Gnome vs KDE

It appears this old argument is flaring up again. On 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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