Both, too, give an exhaustive set of options for how windows are placed, moved, minimized and maximized, stacked, and selected as active. The main difference between the two desktops is that GNOME tends to handle windows in relation to their parents or to a specific location on the desktop, while KDE is stronger in dealing with them as a group and keeping users from getting lost in them.
However, which of these methods is preferable seems largely a personal choice. A more important difference is that, in KDE, the behavior of individual windows can be customized, while in GNOME, a similar degree of control is not possible with the default Metacity window manager, unless the Devil's Pie program is installed.
For both desktops, dozens of themes and styles are available to customize the desktop with pre-defined color schemes, icon sets, and window decorations such as title bars and buttons for minimizing, maximizing, or closing windows. Dozens more are available online, and all can be further customized by users willing to take the time.
With such a thorough selection of choices, either KDE or GNOME can be customized to produce a desktop that proves, once and for all, that GNU/Linux is ready for the average user.
Which you prefer depends on what is important to you. To many, GNOME's font anti-aliasing seems smoother than KDE's, while others might prefer GNOME for its encryption and accessibility options.
Alternatively, you might prefer KDE for the ability to set the desktop-wide spellchecker or for the easy alteration of the opening splash screen compared to GNOME. Increasingly, the differences are minor, and, in many cases, can be minimized by anyone with the patience to experiment with all the configuration options.
KDE and GNOME both inherited the extreme individualism and love of innovation common to users of UNIX-like systems.
For much of their existence, they also played catch-up with Windows and with each other however much their advocates might be tempted to deny the fact. After over a decade, the result is that, despite different design philosophies, the two desktops have come to resemble each other more than any of their rivals.
In terms of basic desktop features and customization, the difference is likely to come down to a matter of work habits and inclination. Increasingly, your choice may be a matter of one or two features to which another user is completely indifferent.
And what about the programs designed for each desktop? We'll examine them in Part 2 of this article.