If you’ve ever played with the Live CDs of the various flavours of Ubuntu, you would have noticed that, for example, if you already installed Ubuntu and then ran the Kubuntu Live CD, it would want to replace everything you’ve just done. But there are a couple of ways of getting Kubuntu and/or Xubuntu on the same system as your Ubuntu install, as you’ll soon see.
The base of each system is pretty much the same (it’s all Ubuntu), but what differs (quite dramatically) is the desktop environment each uses. Ubuntu uses Gnome, Kubuntu uses KDE, and Xubuntu uses Xfce. So really, all you will be doing is adding other desktop environments, which you can then log into via the Sessions button (depending on the theme you are using for your Login screen, the button could be called Options or similar).
This is actually quite easy to do, and you can pick between the fastest (or least-complicated) method and the one that involves the least downloading (KDE downloads can be pretty large – expect 200-500Mb on the first installation).
Now, if you’ve already got an Alternate CD handy, you can add it to your Software Sources (System > Administration) to save on downloading. When you go to install the required metapackage, the disc will be included in the search for files, saving you downloading them. This can save quite a bit of download time, but note that if most of the files are now outdated, the disc will be mostly skipped anyway. This is a good option for when the most current version isn’t that old yet.
An easier way to do it is just open Synaptic to install the package without worrying about adding an Alternate CD as a source. For Xfce, the download will be far less than even Gnome‘s files, but KDE will be quite large (so will the updates), but it should be worth it. Just note that if you’re on dial-up or something, you can cancel the download at any time, say No to continuing the install without the missing files when it complains, and simply start again next time. Unlike with Windows, the package manager will continue where it left off, as it resumes from partially-downloaded files!
If you would like to install Kubuntu/KDE, then the metapackage kubuntu-desktop will take care of everything. If you would like to try Xubuntu/Xfce, then the metapackage is xubuntu-desktop. That’s it! Just open Synaptic, search for and mark for installation either or both of those, and the next time you log in, you can choose another desktop environment.
If you want the easiest method by far, just paste one of the following into a terminal (the last one will install both KDE and Xfce in one go!):
sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop
sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop
sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop xubuntu-desktop
Just remember that when you log into another desktop environment, it will ask whether you want to make that the default, so choose to only do so for that session (or you can let it become the default if you’re planning to explore it over the next few logins, then just make Gnome the default again when you log back in there). All your files and programs will still be accessible, and even your desktop icons will be there (though not necessarily in the same layout as in Gnome) – everything will just look different, and some things will work differently, but you should have a lot of fun exploring your new desktop(s). You might even find, for example, that you prefer the zazz of KDE, or the minimalist simplicity of Xfce.
And if you find you’ve had your fun and don’t really need one or more of your desktop environments, you can just uninstall the metapackage(s) via Synaptic, or via the terminal:
sudo apt-get remove kubuntu-desktop
sudo apt-get remove xubuntu-desktop
sudo apt-get remove kubuntu-desktop xubuntu-desktop
Did this information make your day? Did it rescue you from hours of headache? Then please consider making a donation via PayPal, to buy me a donut, beer, or some fish’n’chips for my time and effort! Many thanks!