Image64.Pick your Debian

Debian is an operating system offered in several versions, and you will need to make a choice depending on your tastes, your needs and your hardware.

You want to try the Debian journey

Let's go 129 ! The rest of this manual will help you to:


Choosing a Debian derivative ?

There are a lot of Debian derivatives out there, more or less stable and/or supported. This manual and the indications in there can be used for all the Debian Stable "Jessie" derivatives.

131The GNU/Linux distributions are not all supported by a community the way Debian is. Sometime, a single person handle the entire distribution. The different distributions do not provide the same level of documentation and support. They also do not offer the same durability. Choosing a "mother" distribution like Debian insures you to receive stable and regular updates.

If you want to test other distributions based on Debian, we suggest you consult the Debian derivatives official page16.

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137 138 139 140 ….

If you want to consult a more comprehensive list, visit the Distrowatch17 site which enumerates almost all the available active distributions.

4.1.Choosing the architecture

The processor , which is the compute and control unit of your computer , functions under a specific type of architecture , I.E. it handles data according to its own type (32 or 64 bits, PowerPC …).

We encourage you to use an ISO image of type " netinst " (chap., which gives you access to the most up-to-date software versions by downloading directly the applications during the installation process (you need an active and stable Internet connexion during the install). This version will let you install the desktop of your choice.
You can also use an ISO image already including a ready-to-use environment (Gnome, KDE, Xfce …).

But you must choose an ISO corresponding to your processor architecture. In other words, decide between a 32 bits or a 64 bits version, or again between an i386 or an amd64 version.
Note that the "32 bits" version will run on a "64 bits" computer, but not vice-versa.

4.1.1.To make it easy

4.1.2.Checking the architecture

Using a GNU/Linux distribution in an autonomous " live " session ( Debian Live in chap. for example), open a terminal , and in order to find out the 32 or 64 bits compatibility , type the following command:

lscpu | grep -i "mode(s)"

which returns the explicit result, here an example when using an 'amd64' processor:

CPU op-mode(s): 32-bit, 64-bit

Using a Windows ® system, your processor model is displayed in the "General" tab of the menu Start Button > Configuration Panel > System

4.2.Choosing your GNU/Linux desktop

Debian let you adopt one or several desktop environment directly from the installer interface: Gnome , KDE , Mate , Cinnamon , Xfce et LXDE

141 … But why several Gnu/Linux "desktop" ?

The computer is only a tool , and even if we ask you sometime to learn a couple of tricks to make an effective use of it, it is still your tool , and as such it must be highly adaptable to your taste, your working habit, and to your own way to have fun.

With this perspective, each desktop has its own organization, its setting method, its various functionalities. And it is not a superfluous diversity, designed by the brain mazes of some bearded geeks (although …), but rather a strength of the free software : knowing how to propose rather than impose !

Hereafter the description of the main characteristics of this various environments, to help you decide which one to use. And then you will be able to add more of them, according to your needs and preferences.
The two main desktops are Gnome and KDE, but they are also the more "resource-hungry" solutions, so don't hesitate to test other environments.

Integrated applications

Each desktop environment is designed to offer a minimal functionality for the personal usage of your computer. So, within all the desktops presented here, you will find an Internet browser, a system file manager, a text editor, an office suite, a multimedia player (except on MATE DE, but it's easy to add one) and an access to a software library in order to maintain, update or make changes in your installation.


142Gnome 3.14 is the Gnome version embedded in Debian 8 Jessie. The Gnome-Shell interface is the default desktop for Debian and offers:

Gnome : desktop presentation

Gnome : the Time manager

Gnome : the System manager


Gnome classi c

Gnome 3, with its new Gnome -Shell interface, represents a radical interface change compared to Gnome 2. However, in order to maintain some continuity for the user s practices, the Gnome team developed a set of extensions which gives back to this interface, the Gnome 2 look and feel. This interface is accessible in the settings, when you open a session, under the name of Gnome Classic .

Gnome : Gnome -Classic interface

Integrated comprehensive help

Gnome includes a general detailed help mechanism, that you can access via the dock, by default, and this should reassure all the beginners, and make them a lot more comfortable:


Gnome : integrated comprehensive help

Technical details:

More details in the dedicated section of this manual (chap.7.1.1).


149KDE422 is a project delivering a graphical environment (called "Plasma") and a full set of applications. KDE4 is highly configurable, both in terms of desktop environment and supported applications. KDE has so many capabilities that some people even find difficult to deal with it.

Note that you can use KDE without any particular configuration tuning. It can be fully functional with its "out-of-the-box" settings.

The KDE 4 Plasma desktop on Debian 8

The KDE4 environment is visually close to Windows®, and offers:

Like the other GNU/Linux desktops, you can customize KDE4 to fit your needs and desires.
To add a graphical component, right-click on the desktop and select "Add Widgets…". A banner including all the available widgets is open at the bottom of the screen: help yourself !


Widgets on KDE 4

The Activity manager let you organize your tasks and keep an eye on them. To access it, left-click on the three points of the panel:


Banner of the activity manager on KDE 4

Like Gnome, KDE is a very comprehensive environment and includes a system settings panel as well as an integrated help center.
To reach the system settings, follow the path Kickoff menu > Applications > Settings > System settings.
The help center is available directly at the bottom of the main application list.

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System settings panel and help center on KDE 4

Technical details:

More detailed information on the KDE Debian wiki29


158MATE30 is a fork of GNOME 2. This means that this desktop environment was started from a copy of GNOME 2 and then modified independently.

This is the perfect environment for people who do not want to change all the work habits they acquired when using GNOME 2. This is also a good system for the computer aided music and the resource-intensive applications going with.

Mate aims to be lighter than GNOME 3, and as such, is more suitable for aging or resource limited computers. It's clearly is a good compromise between GNOME 3 and Xfce 4.

MATE desktop on Debian 8

Mate offers a "traditional" interface with its two task bars:

To configure Mate you open the control center ("system" menu > Control Center) and you have access to the various components of this interface:

Control Center of the MATE desktop

Technical details:

Mate project home page: http:// mate

More details on the Mate Debian wiki31


161Cinnamon32 is a desktop environment derived from the Gnome-Shell project. It moved away from this latter all-in-one interface, to adopt a more traditional interface (dash board along with a menu where Icons are sorted by categories).

Cinnamon is developed by the Linux Mint33 team, and is one of the leading desktop environments of this specific GNU/Linux distribution.

Cinnamon uses the Nemo system file manager, a fork from Nautilus 3.4, which reinstates some functionalities removed by the latter: compact view, open in a terminal, open as root, capability to manually edit the absolute file path, etc.

Cinnamon desktop on Debian 8

Cinnamon offers a complete desktop with all the helpful (or not) applications for your daily usage: in the screen capture above, you can see the graphical applications, and under the Internet category, for example, you will find the Firefox navigator, the email client Icedove, the multi-protocol chat client Pidgin, the Bittorent Transmission client, a remote desktop access software, and the IRC client Xchat.

The Cinnamon configuration is delegated to the system settings pannel which centralized all the system and user settings:

Cinnamon : system settings panel

Technical details:

Cinnamon project home page: Cinnamon

More detailed information on the CinnamonTeam Cinnamon Team


164Xfce37 is a lightweight desktop environment for Unix type operating systems. Its goals are to be fast, little greedy in machine resources, but visually attractive and user friendly. It is expandable, thanks to numerous available plug-ins, and embeds a volume control application (xfce4-mixer), its own window manager supporting transparency, shades … (xfwm4), an integrated archive manager (thunar-archive-plugin), and disk, battery network, processor and memory monitorings, as well as various themes and miscellaneous pug-ins.

This interface is clear and traditional: you won't be surprised during your first meeting with it.

The default Xfce under Debian 8

Xfce has the significant advantage to be fully modular, because it is released with different independent plug-ins. Xfce also allows the integration of applications coming from other environments, and is able to launch, during the system start-up, the Gnome and/or KDE services by default.

It is a perfect environment for beginner s , offering a great stability, a complete graphical handling ("with the mouse only"), and evolution capabilities with no real limit.

Like the other previously seen environments, Xfce centralizes its configuration settings to ease the customization. Note that each elements can also be configured from its specific interface (like a right-click on the panel to add a new launcher, for example).

Th e Xfce setting center on Debian 8

Technical details:

Xfce project home page: https://www. xfce .org/

More detailed information on the Xfce Debian wiki39


167LXDE40 LXDE1 is a free desktop environment for Unix like systems, and other systems which are compliant to the POSIX standard, like Linux or BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution ). The LXDE name is the acronym for "Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment".
And as its name implies, the goal of this project is to propose a fast and lightweight desktop environment.

As opposed to other desktop environments, the various components are not tightly linked together. Instead they are rather independents and each of them can be used without the others, with very few dependencies (packages used during the installation).

LXDE uses by default Openbox41 as window manager, and PCManFM42 as system file manager.

The LXDE desktop and PCManFM on Debian 8

The LXDE design model implies that the configuration of each element needs to go through an interface designed for this specific application. You will not find a "Control Center" akin to the Gnome one, but rather a suite of lightweight tools to customize your environment.

LXDE Appearance and Session configuration panels on Debian 8

Preference menu and Openbox configuration tool on LXDE

Note that the elements being configured, display their modifications on the fly which makes the customization very easy.

LXDE is notably light, making it an ideal solution for small hardware configurations and computers refurbishing, but it requires a little more time to learn and use its different elements.

Having said that, the LXDE/OpenBox couple will let you earn your first stripes on Debian as a "g33k" (this is the way the geeks43 write sometime their own name).

Technical details:

LXDE project home page: http:// lxde .org/

More detailed information on the LXDE Debian wiki46