Torvalds disses GNOME and recommends KDE

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There’s some buzz on OS News and Slashdot today about Linus Torvalds’ comments on the Gnome Mailing List. Torvalds trashes GNOME and tells everyone just to use KDE instead. The reason is interesting: “This ‘users are idiots, and are confused by functionality’ mentality of Gnome is a disease. If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it."

Recently, I’ve been reading Don Norman’s excellent book on design, The Design of Everyday Things. Norman is a guru of usability, and I’d recommend his book to anyone thinking about interfaces. What I want to discuss is not really KDE vs. GNOME, but rather the more general issue of functionality vs. usability. This issue is explored rather insightfully in Norman’s book.

To make a long story short, we should avoid either extreme. An obsession with usability tends to result (as Torvalds argues about GNOME) in a simple product without any unnecessary parts (i.e., features). If you want a radio that’s easy to use, you pick one with just a few functions—on/off switch, dial for volume, dial for frequency. On the other hand, most of us associate such simplicity as inferior to a more elaborate setup with a myriad of controls and features. We look at the back of the box and want to see a long bulleted list of features. The more features, the better.

However, what most of us end up noticing is that we don’t tend to use most of the features foisted on us by the manufacturers. They are either unnecessary for daily operations or just too confusing to figure out and remember. We don’t want to fiddle with a parametric equalizer everytime we listen to our MP3 player. Likewise, many of us purposefully buy cell phones without cameras because we don’t want that extra "functionality" interfering with our ability to make a simple phone call.

It’s just as easy to pile on extra features as it is to take them off. The real solution is to offer the features without complicated the design. Features that will be frequently used should have their controls clearly visible and readily accessible to the user. Less-used controls can be tucked away and require a bit of digging in the interface to access. Many apps do this by creating an “ADVANCED" tab in their preferences. This is a good principle, but I’ve noticed on too many occasions that I am forced to access the “ADVANCED" tabs even when I want to do a rather common and trivial function. I also think the term “ADVANCED" is often misused—instead of "advanced" options, we only have more options tha didn’t fit on the other menus. In other words, the controls are poorly organized, leading to frustration.

Another of Norman’s insights is that the “cutting edge" of technology is always many strides ahead of the “cutting edge" of design. New technologies tend to have awkward interfaces. Gradually, design will catch up to the tech and make all of the new features easy to operate, but it takes time. Think about how long it took cars to become as reliable, comfortable, and affordable as they are today. Most of the improvements have been in usability rather than functionality.

It seems to me that GNOME is taking the stance that it’s better to do a few things and do them right rather than do many things and get some of them wrong. I see this as a very valuable philosophy and a great alternative that should be available for those who prefer usability over functionality. It’s sad to see someone as prominent as Torvalds dismissing the value of GNOME’s philosophy.



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Comment from: Robert Pogosn [Visitor] ·

12/14/05 @ 14:29
Linus is a lovable tyrant for giving us the Linux kernel. His philosophy there is to include nothing that does not need to be there. Why the different stance at the user level? As Ray Ozzie, of Microsoft, pointed out this year, "Complexity kills." It does this in the user interface, too. The power of a network increases with the square of the number of nodes, but the usability of an interface decreases with the square of the number of choices. As it happens, I have a very poor memory and I cannot even remember which branch of a menu to search for certain features. To have things three levels down makes things impossible for me. I guess that's why I do not programme in C.

Comment from: cass [Visitor] ·

12/14/05 @ 15:28
I agree that the complexity of kde is much more attractive to an intelligent user than the simplicity of gnome.

Comment from: Tim [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 15:30
The problem with Gnome is that they sometimes REMOVE functionality that was once working fine. I once used Gnome, but quit when the new window manager (metacity) did not support setting a keyboard shortcut to change virtual workspaces. For a while, I tried just using the old manager, but that soon got to be difficult.

It made me wonder what else the Gnome folks would take away in future versions. Upgrading began to feel like downgrading.

KDE is, for me, simpler, easier, and more usable. It works fine "out of the box", but will allow me to do more with relative ease. Upgrades do not break what was already working. When they do something right, they don't stop doing it for the sake of "usability".

I fully understand why Mr. Torvalds prefers it.

Comment from: Christopher M. Jones [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 16:33
I use Gnome, and have for many years. The reason I use it is its simplicity. I don't like eye candy, I don't like functionality bloat. However, I am -not- a stupid user. After all, don't the truly 'smart' users prefer the command line over the mouse? Why would a 'smart' user want a gui to do anything that a 'smart' user could do already, and often more simply, in the terminal?

Comment from: Richard Corfield [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 16:35
Concerning menus - is anyone else confused by the combination "Configure" and "Options", prominent in both Microsoft software and Open Office. Options are the noun that you Configure. Configure is the verb. They both (to me) refer to the same concept, so which one do I choose?


I liked Gnome because it used to keep to the UNIX way of doing things, where KDE seemed to be aimed at Windows converts. I started out on X and FVWM(1/2), so preservation of things like tab completion in file dialogs was excellent for me. There are still nice features in FVWM2 that are missing in Gnome though!

After Linus' comments I'll look at KDE again and see how it's come on.

Comment from: Ramana Juvvadi [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 16:48
Most of the article may be right when viewed in isolation but it is wrong when applied to this situation, GNOME vs KDE. Pruning options when a plethora of them are available is certainly worthwhile. However, it needs to be done by people with a very good sense of design. The GNOME people seemed to have miserably at it. He provided a very good example of it. Forcing people to click through icons instead of typing the path name on the keyboard. I dont see why a
textbox displaying the path of a file would be confusing for novice users.

Sometimes there is a genuine tradeoff in accomodating new users and longtime users. But,
many times the choice is a false one. If you can
accomodate both why not simply do it?


Comment from: Craig Ballantyne [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 17:08
If GNOME is a "simple" desktop in comparison to KDE, then why, oh why, are the distributions that are aimed for the simple folks (for example, Linspire and Xandros) using KDE???

BTW, I did have to switch from GNOME to KDE because there ware too few applets in GNOME and they didn't work the way I wanted them to. For example, I couldn't find any GNOME native TV players; I could not get TOTEM to play movies (it complained about codecs and it never liked any of my sound cards); and I could not access my Samba file servers. These things just work in KDE.

Comment from: jake [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 17:13
Useability? Take care of the linux binary nightmare or the lack of drivers. Who cares about clicking through some folders?

Comment from: Sitor [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 17:24
Since the moment I started with Linux I've been using KDE and I advise it to all MS to Linux converts. Tried Gnome as well, but just liked KDE much better. But that is just my preference.
I don't like this kind of arguments. That everyone just tries out and uses what he likes most. As long as there are people that prefer Gnome, let there be Gnome. That is just the power of Open Source. In the end the users will decide what is viable enough to stay. If KDE is indeed better, users will demand it, and it will be more interesting for developers to work on KDE. As long as there are still enough users that prefer Gnome, the effort on Gnome is worthwhile as well. No need to force anything in one direction or the other.

Just my two € cents.



Comment from: Bill [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 17:30
kaffeine vrs totem
koqueror vrs nautilus
k3b vrs gnomebaker
digikam vrs f-spot
amarok vrs muine
kate vrs ??? (is there a comparable product)

'nuff said

Of course there are some great tools built with the gtk toolset (gimp, dia, etc...) but Gnome in of itself tends to be sparse, minimalist and lacking functionality.

Comment from: Joe Kaplenk [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 17:55
As a user I've always preferred KDE over GNOME because there were more things available. Even though I use the command line a lot the menus make life easier. I can also find out what the real command line is later.

However, as a UNIX/Linux instructor I find the beginner non-admin has an easier time with GNOME.

As an admin I find both GNOME and KDE menu structures confusing and not as well layed out logically as they could be. I do find this also with MS Windows structure, BTW. The main menu names don't always describe well enough what is in them. The items sometimes seem just stuck in the menu for lack of a better place. Also I often have to go through three or four main menus to find something I want.


Comment from: dtj [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 18:25
I am about as likely to take usability guidance from Linus as I would take dating advice from Monica Lewinisky. Adding people other than himself to his collective "we" would be a good start.

Comment from: Joe Almeida [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 18:42
One must ask the question "What is the design trying to accomplish?". What are you trying to simplify? The computer is not equivalent to a hammer and nail. The computer is the whole tool chest. I agree that each tool should be simple, well made and do something very well, but how do you simplify the tool box? The whole point of the User Interface is to access the computers resources which are numerous. If the UI does not permit a user todo something because a programmer decided that such a feature in a devices too difficult and leaves it out - are we not in principle limiting the user? Take Linus' example of printer drivers. What's wrong in hiding the more arcane features in tabs and place the most used ones in the front tabs? Simplicity should always be an economy of explanation and presentation, NEVER a simplicity of function to a device built and designed to solve a set of problems. We need computers to be able to do X, Y, and Z. We should have interfaces for X, Y, and Z. The simplicity in design should be how we show X, Y, and Z, not simply show X, and have no interface for Y and Z. I understand what the GNOME project is trying to do, and what is at conflict here is people's basic definitions of simplicity and where simplification has place. In the hands of the power user, simplicity quickly becomes an annoyance. In many cases, the word "simplicity" is used in the context of "a design that is self-apparent", or a "design that is self-evident". There is however a limit. There is no simple explanation for Quantum Mechanics. It takes years of study to begin to understand the implications of that theory. A computer is a multi-programmable, multi-function, multitasking device. How simple can you honestly make something like that without dumbing down the user? Simple interfaces belong in bank machines, self-service kiosks, and repetitive, single mode applications. In a multimode device like a computer where a person INTENDS ON USING THE COMPUTER FOR DIFFERENT THINGS, that person must understand that mental effort is required on their part to master such a functional device. Look at the price we are paying now for not demanding of our users some knowledge of their computer? Simplicity and Complexity is a zero sum game. The more you make something simple on the user's side, the more complex the designer's challenges becomes. With that reality in mind, is it any wonder that KDE is much easier better to program in that GNOME? And that's why you hear the constant comments of why the KDE apps seem to run better and with more stability. Some simplicity has been but in the design side, which makes for a bit more complexity in the user side. There is a trade off to a technology that must be functional in different circumstances. Personally, KDE strikes the right balance. It strives to encompass all the functions available, but tries to organize the most used features on top and as the default selections.

Comment from: Paul [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 19:18
Excellent observations,
and ones I agree with totally. The Gnome philosophy is to provide a desktop that 'just works' or as you put it 'it's better to do a few things and do them right rather than do many things and get some of them wrong' (whether we feel they have succeeded or not is neither here or there, at least for the purposes of this particular article).
This philosophy, by definition surely implies that they have to restrict functionality to the required minimum, at least to start with, to achieve this goal. Hence complaints from those who can't tweak what they want to tweak!
The big test for Gnome will come as time moves on. As the various components mature, each one will reach a point where it complies with the basic Gnome philosophy. ie, it 'just works'.
Then what? It just get's maintained?
Surely the Gnome user base will have matured with the desktop itself?
Maybe these users would like to spread their respective technical wings?
Maybe the world of the 'power user' beckons them!
Or maybe they're just interested in digging a little deeper.
And if their desktop of choice doesn't seem to allow them to do that?
Of course they could just change desktop. But do these users want to learn another desktop from scratch? Probably not.
The idea of a simple, easy-to-use desktop environment that 'just works' is a sound one in my opinion. But Gnome has a way to go to achieve that, and they are not doing themselves any favours (or winning friends) removing functionality that was in earlier releases.
One wonders if the developers have really thought this through, at least at the individual application level?
I'm not saying shove as much functionality in as you can as fast as you can. That goes against the whole Gnome philosophy, and if you want to enter tweaking heaven go use KDE it is probably what you were looking for in the first place.
What I am suggesting is that in battles between form and function, consider the function very carefully before dismissing it out of hand. Keep to the philosophy, but at least give the user a little room to manouver.

Comment from: Jiandong Zheng [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 19:30
Do we have to use the same philosophy to design a GUI based UI with a CLI based UI? On the other hand, are we using philosophy or the usability, esp. regarding desktop?

What is the purpose of GUI? What should a DESKTOP do?

Actually, a desktop is just a collection of GUI/CLI tools and some other stuf to glue them together. Its value is the glue and the criteria to evaluate it is just whether users, whateve advanced or newbies, like the "glue" or not.

Comment from: StolenNomenclature [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 21:34
Linux has replaced the notion of progress with a new age going-round-in-ever-decreasing-circles philisophy.

Put it in - take it out - on the left - on the right - at the top - at the bottom - large font - small font - green - blue - etc - etc.

I doubt most people working in open source know what progress actually means.

Now with udev and hotplug Linux has achieved the holy grail of completly hiding all physical storage so that no user either clever or stupid can find it.

Linux used to be able to read and write to floppy drives - not any more.

Thats progress.

Comment from: Anonymous [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 22:15
Linus is normally a dipolomatic and reasonable person, so why shouldn't he be able to express an opinion without causing a big stir?

Is it "politically incorrect" to criticise GNOME? I hope not, because criticism is a driving force for improvement.

It seems to me that from GNOME 2.0 onwards they have put idealism in front of pragmatism. It is painfully stripped down - anyone who's used a computer before (i.e. 99.9% of new GNOME users) is going to be left feeling that they're using an incomplete, inferior product. This lack of user confidence will actually harm usability.

In trying to be so far ahead of the usability curve, GNOME seems somewhat experimental. They still haven't worked out how to do a good file open/save dialog, when KDE has a perfectly easy one. GNOME hides files, makes users click on little arrows to see what they're expecting. KDE shows all the files, and has nice friendly shortcuts to the places you're likely to store them.

Sure, KDE has too much clutter in some menus, but in most cases it just needs a little clean up. GNOME has thrown the baby out with the bath water and I have never used a 2.x version on a regular basis.

Comment from: Greg [Visitor]

12/14/05 @ 22:34
I use GNOME and like it. I am comfortable with it. I use it at home and work in my role a Network Security Analyst, so don't give me this "lack of functionality" crap. It just an easier interface to be productive with.

I find KDE ugly, sorry you KDE folks, but I do. BUT that is the thing about choice - I can think what I want and so can you. I do use k3b though as it is a great piece of software.

Can we just move on from this topic, I find it very counter-productive

Comment from: Dave PX [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 00:17
Files with konqueror
Chatting with Gaim
Graphics with Inkscape and Gimp
CDs with K3B.
Desktop with icewm.
And it all works.

The important thing is interoperability. Everything else is noise.

Comment from: methinks [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 00:30
Every time this dufus opens his mouth I lose a little more respect for him. ( He should be spending his time trying to clean up that mess he affectionately calls a Kernel.)
Fact is both of these environments suck. Try using a real OS ( OSX or even WinXP) with a modern,user friendly environment.

Comment from: youthinks [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 00:57
seems methinks uses neither gnome or kde day to day, so maybe would be better posting on an iLovers or MSDN forum. Stick with what you love - love.

Comment from: Andy [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 01:16
All of you are correct, and all of you are wrong :)

I run an older PIII and both of them suck on this machine. Not that either can't be wonderful for the right person and situation.

I use a lightweight window manager that I have to take effort configuring. It takes less effort to install either of those environments than perhaps I expended. However, you pay for that in performance.

I don't find any real compelling reasons to run either. But for my roommates, who just want the darn thing to work and work easily, Gnome works fine. They could adapt to KDE, but simplest is best in this case.

I have my preference, you have yours, and Linus has his. I wonder whether he expressed it in the manner he did just to amuse himself with the response he knew it'd generate.

He is an amusing guy, you know....

Comment from: Bruce [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 01:42
I used KDE for 3 years and recently switched the three PCs in my house to Gnome for its simpler interface.

Regarding the switch the *only* thing any of the other four users of these PCs asked about was the background and theme change!

Based on this I think both Gnome and KDE offer good usable desktops for the average user.

Comment from: Andrew Donnellan [Visitor] ·

12/15/05 @ 01:43
I've used KDE ever since I first installed Mandrake 7.2. Now, about 3-4 years later, I'm using Debian 3.1 with KDE 3.3 and GNOME 2.8 installed.

I still prefer KDE because while you can customise GNOME, KDE seems to encourage you to tinker with your desktop. GNOME people like to hide the options in the interests of 'usability'.

One of the first things I do when I install a new GNU/Linux system for myself is I add the Universal Sidebar, I may add a Child Panel, I'll add some applets (I like KMix the best) and configure the window decorations, colour schemes and widget styles. I can do this very easily with KDE, but GNOME takes ages. My 9.y.o sister prefers KDE because she can make it more purple than with GNOME.

I find I can work better with KDE, and the 'usablility improvements' in GNOME make it quite unusable for me. GNOME is too simple, it seems like it is for people who will always use the defaults. I personally find that the default GNOME colour scheme is appalling, the default widgets are appalling, the (unchangable) file dialogs are terrible and GNOME has worse applications.

Comment from: rib [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 03:14
After all of this discussion, it's still up to the individual user. I haven't heard anyone say anything like "I prefer KDE but I use Gnome" (or visa versa). Folks use the desktop they prefer. It's simple. Time to end the discussion. Forever.

Comment from: scribe63 [Visitor] ·

12/15/05 @ 03:28
I was weaned on the linux desktop on kde through distros like mandrake 8.2 (Mandriva), YOPER, Arch Linux, SuSE 8.0 etc.. I discovered GNOME with Redhat 9, Whitebox Linux, CentOS, NLD9, Ubuntu etc...
I have also experienced IceWM(Vector Linux), XFCE4(Gentoo), and lately Fluxbox WM.
From my perspective it's all good, because different desktop environments/window managers suites different types of environments.
KDE and GNOE perform well on modern pc, for example P4 with 2GB Ram. On PII 266 256MB performance is sluggish with both.
GNOME - busines desktops, novice home users.
KDE - Experienced home desktops, can be massaged for business, haven't yet seen its KIOSK mode.
XFCE4/IceWM/Flucbox - Experienced Business/Home old hardware users, experimental novices.
I tend to use applications from all de/wms based on the purpose they serve and serve well.
For some reason like GDM instead of KDM.
Konqueror as a file manager as oppose to nautilus.
Eye OF Gnome for viewing photos.
Can't do withou K3B
Can't beat the GIMP.
I like GNOME's clean, sharp and straight forwad interface, menus and control center.
KDE is a seems bit cluttered when everything is installed, but i like it's ease of configuration
education packages etc..
I like xine so i do without totem or kaffeine.
and so and so forth.
GNU/Linux enables you to mix, match and make a choice because of your available hardware and resources.
Once you know how, your basic needs can be decided by you, instead of someone else deciding that for you on a one desktop upgrade treadmill.

Comment from: Alex [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 07:48
One thing that seems funny in all of these usability discussions concerning KDE and Gnome, is that nobody realizes that these desktops are just systems within / alongside other systems. Its a miracle either one of them is usable at all given the miraid of aweful interfaces and subsystems they have to rely on. You want somethingas usable, fast , and clean as Mac OS X ? Get rid of X. Why do you think Apple did it ? The problem here is that these messy interfaces, not just from X but from other places, even the kernel, seep through the abstraction of the Desktop. The desktops try to contain the ugliness of the layers below the desktop with lots of smoke and mirrors. So many things that go wrong in the totality of the user experience have nothing to do with there freaking desktop, but their wileless card or whatever not working. So linus, worry about the kernel. You have plenty of work on your hands.

Comment from: Joel Juliano [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 08:12
Don't listen to them GNOME. Do what you think is best. KDE sucks!

Comment from: Danny [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 09:56
I began using Gnome early into my first Linux forays because it was the default GUI on my distribution and for its similarities to Apple's GUI. After trying out KDE early as well and being put off initially by its Windows centric look and feel I have come back to KDE for good (or at least until the GNOME gang can learn to shoot straight) because KDE gets the original Macintosh philosophy better than any other Linux environment...namely things just work (at least as much as Linux will allow vs my Mac). There is much more consistency between tool bars and apps...and the apps themselves work better...are integrated better and don't puke libs all over the place like GNOME does. Plus, GNOME is much less consistent over different never know what will be added but more than that what will be taken out that you have become used to using in the previous release.

I love the philosophy behind GNOME and that is strives much more to be less Windows like even to the point of being "Mac" like. But KDE, while looking like a complete clone of Windows, just works much more often....which is the true hallmark of my Mac over my Windows box.

Comment from: jh [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 14:11
I'm a long-time KDE fan using GNOME on one of my machines out of necessity. Some things are better, most things are worse. I cannot switch desktops with a keyboard shortcut. I cannot delete things from the file manager - I can only put them in the trash which I then have to empty. I always have to expand the Save dialog to get where I want. Most default software (PDF viewer, text editor, music jukebox) is missing functions I regularly use. It's fine that GNOME is not for the power user - but it prevents you from ever becoming one. It has no room for your growth.

Comment from: Nate Bargmann [Visitor] ·

12/15/05 @ 14:41
I remember installing GNOME with great anticipation on Debian back in 2000 or so and within hours deleting it in great disappointment. At the time my "desktop" consisted of IceWM and my most used apps. I couldn't find my way through it and gave up.

Fast forward to this summer and I give a Ubuntu CD a spin. I was at least able to configure a dialer and spend some time on the 'Net with it, but it took several minutes for me just to figure out how to exit the desktop and shutdown the system! Yes, my introduction to GUIs date to Windows 3.1 and I've been an ardent user of IceWM on my Linux boxes since 1998. So, I'm well versed in the OS/2 and Windows taskbar paradigms.

Over the years I've been more frustrated by stupefying dialog boxes in GTK apps, control buttons that are positioned wrong according to every prior convention I've ever seen with no way to restore (what I consider) the more sane way of doing thigs, coupled with responses full of hubris when I ask why, and I've come to the realization that GNOME is not designed for the way I think. Fine. I've never experienced this "in your face" way of doing things in IceWM or KDE, both of which I use today.

Over the past couple of days I've read complaints that KDE is overcomplicated or that KDE app menus and toolbars are too full. Well, if an app doesn't look featureful, I'm inclined to believe that it isn't and won't investigate it further. Based on the comments in the various threads I took a good look at the KDE printing dialog, which I had basically ignored before. My, what a fine piece of work!

Is KDE perfect? No, there are some things I might consider warts, but overall, for me at least, the KDE developers have gotten things *right*. I'm slowly using KDE more and more and it has allowed me to easily do some rather amazing stuff that heretofore required a fair amount of command line experimentation. Around each corner is some amazing new bit of functionality that I have yet to discover.

Like everthing else in the F/OSS world, there is a choice of philosophies and implementations. And I thank the devs for that.

Comment from: Kevin Smith [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 14:52
I would be a KDE fan, and admire the way most things just work, but my grumble is the lack of responsiveness, just opening firefox is painfull on SUSE, (i am running a dual core 64bit Athlon, 2 Gb ram, raid disks and sli graphics). Gnome on the other hand is quick does 98% of what I need to do, the rest can be done through VMWare.
I think Linus should stick to the kernel, its fine to have an opinion but not to abuse a position of influence.

Comment from: Tuxta [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 18:10
Heh, this is really funny! Dont you think we should be saying how great it is that if you like things to work a certain way, you have the choice to have it that way? Why bicker over the best wm ? the best wm is the one you like and enjoy. Dont push your preference on to other people, be happy that we can all have our cake and eat it.

Just to be controversial though, does everyone remember the motivation between creating gnome and kde?? Well off the top of my head wasn't it gnome that has always been GPL ?? What about Qt, hasn't that only just become gpl'd on all platforms after all these years ??

Yes I was a big KDE fan and didn't like gnome too much, but after learning more about the FSF and gaining a greater repect for them, I decided to use gnome for 2 months exclusively --- I never went back! I like gnome the best, but hey, if you prefer kde, you have my blessing to use it. Go ahead, its okay, I like that you use kde if you prefer it, it is still opensource (now).


Oh and by the way, to the guy who complained about gnome not being able to change desktops with a keybord short cut (Ctrl + Alt + arrowkeys) and not being able to delete only go to trash (actually it is a simple tick of a box to enable this), I cant imagine how you can call yourself a power user? The things you described are easy if you spent more than 2 seconds on the desktop. I can do everything on my gnome desktop that I ever wanted to do on my kde desktop, including setting key strokes to do whatever I want.

I dont know why I bothered writing all this actually, its like religion, cant tell gnome users kde is better and vise versa - there are no open minds!!

Comment from: e-head [Visitor]

12/15/05 @ 19:25
Gnome and KDE both are overkill, that's why I use evilwm or ratpoison !

Comment from: Jim Fuqua [Visitor] ·

12/17/05 @ 11:33
Everyone is entitled to an opinion on the usability issue. Most vote by the distribution they choose and it's default desktop. lists Ubuntu as currently the most popular distribution at least as indicated by page hits on their web site. Ubuntu favors Gnome.
Fortunately we are not forced to stick exclusively with one or the other. You can use KDE apps in Gnome and Gnome apps in KDE. When programs like Firefox and Thunderbird are better you are not forced to use either KDE apps or Gnome apps.
I used Windows from its inception until about two years ago when I started with a series of distributions using KDE. Since switching to Ubuntu I use Gnome which I like better although I still use the KDE Pim and about 10 other KDE apps.
Both distributions and many other Linux apps would be well advised to look at the simple usability features of MS products and not differ if there is no reason. Whether you like it or not having the File menu and then the Edit menu on the left and the Help menu on the right is a familiar standard that most people expect unless there is a reason to be different. With over 200 software engineers working full time on usability tests for minute little details in the interface, often the evil empire finds the simplest gui way of manipulating software.
With Linux a simple thing like killing a non-responsive program can be an ordeal requiring extensive research. Perhaps KDE has a gui way,but I never found it and was forced to sort through processes on the command line before using kill pid. Ubuntu has a gui kill button, but it is well hidden. It should be readily accessible.
Both desktops could stand extensive improvement for a gui world that does not want to live by the command line and a reference book.

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Matt Barton's picture


Matt Barton is an English professor at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. He is an advocate of free software, wikis, and the Creative Commons. He also studies and writes about videogames and computing history. Matt also has blogs at Armchair Arcade, Gameology, and Kairosnews.