Common Desktop Environment (CDE)

Definition of Common Desktop Environment in the Network Encyclopedia.

What is Common Desktop Environment (CDE)?

Common Desktop Environment, also known as CDE, is a graphical user interface (GUI) developed by IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Hewlett-Packard for open systems on UNIX platforms. Common Desktop Environment (CDE) is a paradigm that is widely used in the UNIX industry. CDE is based on various industry standards including the X Window System (X11) release 5, X/OPEN, OSF/Motif 1.2, and others.

Common Desktop Environment (CDE)
Common Desktop Environment (CDE)

CDE is designed to provide users with a simple and consistent desktop interface that includes

  • Standard windows-management features
  • File-system browsing tools supporting multiple views
  • Customizable user interface–management tools for changing backdrops, mouse and keyboard settings, and screen savers
  • Extensive and easily accessed online help features
  • Multiple workspaces for increasing available desktop area

Systems that provided proprietary CDE

  • Digital UNIX
  • HP-UX: from version 10.10, released in 1996.
  • IRIX: for a short time CDE was an alternative to IRIX Interactive Desktop.
  • OpenVMS
  • Solaris: available starting with 2.3, standard in 2.6 to 10.
  • Tru64 UNIX
  • UnixWare
  • UXP/DS
  • Red Hat Linux: Two versions ported by Triteal and Xi Graphics


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