The Best Linux Desktop Environments for Touch-Enabled Monitor

Touchscreen laptops (and monitors) are all the rage right now. They’re super trendy as most operating systems on the market have really great multi-touch support. For example: if you have a touchscreen laptop running Windows 8.1, it can basically double as a tablet. The touch support is incredible.

On Linux, it is a different story. The touchscreen support is well … spotty and all over the place. Some desktop environments have amazing touch support, almost on par with Chrome OS or Windows. And others just treat your touchscreen like an extra mouse.

1. Gnome

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Version 3.14 of Gnome Shell saw some incredible touch integration, such as long-press to cut/select and paste (like on Android/iOS), some awesome touch-based gestures, on-screen keyboard and more.

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Besides all the new features Gnome 3.14 brought for touchscreens, it’s already a desktop environment that you should seriously use if you love touch. The way that Gnome Shell was put together makes it super simple to switch apps with your fingers. Just touch the “activities” button in the top left corner of the screen. You’ll be brought to an overview mode (much like Android’s open app area).  

When it comes to a touch-friendly desktop environment on Linux, Gnome should be your first choice.

2. Unity

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Besides Gnome Shell, there really isn’t a whole lot of competition in the “touch-friendly” desktop area. If you are serious about touch and are not a fan of Gnome, you should try Ubuntu’s Unity desktop environment.

Like Gnome, Unity supports touch-based gestures that you can use to navigate around the desktop. And they do have many multi-touch gestures. You can read a complete guide of all of them right here.

Along with these gestures, Unity (like Gnome Shell) was designed with the possibility of touch in mind. Switching through applications is fairly easy to do with touch because of the nice dock on the left-hand side. Just tap on an app with your finger to get going!

Though Unity is only really available on Ubuntu, that shouldn’t discourage you. When it comes down to it, the desktop is a really great option for touchscreen fans. Everything is fairly well-designed and easy to navigate by fingertip.

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So you’ve read about the above desktops and decided that you’d rather not use them, but you still want a decent touchscreen experience on Linux. What do you do? Not much actually. All you really need to do is install a tool or too.

The first tool you can install is known as Touchegg. What does it do? Well, it can interpret trackpad-like gestures (two-finger scroll, etc.) you make on your touchscreen and turn them into touch events. It’s actually really cool.

Using touchegg will give you a roughly similar experience to using Gnome or Unity. It will not be as slick, as good looking or as functional. If that doesn’t bother you, download this small little program, add it to your startup programs and enjoy your new touch experience on your favorite desktop!

Note: the instructions for how to install touchegg are located on the page in which you download it from.

When it comes to touch, Linux still has a long, long way to go. With touchscreen-based computers becoming incredibly popular, it has never been more apparent that Linux developers need to step up their game.