Quick way to switch from KDE to GNOME or viceversa

last updated in Categories CentOS, Howto, Linux, Linux desktop, Linux distribution, Linux laptop, RedHat/Fedora Linux, Tips

This tip is submitted by reader Zacharie:


switchdesk is the command to switch from KDE to GNOME or viceversa. This command provides a simple method of choosing between the various desktop environments available under Fedora Core, Cent OS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

If X Windows is running, switchdesk will bring up a dialog box which allows the user to choose between the available desktops installed on the system.

Task: To switch from GNOME to KDE, use the command

$ switchdesk kde

Task: To switch from KDE to GNOME, use the command

$ switchdesk gnome

Please note that file ~/.Xclients, ~/.Xclients-default stores the currently selected desktop.

A note about other distros/BSD

switchdesk is RedHat and friends only command. If you are using different Linux distribution or FreeBSD, open ~/.xinitrc file and type full path to your desktop manager. For example, to use xfce4 desktop:
$ vi .xinitrc
Append following line (your path may be different use, which command to get exact path):

Save and close the file. Enjoy new desktop.

While login you will see option for different desktops (provided that all of them are installed). Usually this is located below Username / password box or lower left button. Just select appropriate desktop (KDE/XFC4 etc).

Load KDE while running Gnome

You can load KDE while running Gnome desktop (thanks to sweta for pointing it out):
Just open your gnome terminal and type the command:
$ startkde &


Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

18 comment

  1. Foul! Doesn’t work! Command isn’t found and can’t be installed via “apt-get”. Not a standard X command!

  2. I’d like to see Gnome and KDE Running at the same time using XGL – imagine ctrl and the desktop swizzles round in all its XGL glory with a different desktops on different faces of the cube. That would be really sweet!

  3. once using the startkde command, how do I close kde and return to gnome?

    also it doesn’t close gnome, as i can still see and use the gnome-panel

    also, would it even be possible to have kde on one face of the cube, and gnome on the other?

  4. Well, I know this is a little late and wrong, but the answer to quitting kde after you start it with the startkde command is:

    > kdeinit_shutdown

  5. John Doe: as root, run: yum install switchdesk
    Press “Y” when you get asked to install packages…

    Then you will have switchdesk 🙂

  6. i can’t quit kde using de command kdeinit_shutdown. it says: Warning: connect() failed: : No such file or directory
    Error: Can’t contact kdeinit!

    what should i do?

    Have a question? Post it on our forum!