How to log into GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon

Sometimes you have to know exactly where to start

The modern Linux desktop operating system is far easier to use than you might expect. It includes the apps you need, a level of reliability you require, and added security you probably aren’t accustomed to. But before you can even start to use that modern miracle of a desktop, you have to first log in.

Logging in is second nature, right? It’s as simple as selecting a user and typing a password, correct? Yes and yes. However, with many Linux desktops the login screen offers a few options not found in other platforms. You may never use these features, but they’re there, just in case.

Let’s take a look at the login process for three of the top Linux desktops: GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon.

These instructions use Pop!_OS 18.10 for GNOME, KDE Neon for KDE Plasma, and Linux Mint 19.1 for Cinnamon.

If you have multiple desktops installed, there will be more options included with your Linux login screen. If there is only one desktop environment installed, you won’t have the option to switch.


The GNOME desktop login process is quite simple. For this example, let’s take a look at an installation that only includes the one desktop environment. Once you’ve booted the operating system, you’ll be greeted by the login screen. If the listed user is the one you want to log in with, use the Enter key on your keyboard and type the user password to log in.

If the user is not listed, follow these steps:

  1. Select Not Listed.

    Not Listed link on GNOME sign-in page
  2. Type the username to log in with and then use the Enter key on your keyboard.

    GNOME login screen.
  3. Type the user password and use the Enter key on your keyboard or press Sign In.

    Sign In button in GNOME
  4. Enjoy your desktop.

The username isn’t your full name, but rather the name you (or your administrator) created for you during the installation process. This could be just your first name, your first and last name (with no space), your first initial and last name, or some other combination.

From the GNOME login screen you can also enable the available accessibility options. To do this, click the stick figure icon in the upper right corner, and click to enable any of the features you need.

Options icon in GNOME

The GNOME login screen also allows you to shutdown the computer. To do this, click the system tray (three icons in the upper right corner) and then click the power button (circle with the intersecting line) from the drop-down.

Power button in GNOME

KDE Plasma

Although the KDE Plasma desktop offers a ton of customizable features, the KDE Plasma login screen limits what you can do. Instead of being able to select a keyboard, a desktop, accessibility options, etc., you can login with your username/password, (if available) select the desktop environment you want to use (if available), and shutdown or reboot the operating system.

KDE Plasma login screen.

To log into KDE Plasma, boot your computer and, when presented with the login screen, type your username and password, and then press Login. If the operating system includes more than one desktop environment, select which one you’d like to use by pressing the Session drop-down and making your selection.

Session menu in KDE Plasma

From the KDE Plasma login screen, you can also reboot or shutdown your computer. To do this, select either Shutdown or Reboot and the chosen action will occur.

Shutdown and Reboot commands in KDE Plasma

There’s not much more to the KDE Plasma login process.


Cinnamon is very similar to the GNOME login process. Once you’ve booted the computer, you’ll be greeted by the login window, where you can select the user and type your user password to login. To select a different user than the default, click on the user you want to log in with (below the Password entry window) and then type that user’s password. If you only have one user account on your computer, you will only see one user listed in the login screen.

Cinnamon desktop login window.

The Cinnamon desktop offers the ability to enable three accessibility options (Onscreen keyboard, High Contrast, and Screen Reader).

Options in Linux Cinnamon

By selecting the far right icon in the upper right corner, you can select to either Suspend (put the computer into hibernate) or Quit (shutdown the computer) the desktop.

Suspend and Quit commands in Linux Cinnamon

Easy Peasy

And that’s all there is to logging into three of the most popular Linux desktop environments. If you thought your first steps with Linux would be challenging, think again. The modern Linux platform is just as easy as is the process of logging in.