There are loads of Linux desktops to choose from, but the majority use some version of GNOME's Gtk. Only a handful favour the Qt toolkit, and two of them just released new versions.
They may have had a point; Linux supremo Linus Torvalds was sceptical about them as well.
KDE adopted widgets when they were trendy, soon after Windows Vista, but Microsoft dumped them again after Windows 7. TDE is admittedly one of the more niche options, but it's good to see signs of life.
LXQt is the mainline descendant of the LXDE desktop, a Gtk2-based Windows 95-like environment. In our testing back in 2013, LXDE was by quite some margin the lightest-weight desktop for Ubuntu, taking about half the memory of GNOME.
In the same year, with Gtk2 at end of life, LXDE's lead developer, Dr Jen Yee Hong (or "PCMan" as he's known in FOSS circles), moved on to a next-generation project. Rather than port LXDE to Gtk3, he moved it to Qt instead, and merged it with another lightweight Qt desktop project, Razor-Qt. Ubuntu's Lubuntu remix comes with LXQt, so we can expect to see LXQt 1 in Lubuntu 22.04 next year.
Its progenitor isn't dead, though. Just yesterday there was a new version of the Distro Formerly Known As Raspbian. It originally came with LXDE, which the Raspberry Pi Foundation forked and now calls PIXEL. It uses Gtk3 and the GNOME window manager Mutter.
The foundation also offers a PC version of its OS, which your correspondent runs on an old sub-netbook. It's among the few surviving distros for 32-bit x86 kit. We hope to see it get a corresponding update.
- Going Ubuntu on an M1 Mac with Multipass: Thanks VM, it's Linux on the desktop
- Linux 5.16 to bring mainline support to Raspberry Pi 4 Compute Module – and the nifty devices built around it
- Bullseye! Debian-based Raspberry Pi OS scores an update with 'less closed-source proprietary code'
- Linux PC shop System76 is building a new desktop environment in Rust
The problem with Gtk is that it's a moving target. The GNOME Foundation develops Gtk in parallel with and for its own desktop. GNOME 40 was originally going to be called GNOME 4 and its corresponding version of Gtk still is.
It remains a controversial project – Linus too wasn't fond of the new look. Torvalds' other project is a dive-planning app called Subsurface; his co-developer Dirk Hohndel has talked about the difficulties of using Gtk and why they moved to Qt.
The Xfce desktop moved to Gtk3 quite a while before PIXEL, but not without difficulties. So did MATE, while facing accusations that the new version needed more memory. Now, they – and PIXEL – once again lag behind the current Gtk.
There's a small chance that in the longer term this could pan out to the advantage of the Qt desktops. There's at least one we'd love to see come back from the dead. ®
* With apologies to the maker of the "Felt Cute, Might Delete Later" (Squidward) meme, people on social media who are trying to seem humble, and all the people who make fun of them...