KDE vs Gnome

Lee Braiden lee_b at digitalunleashed.com
Thu Jul 21 09:19:37 UTC 2005

On Thursday 21 July 2005 02:17, Bernie Betlach wrote:
> !) What is the bottom line difference between Gnome and KDE?

Let me start by saying that I prefer the Free Software philosophy of GNOME, 
and I wish I *could* get serious work done with it.  I also love the steps it 
took regarding international text support and accessibility.

With that said...

For me, the main difference is that KDE is much more thought out, and it shows 
in daily use.

It's based on C++, which gives easy object-orientation of code (ie, it's 
easier for programmers to do cool stuff that inspires them), and so they tend 
to do exactly that.  Also, and similarly, the Object-Orientation along with 
what seems to be a stricter and more demanding centralised development 
process means that more code is shared between applications, and the 
applications try harder to work together.  Even though the older, C-based 
approach also allows object-orientation (in a nasty and unobvious way) I 
think that GNOME choosing that approach has crippled their development 
somewhat, and led to them falling ever-further behind, while KDE continues to 
show more innovation.

Secondly, the GNOME folks took a major change of direction at GNOME 2.x, which 
meant that they dropped a lot of good features that weren't considered 
intuitive for new users.  I think this was a design mistake: instead of 
DROPPING those features, they should have had beginner/intermediate/advanced 
modes in their applications, to allow users to tune things to their needs.  
To some extent, they made a few features available through hidden options, 
but that seems like more of a cop-out (perhaps due to too few developers) 
rather than a serious preference.

For a basic comparison, in GNOME, you get essentially separate applications: 
you have a desktop and panels, and panel applications.  The panel can run 
programs.  A few of these panel applications integrate with major, well-known 
GNOME apps like Evolution.

By contrast, in KDE, you have a tight integration of many things.  Kontact, 
the evolution/outlook equivalent which provides mail, news, addresses, 
calendaring, news aggregation etc. is not even a separate application: it 
simply loads the normal KMail mail program, KOrganizer calendar application, 
etc. into one seemless, larger application.  Then, you can drag emails from 
your mail component to the calendar component to create appointments based on 
that email, etc.  This is just a hint of the underlying power in KDE.

Another is that everything is scriptable from the command line.  And I really 
think this is where a Unix-based OS should be going.  Unix has been powerful 
on the command line for years, because it gives you lots of powerful little 
command-line tools, for parsing text and processing the results etc.  But 
these days, with GUIs, that's getting old: GUI applications on Windows and 
GNOME are not connected the way command line tools are.  Instead, they're 
often just single applications that you use, or don't use.

KDE is different.  Virtually every application provides a DCOP interface: you 
can access many of their features from shell scripts.  For example, if you 
want to change the currently playing song in Amarok, you can do that with a 
single command from the shell.  Likewise, if you need a way to find out the 
name of the song, you can do that just as easily.  If you need to figure out 
which music player is playing, and get the name of the song from whichever 
one is, that's not difficult either.

As another example, I discovered a while ago that KDE can display random 
wallpaper from a folder full of pictures, by just selecting a folder as the 
picture, instead of a single file.  But then I decided that I wanted panel 
buttons to "fast forward" to the next wallpaper, or to delete the current 
wallpaper and move on to a new one.  Adding these entirely new features, and 
making them look like an integral part of my desktop, was a matter of a 
ten-line shell script, and choosing panel icons for its two modes.

It's not a new idea; Amigas had it back in '92.  But in comparison to other 
platforms which haven't done it, KDE is a godsend.

Next, there is sheer speed.  I guess it's another result of that tight 
integration and good design principles: Konqueror is by far the fastest 
browser I've ever used, and that shows in how much I *do* use it.  With 
konqueror, I can instantly do web searches, by just clicking the konqueror 
icon, and typing gg:whatever for a google search, dict:whatever for a 
dictionary lookup, froo:whatever for a froogle search, etc.  It's incredibly 
easy to add your own, and so I also have web shortcuts like these for all of 
my favorite sites.  In short, I rarely "browse" except for fun: KDE gives me 
what I need instantaneously.

And that is painfully telling, when I try to give GNOME etc. a chance — and I 
*do* do that, from time to time!  When using GNOME, I find myself giving up 
on things I want to do: I want to look up some word in a dictionary, but the 
browser hasn't even loaded yet.  By the time it does, I've forgotten what I 
was interested in, or and simply no longer interested.  This is where the 
difference in usability really lies for me.

I haven't even got onto the big KDE apps like KDevelop3, which really puts 
Anjuta (and even the unreleased Anjuta2) to shame.  Also, there are KDE 3.5 
and KDE 4 to look forward to, with many more new innovations  and 
enhancements: possibly including one or two I suggested myself, as a plain 
old KDE user.

Actually, I keep finding myself suprised that Ubuntu chose GNOME over KDE, 
when they're focused on a usable distro.  I can only put that down to them 
not knowing KDE very well.  Thankfully, some people *did* know better, and 
I'm a happy Kubuntu user now :)

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

Yes, you can.

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

Nope.  Usability, applications, etc.

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

They "run on" what they're built to run on: KDE or GNOME (or GNUStep or 
Windowmaker, etc.)  But they'll run fine together, yes.

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


Lee Braiden
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