KDE vs Gnome

Stephen R Laniel steve at laniels.org
Thu Jul 21 01:27:01 UTC 2005

On Wed, Jul 20, 2005 at 06:17:31PM -0700, Bernie Betlach wrote:
> !) What is the bottom line difference between Gnome and KDE?

At what level? They're totally different applications and
they have a totally different look and feel.

The fundamental difference is that there was a fear, for a
while, that KDE would be unfree; GNOME came in to fill the
free-desktop-environment void. See

"The GNOME project was started in August 1997 by Miguel de
Icaza and Federico Mena to provide an alternative to KDE.

KDE is a free software desktop environment that relies on
the Qt toolkit — a piece of software written by Trolltech
that did not use a free software license. Members of the GNU
project became concerned about the use of such a toolkit for
building a free software desktop and applications and
launched two projects: "Harmony", to create a replacement
for the Qt libraries, and the GNOME project to create a new
desktop without Qt and built entirely on top of free

Incidentally, de Icaza is a Linux superstar and has a blog:

> 2) Can't I install both and switch back and forth?

You can install both and switch back and forth amongst their
*applications*: I have the GNOME desktop running right now
alongside KDE applications like KOrganizer (calendar &c.)
and Akregator (RSS newsreader).

However, it's quite a bit harder to switch back and forth
between the KDE and GNOME desktop environments. You need to
shut down the GDM (basically the GNOME login daemon) and
start the KDM (the KDE one). It's more involved. In
practice, people don't switch back and forth amongst the
desktop environments. You rarely need to.

> 3). Is it just personal preference as to which GUI you like?

What else are you looking for? Logical proof? :-)

I think the big difference used to be the freeness of the
various licenses, as indicated above. Nowadays it's
aesthetic choice. KDE used to look cartoonish, I felt, so I
switched to GNOME. I don't think the choice really matters
particularly much.

> 4). Can apps that run on Gnome also run on KDE and vs versa?

No. They use totally different libraries. We *should* have a
single set of interoperable libraries, but it's not going to

> 5).  Is the desktop the only difference between Ubuntu and Kubuntu?

I can't answer this question; I assume others can.

> Sorry if I have over simplified my query.

Nothing oversimplified about those questions. They're the
question that any new user encountering Linux would ask. In
most consumer OSes we have one single desktop environment;
in Linux the fact that we have to *choose* is confusing.

Stephen R. Laniel
steve at laniels.org
+(617) 308-5571
PGP key: http://laniels.org/slaniel.key
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