OSNews: Bringing KDE Closer to Joe User's Desktop

User Interface designer Eugenia Loli-Queru has written a thoughtful and well-illustrated article for OSNews where she discusses which parts of KDE are good and which ones could use some polishing. "What is a good User Interface? Well, in order to answer that, we will have to take into account that different people like different shapes, colors and functionality. This article is just my personal opinion, how I would like KDE to evolve in the future. I am sure that other users would like to see other, different types of evolution. However, we can't deny the fact that some basic rules of UI design should never be ignored." The developers have started a discussion (thread1, thread2) based on this article.


I only used Konqueror for several months when I was running Knoppix. But I found it to be slow slow slow. On the other hand, I quickly became addicted to Opera when I tried it. Can Konqueror do customized searches from the url? Can you download torrents in one click, just like a regular download? Not to mention the fact that they were the first to use tabbed browsing. Just my opinion: I wish more people would give Opera a try.

By Karma at Fri, 2007/10/12 - 5:00am

> I would *please* like reasonable responses - no trolling/flaming.

OK, here's an opinion for a GNOME user. I don't have KDE 3 (yet), because I'm short on disk space right now.

KDE offers some features that GNOME doesn't and vice versa.
KDE has an integrated office suit, GNOME has a collection of individual programs (but that doesn't mean the GNOME ones are worse).
Konqueror is a better web browser than Nautilus with Mozilla component is (the app adapt itself better; you can rightclick on a link in Konqueror, but you can't do that in Nautilus), except in terms on rendering.
Default KDE looks better than default GNOME. However, default GNOME doesn't look as cluttered as default KDE is (all the gradients tend to overwhelm me at first).
KDE has support for KDE 2.x's status dock (duh), but GNOME 1 is still stuck with 1.x's status dock. I can't find a status dock in GNOME 2.
In GNOME, you can easily switch window manager. In KDE you have to set the WINDOWMANAGER environment variable or something.
Nautilus has support for emblems on files. I haven't seen this in Konqueror.

All in all, I don't think they differ too much. GNOME is cleaner, and simpler, while KDE is more advanced, more integrated and looks more like Windows.
I wouldn't say one is better than the other, they are just different.
I think I'll stick with GNOME 1.4 for quite a while.

By Stof at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

> In GNOME, you can easily switch window manager.

Not in Gnome 2.0 anymore. I think we should compare the latest released versions.

By Anonymous at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

That's b.s.

It took me all of about 2 minutes to switch out sawfish and replace it with metacity when I was goofing around with window managers on Gnome 2.0. I'm using the Debian unstable branch if anyone's curious.

By Anonymous Coward at Fri, 2003/09/26 - 5:00am

Good job for replying to a year and a half old post. It was true then btw.

By AC at Fri, 2003/09/26 - 5:00am

Yeah, I know. Necroposting isn't cool. :P

By zombor at Sun, 2006/04/02 - 6:00am

> "What features are in KDE 3 that are not in GNOME 2?"

Can you say menu editor :-)?

There is a whole bunch of things and I'm sure everyone would miss something when trying to create a list. My try: more sophisticated file dialog/text editor/bookmark editor and control center, configurable toolbars, meta-information infrastructure, modular multimedia framework, cups printing integration, font installer, more kio/vfs slaves, regular expression editor, analogue clock applet, RDF news ticker, integrated office suite, integrated file-/webbrowser, translations to more languages, a fast and slim window manager and atm of course several programs which have no released to Gnome 2 ported version (browser, mailer, organizer, IRC client, news reader, meta-office, IDE).

By Anonymous at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

Thank You.

Your comments were much more in line with what I wanted to hear. I appreciate your taking the time to do this :)

Concerning the file dialog - it will be coming in gtk 2.x I believe. The GNOME developers have heard this complaint and they agree that the current one is *very* sparse.

Modular multimedia framework. Gstreamer. I *sincerely* hope that this will be the future oof multimedia in GNOME.

You are right - I have not yet found a menu editor.

PS. Galeon 2 is actually available - I think they're cleaning up some last minute issues. XChat (IRC), Pan (newsreader) have been available for some time now.

By Anon Man at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

I know that at the latest Gtk 2.2 shall bring a new file dialog and future Gnome releases will improve (already working) several mentioned points: 2.0.1 menu editor, 2.2 Gstreamer & Metacity and that there is work to integrate their office programs. Just talked about today and Galeon/XChat/Pan for Gnome2 are only development versions just now. If you would have asked "What features are in Gnome2 that are not in KDE3" you would have got as answer SVG and tabbed browsing although it's already implemented in KDE 3.1 Alpha1. :-)

By Anonymous at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

> Can you say menu editor :-)?

Nautilus is GNOME 2's menu editor. Yes, you can finally create desktop entries in Nautilus now.

By Stof at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

lmao,What the heck are you talking about.

By bob jones at Tue, 2005/01/11 - 6:00am

You have to try both to find out which one does fit your needs better. There are often not major features but details which makes the difference: The "Run Command..." dialog which has more options, the screenshot utility which allows you to shot only a single window. If the Gnomes praise their usability, ask why they removed launch feedback in Gnome 2. And why, if you select 5 files in Nautilus to make them read-only it popups 5 properties dialogs. Try the same for 1000 files (yeah, there is a warning). And hell, there are also people out there who choose their desktop because of their liking of the default colors or style.

By Alf at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

These views are interesting. I have always been interested in supporting a superior philosophy (in a personal opinion) for a given time, and switching if I find another superior philophy on Desktop (as opposed to Window) Managers.It is important to stick with one over time, and switch when one "personally rates higher" than another. I have had a quite a bit of non-development, everyday usage of both GNOME 2 and KDE 3. Here is what I know as of now, and am still considering which one finally to use: (ratings out of 10)
First-time Use 9 7
General Usability 8 8
Features and Functions 6 9
Application Purpose 6 8
Application Quality 9 7

Total 38 39

Now these numbers are just numbers I picked based off of what I think, and each category could have a different weight. For example, Application quality, in my opinion, is very important and I like applications that do what they claim very well. So this would change the totals to make gnome equal or slightly higher than kde. But for now, I will breifly discuss each category I think of:

First-time Use:
Gnome is very nice with this because things are very clean and easy to figure out upon first login. The takbar and menus are not too cluttered and contain all needed information. It is great if you are a previous Windows or Mac user to convert to Linux with because (at least in the Mandrake 9.0 edition), you have a top menu bar with a running programs menu on the top right, and a taskbar familiar to windows users (all on first login...).

General Usability:
I think that once one settles into a desktop manager, the usability is about the same for both. As of now, I can log into both DMs and completely have full confidence in the usability of both. I should clarify that usability implies the ease of use of the desktop for everyday things like browsing the internet and checking email and newsgroups efficiently using the DM tools.

Features and Functions:
KDE just seems to have a lot more. Their file management and configuration schemes are much more featured and provide all kinds of configurability and functionality. They are quite good at that. Simple features like storing the setting of a window by right clicking on the titlebar, or viewing properties of multiple, random selected files. There is more that I can't think of off the top of my head now.

Application Purpose:
I like KDE's application suite. They are separate, yet integrated into each other (like KOFFICE or KMAIL/KADDRESSBOOK/KORGANIZER..) and the theme very well. I like the look and feel and the ease at which I could perform configurations. GNOME, on the other hand, has many applications, but doesn't integrate them as well, in my opinion (where integration is really a personal user preference).

Application Quality:
Gnome is just so good at outputing things that work cleanly. For example, frustrated with getting KPilot and its conduits to work (if anyone can help, please email me :) ), I tried out evolution and its conduits. They worked beautifully, right away. I know evolution isn't directly gnome, but it's quite prevalent as a gnome 'featured application.' Gnome-terminal is clearly superior (in my opinion) to K-Shell simply because it loads up fast (everyone likes a fast-loading terminal) and is easily configurable. This is very nice. Other good applications include AbiWord and GNumeric. They just seem to work for most of my purposes. Although gnome, in my opinion, has superior working applications on the whole, KDE seems to be cathing up, and they have more potential. For example, KMail is extremely configurable, shortcut-keyed out the wazooo and works great. KDE has its set of reliable applications.

Perhaps the reason why KDE's application quality is a little less superior in my opinion is the fact that they just have more. I would say that both DMs have an equal number of quality applications, but KDE simply has that much more that are still being tweaked.

OK, I hope this doesn't start some trash-talking or anything. I just thought I'd give my outline to date. I would also like to mention that I have gone throught he WindowManager (Namely Fluxbox and WindowMaker) phase, and have determined formyself that DMs are superior for my purpose (that's a whole 'nother topic, though).

Interested in the responses,

By Geet at Fri, 2002/11/01 - 6:00am

i think both the newest versions of both gnome and kde are a heavy handed slap in the face to the open source/free os community. the attempts by both at homogenization, and (l)user-friendliness destroy what little flexibility these overweight systems had to offer. especially in light of bluecurve, these are typical symptoms of a bloatware windows-izing of the *nix desktop. new features and stability implimentations in both of the desktops are barely noticable beyond all the eyecandy they provide. open source and free os's will never be mainstream because there would be nothing special to them if they were. with a copy of the latest propriety/monopolistic software etched on the hard drive of every system rolling off the line, it would be ludicrous to ask the average person to fire up a slackware box and do anything but stare at the login. so the other alternative is to dumb it down enough to make it easy for people to swallow. i see more and more people turning to fluxbox, window maker, or some other environment to escape either kde or gnome. the strongest argument for linux *bsd fillinablank is that you can pull a computer out of a dumpster and have it running one in no time. an argument which is totally negated by both kde and gnome. i understand that the days of a 66mhz workstation are gone, but when it won't run respectably on 3 year old hardware, a serious problem is ocurring

ps -- jesus! i could compile a kernel in the time it takes to start kde :P

By turboginsu at Thu, 2003/01/30 - 6:00am

The question is obviously relative on the type of person using the desktop, i'd have to say windows users and people who just want something easy to use but slow go with KDE. KDE's menus and applications take way longer to load than gnome's and i REALLY hate the hotkey settings trying to be all windows user friendly in kde.. (gnome 2 seems to have done the same thing just recently) but for the most part i think they are both slow and clunky as a desktop environment, if you want speed go with something like turbo says, fluxbox, windowmaker.. or justa bout anything NOT gnome, kde, or enlightenment. i like the way gnome looks and how you can configure it. KDE has many more options but most are useless or crash whenever you apply them, i've not seen gnome's panel crash even once since i've used it.. but kde on the other had has mucho problems with stability for their components. sure they respawn everytime but who wants to see that damned bomb error message popping up anytimg you change something? (not me) as for the statement about redhat slipping into a user friendly eyecandy heap of slow code.... sad but true ; if you want eye candy.. an easy to use computer.. get a mac with OSX.. they arent THAT expensive.. if you want to use an operating system with speed and reliabilty get linux.. and if people are too braindead or just too lazy to use something other than KDE / GNOME the linux community is going to find itself being a big mess and a struggle to forever be more user friendly.. with less configurability ... more corporate influence ... less speed... a bulkier script kiddy (mandrake) operating system. sure its good to get the average person way from the normal winblows OS and into something new but come on you dont have to sacrifice the entire platform for the rest of them.. the world will never be able to change people who dont care and want to just use windows with the "d00d it does everything i NEED it to" attitude.. so why not focus on the real users who actually care about performance, speed, reliability, stablility, etc.. we're going down, and gnome / kde are the leaders in this fall. what more do you need than a menu, taskbar and some widgets? i mean is it really worth it?


By orbital at Thu, 2003/01/30 - 6:00am

stfu troll.

k thx.

By fault at Thu, 2003/01/30 - 6:00am

It's funny how people (or in this case, the original poster pretending to be several different people) reply to old articles such as this, though (this article was posted what, eight months ago?) phew.

By fault at Thu, 2003/01/30 - 6:00am

oh but troll and i ARE the same person (incase you didnt catch the joke wise guy)

By orbital at Thu, 2003/01/30 - 6:00am

I'll troll it up in linux land, if you like how kde functions maybe you should give windows a try? :D

By Troll at Thu, 2003/01/30 - 6:00am

or maybe someone posting stuff on here spawned the interests of people when before everyone assumed it to be dead? just a thought

By orbital at Thu, 2003/01/30 - 6:00am

of course this is the the international brotherhood of aryan kde users, so anyone who doesn't say "KDE FUKEN R00LZ D00D GNOME IS A GODDAMN PILE OF SHIT IF YOU USE ANYTHING BUT KDE YOU ARE LESS THAN HUMAN" is going to catch hell from everybody who even looks at this site. so who is the troll? if this is just some place where people can talk about how great kde is and nothing else then you should just save everyone time and effort and just play with your kde and jerk off without bothering anyone else.

By turboginsu at Fri, 2003/01/31 - 6:00am

kde > you

nuff said

By fault at Fri, 2003/01/31 - 6:00am

kde !=< window maker/GNUstep!!!!

By turboginsu at Fri, 2003/01/31 - 6:00am

of course, without either kde or gnome a valuable peice of open source would be lost. without the programs and libraries these projects have contributed, linux, and X for that matter would be a great deal more sparse (i would be much less inclined to do anything on linux if everything were drawn in monochrome athena widgets). the point i was trying to make is that these systems are crumbling under their own weight, and one of the major selling points of free OS's might be crushed underneath them.

By turboginsu at Mon, 2003/02/03 - 6:00am

OH MY GAWD!! ::shifts into first gear:: VROOM!! CRASH!!!

By oRbital at Mon, 2003/02/24 - 6:00am

First of all I'm going to come at you from and enduser point of view. I develop, but not for Gnome or KDE. So wtih that in mind.

KDE has better menu-editing and more applications (although albeit kind of useless for me)

Gnome2 has better speed and flexibility

I personally despise the windowish look of KDE.. it just comes off as too bright.
Gnome2 is simple and clean looking...

Redhat 8 & 9 got it right. Use the Gnome 2 interface with some of the KDE funcitionality and programs built in... and with apt-get RPM... I have all the useful tools I need.

Screenshots below.

By 9mind at Sun, 2003/07/13 - 5:00am

> Gnome2 has better speed and flexibility

Flexibility? Like in "amount of offered options"? :-O

> I personally despise the windowish look of KDE.. it just comes off as too bright. Gnome2 is simple and clean looking...

And what shall your three screenshots with three different styles show? That you're able to change Gnome's style but not KDE's to a simple clean and looking style?

> Use the Gnome 2 interface with some of the KDE funcitionality and programs built in...

Gnome 2 interface with KDE functionality? Please elaborate.

> and with apt-get RPM... I have all the useful tools I need.

apt4rpm is neither inventend by, specific to or default on RedHat.

I'm really wondering why you continue this one year thread.

By Anonymous at Sun, 2003/07/13 - 5:00am

Are you two celebrating the first birthday of the article you reply to? =P

By Datschge at Sun, 2003/07/13 - 5:00am

2 and a half years later it's still funny..

By mark at Fri, 2005/10/07 - 5:00am

What's linux?

By jon at Sun, 2007/09/16 - 5:00am

Linux is an operating system based on Unix. If you don't know what an operating system is, then it is probably safest to say it does what Windows does for your computer, but it is free and far superior.

If you want a more thorough and at times humorous explanation, google: "In the beginning was the command line". If you want to see it for yourself, try ubuntu.org. You can run Ubuntu Linux (and many others, most notably Knoppix) from a disk without installing it on your system.

By Karma at Fri, 2007/10/12 - 5:00am

Thank you. You are a nice person. I have installed openSUSE on a virtual machine, but I still need to download the kernel source so that I can compile VMWare tools and make the resolution better.

By jon at Sun, 2007/11/11 - 6:00am

Mr. Pebbles trying to get rid of Maggila Gorilla, Ya just can't

By Snipples at Tue, 2008/04/22 - 5:00am

I am really impressed with the feedback this article is getting from this board. When I saw that it made the front page, I assumed that there would be a whole slew of flames from defensive developers, but instead you KDE guys never fail to impress me (a GNOME user) on your positive responses and willingness to listen to critiques.

The article, by the way, is great, and the GNOME developers should also take a look at it.

By Chris Parker at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

at low resolution 800x600; is very annoying. why can't kpersonalizer also have
an option like:

1. no buttons
2. no logout/lock screen applet
3. no task

with only K button, Desktop Access button, Quick launch, Task bar, System Tray and Time applet. that would be more pleasant.

also the docked taskbar looks ugly. instead of a sunken applet it should be equal like other buttons. taskbar looks more like system tray :(

no hover box, in kicker quick launch: if you put your mouse cursor over the toolbar buttons they get highlighted, but quick launch buttons do not show responsiveness.

By Rizwaan at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

kicker at 800x600

By Rizwaan at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

You can remove any buttons you like... personally, i have about 3 or 4 icons for my most frequently-used apps, the system tray, time applet, and windows list (instead of taskbar)... i don't like the logout/lock thing (personally, i have no use for it)...

personally, i like the docked taskbar with the sunken effect... it's a "container" for application entries, so it makes sense to be sunken...

that's what i like about KDE3... if you don't like something, change it... and it's not at all hard or un-intuitive to rtclk->remove...

By glandix at Mon, 2002/07/15 - 5:00am

The menubar in KDE mostly is not in alignment with toolbar. say this basic style or QT windows one (see attachment). The first image shows how non-aligned menubar and toolbar is. whereas the second image shows the menubar and toolbar aligned. if basic style adds a single black line at the bottom of menubar then menu bar and tool bar would look pleasant.

By Rizwaan at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

I love it! That is the way it needs to look. Without that line, it looks detatched and out of place. Good observation!

By brian at Sun, 2002/07/14 - 5:00am

So true, the new menubar/toolbar look you proposed looks so much clearer...

By Anonymous at Mon, 2002/07/15 - 5:00am

I'm with you on this, if menu and toolbar are on the same level it looks cleaner and more slick.

By Tar at Tue, 2002/07/16 - 5:00am

Like most features that are not in Windows, the tear-off handles are in constant danger of being questioned, removed and marginalized.

Please do not change the size of the tear-off handles, the "solution" in the article is much too small.

By Roland at Mon, 2002/07/15 - 5:00am

I'm running Mandrake 8.3 Alpha (Cooker) on my maschine. What do I need to install KDE 3.1 Alpha and how do I do the installation? Why isn't there something like an update.exe to update the system with a single mouseclick?

By Athlon at Mon, 2002/07/15 - 5:00am

There is no update.sh (exe) file because:
a) you want the control over the update
b) kde only gives you the source. So they will have more time to fix the bugs;)
c) Nobody has written a "all dist kde installer" (there are some scripts that take the source and compile / install it)

Wait for packages from Mandrake. I don't know if there are some.
If you found some install it the way packages are installed on your system.
For Example:
On suse it is rpm -Uvh --nodeps --force /usr/src/kde31_alpha/*.rpm
On debian it is dpkg --install /usr/src/kde31_alpha/*.deb

Every dist has general package installation help on it's homepage.
Also have a look at the realease notes:

have fun

By halux at Mon, 2002/07/15 - 5:00am

If you want to run Alpha quality software, then you better know how to be able to compile and install it from source. If that's too big a challenge (there's a guide on www.kde.org) then I suggest you wait until KDE 3.1 final is released later this year.

The only reason you'd want to install 3.1 at this point in time is to help fix bugs. And trust me, there are also some compile bugs - not all of it builds very well yet.

By Anonymous at Tue, 2002/07/16 - 5:00am

I doubt you can ever update a system using a .exe with a single mouse click. Just after reading the EULA, for example, you have to click once. You have to click the "Next" button a few times, too.

You should know that:

1) Cooker is unstable, use for testing only!

2) KDE 3.1 Alpha is unstable, use for testing only!

Back to your question: there's no .exe. There's something better, though, called urpm, and the rpmdrake interface to it. As soon as KDE 3.1 Alpha enters Cooker you'll be able to upgrade your system. You also have the freedom to build KDE yourself, which isn't hard if you read the documentation.

By Carg at Tue, 2002/07/16 - 5:00am

People should really learn what they are doing and "where" they store there stuff (the underlying file system semantics).

It's a false assumption to think that the earth would be a better place if all file system knowledge is hidden.


Dieter Nützel
Graduate Student, Computer Science

University of Hamburg
Department of Computer Science
@home: Dieter.Nuetzel@hamburg.de

By Dieter Nützel at Tue, 2002/07/16 - 5:00am

>People should really learn what they are doing and "where" they store there stuff (the underlying file system semantics).
In Windows, people don't learn that much - and still succeed to do their work, provided there is somebody doing the admin work.

People don't care where 'My Documents' or 'My Books'
are located physically - as long as it's one click away.
I've heard of people storing their documents in the "Recycle Bin" of Windows ( before the introduction of "My documents") - purely for convenience reasons.
"You open the directory with one double click, and all your documents are there". Double-click, scroll, double click - and here you go.
BTW, the UNIX file system structure is suited very well just for this very matter - hide underlying filesystems from the user.
You may keep e.g. the /usr directory together with the /, or on some separate partition, do this partition ext2 or ext3 or reiser, or even on the NFS partition - it doesn't matter, for you it's all the same /usr.
Why don't you go further in these abstraction? All office work is kept in 'My Documents', and it's no matter whether it is part of your home directory or some NFS partition. Why should a regular non-admin user know, that /home/this_very_user is on /dev/hda6 partition, and this partition is of type reiserfs? How would it help him to complete his office work?

By Alex at Tue, 2002/07/16 - 5:00am

I largely agree with Eugenia; a lot of what she has said makes me regret not vocalising my own usability peeves with KDE sooner (and, soon, I may). However, there is one main point on which I cannot help but feel compelled to disagree:

Don't use a QuickLauncher by default. I don't think that is the ideal solution for the average user by any means. I do, however, strongly agree that the default panel is a mess, especially on lower resolutions. I would propose, rather, that it be cleaned up. Perform a survey: find out which features, on by default, are used by most new users, as new users are the ones least apt to perform extensive peconfiguration. Realistically, how many new users make use of KDE's virtual desktops frequently? I don't know of any, to be honest -- and I've introduced a good half-dozen people to KDE. Also, why put a trivial application like KWrite down there? If you want some form of text editor, wouldn't it be more appropriate to put a "major" flagship application, such as KOffice? Otherwise, it seems (to me) to be a mere waste of space. As for the terminal, I am assuming that anybody knowledgeable enough to use it frequently would know how to access it, so that isn't a necessary icon. I'm not saying it needs to be pitched, but it's worth consideration. Another point: who really uses that button that minimises everything, exposing the desktop? I honestly don't know if *anybody* does. So you see, it isn't so much (for the average user, for whom the default is instended -- right?) a matter of making things smaller, but making them fewer. Only the used essentials belong down there: e-mail, browsing, home, etc. I'm iffy on terminal -- I know that I personally use it, but I'm unsure. Should the virtual desktops perhaps be disabled by default? Another point for debate, surely, they could be reduced to a single desktop by default and the panel removed. And those shutdown/lockscreen buttons... Personally, I remove them and use the ones that are at the bottom of half of the main menut in KDE3. I also don't use the klipboard thing, because it was nonsensical and that gibberish that popped up in the corner all the time drove me NUTS. The striped clock also bothered me, I had to go in and manually set it to a preconfigured setting that matched the rest of the panel. Why is that not default?

Of course, some of my statements may have been obsoleted by the latest releases, but the point regardless is that the default panel simply needs to be weeded out.

By dingodonkey at Tue, 2002/07/16 - 5:00am

I agree with almost all of your points. I've been using Gnome for the past two years, and just made the switch to KDE last week. I love it! However, I found the default Kicker config odd. The first five things to go:

1) Kate button
2) Desktop show button (who uses that??!?)
3) Home dir button (it's on the desktop already!)
4) Pager
5) Clipboard/calendar thingies

I've never used multiple desktops, and find that pager a waste of launcher bar space. So I have a couple of program launcher buttons, the tasklist, logout/lock buttons, clock, and weather. And that's it. Nice and clean, IMHO.

By Stealthboy at Tue, 2002/07/16 - 5:00am