How to Switch Desktop Environments in Ubuntu/Debian From the Command Line

Switching Between Desktop Environments

To switch between desktop environments on a Debian based distro run the following command:

sudo update-alternatives --config x-session-manager

Then you should be presented with the desktop environments you have installed on your system so you can choose one of them:

There are 7 choices for the alternative x-session-manager (providing /usr/bin/x-session-manager).

Selection Path Priority Status
* 0 /usr/bin/mate-session 50 auto mode
1 /usr/bin/cinnamon-session 50 manual mode
2 /usr/bin/gnome-session 50 manual mode
3 /usr/bin/mate-session 50 manual mode
4 /usr/bin/startplasma-x11 40 manual mode
5 /usr/bin/startxfce4 50 manual mode
6 /usr/bin/xfce4-session 40 manual mode
7 /usr/libexec/gnome-flashback-metacity 40 manual mode

Press to keep the current choice[*], or type selection number:2
update-alternatives: using /usr/bin/gnome-session to provide /usr/bin/x-session-manager (x-session-manager) in manual mode

Then you can fill in the number corresponding to the desktop environment that you want and press enter.

Then you can logout and log back in, and the desktop launched should be the one that you selected.