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What makes a “lightweight” desktop environment lightweight?

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Over the last few days I was wondering what is a “lightweight” desktop. And I must say I couldn’t come up with an answer to that question.

I was considering various things like “being memory efficient” which I discarded for obvious reasons. First of all it’s difficult to measure memory usage correctly (I haven’t seen anyone, who provides numbers, doing it correctly, this includes especially Phoronix). And then it’s comparing mostly apples to oranges. Loading a high-resolution wallpaper might make all the difference in the memory usage. Also if desktop environment Foo provides features which are not provided by Bar it’s obvious that Foo uses more memory. But still it’s apples vs oranges. It’s not a comparison on memory, it’s a comparison of features. And of course one might consider the Time-memory-tradeoff.

So is it all about features?

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