Josh quite rightly pointed out that I could just as well choose a distro based on its package manager and after that install whatever desktop I wanted . Linux is after all perfectly modular.
Yet I don't work that way. Maybe it's laziness or lack of skill but I still distro hop to get the desktop I want. Why?
- Just the defaults, ma'am. I recommend Linux Mint for new users I migrate to Linux. A 90 year old lady doesn't want a customized spin - she just wants a Start button, a few icons on the desktop and a browser to check Facebook and email. Maybe she likes to use Libre Office occasionally. I find that Linux Mint's Cinnamon desktop gives her what she needs and I didn't have to tweak Arch or Debian to get it. Plus it looks great. You can get Cinnamon on many distros but Linux Mint does it best in my opinion.
- Wow that's purty. I could never get a vanilla Xfce install to look as good as MX-16, Antergos, or Manjaro. I just don't have the designer skills. So I distro hop.
- Horses for Courses. SuSE and Mageia really do a nice job with Plasma 5. Fedora and Debian have a great GNOME desktop. Each one doesn't look as good with the other guy's specialty. Trust me. I used to use Mandriva with GNOME and it was buggy as heck.
- Well sometimes it's better to keep it simple,stupid. When I installed Arch on my netbook I just wanted Xfce and a few simple programs for vacation use. I installed exactly what I needed and no more. It doesn't bother me that I don't have a drop dead gorgeous Xfce desktop in this case. I did put in a dark theme and that's about it. I don't think any other distro would have been so customizable - and I wanted to customize.