Why I’m not moving to KDE (yet)

In previous posts, I had mentioned that I’m using KDE more and more. This is very much true today, but somehow I haven’t entirely migrated to KDE yet. I’m of course talking about the KDE 4 branch. I thought it would be interesting to share my reasons why my primary desktop on GNU/Linux is still Gnome.

Before the release of the KDE 4 and its subsequent versions, I was only seldomly using KDE. For some reason it felt odd to me; I never quite got used to its looks and style. Things changed a lot with KDE 4. I have been testing KDE ever since the 4.0 release and have been using it regularly in a “production-mode” ever since. By production mode I mean that I’m using it at work over extended periods of time (one full day of work or one half-day). Yet I never fully transitioned fully to KDE, using instead Gnome as my main and stable desktop. I evaluate the usage ratio in the following way: Gnome is around 60% of times, KDE 40%. There are some reasons for this that I would like to share here. They fall into two broad categories: Things KDE could improve and things Gnome still has the upper hand on. For what it’s worth, I’m using Arch Linux, which means the KDE and Gnome versions are the latest stable and pristine versions released straight out of their respective projects (no distribution specific tweaks).

  • Things KDE could improve:

I see two main areas for improvements, which does not mean KDE fails in these two fields, but simply that I find things could just work better. The first one is stability, which really means quality and the second one is the applications. Don’t get me wrong: There has been a huge leap towards quality between the ill-fated 4.0 release and the 4.4.5 one. KDE is stable, very stable in fact, but some details just remain a bit clunky. The Plasma desktop could be more stable as it behaves sometimes in a funny way: Plasmoids would not show up after logging into the system for no clear reason. Talking about Plasmoids, these can be sometimes buggy and the Plasmoids Installation and selection interface could really be clearer (although it does look quite elegant).

On the side of applications, I am still looking for better replacements of some of the software I use everyday, namely: Claws-Mail, Rythmnbox, and Nautilus. I know I can use them on KDE (although it would not make sense for Nautilus) but obviously GTK+ software does not play that well on KDE even with Qt styles. I don’t think I would trade Claws-Mail for any other email apps (and no, I don’t like Thunderbird), while the Kontact suite that ships with Kmail does not seem to meet my expectations (handling tons of emails while using MH mailboxes). Rhythmnbox is somewhat of a question mark. I like this one, but believe it too could use some improvements, and Amarok is an obvious choice on the KDE platform. I have been using Amarok regularly but I find it quite difficult to configure and not really user-friendly, although I understand there are lots of fans of this media player out there who could help me…. The same line of thought goes for Nautilus vs. Dolphin. I am quite sure that Dolphin is very powerful but it lacks this sense of simplicity that Nautilus conveys. Perhaps toying around with its default settings could be the key. Nautilus obviously has its drawbacks too.

There is another type of applications KDE is lagging behind: Web browsers. I really like Firefox, which is cross-platform, but I have never used it exclusively. In fact I do like to use platform specific browsers as they are supposed to provide a more diverse and integrated experience. Unfortunately, Konqueror is really outdated, Arora (using the webkit) is way too unstable, which leaves me with reKonq. I think this last one still needs improvements (especially in the interface and bookmark management) but it is so far the most powerful browser for KDE.

  • Things Gnome does better

Gnome does certain things better, some of which I already outlined above. I can add to this list a general feeling of stability and simplicity. Obviously, you don’t have to use Claws-Mail to stick to Gnome: but you could be using Evolution, or Thunderbird and still have a better experience on that one. Another advantage with Gnome is that it does convey this sense of complete control over the interface that KDE 4.0 traded away for a much more innovative -and beautiful- experience. A well-configured Gnome, as a result, will always feel faster and more effective than a well-configured KDE. Faster access to your data, to any of your applications, better sense of desktop room and predictability have so far kept me to fully leave Gnome.

Gnome, however, will very soon change its interface significantly: I have given a try to the Gnome-Shell interface, and I must say that while I find its concepts quite relevant and useful, I keep on having the feeling it’s a great interface for… Netbooks and small devices. I think I will in fact use KDE more.

Last but not least, I felt this post would not be complete if I wasn’t quickly highlighting the fact that Qt apps for the KDE platform tend to become more and more powerful and feature packed. I would not be using KDE so much if it weren’t for Okular and Gwenview. The document viewer is simply a swiss-army knife for documents reading and annotating, while Gwenview provides a much better experience than F-Spot will probably ever deliver.

As you can see, I’m still somewhat undecided on these matters, but can probably make up my mind quickly if any of the areas discussed above actually gets improved. Stay tuned!

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