I suspect, without proofs, that NixOS users are a little bit more
server than desktop, however I’m pretty convinced, again without
proof, that most NixOS users are “expert enough” to choose their
own environment(s) so the official ISO is probably mostly used by
new users to made their first NixOS personal deploy.
Create custom ISO, at any point in time, for instance from stable
channel, embedding personal configs, is super-easy to a point that
passing through official ISO after the first time is not much
If the above statements are true having official images/releases
with modern DE is a big work for developer and nothing much
interesting for end users. Users willing to use Kde or Gnome will
install it from their final config, regardless of the live default
environment, as any other desktop users for their favourite DE/WM.
A GNU/Linux “power user” could be interested in NixOS because of Nix
not because of Kde or Gnome default desktop experience. A newcomer
to GNU/Linux probably fail to use NixOS anyway since maintain a
config is not for that kind of users.
In release instead of ISO image terms, supporting Kde and Gnome is
something probably most users expect, even if they use some other
DE/WM, but the level of “polishing” might not be that critical.
Also personally I think that in a not so far future Gnome will be
GnomeOS, Kde will be something similar, so painful to be used
outside that most distros will drop them. Only an official distro
for one and the other will remain… They have go far past the
level of usability in *nix terms already…
Long story short IMVHO a default with something really neutral in
modern terms, like XFCE, it might be far simpler and made most
users happy enough. People like me using EXWM do not be much
annoyed by such “lightweight” desktop, People who like modern DE
would not be lost in XFCE, a default nice theme (like Xubuntu)
might be enough for all.
Local docs with an well visible “launcher” like NixOS manual and
NixOS Wiki embedded, a not so basic CLI apps selection, perhaps
zsh with a modern prompt, completers&c active, optional fish,
elvish, bash, few GUIs like GParted for people willing to work via
GUI, a modern lightweight text editor, nvim and Emacs, a GUI file
manager (Xfe like, Thunar, does not matter much), a Browser.
That’s IMO the best experience a new user might like, just taking
a look a /r/unixporn (Reddit) can be a good index of users mean
Also IMO instead of build two giant ISO (Gnome and Kde) a minimal
CLI iso, a light GUI iso and an optional zfs iso to avoid questions
about zfs license, can be better for most users. Taking a look at
System Rescue (formerly SystemRescueCD) software selection can be
another good example to take.
Offer pre-made code to generate a custom ISO, encouraging that
practice, offer pre-made configs for LUKS+LVM+zfs, zfs directly,
with or without crypto, [LUKS+]LVM+zfs, [LUKS+]LVM+btrfs would
be a very nice addition.
I doubt that in the near future NixOS, while growing, will be a
“mainstream top distro” like Ubuntu, Fedora or Arch, so try to
“compete” in their terms is not much a battle worth doing. NixOS
goals are reproducibility, robustness, “buil-in IaC”, NixOps,
Disnix, … the rest is only obligatory boilerplate aside.
Sorry for the length and bad English…