In general there are two flavors of X desktop. The two most well-known "heavyweight" desktop projects are GNOME and KDE; these include both a desktop environment and an application development framework. A desktop environment includes a window manager, help browser, file manager, task bar, and so on. A development framework includes any number of libraries to ease application development, perhaps most importantly a GUI toolkit. GNOME and KDE are the desktops with the most support from Linux distribution vendors.

The second flavor of X desktop includes a desktop environment only; no development framework is included. The line between this flavor of desktop and a plain old window manager is a bit blurry; many people would describe Xfce, and WindowMaker as desktops in this category.

The following is a very incomplete list of available desktop environments which make use of standards.

Full desktop environments

Light desktop environments

Many of these desktop environments take a 'mix and match' approach, where you assemble your own desktop from a set of components.

  • awesome: Highly configurable, next generation framework window manager
  • fluxbox: Lightweight WM with support for tabs
  • FVWM: An extremely customizable window manager and some desktop applications
  • IceWM: Window manager designed to be small, fast and lightweight
  • WindowMaker: Window manager intended to work with GNUstep