Which desktop environment should I use with ThinLinc?

ThinLinc supports multiple desktop environments (DEs) through its profile chooser functionality. Where multiple desktop environments (or profiles) are made available by the administrator, users may be presented with a choice during login. Which profiles, if any, the user gets to choose from will depend on certain conditions determined by the administrator. Each profile may provide a different desktop environment, or perhaps even different configurations of the same desktop environment, each suited to different tasks.

Deciding which DE(s) to use with ThinLinc depends mostly on your specific use-case and personal preferences. However, there are some general guidelines which may help in making your decision.

  • Consider choosing a simple, light-weight DE over a more complex one with lots of “eye candy”. This will not only use less resources on the server, but also use less network bandwidth, giving a better end-user experience. Some examples of light-weight DEs are MATE, XFCE, and LXDE.

  • Some modern compositing DEs require a GPU in order to function, and if a GPU is not available, will try to use the CPU for graphical operations instead. This can be very inefficient and resource intensive, but will work with ThinLinc, and may be an option if you have powerful hardware and/or a small number of users. Examples of such DEs are GNOME, KDE, and Cinnamon (part of Linux Mint).

    (Note that MATE also supports compositing, however this can be disabled in settings. If you choose to run MATE, we recommend doing so with compositing disabled)

  • If you need to run multiple sessions as the same user, check that this works with your chosen DE, as not all will support it. You can find more information on this subject in the post “Why does starting multiple ThinLinc sessions as the same user sometimes fail?”.

  • If you plan to configure users’ desktops using the ThinLinc Desktop Customizer (TLDC), check that it supports your chosen DE. Some DEs - particularly those which no longer use the traditional desktop metaphor, such as GNOME Shell - are not compatible with TLDC, and will have to be customized manually.

  • If you are expecting users to connect to their ThinLinc sessions from mobile or touch-screen devices, try to choose a DE which is touch-friendly, or at least configure it to be usable without a keyboard and mouse (larger icons, etc). You can find more information on using ThinLinc from such devices in the post “Can I use ThinLinc from my mobile phone or tablet?”.

Finally, if you’d like to know what DEs other ThinLinc users are running, check out our recent poll at “Poll - Which desktop environment do you use? [CLOSED]”, or alternatively, feel free to ask around on the forum.


For more information on configuring profiles within ThinLinc, see TAG Chapter 14.4.  Customizing the User's Session

For more information on the ThinLinc Desktop Customiser, see TAG Chapter 18.  Building Custom Linux Desktops with the ThinLinc Desktop Customizer

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