In graphical computing, a desktop environment (DE) commonly refers to a style of graphical user interface (GUI) that is based on the desktop metaphor which can be seen on most modern personal computers today.  Almost universally adopted in modern computers , these graphical interfaces are designed to assist the user in easily accessing and configuring (or modifying) the most important (or frequently accessed) specific OS packed features, yet it is not meant to give access to the whole vast feature set found in an OS, reason for which the traditional, yet more complicated and less intuitive, command-line interface (CLI) is still in use when full control over the OS is required.
A desktop environment typically consists of icons, windows, toolbars, folders, wallpapers, and desktop widgets. (See WIMP.) 
Software which provides a desktop environment might also provide drag and drop functionality and other features which make the desktop metaphor more complete. On the whole, a desktop environment is to be an intuitive way for the user to interact with the computer using concepts which are similar to those used when interacting with the physical world, such as buttons and windows.
While the term desktop environment originally described a style of user interfaces following the desktop metaphor, it has also come to describe the programs that provide the metaphor itself. This usage has been popularized by the Common Desktop Environment and The K Desktop Environment.