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13.2. Customizing the Graphical Interface

13.2.1. Choosing a Display Manager

The graphical interface only provides display space. Running the X server by itself only leads to an empty screen, which is why most installations use a display manager to display a user authentication screen and start the graphical desktop once the user has authenticated. The three most popular display managers in current use are gdm3 (GNOME Display Manager), kdm (KDE Display Manager) and lightdm (Light Display Manager). Since the Falcot Corp administrators have opted to use the GNOME desktop environment, they logically picked gdm3 as a display manager too. The /etc/gdm3/daemon.conf configuration file has many options (the list can be found in the /usr/share/gdm/gdm.schemas schema file) to control its behaviour while /etc/gdm3/greeter.dconf-defaults contains settings for the greeter “session” (more than just a login window, it is a limited desktop with power management and accessibility related tools). Note that some of the most useful settings for end-users can be tweaked with GNOME's control center.

13.2.2. Choosing a Window Manager

Since each graphical desktop provides its own window manager, choosing the former usually implies software selections from the latter. GNOME uses the mutter window manager, KDE uses kwin, and Xfce (which we present later) has xfwm. The Unix philosophy always allows using one's window manager of choice, but following the recommendations allows an administrator to best take advantage of the integration efforts led by each project.
Older computers may, however, have a hard time running heavyweight graphical desktop environments. In these cases, a lighter configuration should be used. “Light” (or small footprint) window managers include WindowMaker (in the wmaker package), Afterstep, fvwm, icewm, blackbox, fluxbox, or openbox. In these cases, the system should be configured so that the appropriate window manager gets precedence; the standard way is to change the x-window-manager alternative with the update-alternatives --config x-window-manager command.

13.2.3. Menu Management

Modern desktop environments and many window managers provide menus listing the available applications for the user. In order to keep menus up-to-date in relation to the actual set of available applications, each package usually provides a .desktop file in /usr/share/applications. The format of those files has been standardized by
The applications menus can be further customized by administrators through system-wide configuration files as described by the “Desktop Menu Specification”. End-users can also customize the menus with graphical tools such as kmenuedit (in KDE), alacarte (in GNOME) or menulibre.