KDE vs. GNOME: DVD Tools and Desktop Design

Users must choose between GNOME simplicity and KDE completeness, and neither choice is completely satisfying.
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DVD tools are more important on Linux than on most operating systems. While Windows or OSX users rarely burn CDs or DVDs except for an occasional backup, for many Linux users, burning a Live CD to investigate a distribution is a common task.

Similarly, although the users of other operating systems may extract audio or visuals from a CD, all the really large local content libraries I have seen tend to be on Linux. What is an occasional convenience to others are standard tools in the free and open source lifestyle.

For this reason, DVD tools are well-represented in both KDE and GNOME. On both desktops, earlier tools like X-CD-Roast that are formidable in their options have been replaced with more user-friendly default tools: K3b for KDE, and Brasero for burning and Sound Juicer for audio ripping for GNOME.

All these tools perform their basic tasks well enough for most users. However, what is striking is how clearly each of them demonstrates the design philosophies of the desktops with which they are associated.

Brasero and Sound Juicer typify the radical simplicity of the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines, as well as the old Unix principle of designing a separate application for each task. By contrast, K3B reflects the KDE tendency towards centralized applications that include every option and do every task in their categories. As Amarok does for music, or digiKam does for image management, so K3B is an all-in-one application for everything to do with CDs and DVDs.

Brasero and Sound Juicer and the Typical Use-Cases

For several releases, GNOME included a basic burner in Nautilus. However, the Nautilus burner offered few options beyond the selection of files, and some users may have found it mildly confusing to use. At any rate, for the last three GNOME releases, the Nautilus burner has been replaced by Brasero, which is almost as limited in functionality, but has a much less confusing interface.

kde and gnome dvd burners and desktop tools, brasero

Brasero

The virtue of Brasero is that even first-time users can rarely doubt what to do next. Brasero opens on a list of five basic goals -- an audio CD, a data CD/DVD, a video project, a copy of a disk, or the creation of one. Each of these five goals is annotated in half a dozen words on the opening screen to make them clearer.

Selecting a goal moves you to another screen in which the steps to perform the task are clearly laid out. For instance, if you choose to create a data disk (that is, copy files from your hard drive to a CD or DVD), you are presented with instructions about the different ways in which you can add or remove contents from a disk.

kde and gnome dvd burners and desktop tools, brasero 2

Brasero offers a list of five basic goals

All you need to do is to make sure that the space required by the selected files does not exceed the capacity of the target disk, decide whether the file names will be Windows compatible, and click the burn button when you are ready. Checking file integrity, setting burn speed -- all the rest of the details -- are automatically taken care of. You can create a cover, or manually check file integrity, but that is just about all you can do.

If you want to rip an audio CD, Sound Juicer is nearly as straightforward as Brasero. Sound Juicer automatically detects the contents of a disk in the drive, and includes just five tags: Title, Artist, Genre, Year and Disc. Unless you want to unselect a track, all you need to do is click the Extract button.

kde and gnome dvd burners and desktop tools, sound juicer

Sound Juicer

Users who want more control can go to Edit -> Preferences to set such options as the destination for ripped files and the names of folders and files or the output format. But in many cases, the defaults set by the distribution make such fine-tuning unnecessary.

More experienced users will probably chafe at the lack of options in both Brasero and Sound Juicer. You cannot, for example, change the write speed in Brasero in the hopes that a slower speed will eliminate errors. Nor can you add custom tags in Sound Juicer.

Yet despite the obvious limitations, Brasero and Sound Juicer succeed because they are designed to fit the more common use cases as closely as possible. In the majority of cases, average users do not need more choices than either application provides -- and, often, do not want them. Users do not even need to separate out one set of tasks from another, because the sets are delineated by application.

Both are no-nonsense applications designed to do a small set of tasks moderately well in the majority of cases. If you do want something with more options, then you can search your distro's repositories for other tools.


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Tags: Linux, Linux desktop, Gnome, KDE, DVD


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