Sunday 11 March 2018

4 Best Display Managers for Linux

A display manager often referred as login manager is a graphical user interface you see when the boot process completes. It is responsible for loading the login window and then the desktop environment once you enter the credentials. 

In a X Windows System, a display manager presents the graphical login manager which starts a X server session once the username / password are entered. 

Being a Linux user, you never run out of alternatives; same is the case with Display Manager. There are many display managers which you can install and switch between, just to give yourself a new login screen. 

Question is, why would you like to switch your default display manager, and the answer is simple. 
  • You need a new login interface. 
  • You have to choose a display manager by yourself to set up for some distributions like Arch Linux. 
  • Your primary OS replaced the default display manager and you want the earlier one back - Ubuntu has switched to GDM3 from lightdm from Ubuntu 18.04. 
  • You want a lightweight display manager.
  • You love to be a minimalist, and want a console based display manager. 
In this article, we will see some of the popular display managers and the steps to install and switch between them. 

GDM3 : GNOME Display Manager

GNOME Display Manager 3 (GDM3) is the default diplsay manager for GNOME desktops and a successor to gdm.

  • In consistent to the look and feel o GTK/GNOME themed application. 
  • Options to select various desktop environments and windows managers. 
  • Virtual keyboard support. 
  • Regional settings and keyboard layouts can be set on per-login basis. 
Install GDM3

sudo apt-get install gdm3

Remove GDM3

sudo apt-get remove gdm3

Customizing GDM3

You can perform some basic customizations to GDM3 like changing the logo icon, display background and GTK theme. 
  • Edit the below file as root
  • Modify / Uncomment the desired settings, save and exit. 
  • Run the below command to reconfigure it, 
    sudo dpkg-reconfigure gdm3
  • Reboot and you will see the changes. 

X Display Manager - XDM

XDM is the default display manager for X Windows System. It's perhaps the oldest display manager introduced in 1988 and is very minimalist, both in feature and interface. 

  • It can manager X servers running on local machine or a remote X servers using XDMCP. 
  • It is highly configurable and most of the behaviour can be controlled by resource files and shell scripts. 
  • It provides a simple and straight forward graphical login prompt.
Install XDM

sudo apt-get install xdm

Remove XDM

sudo apt-get remove xdm


LightDM is a display manager from Canonical which was the default for Unity desktop environments. Being a lightweight, it is configurable and various themes are available. 

  • Cross desktop and allows multiple GUIs
  • Supports for all display-managers use cases
  • Simpler code base than GDM3, doesn't load GNOME libraries to work. 
  • Standards compliance (PAM, logind etc).
Install LightDM

sudo apt-get install lightdm

Remove LightDM

sudp apt-get remove lightdm

SDDM : Simple Desktop Display Manager

SDDM became the default display manager from KDE5 replacing kdm and comes by default with systems that run KDE like Kubuntu.

  • It is fast, simple and beautiful, with smooth, animated user interfaces.
  • Supports themes. 
  • Designers have premade components like textbox, combox for theme creation. 
Install SDDM

sudo apt-get install sddm

Remove SDDM

sudo apt-get remove sddm

How to replace your default Display Manager

I hope you already have installed a different display manager than the default one your system comes with. Lets see how you can replace it. 

Debian / Ubuntu based : 

sudo dpkg-reconfigure <display-manager-name>

You can repeat this process to switch between different display managers. Changes will take effect only after a reboot. 

Troubleshooting : In case something goes wrong in trying any of the above display manager in Linux, use CTRL + ALT + F1 to switch to console mode and then run the above command with the display manager that was working fine earlier!


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