KDE and GNOME

I was recently reading Irfan's Happy birthday KDE! post and it got me thinking a lot about my own reasons for using KDE instead of GNOME. Since I have this blog and I decided to capture my thoughts here.

I have been using KDE since the 3.2 release with Keramik as my theme of choice. I recently tried GNOME again through Ubuntu 6.06 (dapper) and initially found it to be set up very well. One of the reasons is that I like how the menu entries are listed much better in GNOME than KDE. This stems more from a philosophy difference in how the menu entries (.desktop files) are created. GNOME apps tend to be like Synaptic where the name is actually listed as Synaptic Package Manager. As a result of this GNOME just lists the Name field in its default menus. KDE tends to break up the name between the Name and Generic Name fields.

One problem this causes in KDE is that I am either stuck with a bunch of apps identified only as Krdc, Kopete, Kooka, Krfb, KSysGuard, etc.; or I have any GNOME apps listed as GIMP Image Editor (Image Editor), Synaptic Package Manager (Package Manager), etc. The duplicate description is very annoying and I have to turn it off. Even the KDE display of its own apps is annoying. Why not list Kopete as Kopete Instant Messenger instead of Kopete (Instant Messenger)? Maybe others don't have the same problem, but a long list of apps in a menu just looks like giberish to me with all of those parentheses. If every app were to list one descriptive name (i.e. Kooka Scan & OCR Program) that it should be displayed as, then determining what a program does at a glance would be very simple and consistent.

From that rant you might wonder why I didn't stick with GNOME. I tried, but over time I just became more frustrated with the appearance and usability, particularly with the number of steps to complete simple actions. I also find GNOME's interface to be ugly. That's a personal opinion and I've heard a lot of people state the opposite, but the buttons and how everything is drawn looks so drab and depressing I just couldn't take it anymore. To me this is a Gtk theme problem. Fortunately I can use Gtk based apps in KDE and the gtk2-engines-gtk-qt package will theme them like my Qt based apps. As a result I don't have to worry which toolkit a program was written with, I can just use it.

I mentioned usability problems in GNOME so I should explain what I meant. The problem is really that GNOME doesn't have Konqueror and KIO Slaves. I won't describe them here since I have blogged on both before. I don't use Konqueror as a web browser, but I do use it for most of my day-to-day file management. This includes FTP and Samba shares. While using Nautilus it seemed like every action I made took at least a couple more clicks than in KDE. I also wasn't able to customize GNOME as easily, and while KDE required a little more love to get set up how I personally like it, I've been much happier over the long run.

That's it in a nutshell. The are easily tons of for and against arguments between KDE and GNOME, but those few items are the ones that drove my decision. For me the most important factor in making Linux a great desktop OS isn't which desktop environment is being used, but what applications are available. Some people have stated that Linux users should all get behind either KDE or GNOME and that we should focus on a few key apps to better complete with Microsoft. I believe that the variety of choices available with Linux is the key strength that makes it worth using instead of Windows. Creativity needs to follow inspiration and that should be encouraged. What we really need is for applications to run equally well on any desktop environment so that one choice doesn't limit others.