Switching between the KDE and GNOME window managers on Centos and Fedora Linux hosts

I recently switched a Fedora host from the GNOME window manager to KDE. This exercise allowed me to familiarize myself with how X and the various window managers are organized on Fedora hosts, and I thought I would jot down how to switch between window managers for future reference.

When a Fedora host is booted into run-level 5, the following initab entry will cause the X server and Window manager to start:

# Run xdm in runlevel 5
x:5:respawn:/etc/X11/prefdm -nodaemon

The prefdm script uses the /etc/sysconfig/desktop file to control which window manager (KDE or GNOME) is started, as you can see in the following code snippet from the script:

preferred=
if [ -f /etc/sysconfig/desktop ]; then
        . /etc/sysconfig/desktop
        if [ "$DISPLAYMANAGER" = GNOME ]; then
                preferred=gdm
        elif [ "$DISPLAYMANAGER" = KDE ]; then
                preferred=kdm
        elif [ "$DISPLAYMANAGER" = XDM ]; then
                preferred=xdm
        fi
fi

So to set the default window manager to GNOME, you can set the DISPLAYMANAGER variable to GNOME:

$ echo “DISPLAYMANAGER=GNOME” >> /etc/sysconfig/desktop

To use KDE, you can set the DISPLAYMANAGER variable to KDE:

$ echo “DISPLAYMANAGER=KDE” >> /etc/sysconfig/desktop

I dig the fact that Fedora and CentOS Linux servers control application settings through configuration files in /etc/sysconfig. This makes it easy to adjust application settings, and ensures that a package update won’t whack your customizations! Nice!

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