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Desktop Independent Apps Vs Desktop Dependent Apps in Linux?

Linux Desktop Apps
Written by Aaron Kili

Early this year, many Linux Mint users learnt about the fact that the Ubuntu Linux based distro was going to introduce its own set of apps called X-apps in Linux Mint 18, and this has been true so far, when you read more about the new features of the beta release of Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon.

What are X-apps?

It is a new project started with the aim of producing generic apps for traditional GTK desktop environments such as Cinnamon, MATE, Xcfe plus the rest.
It is intended to develop core apps that will fuse well with the above mentioned desktop environments and do away with apps that do not integrate well outside of these desktop environments. Therefore, when changes or new features are added to an app, it will apply to all the desktop environments.

The main features of X-apps

  • use modern toolkits and latest technologies
  • are generic meaning they work everywhere
  • use traditional user interfaces
  • are backward-compatible
  • provide existing functionalities

Most of the apps simply offer existing functionalities, therefore users do not need to worry about having to learn anything new to use them.

What actually works better: Desktop Dependant Apps Vs Desktop Independent Apps

Having given you a fair highlight of the X-apps project, you will realize that these apps are desktop environment dependent, working and integrating properly with the traditional GTK desktop environments that we mentioned above.
On the other hand, is the desktop environment independent apps such as Thunderbird, LibreOffice and VLC which can work on most if not all desktop environments including KDE, GNOME, and it is also a cross-platform software, and works on major operating systems such as Windows and Mac OSX plus many more.
One fact about these apps is that their development is not focused towards any platform or desktop environment, they simply work everywhere but the question is whether they can fit anywhere in terms of proper integration with a desktop.

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You can actually look at the above argument in two possible ideas:

    • First, developing specific apps for each desktop environment or a group of desktops

Here, desktop environments would have small apps offering basic features and functionalities to users, integrating well with the user interface. And you will realize that the Linux Mint X-apps actually fall under this description.

    • Secondly, developing core apps with different user interfaces to fit in each desktop environment

Under this, developers would have to tailor user interface for each desktop environment but maintaining and offering multiple, core cross-platform functionalities.

As a concluding remark, i think it is advantageous to consider and maintain both ideas here, desktop environments need to have their own apps that users can easily adapt to, and developing desktop environment independent apps is vital to offer users a wide range of apps that they may find extensively productive and offer advanced features and functionalities.
This is an important argument as the existence of several Linux distributions and desktop environments is always a big challenge for new Linux users in terms of which one to choose and stick with. What is you take on this issue? You can share your thoughts via the comment section below.

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About the author

Aaron Kili

A Computer Science graduate who is most enthusiastic about Linux and FOSS. Aaron has been using Linux for over two years now and loves to share his ideas and knowledge he's acquired with other Linux users around the world.