Alternative DE w/OpenSUSE - how does it work?


I recently installed OpenSUSE Tumbleweed w/KDE. However, I’m thinking of trying another DE instead (having some freezing issues that might be KDE, also want to be able to sue VNC and KDE isn’t compatible with the login).

I’ve never installed a second/alternative desktop environment with any distro. It’s always been a bit of a mystery and seems like could be “messy” since it installs a lot of other dependencies/apps/software, etc but I still want to pursue it. Memory and processor overhead isn’t a huge issue so I think I’d be OK with most options, in terms of how it will run. I’m wondering which other DEs you like on OpenSUSE and also, what happens after I install it? Do I need to uninstall KDE? Do I get a choice of which DE to use at boot? Can one install more than one DE at a time to try (for instance, could I install XFCE, Cinnamon, and Pantheon to try and then choose which one to use)? I’m not sure how it all works and would love any thoughts, advice, guidance, etc. Also, if any of the DEs are worth completely avoiding in OpenSUSE, that would also be great.

Thanks so much in advance!

Hi raeyn

See my answer in your LXQ thread…

I’m using TigerVNC with KDE on both, Leap and TW without problems (as well as on one Leap install with LXDE)

Generally speaking openSUSE is desktop-agnostic, so in principle you can install whatever DE you want and even many of them at the same time, but…
KDE and Gnome have a wide user base, possibly KDE being chosen by most openSUSE users, Gnome the only one “officially supported” by SUSE on SLED, as a result you can receive help here from many members.
They use different libraries: KDE uses QT, Gnome uses GTK3. So installing both will bring in a lot of extra stuff.
Moreover, Gnome loves GDM, KDE loves SDDM, using both on a regular basis meant also switching to lightDM wich supported both, more or less (but I’m not sure this still applies to 15.2 or current TW).
You have better chances with DEs that use the same set of libraries.
For instance, Gnome and XFCE share the GTK3 toolkit. KDE and LxQT share the QT toolkit, so those might be the first alternatives to try, if you like their look.
Anyway, you can just select the relevant “pattern” in YaST Software, as @deano_ferrari suggested, and see in the “Installation Summary” tab what is going to be installed before actually committing to the install and judge for yourself.

I mostly use KDE. But I also install Gnome. In the past, I have installed XFCE, MATE, LXqt alongside KDE and Gnome. But I use those so rarely, I skipped installing them this time.

The graphic login screen gives you a way of selecting which desktop to use.

I’d say what @OrsoBruno describes here is mostly accurate.

The only mondification/addition I’d add from experience is

  • When you install multiple DE side by side on the same base install, by default the WM configured by the first default installed DE remains unchanged and used when you switch to other DE… Without manual intervention your succeeding DE will not use the default WM they may prefer. Although this may not make any difference, YMMV because it can be important if you run into an issue.
  • Unless I missed it, you should know that changing DE and WM is supposed to be done by using Alternatives (update-alternatives). But, I have found that the DE may not switch for unknown reasons. I’ve found the sure way is to logout to the login screen, then somewhere on the screen (Depends on the WM) there will be an icon which when clicked drops down a list of possible selections. The WM should be configured in Alternatives, though and it works every time I’ve re-configured.

openSUSE supports a very large number of DE and WM…
To install a DE, the easiest way is to open
YaST > Software Manager > Patterns view

You can scroll down and see a large number of DE that can be selected.
The only one you won’t see is Cinnamon, for whatever reason its maintainers don’t create a Pattern.
Instead, search for a Cinnamon package, which acts like a pattern to install the packages for the Desktop.

For an ultra-light graphical “Desktop” without installing a full Desktop, you can run only a WM.
If a default install, just select “Generic Desktop” and don’t modify the software selection, you will be running IceWM on first boot.
IceWM is also part of every X11 install, so if you install any DE like KDE or Gnome, you can logout and always log back in with IceWM (select from dropdown)
If you want another WM, you can install numerous other WMs like Openbox, Fluxbox, F2WM, Awesome and more I’m not thinking of at the moment. Like thers, after installation, log out and back in or use Alternatives for a more permanent setting.


@suse_rasputin, can you please share more about how you use VNC with KDE? I read the OpenSUSE wiki on their VNC integration and I want to use the “automatically started sessions” - whether one-shot or permanent. It specifically says that you can’t use KDE on that because it uses SDDM and the automatically started sessions require XDMCP instead. I can’t seem to find a way to get KDE working without SDDM. I’d love any thoughts. I’m wanting to be able to start the VNC session without having to deal with being there on the OpenSUSE installs end - which is why I want the automatically started sessions to work, if that makes sense. Any info would be great. I’m impressed with OpenSUSE that they have documentation on how to use and how VNC is implemented. I searched for the last two years to try to find that info to make it work on Mint. Serious kudos to OpenSUSE. :slight_smile:

Because SDDM doesn’t support all needed features, the recommendation is to install and use LightDM.

The following is the official VNC documenation on LEAP.

The official documentation (above) should help most people with a basic setup, but…
You may also find useful my notes for some future article I intend to write (whenever I get around to doing it) which is intended to supplement (not replace!) the above documentation… More info, and re-wording a couple places more clearly (IMO but may be just me).
In any case, IMO the notes should be easy to read and in this form is actually probably faster to skim through than when it’s fully written


Thanks so much for this info! I’ll definitely look through it carefully and work through both instructions. It’s been one of the worst weeks and I’m just trying to get through it. I’ll need some distraction and this will help - plus get me (finally!) setup with VNC.

Last question, does this mean I can use LightDM with KDE? Being able to use alternative mixes of DEs, WMs, and Login protocols together has always made my head spin a bit in Linux, even though I’ve been using it for years. :slight_smile: It’s amazing - and a little confusing and overwhelming.

Thanks again so much for the info. I truly appreciate it. I’ve posted a number of times in other forums and Reddit trying to figure out how to get VNC working on my previous distro and I never could find anyone who knew or had any info on where to look. I’m really grateful for you taking the time to share.

Thanks so much for breaking this down. It’s really helpful and gave a lot of great info. It’s a good idea to try the DEs that share libraries first.

Out of curiosity, if I do try all or some mix of these DEs and end up with both QT and GTK3 installed - and then subsequently choose a DE with one or the other library, if I uninstall the other, I assume that all the unneeded libraries will be removed with them? Is that correct or not?

Once again, thanks so much for sharing such clear and straightforward info. I really appreciate it. :slight_smile:

One more question, I’m still having an issue where my whole oST install is freezing completely. Everything stops (can’t move/use the mouse/keyboard, all internet stops, media server quits responding, etc) and I cannot find any way to connect (tty was mentioned and I can’t get that working). The only thing that gets me out of it is a hard physical power button power off/reboot.

I’m wondering if this could be from KDE for some reason. It’s about the only think I could think of at this point. My previous distro never showed signs of this (though it’s on a separate SSD in the same system) but it made me curious if that could be the problem. I have used alternative compositors but that didn’t make any difference. That’s part of why I wanted to try a different DE to see if that might help with the issue.

Thanks so much everyone. I so appreciate all of the help and you sharing your knowledge. I’m truly grateful.

Graphics-related issue perhaps. If you haven’t done so already (I didn’t check your recent posting history), I would consider starting a new thread to discuss this perhaps. Share your hardware details.

One other question from some of the replies - I’m seeing the terms “pattern” and Alternatives (used in a proper noun sense, as the title/name of something). Can anyone expound on these terms a bit? Alternatives seems to be something in YaST and is pattern the term for a group of packages or something else?

Yes… summarised in ‘man zypper’

A group of packages required or recommended to install some functionality.

I use tigerVNC and a systemd service to start the server on boot. Only thing to keep in mind: after updating (TW or Leap) the systemd service might not be running after rebooting more often than not (has been that way for years now). So: check, and if necessary start the server manually (vncserver :1) and reboot, then it will come up automatically next time. Using it for years with remote machines.

The necessary file for the systemd service I posted here some time ago. You can access the server via ssh (described in archlinux wiki for tigervnc).

Yes, in theory, but your mileage might vary depending on what you have installed and what you want to remove. To get a feeling without actually touching your system try:

sudo zypper rm --dry-run --clean-deps patterns-kde-kde

There are equivalent options in the YaST Software manager.

Try the following commands to have a feeling of what this is all about:

man update-alternatives

sudo update-alternatives --list displaymanager

sudo update-alternatives --get-selections

You get a graphical tool to change alternatives with YaST /etc/sysconfig Editor

It is yast2-alternatives that provides a graphical utility for managing the update-alternatives mechanism.

System configuration via /etc/sysconfig is a different framework altogether.

Sorry, my bad (always managing alternatives via CLI here…)

Note on removing desktops. DON’T!!! It is very tricky to remove a desktop when your have multiple ones because you can break things in the one(s) you keep because of common dependencies

Yes, I agree. Just don’t login to that desktop.

I did recently uninstall “xfce4-notifyd”, because it was interfering with KDE handling of notifications. But I left the rest of XFCE there.