Gnome vs KDE

Gnome vs KDE


It appears this old argument is flaring up again. On Linux.com there was an article discussing some recent posts on the Linux Foundation's Desktop Architects mailing list: Christian Schaller suggested Linus Torvalds should try using Gnome for a month and then report back on his experiences at the forthcoming GAUDEC conference in the UK. Inspired by this I've decided to take up the challenge – all be it in the opposite direction (and I won't be reporting back at GAUDEC!).

I haven't used KDE in well over a year, and when I did I only used it for a few days, so I have very few expectations about what I'm going to find. The reason I've never really tried KDE before is that Gnome hasn't given me any reason to switch: I've always been very happy with it and I guess it might be fair to say I'm something of a Gnome fan. Despite this I promise to try and stay as impartial as possible! I've just installed KDE on this system and this week I plan to report back on my first impressions. I'm hoping that things I might find different or difficult to begin with will be highlighted here and some kind people will point me in the right direction so I can have the best possible experience.

Logging in for the first time seemed to take quite a while to reach the desktop so this persuaded me to compare the two desktops in terms of speed: this first login was a bit of a fluke because when I switched back to compare this with Gnome the second login seemed a lot quicker. In fact I would say that KDE actually feels a bit sharper than Gnome across the entire desktop with applications starting quicker, specifically Firefox – a great start for KDE!

My first major gripe, though, is the desktop pager and keyboard short-cuts! I'm a big fan of multiple desktops and find it to be very useful in Gnome; I'm also a big fan of being able to very easily switch desktops with the keyboard short-cut ctrl+alt+right which is set by default in Gnome. This seems as obvious and important to me as ctrl+alt is for switching open windows - yet in KDE it was not set by default. I've heard this sort of point raised before with people suggesting that Gnome opts for sensible defaults where as KDE expects the user to configure everything just the way they like it; I'm starting to believe this is true! I was able, however, to quickly find the Keyboard and Mouse options menu and set the short-cut myself. At this point in my journey I'm leaning more towards the Gnome way of doing things; perhaps after a month I will have been seduced by the infinite configurability of KDE and the satisfaction of making things just so.

While trying to sort out the above problem I found the System Settings menu which I actually thought was very good, as are all the settings' dialogues throughout: although I'm not convinced they're laid out in the most intuitive way they are very thorough and give quite a few more options than is immediately obvious in Gnome's menus and and applications. For example Kopete's options were clearly labelled and I immediately discovered how to change my screen name and set a display picture, something which is not that apparent in Gaim (although this has been improved in version 2).

I'm also looking forward to giving Konqueror a good work out. I've heard lots of positive things about its speed and the quality of its rendering engine so I'm interested to see what these are like in the real world; not forgetting to mention its reputation as a brilliant file manager! I haven't really had much need for Konqueror yet so you'll have to wait until my final thoughts in a month's time (bet you can't wait!!).

I guess the final point I'll make regarding my first experiences with KDE is that it seems messy: everything looks very busy and I'm finding it quite difficult to pick out individual applications from the K menu, to pick out individual users in Kopete, icons in the system tray etc which makes navigation as a whole a bit less natural. Still I hear it's all customizable so I'll start playing around and see if I can set things up how I like! It would seem to me at this early stage that Gnome makes a lot more sense out of the box...

I realise this was very brief but I've not been using KDE for long! I'll write again in a months time and let you know all the things that have driven me crazy, the things that I've loved, and whether or not I'll decide to stay with KDE.

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Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

It's worth knowing that System Settings is a customised control centre programme which is unique to Kubuntu, and distributions based on it, such as gNewSense-KDE. You should try out the official KDE control centre, KControl, as well, which you may or may not prefer, to get a proper impression of that aspect of KDE.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Your short biased "review" is essentially flawed. The way a desktop as flexible as KDE is set by default depends (attention!) *A LOT* on the distribution you take for a ride. Do not expect neither Slackware not even the "user friendly" Kubuntu to make the homework for you.
Nevertheless, in distributions where being rock solid barebones (with all my respects to Slack) or marketing fuss matters less than real world usability, KDE sports everything you seemed to yearn. This is mainly the case of PCLInuxOS and, to a certain extent, MEPIS.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

In KDE, you switch Desktops by pressing Ctrl+F1.....F12. I think this is way simpler than pressing Ctrl+Alt+Right repeatedly.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

It might be way simpler, but it conflicts with tabbed applications like Firefox. You see, CTRL+F4 is the shortcut for closing a tab and when you try to do that in Firefox under KDE, you end up staring at Desktop #4.

Ryan Cartwright's picture

The default shortcut for closing a tab within Firefox is either Ctrl+F4 OR Ctrl+W. As Ctrl+W will do the same on both Opera and IE7, it could be argued (in today's most-popular-wins culture) of being a de-facto standard. :o)

Apps and the Window manager are always going to clash on shortcuts. Heck even between Firefox and its own extensions there are conflicts.

Firefox maps Ctrl+Shift+F to re-open last closed tab (very handy)
WebDeveloper toolbar maps it to Display Element Information (even handier). Firefox overrules WDT on that one though.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

In your very first paragraph, albeit, not "all be it".

Albeit - Even though; although; notwithstanding: "Jonathan holds some strong opinions, albeit he is an idiot."

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I changed the default for switching desktops so long ago that I don't remember what it was originally set to, but I find having Alt+Tab for windows, Win+Tab for desktops, and Ctrl+Tab for browser tabs makes them all very easy to switch between.

I agree completely with the messy menus comment. This is one thing I like better about GNOME. I have to switch to just using the program's name in the menu for KDE because the description in parenthesis is very cluttering. And if you leave the default and install GIMP it will appear as GIMP Image Editor (Image Editor). Very annoying. If every .desktop file listed what should appear in the menu in the Name entry like the GNOME apps do everything would be much nicer.

Chad
http://linuxappfinder.com

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

One thing I found in KDE: when you put mouse pointer over desktop switcher KDE pops a bubble with list of apps in that desktop. Gnome does not do that (or I could not find the setup for it). I find this to be useful when you forgot which desktop your app is in (saves you from switching between desktops while searching for it).

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

For years I was also a big gnome fan but recently, since the whole Microsoft/Novell get-together I decided to try a new distro - which I fell in love with. PCLinuxOS is everything I have ever wanted but I had to get used to KDE to use it. It didn't take too long but I still find myself going into the Xterm to do a lot of things, because its just more efficient!
But I would recommend to you trying out OpenSuse 10.2's interpretation of both KDE and Gnome. As much as I dislike Novell for their contract with the devil I can't put down the wonderful work the opensuse community has done - I adore their Gnome setup because it is so pretty and serene - and although I havnt spent much time with their KDE setup, it seems that the K-menu is MUCH easier to use. If I knew how I would put their menu on PClinuxOS - and Im sure its easy - if you find out, would you let me know how?
Good luck with this new experience.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

While most experts uses the keyboard short-cut, some new users like me prefer to use the mouse (as in desktop).

With this in mind, I am not able to switch virtual desktop in Gnome while in KDE, I can right click on Pager -> Configure Desktop -> Enable Mouse Wheel Over Desktop.

Most of us find this indispensible :-)

Anonymous coward

guydjohnston's picture

It's worth knowing that System Settings is a customised configuration programme unique to Kubuntu and its derivatives, such as gNewSense-KDE. You should also try out the official programme, KControl, to get a proper idea of that aspect of KDE.

--
GNU - free as in freedom

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

You can set up mouse gestures in Konqueror the way they work in FFox and you'll see big increase in navigation speed.

Anonymous coward ;))

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Since when does ctrl-alt switch between open windows? I've always used alt-tab to switch windows since the dawn of time, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. This is the default in Windows, MacOS and KDE. Even AfterStep, back when I used that, among many others I had no idea Gnome used ctrl-alt. What an odd duck, I never would've guessed it off-hand.

As far as the first login goes, it always takes a little while longer because KDE sets up its configuration files in your home directory. Every subsequent login is MUCH faster.

If you wanted a more organized K Menu, then openSUSE's version would have been a better choice than Kubuntu. Some have complained about the odd navigation, but a few weeks of using it convinced me that it's a much better way to organize a menu. Far less cluttered, without the endless panes of cascading lists that can reach into infinity.

The best advice I have is to give the KDE apps a chance instead of running your usual Gnome apps within KDE. The magic of KDE comes from the integration of all the apps and utilities. Opening, editing and saving text files in Kate transparently over ftp is a good example of this. I've never been able to do this properly in Gnome.

On the other hand, I still prefer Evolution to KMail for my IMAP mail. Not all the KDE apps are suitable for my needs.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

When will PETA get involved and stop you people from beating this poor dead horse?

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I use KDE at work and Gnome at home. I think Gnome feels better all around, and seems more stable. I like some of the advanced features like KDE's printer control panel (how you can scan a subnet). However, I too feel KDE is cluttered and loaded with tons of things I have no use for. I personally don't like how everything has to start with a "K" either. It can be summed up Gnome feels more like Mac OS X, and KDE feels more like Windows. I am very excited for KDE 4 and hope oxygen and plasma deliver!

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

My day-day desktop is Windows, but right next to it, I have a KDE desktop. I work in an environment that demands a WIndows PC - Oh well.

As per your observation, I started using KDE back in the 0.xx days, and got to know it and had no need to change. These days, with the open desktop standards, I find that all the cool aps pulling me towards Gnome work just as well with KDE.

As far as finding the interface messy, I get a little lost in Gnome. I rememer that going from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 freaked me out, and I found it very tiring and distressing for 10 or 11 years after that (actually a week or so pulled it up, but I am still finding stuff in XP). I think a lot of the usability of the GUI comes from learning the visual cues etc. As another example, OS-X really confuses the hell out of me, but only as I haven't taken the time to sit and learn what the obvious, intuitive intereactions are meant to be like.

All power to the KDE/Gnome battle. We are seeing both environments move ahead in leaps and bounds, trying things out (and failing in some cases), but in general, moving in the same direction: a full featured usable desktop, with shared standards and a choice. Sharing when they can, and competing/disagreeing when the need arises. Any given battle may be won by the other, but they both win by being able be different. The big players can't afford to experiment like this.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I've begun an explanation of why both KDE and Gnome suck on my site.

(http://www.foreverdean.info/kevin/?p=15)

I don't propose that some other option is better, merely that both projects need work. It seems in my mind that the biggest downfall of both Gnome and KDE is that they each work with the other quite poorly.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I am about a week ahead of you. I am running a triple boot Oubuntu PC (Ubuntu, Edubuntu and Kubuntu) and this is my first experience with K. While I am using Amarok and K3B at home with Fedora Core 6 in Gnome, I wanted to really give KDE an honest trial. So far I am not enjoying it. While many of the programs are excellent (like the aforementioned Amarok and K3B) and the configuarbility will be a bonus in the future, at the present most of the settings are not intuitive for me and I am .... uncomfortable, rubbed the wrong way, grouchy in ways that I can only express in terms that are silly. Like, I am sick to death of K-this and K-that. I know this isn't the real reason, but the reason is hiding beneath that blue desktop somewhere in a subliminal folder. Probably I'll be able to address it later, but this first week hasn't been happy.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I recently set up our users (non technical people) with gnome (ubuntu). One by one they are all asking to be set up with kubuntu.

As someone who used gnome for two years until a couple of months ago, I can ubiasedly say KDE is just all round a better desktop and this despite distros pushing gnome as their default.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

KDE is more glitz and eye candy. I started with KDE pretty much because it had that "snazzier" appearance. Later I gave Gnome a more fair trial and I must say I enjoy it's more robust nature over the glitz of KDE.

I believe the reason your "users" are wanting KDE is simply it's glitzier nature and the fact the "grass seems greener". Let them frolick in the KDE fields a few months, break things and decide then.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I personally installed Ubuntu and the Kubuntu on top, so I can use all the main progs in the one desktop.

I wonder how the Kubuntu development will go now that there will be collaboration with Linspire!

Al Kelly's picture
Submitted by Al Kelly on

I think that both DTEs (Gnoome and KDE) have their good points and bad points. Any time anyone writes/saya/sends up smoke signals saying good *or* bad things about DTEs,browsers, OSs, or the merits of non-splintery toilet paper, the gloves come off and tempers flair. Get over it! The bloody boat sank. Use whichever of the DTEs and/or window managers that works best for you and let the rest of us do the same. Or go buy a Mac any you will have eye candy that you can't mess with or maybe even figure out the obscurely intutitive UI.
Sheesh! Grip a grip people.

Cheers,
Alisdair (but you can call me Al)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

When I first dabbled in Linux some years back, KDE was the default (I've since forgotten the distro I was using back then). I loaded up Gnome and found it (then) to be clunky, slow and feeling like a beta. KDE was much faster and easier to use.

Fast-forward to 2007 and I'm running Ubuntu on a PIII laptop. I loaded KDE (not the Kubuntu DE, mind you - we're talking straight KDE) and found it responsive enough - but cluttered. Sure, I could figure out where stuff was and admit there's a higher level of control options available but, I tend to like one (or two, at most) directions to get to where I need to go. KDE seems to bend over backward trying to make 6 roads to reach the same destination.

The stickler for me, on a laptop that roams, is wireless configurations. In Gnome, I have network-manager. It's perfect and never fails me. It does it all, right in that one little icon. In KDE, I see at least 4 places where I can configure my network connections and, in my case, only one of them worked. I installed the KDE equivalent of NM and, although it first launched and fully resembled the Gnome version, it soon sank and would only display a red "x" and claim it wasn't running. If I can't easily switch between open/hidden/encrypted/shared/LAN/wireless networks using a laptop then the DE is useless to me, no matter how shiny it is.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I was a GNOME user and occasional developer since it's first alpha releases. I never bashed KDE but always championed GNOME, but in the last month I have just felt restricted in GNOME (not talking about look and feel), simple things like not being able to type the path to a file in an open dialog, etc. I compiled KDE and gave it a shot (I use a LFS distro and ubuntu). The only gnome/gtk app I still have is GIMP. Configuration in KDE is a little more intimidating but the applications work and I get my work done faster because of them and that is all that really matters to me.

I also took the time to write a simple text editor in QT. QT seems to be a well written library and very easy to use, I've only toyed with it for two weeks so I can't say too much about QT.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I'm not sure if my opinion matters here but I'm totally new to this and I have just given up on windows.I'm using SUSE 10.0 with the Gnome desktop but I have also tried the KDE desktop.KDE is just plain more confusing than Gnome. When I install stuff like picasa or Blender I can fumble around and get it to work with Gnome but try as I might I can't get them working in KDE, most stuff just opens up in an editor so I can see it but does not run.Sad to say the main best part of windows was that if you clicked an EXE it just worked, but that was also it's biggest problem.I like Linux but it's so splintered across different distros and flavours that the learning curve for them is more like a vertical line.
It is very difficult to get cozy with it.

PL

Weird Coward's picture
Submitted by Weird Coward (not verified) on

I reached this article because I'm still using WinXP and I want to check Linux out. I have Ubuntu and Kubuntu laid before me I don't know which to check out first. After reading all the stuff about it, I still can't decide. Oh well..

Dave Guard's picture
Submitted by Dave Guard on

It's easy really. What you are really deciding on is whether to use GNOME which is what comes by default with Ubuntu or whether to use KDE which is what comes with Kubuntu (hence the K). Are you the sort of person who wants everything decided already and doesn't want to do much tweaking? Go with GNOME or default Ubuntu. Or, are you the sort of person who likes to tweak everything and have lots of options available? If so go with KDE or Kubuntu.

I use GNOME because I had never tried either until I installed Ubuntu. I like GNOME. I gave KDE a try and I didn't like what I saw. But I can guarantee that if I stuck with it for longer I could have made it look just how I wanted it to look and I would have gotten used to it. Because I don't have weeks to spare getting used to a new way of doing things I'm sticking with GNOME.

You have the advantage of being able to choose right off the bat. So look at my questions above and decide what you want to be able to do. Bear in mind that you can install KDE in Ubuntu and try it out. Or you can install GNOME in Kubuntu and try it out. You will always have the choice to change and try and fiddle if you want.

Newb to Linux's picture
Submitted by Newb to Linux (not verified) on

I am a network admin for the last 6 years (Windows PC domain) and am looking for a way off Microsoft's extortion list, living in constant fear of the next Microsoft wave of software vulnerabilities and constant barrage of glitches. I too have Ubuntu and Kubuntu iso's for a trial run, but the only differences anyone ever states about these two flavors (Gnome and KDE) are how to make a configuration change or finding a file. What I, and most assuredly, everyone looking for a windows replacement would like to know are the following:
1. Functionality - What can Gnome do that KDE can't and vice versa.
2. ChangeWhat will we loose in switching from Windows?
3. Security - Which is more secure (as far as being hacked, sniffed, storing data about the user activities.)
4. Benchmarks - How do they compare, performance wise, using the same rig and apps vs. each other & windows.
6. Integrity - Can you automate backups/duplications of your personal setting for a reinstall or distributed install at a multiple pc group?
5. Licensed Software - Most likely, the most complicated question but perhaps the most trivial. Everything from CAD programs like SolidWorks to DirectX Only PC games. Will it run our 16 bit, 32bit, 64bit programs, or how do we run them? Will we have to emulate winX on K\Ubuntu or emulate K\Ubuntu on winX. If so, is there a free way or are we saddled with a software vendor solution? Most windows users have at least 1 program they use that someone charged them for and they would like to continue to use that runs as an exe file, and most likely has some graphical or hardware use. Or perhaps we are left to search for an equivalent in the Linux omniverse.

Colly Lord's picture
Submitted by Colly Lord (not verified) on

My pet peeve with KDE is the trite way so many of the most-used apps for it are deliberately misspelled or cutely named just so they can start with K, which completely defeats the purpose of having alphabetized menus. So what if the menus are still alphabetical when so much of the stuff all lands in K? Yuck! If I ever decide to use KDE, I'll probably go through and deliberately uninstall and replace as many K-named programs with non-K-named equivalents as I can.
I'm using plain Ubuntu with the default Gnome desktop, rather than Kubuntu with the KDE desktop, mostly because of that one gripe. I also don't seem to find things in the KDE menus as easily as I can find them in the Gnome menus. I'm sure they're all there - just not where I first think of looking.

Other than that, I'm glad someone out there is making assorted flavors so that people with different preferences can all (hopefully) find something they each like. I'm sure many people love the layout and look of the KDE menus & desktop. I even like the looks of KDE - just not actually using it.

heedless's picture
Submitted by heedless (not verified) on

for a beginner kde is suitable (looks like windows desktop etc.)
for a pro gnome is best :)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Ya I too hate the K this and K that... I like amarok because it ends in k and not begins why cant all the programs move the K to the end... So retarded... From using Gnome and KDE together... I like gnome way better... the lie that you cant configure gnome as much as you can KDE is annoying it is just harder to go about it which is cool because someone cant come in and change it on you... I love the Gnome one way of doing things it makes sense to someone normal... the 30 ways to do one thing slows me down. I use amarok and k3b and kopete but for the DE Gnome is the best and with 2.20 it is so much better... I hope I am proven wrong with KDE4 but it looks like more glits and less actual usability Gnome makes me more conductive I find myself playing with KDE more than actually doing things. KDE is a toy and not much more which will do good for Linux... If the beauty of KDE4 doesn't draw windows and mac addicts over I don't know what will... for those of us who use computers to work Gnome owns...

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I totally disagree... try changing the keyboard short cuts for nautilus? like I am using both windows and linux so to make common i have configured alt + d in the konqueror for address bar... try doing that in nautilus... i am not aware... but i think it is not possible...

try getting windows key to do something like using for shortcuts... but in gnome windows key never get integrated. I tried doing it but cannot make it work...

Try setting the application short cuts in gnome.. you will be limited to 10 only why... because it allows only 10 command short cuts... I know 10 would be sufficient... but the way in which it has to be set is horrible... you have to literally type in keyboard characters like ctrl.. come on...

KDE has its own problems... main being the crashing apps... but it has improved a lot... it crashes very rarely for me... but when it crash.. have to reboot in most cases...

but i wil prefer kde any day... way better than gnome..

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

Personally I prefer XP to OSX.. No, wait, wrong thread. Hang on. Yes, the iPod is way better than the Zen. Damn it! Wrong thread again! Bear with me, I'll get this.. Yes, Blu-ray wipes the floor with, arragh..

Seriously though, KDE does it for me. It looks cleaner. Yes, the Keverything is annoying but on a mac there is about 54 thousand things called iSomething.

Interestingly though, I'm just upgrading my Kubuntu using the dist upgrade and it's just crashed. A reboot will probably f*ck my setup right up. Nice. Oh well, back to XP so I can google things like "KDE upgrade crash" and the like :)

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

I am an opensuse and ubuntu user who has been using kde and gnome for quite some time on a number of distributions. I always used to be a big kde fan until I gave gnome a try.

When switching from kde to gnome you realise how trashy all the names of the kde programs are. It is like a bunch of teenage slang talkers got together and named them all, trying to put a K into every name and the random capitalization. I have installed quite a few desktop linux machines over the years and have consistent complaints about having trouble with all the strange names. Image is a big thing for standard desktop users and I think that is going to be KDE's downfall.

Author information

Jonathan Roberts's picture

Biography

Currently a gap year student! I have a huge interest in Free Software which seems to keep growing. I run the Questions Please... podcast which can be found at questionsplease.org. On an unrelated note I'm reading theology at Exeter next year.