Are there "native" GUIs for NetBSD?

I was reading the NetBSD 7.1 review by @trashHeap, where e mentions:

It ships with no graphical desktop by default. It’s meta packages for the graphical desktops available seem to be pretty minimal as a conscious choice.


In some ways it isn’t fair to talk about graphic desktops and third party software when reviewing NetBSD as the way the OS is designed and curated such software is clearly separate from the core system and comes ultimately from another vendor. It feels a bit like dwelling on Google Chrome in a Windows review. Yet at the same time a graphical desktop is so synonymous with our modern day concept of an operating system.

Are there native GUIs for *BSD? I’ve been pecking at BSD-stuff lately, and I am leaning towards a server, rather than desktop system. Then I can get all that awesome stability, and keep optimizing my GNU home system.

I know there is a GNOME pkg, but whenever I read up on it, the package seems like it is holding on by a thread; it may just be expectation management.

So, are there “native” NetBSD GUIs? :slight_smile:

This is kind of a complex topic, so ill try and turn my verbosity down a notch or two.

Gnome + SystemD have been increasing their reliance on direct reliance on the Linux kernel and working to expose specific Linux kernel functionality to their userland processes. It’s not a bad thing per se but it does mean a lot of GNU/Linux desktop technologies are increasingly less cross platform when it comes to the BSDs. Historically recent examples of this are kdbus, flatpack, ostree, various sub daemons within the systemD project.

As a result all of the BSDs have kind of a weird spread of DE problems and strategies for coping with this. OpenBSD most notably is building a series of shims under the heading systembsd.

DEs which have fewer dependencies on Linux Kernel specific technologies tend to run better. XFCE compiled without Gnome VFS works excellent on NetBSD for example. ( If you forgo Gnome VFS you will want to use something like xfce4-mount-plugin to mount devices for you and a correctly written fstab. )

Not neccisarily on NetBSD but a lot of *BSD folks in general have also gravitated towards KDE and QT based DEs which has done less of this style of thing than Gnome which has made it’s upkeep a little better.

I haven’t surveyed all of the minor DEs out their on NetBSD as in GNU/Linux I was mostly a Gnome or Xfce guy and so far in NetBSD im mostly an XFCE or Openbox guy. Mate for example looks to be well maintained at first glance.

There is an effort inside of True OS to create and maintain a BSD first DE called Lumina Desktop. Its fairly young but worth keeping an eye on, though it’s NetBSD package is restricted to the work-in-progress repository.

This linux-ification problem by the way isn’t restricted to DEs it is unfortunately increasingly common for large free software projects. Mozilla briefly for a few versions droped the standard BSD sound system, because the view over there was that it was legacy back from when the Linux kernel supported it pre-pulse audio. Docker kind of exploded around linux containers, even though FreeBSD jails are more feature rich and is only now circling back to BSDs. Etc, etc.


I do want to emphasize for a second that some of my discussion there youve cited isn’t meant to imply that there are no GUI options supported by NetBSD (though they only have a few). But just to highlight NetBSD and BSDs in general draw a really sharp distinction between their OS and their package collections in a way GNU/Linux distros do not.

NetBSD in some ways more so, in that pkgSrc is in some respects an entirely separate project.

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Thanks for the follow-up! :slight_smile:

TrueOS ships with Lumina. How is that distro? It seems like it is a specific expression of FreeBSD, but I never hear it included when folks discuss BSD, so what is your sense of how popular or useful it is?

I know this is your opinion, so no worries on accuracy. New Linuces(?!) are popping up all the time, I have a hot take on most of them out of the gate. What is yours, regarding TrueOS? :slight_smile:

TrueOS is kind of in a wierd state right now.

A year and a half ago they were known as PC-BSD and youve probably heard a lot of people talk up PC-BSD in the past.

They rebranded and switched their development model to a rolling release of FreeBSD current all in the past year. Theyve lost and gained developers and users in this transition and their branding is new, they themselves are not new. (Though Lumina is).

By and large the people ive encountered or heard from using it are people who are very comfortable switching between it and FreeBSD for various tasks.

TrueOS would be on my short list of BSD’s to try out if I were not using NetBSD right now.

IXSystems also is the corporate backer of TrueOS. One thing I learned recently IXSystems can trace it’s heritage back to Berkeley Software Design, Inc, which can trace it’s history to near the beginning of the whole BSD thing. There is a lot of BSD and Unix history tied up with them.