What is a shell?

That such.

A few hours ago I posted about GNOME Shell and its future and a reader made reference to something that I consider important to consider, What is a shell ?.

Well by definition we have: In computing, the term shell is used to refer to those programs that provide a user interface to access the operating system services. These can be graphics or plain text, depending on the type of interface they use. Shells are designed to facilitate the way in which the different programs available on the computer are invoked or executed..

It should be noted that there are 2 types of Shell and these are:

Common text shells as bash, emacs, Windows command prompt, among others.

Common chart shells as GNome, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, Unity, MacOS Desktop Environment, Windows Desktop, among others.

So we can summarize that the Shell is in a few words the desktop environment (DE) or Windows Manager (WM) that we use to work on our PC's, regardless of the distribution that we use either through GUI's (graphical environments) or by the terminal regarding the interaction we require to be able to use the services and applications offered by the operating systems.

This same definition can then be applied to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, whether with Android, iOS or Windows Phone; since the latter are operating systems with a preconfigured DE or WM.

So, KDE is a Shell, XFCE is a Shell, LXDE is a Shell, iOS is a Shell, Android is a Shell, Windows Phone is a Shell, the terminal is a shell (via bash), so what can we say about GNOME 3 is regarding its interface and appearance nothing else. That the change was radical: YES.

KDE and / or members of the community experiment with an environment with a philosophy "similar" (not to say the same) as the one used by the Gnome project today, since by definition KDE can also be called the KDE Shell.

For all that is explained in the previous paragraphs, I can venture to say that GNOME 3 (Shell) has a future that some people like or others dislike.

NOTE: The definition and shell types I took from Wikipedia, the link is this.

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  1.   Adoniz (@ NinjaUrbano1) said

    Well, if that is the definition of a shell, then shells do have a future.

    But the desktop environment of Gnome (understand GNome-shell) does not have it unless it makes it more configurable as I had already said in the other post.


    I want to emphasize that I am not against the shells, only the gnome3 one, which in my opinion or according to my needs is not practical.


  2.   khourt said

    Okay !! It is now more or less clear ... I understood that Desktop Environments (DE) and Window Managers (WM) fall into the shell classification ...

    Thanks for the clarification

  3.   James said


    I think the entry and clarifications are perfect. I think that I knew more or less what a Shell was, although it is true that it comes to refresh the concepts and to know and not forget that I try not to stop being a shell (command line). It is one more interface but of text. I think of a desktop manager as the sum of a WM + Shell + other tools. It is partly curious or accidental to have included this entry because I was now wondering how I could install Arch (minimal installation), without installing Gnome Shell, to install Cinnamon (which I understand is another Shell). I don't know if I can do it using certain parameters with pacman (–ignore or something like that). And I would like to install LightDM-Ubuntu instead of GDM and if possible not install Nautilus to try another like Nemo, Pantheon, etc. A bit like Cinnarch does but doing it myself. But it is a simple comment because I already said that I was casually thinking about how NOT to install Gnome Shell in exchange for another and thus install the essentials.

    Greetings and thanks for the article;).

  4.   Windousian said

    No need to invent definitions. The official "shell" for KDE SC 4 is called Plasma and has little to do with GNOME Shell (thankfully). The official "shell" for GNOME 3 is called GNOME Shell because its developers wanted it that way. And considering KDE as an environment (not as the community that it is) can be accepted in informal conversations but it is a mistake (Wikipedia can say mass) because those who develop KDE SC 4 have not accepted this simplification for a long time. In GNOME they have another policy, both the community and the environment are named the same.

    1.    Adoniz (@ NinjaUrbano1) said

      Now that I think about it you are right, and I also do not agree that lxde is a shell, it is only a desktop environment like XFCE and others, but as I said, the bad shell is the gnome of the others there is no complaint, who may have Plasma complaints (Unless you installed it on a computer with 256 ram).


    2.    elav said

      Exact. I think there is something interesting in what you contribute: KDE (informally speaking) is not a Shell, but a Desktop Environment, and Plasma is the Shell of KDE. Maybe I'm wrong, but the concepts of Shell and DE have nothing to do with it.

      1.    Windousian said

        I don't consider them the same either. For me one thing is the desktop (the graphical interface that follows the desktop metaphor) and another thing is the desktop environment (where the desktop and other components are included). This can be confusing but can be assimilated with examples. GNOME 3 is a desktop environment and GNOME Shell, Unity, etc. are desktops (GUI or graphical "shells").

        1.    elav said

          Exactly, Desktop is where we have the wallpaper, the panel, the trash icons and so on. Desktop Environment are all the tools and elements that work on the Desktop and Shell is an ornament that we put on the desktop or a new desktop 😀

          1.    José Miguel said

            If you are convinced that you are right, perhaps you should get Wiquipedia out of its error ...
            It is a source considered reliable but not infallible and in this matter, it seems that it is wrong, or not? ...


          2.    Windousian said

            @ José Miguel, Wikipedia is controlled by some soulless beings that people call librarians. Their toys are not worth touching (unless you want to be one of them).

            Wikipedia contradicts itself on many of its pages. You just have to see what they write about Unity in these links:

            Apparently Unity is a desktop environment built for the GNOME desktop environment. It is like a matrioska.

    3.    sieg84 said

      that's why "KDE SC"

  5.   Jorge Manjarrez said

    Well, I only made this post by reference to a comment that seemed very timely. Everyone is right in their statements and comments and as KDE is a DE and Plasma the shell, I consider that gnome unifies these 2 instances into 1 single one. If the idea is good or bad, I don't know, if it has a future, time will tell.

    I believe that gnome is gradually giving shape and substance to this "new" DE + Shell and the changes and improvements have been made in revision 6 and the future revision 8 include other tools that allow a little more ease (especially for GUIsers ), since by terminal and making adjustments to the CSS you can obtain a visually pleasing environment and a more practical work desk.

  6.   truko22 said

    I have a question regarding unity is a gnome 3 shell made in Qt? Regarding KDE, I understand what Windóusico has expressed «The official shell of KDE SC 4 is called Plasma»

  7.   Rolo said

    the point is that the Gnome3 shell is based on JavaScript and CSS, that is what differentiates GNOME from other desktop environments and that is why when talking about gnome shell we are talking about something different

    PS: and hold on gnome shell !!!

  8.   Piayet said

    [quote = piayet] [quote = piayet] Can someone tell me what is the difference between Gnome 3 and Gnome Shell? [/ quote]
    haha capo, thanks for the answer ...

  9.   Shinta said

    Mine is the only comment with windows hehehee xd

  10.   mfcollf77 said

    Hello everyone

    I want someone to help me with how to install programs that run under windows in FEDORA 17

    I tried from the TERMINAL but it tells me that there is a file installed that requires another version.

    At the moment I do not remember it but it is something like config and a version and the one that was installed is I went to the web of this file or drivers and there it seems the one that asks me in the terminal when it gives me error but when wanting to install it tells me that an updated version is installed.

    The idea I have is to uninstall the latest version and then install the older version. only in linux I don't know what the command would be to uninstall that.

    Or if there are other programs besides wine and virtualization to install. so try another and maybe run ...

    The other thing is that I have the messenger installed but the ones that were installed only connect the hotmail messenger. I mean with my hotmail account and yahoo sends an error.

    And finally, where do I find a player that has a good sound like windows media player 11 and version 12.

    what has fedora 17 doesn't have that good sound. it's that sorrund sound


    1.    Rolo said

      mfcollf77 why do not you ask the question in the forum that is not why?

  11.   YAFU said

    I do not blame the new ones, I have been a GNU / Linux user for years and these things still confuse me 🙂
    But it would be good if the author of the post did a little more research and correct the errors. Perhaps the very general concept of what a graphical shell is in computing may be somewhat correct, but not with the use of the word Shell in GNU / Linux.
    @elav has been quite successful in his concepts. Likewise, in Wikipedia (both in Spanish and in English) there is very good information.
    * Desktop Environments: KDE, GNOME, Xfce, LXDE, etc
    * Window Manager: KWin, Metacity, Mutter, Enlightenment, Xfwm, etc
    * Graphical user interface (User Iinterface): In KDE they call them Workspace and there are three: Plasma Desktop (Desktops), Plasma Netbook and Plasma Active (mobile devices). The latter is not entirely a Workspace but a graphical user interface.
    In GENOME we have GNOME Shell which is the official of the project and Unity for Ubuntu.

    1.    YAFU said

      From the comments I've read above, they appear to be right. Wikipedia in Spanish seems to be less reliable than the one in English.

      1.    Windousian said

        The most reliable thing is to consult the official pages of each project. This way you avoid mental cacaos.

        1.    YAFU said

          To be a bit more fair, any of us could edit and correct the Wikipedia entries. But I am also of the idea that to do that it is better to be very suitable in the subject having the greatest certainty of what is being written. And I think that is what happens with Wikipedia in Spanish, with the aim of collaborating, anyone adds entries even if they have not researched enough on the subject.
          I ask the blog author again to clarify the concepts, because just thinking that from an entry like this they can say that KDE is just a Shell, it gives me goose bumps 🙂

  12.   Bear said

    Good definition, thanks.

  13.   Manuel Trujillo said

    Perhaps I am wrong, but I think that what you indicate is not entirely correct, since if we apply your own definition, Gnome-Shell * if * is a shell, just like KWin, but never in any case would Gnome and / or KDE (I do not comment on the other desktops because I do not know them as well as these two).
    On the other hand, it could be more adjusted to your definition than any Window-Manager would be (AfterStep, Enlightenment, FluxBox, WindowMaker, Fvwm, etc). But even so they would not be so either, since to interact with the system the X system is involved, and a Window Manager would only be a shell to interact with the graphical X system (something that also, in a certain way, it would be applicable to the rest of desktops).
    But as I said, maybe I'm the wrong one ...

  14.   briseida iras lopez jimenez said

    I don't like shell 😛