Desktop Environment

What Does Desktop Environment Mean?

Desktop environment (DE) is a graphical users interface (GUI) that enables a user to access and manage the important and frequently accessed features and services of an operating system.


A desktop environment is a default interface provided by virtually all modern operating systems, including Windows, Linux, Mac and more. This type of interface was developed to replace the command-line interface, which was used in legacy operating systems such as DOS and Unix. However, a user may still have command-line access for some system-level services that aren’t accessible through a desktop environment.

The primary desktop environment is often called simply a desktop.

Techopedia Explains Desktop Environment

A desktop environment is primarily developed in line with the desktop metaphor concept, in which a computer desktop is designed to represent a typical, physical desktop. The digital desktop in an operating system is the primary user interface, and as such it houses tools, widgets and icons for OS applications, utilities and data sources. This is much like a physical desktop, which provides access to most work-based accessories such as a pen, paper or files. Generally, a desktop environment consist of routinely used applications; however, most operating systems allow modification of the desktop environment to some extent.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…