For Dummies please.....

As some of you know, I am a bit of an idiot… I am lately getting a bit confused (again!). Could someone tell or point me to somewhere in village simpleton terms, the difference between
DM (Desktop Manager)
DE (Desktop Environment ?)
WM (Window manager)

and where does Compiz fit in with all this?

FWIW, I am happily running 11.1 with KDE 3.5.1 and compiz.
I have set up my girlfriend as a user, defaulting her log-in to XFCE.
Whilst experimenting with xfce I found I quite like it.
Some random fiddling about and googling and I find I can issue:

xfwm4 --replace

from within my KDE/Compiz GUI
and I am in XFWM, no compiz which is great, as some of my Wine Apps don’t like to play nice with compiz.
I have never got compiz-fusion, compiz-switch, fusion-Icon or compiz-manager to work reliably but, if I get the icon in the panel, and right click, xfwm IS an option there, but refuses to do the right thing… However as the wee command is so simple I am happy with that!.. I might even make a desktop or panel icon/button for it myself.

I’ll have a go, and as always stand ready to be corrected:

KDE, Gnome, XFCE etc are desktop environments. You can install two or more of them concurrently and switch between them but they come with different sets of default applications for various standard tasks and your menus might get a bit cluttered by having several file managers, CD burners, etc.
Compiz, Metacity, and Kwin are window managers. They provide the basic window operations as well as special effects (from exploding or wobbly windows to the famous cube). They can be themed for their overall appearance, and further modified by using specific window decorations (as provided by Emerald under Compiz, Aurorae under Kwin, etc).

Desktop Manager??? Pass.

> DM (Desktop Manager)
> DE (Desktop Environment ?)
> WM (Window manager)

don’t feel bad (you are running openSUSE and have a girlfriend using
it, so you are NO Dummy)–go to and look up “Desktop
Manager” it automatically redirects you to “Desktop Environment”, so
to understand DE or DM, see:

for WM, see:
for info on 21 different WMs, see:

> and where does Compiz fit in with all this?

Compiz is one of several WMs

it works kinda like the below (very simplified) building up from the
hardware are different ‘layers’ of software which operate on top of
the hardware:

Desktop Manager/Environment (DM/DE) [KDE, etc]
Window Manager (WM) [Compiz, Enlightenment, etc]
Operating System (OS) [Linux, BSD, MacOS, OS/2, etc]
Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) [Phoenix, Award, etc]
Hardware [IBM, DELL, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Acer, etc]

some folks don’t realize that you can (and many do) operate in a
Graphical User Interface (GUI) X Window environment without any DE at
all…you can run in a WM and find the true meaning of speed…

you will have to get along with less glitz and glamor, however…yet,
it can be ‘pretty’…

have a good look at SOAD Linux: Possibly the most light weight live CD
around, a Russian effort based on openSUSE-11.1 and Enlightenment WM
is SOAD (SuSE On A Diet) Linux:

Have a lot of fun…

O yes, memories memories.

Without a WM, the X-server will still display your windows, but without any border, title bar, etc. It is the WM that sits along the path between your program (the X-client) and the X-server and adds all the niceties to the windows.

The DE is the software that builds for you the Desktop Metaphore. Desktop metaphor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. It uses the WM and the X-server to display all sorrts of things we could not dream of in the begin of X. That is why the latest DEs ask for sophisticated WMs.