Before Ubuntu became such a hit, many high-profile Linux distributions favored the KDE desktop environment over GNOME. There was a perception that KDE provided a strong balance between desktop control and desktop appearance. It was also widely believed that migrating Windows users would find KDE more familiar than other desktop environments.Yet is KDE indeed the more useable desktop for the majority of users particularly new ones?
KDE is a great desktop, just not for new users
I've been using KDE for years. It was my first experience with desktop Linux -- by no means do I think that KDE should simply shrivel up and die. KDE does a lot of things right out of the box. From day one, it provided a more eye pleasing experience than other desktop environments available back in my early Linux days. But that was then, times have changed. And so has the landscape between KDE and GNOME.
The generally accepted myth that the migrating Windows or OS X user needs to get their feet with KDE over GNOME is absurd. Just because KDE presents a more "Windows-Like" visual experience does not translate into the desktop providing the user a with the best solution.
I see GNOME allowing users to make the switch to desktop Linux with less confusion. At its core, GNOME was designed to not be overwhelming for anyone at any time. While it's accurate to point out both desktop environments support the 3D effects given to us by Compiz Fusion, the fact is that GNOME remains focused on the end user experience without additional visual distractions.
Both KDE and GNOME have a good menu setup. I would argue however, that GNOME's menu options remain easier to use and understand. For example:
Now to be ultimately fair, the latest release of KDE is pretty decent with its layout. But once you get into the KDE settings or applications, some users find themselves overwhelmed fairly quickly. Soon we find ourselves ducking dialog after dialog in KDE whereas with GNOME theres only one dialog needed for a given setting.
Another deal killer for me are the use of panels in KDE. In GNOME, I can add anything I wish very easily. Items of importance including a force-quit and live system-monitor applet, and so on. Bundle this with the fact that customizing my panels in GNOME is a simple matter of a right click, "add to" or "properties," translates into the winning panel experience every time.
With KDE paneling options, you have to first determine what the heck a "screen edge" is, then dance through countless dialogs before making heads or tails out of the options provided. The only thing KDE gets right in this regard over GNOME is with its applet locking options. GNOME makes this a bit tedious.
KDE is pretty, GNOME is ugly
One argument I hear is how much KDE 4.x looks like OS X or Windows 7, while GNOME feels more like something from the 90's. Out of the box, a few years ago, this might have held some truth to it.
These days however, GNOME is highly customizable and looks very professional out of the box. Taking the experience further, you can even alter the GNOME theme in three easy clicks. Four, if you count the new theme you've selected.
I also appreciate the fact that from the same three clicks, I can download ready-made themes if those provides are simply not cutting it.
Customize themed, both KDE and GNOME can be made to look like just about anything. And if you're really dead-set on making your GNOME desktop look just like a Mac or Windows machine, there are themes for this available.
The point here is that GNOME can be made to be as "pretty" or as "ugly," as the end user wishes. Best of all, the user doesnt need to dodge a never-ending influx of unneeded KDE dialogs to make these changes.
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