December 13th, 2003:

Gnome vs. KDE

I recently discovered KOrganizer. The versions for KDE 3.2beta are very well written. Very featureful. Very useful. The problem is, I’ve never been a KDE guy. I’ve only used very few QT/KDE projects and, even then, only because a GTK/Gnome equivalent wasn’t available. However, after seeing how powerful KOrganizer was, I decided to try out the entire KDE suite. This is a piece of cake in Debian, so there wasn’t a lot of work involved.

I was very impressed. Impressed enough that I decided to switch desktop environments for a few weeks, just to get a feel for it. The only real problem I had, is that KDE applications seem to not integrate well with applications built outside of its environment. This statement may be uneducated, as I didn’t really put that much into it.

Most applications seemed to run and function just fine. However, trying to get KDE to, say, use Thunderbird as its default mailer, or Mozilla as its default browser was difficult enough that I gave up trying to do so.

Another small complaint is that KDE 3.1 SUCKS. There are a lot of things broken and/or buggy and very user unfriendly. So, an upgrade to KDE 3.2beta is almost required. Unfortunately, now I’m using beta software… which can be very buggy at times. I’ve had a few applications crash on me on a regular basis (namely KMail and Noatun). Maybe when KDE 3.2beta matures past a beta level this issues will go away. I would hope so.

KMail, although the interface is just plain weird at times, seems to be a great mailer. One thing I really liked about it was that it was the first Linux GUI mailer I’d used that acknowledged that I may desire to send mail FROM a certain email address without associating an Incoming server with it. Thunderbird and Evolution both integrate sending and receiving mail into the same preferences pane as though they are always in a 1:1 relationship. This means that, for me, I end up establishing lots of accounts with "idontgetmail" as the server name and a Check Mail interval of 0. This wouldn’t be so bad if the mail client didn’t insist on showing each of these "accounts" as separate items with separate folders despite the fact that I’ll never ever use them to READ mail.

Gnome/GTK, however, seems purer. I don’t know quite how to explain this. I just mean, the way the applications are coded feels more… UNIX … to me, which I like. I feel like, in the event that I want to do something that most people wouldn’t want to do, or that the application developers didn’t anticipate, I would have an easier time with Gnome. This could be entirely wrong, as I’ve never tried. It’s just a feeling I get.

I really like the integration of KDE. I like how all the dialog boxes for, say, choosing a file, always look the same. I like how they operate (allowing me to use "tab" completion and showing me possibilities by dimming the completion in the selection box just slightly. KDE also seems easier to configure. A few clicks here and there and the entire interface changes to suit my desires. It includes GTK compatibility code so that my GTK applications look at least a little bit like the rest of my desktop. These are all very nice things.

But Gnome/GTK seems to have a lot more available applications. Additionally, the applications seem to be "cooler" and, in most cases, they seem to come out first. With a few exceptions: a mailer, a calendar, a file browser, and a code editor (when I’m not using Vim). And of course, those exceptions make up at least 50% of my computer application usage.

Of course, under Gnome… ESound sucks. Horrible. Crashes constantly… sometimes my sound is very distorted, there is a horrible lag between a sound generation and the sound actually coming out of the speakers. All in all, ESound, at least in my experience, is the devil.

So, needless to say, I’m having a hard time choosing. In the past 24 hours, I’ve switched back and forth more than twice. Sure, I can run KDE applications in Gnome, or Gnome applications in KDE. But, when I do, it feels sort of like running an old Windows 3.1 application under Windows 2000: you can do it… as long as you don’t have to use that application a lot, otherwise it becomes very annoying, very quickly.

KDE seems to have an easier time running Gnome/GTK applications than Gnome does KDE (because KDE doesn’t seem to integrate very well), and I prefer the environment core (window manager, file browser, etc) that comes with KDE over that which comes with Gnome. So, it looks like I’m leaning that way. But still, I’m typing this in GVim under Gnome… so… who knows.