Three weeks ago, I switched my main desktop from GNOME to KDE. The switch was not a rejection of GNOME, nor an unreasoning enthusiasm for KDE. It was based on my determination to learn about a side of GNU/Linux that I had been partially neglecting, and a growing appreciation of KDE's innovations on the desktop. And, thanks to the attitudes that GNU/Linux has taught me, the switch needed almost no adjustment period, either.
The truth is, I had been tempted to make the switch for fifteen months, ever since I saw the finished KDE 4.0 in January 2008. One or two aspects of KDE 4, such as the separate mode for customization and the de-coupling of the desktop from the file manager had immediately intrigued me. I was less thrilled about other changes, such as the Kickoff menu, but even these suggested a philosophy of advancing the desktop without breaking with tradition -- an attitude that struck me as exactly right.
But 4.0 was not ready for every day use, and, while I was willing to do the occasional experiment, I did not want to repeatedly do my own compiling on a desktop that was obviously undergoing rapid development. Once or twice might have been fine, but ultimately I'm no code jockey and as lazy as the next user. So, I waited until Debian, my main workstation's distribution, finally added a reliable version of KDE 4.2 to its repositories. A day or two after that, I made the switch.
Since I have heard over-simplified rumors on the Internet that I have turned against GNOME, I want to stress that the switch reflects no complaints about GNOME, let alone that I've rejected it. I still have GNOME installed on my system, alone with several other desktops and window managers, and I still use one or two GNOME apps like file-roller and gFTP in preference to any alternatives. Most of the time, too, booting into GNOME is the best way to try out an application designed for it.
The closest I come to any dis-satisfaction with GNOME is a vague impression that its incremental releases did not seem to be leading in any particular direction. Yet even that was a mild feeling. After all, there is something to be said about a desktop that works unobtrusively in the background and lets you get on with your daily work without noticing it.
If anything, I moved from GNOME because I knew it too well. I was far from a complete stranger to KDE, having used it for my first two years on GNU/Linux, and continuing to use regularly such applications as DigiKam and Amarok. But as a regular writer about free software, I felt the need of more prolonged experience with other projects. So, just as I have Fedora on my laptop and regularly try out different distributions, I wanted a closer experience of software that I didn't use every day.
In other words, it was time for something different. Aside from the odd week or month on Xfce or Ratpoison or some other interface, I had been using GNOME daily for seven years. As much as anything else, it was simply time for a change.
So, I moved to where the most interesting changes seemed to be coming from. Considering the changes in the KDE 4 series, as well as experiments such as Nepomuk, the new desktop layer for tagging and retrieving information, and the KDE Social Desktop, that place seems to be KDE.
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