Desktop environment

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In graphical computing, a desktop environment (DE) commonly refers to a style of graphical user interface (GUI) derived from the desktop metaphor that is seen on most modern personal computers.[1] These GUIs help the user in easily accessing, configuring, and modifying many important and frequently accessed specific operating system (OS) features. The GUI usually does not afford access to all the many features found in an OS. Instead, the traditional command-line interface (CLI) is still used when full control over the OS is required in such cases.

A desktop environment typically consists of icons, windows, toolbars, folders, wallpapers and desktop widgets (see Elements of graphical user interfaces and WIMP).[2]

A GUI might also provide drag and drop functionality and other features that make the desktop metaphor more complete. A desktop environment aims to be an intuitive way for the user to interact with the computer using concepts which are similar to those used when interacting with the physical world, such as buttons and windows.

While the term desktop environment originally described a style of user interfaces following the desktop metaphor, it has also come to describe the programs that realize the metaphor itself.[3] This usage has been popularized by the Common Desktop Environment and the K Desktop Environment.



On a system that offers a desktop environment, a window manager in conjunction with applications written using a widget toolkit are generally responsible for most of what the user sees. A windowing system of some sort generally interfaces directly with the underlying operating system and libraries. This provides support for graphical hardware, pointing devices, and keyboards. The window manager generally runs on top of this windowing system. While the windowing system may provide some window management functionality, this functionality is still considered to be part of the window manager, which simply happens to have been provided by the windowing system.

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