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KDE vs. Windows 7: Page 2

Can a free Linux desktop actually rival Windows 7?
(Page 2 of 2)

In the same way, while both can display multiple clocks and sync your system time with an Internet site, only KDE allows you to adjust the fonts used in the display, or the option of using text-to-speech to announce the time, or setting the calendar to display the holidays of different countries or regions.

The only feature that Windows' panel has that KDE's lacks is toolbars for addresses, links, and desktop icons -- features that I have never seen used, and that KDE users who want them can duplicate with the selection of the right widget and a bit of organization. In all other cases, KDE's panel equals or excels Windows -- never in a major way, but in dozens of small ones that add up to greater user control of basic functionality.

On the workspace

The differences are greater yet on the workspace itself. While both environments let icons and widgets be added to a workspace, KDE lets you not only change the size of icons or sort them, but also to preview graphically the contents of folders on the desktop without opening them. And while with some searching you will probably find as many gadgets as KDE has widgets, what you won't find is a single repository as large or as varied as KDE's default one.

But KDE also introduces far more to the classic desktop. Unlike Windows, KDE also lets you set eight hot spots on the edges of desktops. Although Windows 7's advertising emphasized its three desktop effects -- shake, peak, and snap -- KDE offers several dozen, some of which don't require 3-D hardware acceleration. In KDE, you can also shade windows, rolling them up like window blinds, or else group them into a single tabbed window, placing related applications where you can switch between them without searching the desktop each time you switch.

Even more importantly, KDE is conceptually different from Windows 7's desktop. Although you can run KDE as a classic desktop if you choose, it also offers far more. By default, it includes virtual workspaces, giving you the potential to increase screen space indefinitely without the trouble of buying and setting up additional monitors.

Alternatively, you can set up your KDE installation by tasks with Activities, setting up a different set of icons and widgets for each one. Increasingly, you can even set up different views on different Activities, creating a different navigation set for each one.

None of these features has a counterpart in Windows 7 -- and are unlikely to in Windows 8, either, if the current development is any indication.

True, you can add some of KDE's functionality with small utilities and freeware. Yet to do so requires effort and often money as well. Every user may not want to use every innovation in KDE, but KDE's potential upon installation remains undeniably greater than Windows 7's.

The Basic Advantages

So far, I have been talking only about features. But like other free software, KDE has other basic advantages that Windows 7 can never have.

If you buy Windows Ultimate edition, you have far more applications than if you buy the Starter edition. Yet even these additions can't match the selection and variety of the thousands of applications available in any Linux distribution, both in general and specifically for KDE itself -- each available for download in a matter of minutes with no need of a credit card or a PayPal account.

Moreover, because of KDE's free licenses, KDE only needs to be downloaded once. Then it can be installed on as many computers as you like, without any concern for licenses or activation.

These advantages have been available for free software for over twenty-five years, of course. But in the past, they haven't been as attractive as they might have been, because the software didn't equal its proprietary alternatives.

However, now that software like KDE development is outpacing proprietary choices like Windows, these basic advantages are more compelling than they have ever been. Increasingly, we are now in an era in which free-licensed software like KDE is not only an ethical choice, but a pragmatic one as well.


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