10 Best Lightweight Desktop Environment for Arch Linux

best desktop environment for arch

Arch Linux is a popular Linux distro due to its adherence to simplicity and is not resource-intensive. Arch is one of several lightweight distros out there that can give life to older hardware. It’s popular with Linux enthusiasts with older computers and for beginners who really want to get familiar with the command line. The key however to adopt any Linux distro is stability and an easy-to-use desktop environment. So, this time we discuss the desktops worthy of being called the best desktop environment for Arch.

Since Arch can be used on older hardware and its popularity leads to it being preferred over other lightweight distros, there’s the question of usability. Arch Linux is meant for beginners but its focus on the command line puts it among advanced distros. It’s all about the desktop environment though, what’s usable, what’s fast, and what’s customizable. Users can always play with the command line sometime later.

① XFCE

XFCE is always a good option for a desktop environment, especially for lightweight distributions. XFCE visuals are quite appealing without using too much processing power. For command-line users, they don’t mind having XFCE as their environment, while other Arch users on older hardware appreciate it for its quick response time, simplicity, and usability. XFCE is the default environment for other distros such as Kali, Manjaro, Linux Lite, and Xubuntu.

XFCE is not too easy on the eyes with its dated interface design and lack of animations, but that’s for obvious reasons, to keep Arch simple and quick. And for command-line users on distros like Arch, it’s the functionality that matters. It’s not completely boring either as it allows for some customization. Overall, XFCE is definitely a good desktop environment for Arch.

How to install XFCE on Arch? Open a terminal and type: $ sudo apt install xfce4

② i3wm

i3wm or i3 is another lightweight desktop environment for Arch – simple, stylish, and somewhat nostalgic. If you see dark neatly tiled windows in TV and film, it’s likely Arch Linux with i3wm. Like XFCE, it’s minimal and fast so it keeps Arch running on older hardware. It also beat Windows 11 with its tiling scheme. It’s not for beginners though, nor for casual users shifting from Windows as there are no resizing buttons nor edges, but still customizable and that customization is what will make it fairly usable. Consider i3wm a challenge if you want style, which makes you look like a badass.

How to install i3wm on Arch? Click this to know how.

③ KDE Plasma

KDE Plasma makes older systems look beautiful with it on top and Arch under the hood. For those looking to revive their older desktops, learn Linux but maintain a sense of familiarity, then KDE Plasma is a good choice for the best desktop environment for Arch. Despite its pretty exterior, KDE Plasma also takes little resources, but not as little as XFCE. This desktop is keyboard-friendly with familiar shortcuts for keyboard lovers, has a good file manager, good touch screen support, plenty of useful apps, and an easy-to-use software center.

On older systems, it can slow Arch down because like makeup, it can be expensive on meager resources. Additional beauty can also drain batteries, but KDE Plasma can also be customized to chip away some of that beauty and make it run faster.

Click this to know how to install KDE Plasma on Arch.

④ Deepin Desktop Environment

When it comes to Linux, including Arch, the main draw is usually the desktop environment or user interface. Arch with Deepin DE is a great choice as not only does it look attractive, Deepin looks quite simple and easy to use. Those used to Windows and Macs will feel right at home with an old system running Arch with Deepin on top. The interface is highly customizable and can be made to behave like Windows or macOS. It’s relatively fast and responsive, depending on how old or low tier the system is. Plus, its Appstore has plenty of apps that take advantage of its UI.

How to install Deepin on Arch? Click on this link.

⑤ MATE

MATE Desktop Environment is another beautiful and lightweight desktop environment for many Linux distributions including Arch. It’s based on good old Gnome 2 which many older Linux users loved; hence it works fast on older machines, making it a perfect desktop environment for Arch users doing casual work. Gnome 2 was well-liked, but since Gnome 2 itself is no longer available, MATE has become its spiritual successor and has proven itself among many Linux users. It’s performance and simple look is always welcome to casual Linux users.

How to install MATE on Arch? Open a terminal and type: $ sudo apt install mate-desktop-environment

⑥ LXDE

LXDE stands for Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment which is another popular lightweight desktop environment that’s perfect for Arch. It’s a great desktop environment for many Linux users who like things simple. LXDE also makes the transition of Windows users to Linux somewhat painless as it emulates the interface of Windows XP and below. Arch with LXDE is perfect for reviving old netbooks and laptops, making them usable for kids due to its low RAM and CPU requirements. It’s not a thing of beauty compared to MATE and Deepin but it gets the job done.

How to install LXDE on Arch? Open a terminal and type: $ sudo apt install lxde

⑦ LXQt

LXQt is a variant of LXDE but developed using Qt GUI toolkit. It’s as lightweight as LXDE but is designed to look more modern. It’s still lightweight and is used in many distributions as a default desktop. It’s also customizable and its appearance is at par with MATE and LXDE.

How to install LXQt on Arch? Open a terminal and type: $ sudo apt install lxqt

⑧ Budgie

Budgie is for Linux users who like the Gnome desktop look but can do without the bloat. It actually looks simpler than Gnome as it’s designed to help the users focus more on work. The main Budgie menu is both mouse and keyboard friendly. The system is easily configured using its all-in-one center called Raven. Budgie is simple and attractive and also lightweight as most of those in this list of best desktop environments for Arch. So, if you have an old system you want to revive and get work done, Budgie would be a nice desktop environment for Arch or any other distro that supports it.

How to install Budgie on Arch? Click on this link

⑨ Trinity Desktop Environment

Trinity Desktop Environment or TDE looks like something from the 90s and would be a nice desktop environment for Arch if you’re into nostalgia and simplicity. Even the music player looks like WinAmp. For others, this lightweight desktop environment would get dated fast with its Windows 95-like appearance. TDE is actually a variant of KDE. Some modifications made after KDE version 3.5 didn’t sit well with fans, so TDE was created to become KDE 3’s spiritual successor. TDE was also designed for people who don’t like both hands leaving the keyboard with easy-to-remember shortcuts and key controls for most graphical elements. So, fans of the old KDE who want something similar for Arch should be at home in this desktop environment.

How to install TDE on Arch? Open the Terminal and enter the following commands:
echo “deb http://ppa.quickbuild.pearsoncomputing.net/trinity/trinity-r14.0.0/debian $(lsb_release -sc) main” | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/trinity.list
echo “deb http://ppa.quickbuild.pearsoncomputing.net/trinity/trinity-builddeps-r14.0.0/debian $(lsb_release -sc) main” | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/trinity-builddeps.list
sudo apt-key adv –keyserver keyserver.quickbuild.pearsoncomputing.net –recv-keys F5CFC95C
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install kde-trinity

⑩ Cinnamon

Like TDE, Cinnamon is the reaction to a good desktop environment gone bad. When GNOME changed its desktop paradigm with GNOME 3, Cinnamon was born from the ashes of GNOME 2 courtesy of the Linux Mint development team. Cinnamon’s simplicity and familiarity go well with Arch. It’s not exactly lightweight but running this on top of Arch will allow older systems to be usable again. Like MATE, which is also based on GNOME 2, Cinnamon has plenty of effects that users can enable/disable depending on how old or powerful their system is. Speaking of effects, Cinnamon is also known for its flexibility or customization. Theming is common practice for Cinnamon users and other stuff can be added, such as applets, desklets, and various extensions that can fully customize the UI.

How to install Cinnamon on Arch? Open a terminal and type this command: $ sudo pacman -S cinnamon nemo-fileroller

Conclusion

So, if you want to bring back an old system and use it for a contemporary setting, going with Linux, using lightweight distros like Arch is the way to go. To make Arch usable for casual users, choose some of these desktop environments. And if it gets too complicated, there are distros out there based on Arch with any of these desktop environments pre-installed, like Manjaro with KDE Plasma, ArcoLinux with XFCE, Parabola with LXDE, and so on.