How to Log in to GNOME, KDE Plasma, and Cinnamon

Sometimes you have to know exactly where to start

The modern Linux desktop operating system is easier to use than you might expect. It includes the apps you need, a level of reliability you require, and added security. But before you can start to use the modern Linux desktop, you must log in.

Logging in is as simple as selecting a user and typing a password. However, with many Linux desktops, the login screen offers a few options not found in other platforms. 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 multiple desktops are installed, there are more options included in the Linux login screen. If there is only one desktop environment installed, you don’t have the option to switch.

GNOME

The GNOME desktop login process is simple. For this example, let’s take a look at an installation that only includes the one desktop environment. Once you boot the operating system, you’re greeted by the login screen. If the listed user is the one you want to log in with, press the Enter key on the 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 press the Enter key on the keyboard.

    GNOME login screen.
  3. Type the user password, then press the Enter key or click 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 your first name, your first and last name (with no space), your first initial and last name, or another 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 the features you need.

Options icon in GNOME

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

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, and accessibility options, you can log in with your username and password (if available), select the desktop environment you want to use (if available), and shut down or reboot the operating system.

KDE Plasma login screen.

To log in to KDE Plasma, boot the computer and, when presented with the login screen, type your username and password, and then click Login. If the operating system includes more than one desktop environment, select which one you want to use by selecting the Session drop-down arrow and making a selection.

Session menu in KDE Plasma

From the KDE Plasma login screen, you can also reboot or shut down the computer. To do this, select either Shutdown or Reboot, and the chosen action occurs.

Shutdown and Reboot commands in KDE Plasma

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

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is similar to the GNOME login process. After you boot the computer, you’re greeted by the login window, where you can select the user and type your user password to log in. To select a different user than the default, click 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 only see one user listed on 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 (shut down the computer) the desktop.

Suspend and Quit commands in Linux Cinnamon