Most of the free discussion prior to the presentation was about X and graphics, which led directly into the presentation.
Presentation: X, Window Managers, and Desktop Environments
Carl showed that running the X server simply puts up a blank screen that can read the keyboard and mouse…but nothing else. Pressing ctrl-alt-backspace is the only way to exit X when no clients are running. By running xinit, the X server runs the default X client, namely xterm. There is very little that can be done with the window, since it doesn’t have any “dressing” like a title bar with buttons. Inside the terminal, running twm provides a minimal window manager, creating a title bar with buttons and the ability to drag and drop the window. Running killall twm and then metacity reveals a more robust window manager.
We talked about various features that were missing, even with a window manager. These include task bars, status panels, application menus, file managers, and screensavers, among others. Desktop Environments provide these enhancements. Some common desktop environments are GNOME, Cinnamon, Unity, KDE, Xfce, MATE, and Enlightenment. Each of these environments are built from a selection of smaller programs which can be customized by the end user.
Next we watched a YouTube video about the graphical user environment (GUI). I skipped the first 20 seconds and the remaining material followed up nicely, giving examples along the way. Many thanks to Joe Collins!