Install and Manage Multiple Desktop Environments.

But at the bottom in the comments I found this statement:

"Whilst this sounds like and is an easy thing to do, users should be aware that using different DEs on the same system with the same home can lead to strange problems and errors. Installing another DE can change system files and dependencies, alter default system and application settings, and create incompatibilities. A browse through the forums will show the kind of strange issues that can arise, this is why there are different editions of Mint rather than a single one (size issues aside). "

Which admittedly is a 3 year old comment. But I am wondering if this is still or ever was a true statement.
Yes, it was and is true. No really knowledgeable Linux user does it, and it's near the top of my list of bad noob advice (often found on Linux blogs).
I have never run into a problem installing and using multiple desktops in any other Linux distribution and am wondering if this is a problem with Mint....
You are a sample of one and you have just never found any problems yet. The other thing is that those kinds of problems are hard to fix, you won't get much help for it even on the best support forums, and the best fix is usually a clean reinstall with one DE.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 2:07 pm
by acerimusdux
I'd say yes, it is advisable, if you want to try out different desktops and stand alone window managers. I've done this many times in the past. Ultimately though, it does end up not being very practical. You will end up with multiple redundant versions of many different applications, some of which may only work properly within their intended environment. Eventually you will learn what you like best and only want your own preferred desktop and applications installed. Multiple DEs is just too much bloat.

But there's no question that the system was designed function well with multiple environments installed and available on the same system. If you do encounter an installation that causes a problem, that's considered a bug. While the major environments often come with their own display manager, intended to be a graphical session manager, it should always be possible to launch whatever type of session you want from it. Having it depend on the desktop environment would defeat the entire purpose of a separate session manager.

I do recall in the past, there being some problems with using MATE or Cinnamon and Gnome at the same time, perhaps related to MATE having been derived from Gnome2, and Cinnamon being derived from Gnome shell. And it may still be a bad idea still to try to install Gnome shell on Mint. That is sort of Mint specific, though (more accurately, MATE/Cinnamon/Gnome specific). I don't think you'll have any problems though with stand alone window managers, lighter DEs, or even KDE and XFCE both existing on one system.

Of course, installing lots more programs means a greater chance you will find one with a bug. But any incompatibility issues are just that, bugs. And they shouldn't be more likely with the various desktops than with any other kind of program. And if you are familiar with the proper usage of "apt", it is unlikely you would ever really need to do a complete reinstall in order to correct any problems that do arise.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 4:46 pm
by Moem
acerimusdux wrote: there's no question that the system was designed function well with multiple environments installed and available on the same system.
No, that's not right: there is absolutely that question. There is no proof whatsoever that the system was designed to do that.

Because if that were a given, which it most certainly is not, then that would raise the question why we get so many questions here in the forum from people who have gotten themselves in trouble through this very same thing, and why so many experienced users here in the forum have stated repeatedly that this course of action can NOT be recommended to newbies.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:59 pm
by acerimusdux
Well people tell newbies lots of things that aren't exactly true. Sometimes, because it's easier than explaining how things actually work. Or fixing problems when they aren't able to tell us exactly what they did to cause them. But the original poster here isn't a newbie. He has done this before without problem on other distributions.

And he's been able to do this before, as have many other people on linux systems for the past couple of decades, because it was a part of the design, and because there are standards which are meant to ensure that this works. It's actually a pretty severe violation of those standards for a package to interfere with another packages libraries, etc. And if system defaults get changed, they ought to be easily adjusted by the end user (using for example, update-alternatives).

As to why some of those standards have been broken, I think some of it has to do with the history of both Cinnamon and MATE. When you copy an existing DE, and start making changes, to where you can no longer share the same libraries, you end up having to copy lots of things, and keep most of the code, while changing lots of names used. And it can be easy to miss something. Those are called mistakes. But as your code base gets more mature, most of those should be found. Just because there were compatibility issues in the past, that doesn't mean there will be in the future.

If there are still existing incompatibilities though, I'd rather people be warned of what they are, and which are the offending programs, rather than make a general rule that you should only have one DE, when clearly that's not the way things are supposed to work. There are plenty of DEs, window managers, etc, where switching through a session manager does work.

Now where there are problems, I do understand that there isn't that much demand for running 4 different DEs, since it tends to be impractical anyway, other than for exploring alternatives, so fixing these things isn't always the first priority, either. But I'm sure it's somewhere on the list.

But where it works as it's supposed to, I also think this is much more convenient than having to boot into different installations. And I'm reluctant to discourage people from doing this when I've generally had good experiences with it.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 6:17 pm
by karlchen
Hi, folks.

I explicitly subscribe to the point of view which acerimusdux has explained very elaborately.
Running more than one DE (desktop environment) on a single Linux Mint system is feasible.
I could imagine that some DE combinations get along with each other better than others do.
I have added xfce to Linux Mint 17.0 Cinnamon, upgraded them both to Linux Mint 17.1 later on; and this system is still up and running fine. No conflicts between the 2 DE's.
I admit that I did prevent some cases where Cinnamon specific and xfce specific applications both appeared in the application menu next to each other, irrespective of which DE had been loaded.
Preventing such double menu items was pretty simple once I had found out how to make sure a menu item appears only in Cinnamon or only in xfce.

Cheers,
Karl

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sun Oct 02, 2016 9:00 am
by GlennJohnson
Moem wrote:
GlennJohnson wrote:I've been booting multiple installs of Linux along with Windows XP and Windows 7 for years.
Several seperate installations is a very different thing from one installation with several desktop environments, which seems to be what the OP was asking about.
Ah yes. Misread. My bad.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:15 am
by Moem
GlennJohnson wrote: My bad.
Hey, no problem. We're only human.

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:23 pm
by tgm1024
Sorry, but I don't view this as a pointless necro-bump.

To what extent is this still true in 2020?

Re: Is it advisable to install multiple desktop environments?

Posted: Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:53 pm
by Moem
As a question, it's perfectly valid, and makes total sense. It'll be equally valid in a new thread. Please start one. Thanks!