What is the difference between a desktop enviroment and a windows manager? Why do I need them both?
A desktop environment consists of a window manager, file manager, task manager, configuration tools, etc. A window manager just handles how windows are displayed, what type of borders they have and how they react to user input.
KDE uses the KWin window manager while Gnome uses the Sawfish window manager.
Do you need both a desktop and a window manager: No. For example I only use the window manager called Fluxbox. I don't need a file manager or other gui based configuration tools because I use the command line for that stuff. The advantage of using just a window manager is that the desktop is much more responsive and your not wasting cpu cyles and memory on bloated software.
Just to clarify KDE, Gnome, or any other "Linux GUI" you speak of, are not just native to Linux only. It is technically incorrect to classify a GUI as Linux only. Environments such as Gnome and KDE can run on many platforms, including Cygwin in Windows, FreeBSD, Solaris, etc.
At the moment I use "Common Desktop Environment," commonly known as "CDE" as my primary environment. It features a file manager and standard apps, and uses very little CPU cycles.
I've been a windows/dos guy my whole life. I'm pretty much trying to find something that mirrors windows 3.1 where the graphical enviroment is pretty much a visual shell for DOS. I have a computer than ran windows 98 pretty competently(pentium 233). I've tried KDE and that was horribly slow and bloated. People tell me that redhat should work at least as well as Win98 but that's BS. They tell me for my system I can only run the command line but if Win98 runs well then some sort of linux GUI should work at least as well. Any recommendations?
Like I said, there is no such thing as a "Linux GUI." Fluxbux, as dduardo has recommended, is pretty usable and features extensive menus. As a very, very lightweight WM, I'd recommend something like FVWM.
How much ram have you got FulhamFan3? What kind of video card? Updating the drivers/latest xserver might help.
64 MB ram on a 233 MHz. Video card is 8 MB orchid fahrenheit. It also has a Diamond Monster 3D add-on but I don't need that. I just want to run something to browse the web and check email without taking forever to open programs.
Separate names with a comma.