2002 Geramik Reduces KDE/GNOME Style Differences

Craig Drummond has released a new theme and "engine" for GTK programs that provides something many people have been looking for: a common look and feel for KDE and GNOME applications. While Red Hat's Blue Curve attempts to do something similar, Mr. Drummond's Geramik is the first theme implementation to provide smooth integration between environments. Read the full story at

[Ed: What about usability issues? If KDE and GTK+ apps don't act the same or provide the same set of functionality in practice, should they really look the same? Wouldn't that mislead the user?]


Red Hat now has the option of defaulting to Keramik/Geramik under KDE and BlueCurve under GNOME. It would be the best of both worlds for everyone.

Distributors like Mandrake and SuSE can now integrate all applications in the default KDE desktop. It will be great. Look at a great screenshot of Mandrake with Keramik/Geramik: 3957-1.png

By Anonymous at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

this just looks awful!
Fonts and icons are way to big!

By katakombi at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

no, no. that's just a problem with gtk, not geramik.

By static at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

It does look awful.

Sorry, but geramik doesn't make GTK apps look like kde apps. They still look like GTK apps with big, and inconsistent (w/ the app) buttons.

By Jeff at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

redhat probably won't do it due to their queer obsessive fascination with gnome.

By static at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

what's exactly is queer with having a facination with gnome?

I won't even go into suse's facination with kde.

By asf at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

KDE is the standard desktop. Things that Red Hat have done recently have not been anything to do with standards. Look at them removing MP3 and MPEG support from their latest desktop and crippling the KDE environment.

The new KDE 3.1 and associated themes look really cool!

Mr Fizz

By Mr Fizz at Mon, 2002/11/18 - 6:00am

How exactly was KDE "crippled" by redhat?
redhat's distribution of KDE was completely functional.

By anonymous howard at Thu, 2002/11/21 - 6:00am

This includes the menu editor?

By Anonymous at Fri, 2002/11/22 - 6:00am

> redhat's distribution of KDE was completely functional.

And how is kappfinder working? I hear it was removed.

By Anonymous at Fri, 2002/11/22 - 6:00am

so your example of how redhat's KDE was "crippled" is that kappfinder is no longer included?

By anonymous howard at Fri, 2002/11/22 - 6:00am

You spoke about completeness, that's was what I quoted.

By Anonymous at Sat, 2002/11/23 - 6:00am

No, what i spoke about was the fact that redhat's version of KDE was not "crippled."

one missing application does not make KDE crippled. besides, it shouldn't be the duty of the user to run an application that searches for legacy applications and to have them added into the menu. the desktop environment should do that automagically.

By Anonymous Howard at Sat, 2002/11/23 - 6:00am

If only everyone would work on a common way to use themes. it seems like such a waste having to recode a theme multiple times depending on the desktop enviorment you wish to support. Just think load up a GTK app and it automaticly looks like your kde enviorment, or vice versa. to bad it will most likely never happen :(

By David Ricciardi at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

And why excactly should the 2 desktops be integrated again ? People tend to forget they are 2 seperate companies with 2 distinctly different styles and are trying to take their software in 2 different directions - so why is everyone trying to force them to integrate in the first place ? Personally I like having the option to switch between the 2 - it's the main avantage Linux has over Windows in the first place: the freedom to choose...

By Chris Spencer at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

The problem is not whether KDE and GNOME must merge. They shouldn't and, anyway, they won't. The problem is: while it's perfect to have two major desktop engines, with great underground libraries it's stupid to have different looks and different feels. I mean, would you find normal not to be able to use some wallpapers on Linux because they're 'for windows' ? That would be non-sense. Well, for the average user, choosing a desktop is not the same as choosing a wallpaper, an icon theme, a style etc... it should be a matter of underground libs, not external look and feel.

Look: I prefer KDE but if I need GIMP, I'd like it to look like all my desktop. That doesn't mean that I want KDE and GNOME to merge !

More over, when I add some fonts to my system, I want them to work in koffice as well as abiword. If I set up 'Lucida Sans' as my default font for KDE, I want it to be the default font for GTK apps too because that's logic in fact.

Etc etc etc...

By Julien Olivier at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

If you divide the world into equal Qt and GTK+ halves, your attitude might make sense. But that's not how the world is.

At work I use KDE on FreeBSD. Native to the system are not only Qt and GTK+ applications, but XUL, Motif, Xt, FOX and FLTK applications. And what about Gkrellm and Xmms skins? I also have Acrobat reader and Realplayer. What about them. Or those remote Solaris apps I run on the desktop like Clearcase and Framemaker?

If only things could be like Windows! There you have clashing styles between Quicktime, Realplayer, MediaPlayer and WinAmp. And you have non-M$ looks in Netscape. I've run across installation and driver configuration programs that look like funky web pages. And of course, every new release of MSOffice introduces a new and inconsistant UI.

Hmmm, may be the Macintosh is better. But wait! Apple's own Quicktime has a brushed metal look that clashes with Aqua.

I don't hear Windows and Macintosh users demanding that some dictator arise and mandate uniform looks and feels. Why does Open Source need one?

By David Johnson at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

You say Apple's quicktime clashes with aqua, this is true, but look what they did with Aqua. They made it so programs written for Aqua will all have similar usabilities. Is it the Cocoa interface? i forget. But it makes things a lot better looking and a more seamless interface.

By standsolid at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

If windows or Mac do things in a bad way, we shouldn't do like them. The good way is 'consistency' between apps. If we can't have Acroread or Real Player look integrated, too bad but that would be better than nothing. More over, maybe when we'll have a stable, consistent look and feel on both KDE and GNOME, other toolkits will try to imitate it. I mean, which look do you expect OpenOffice to mimic now ? GNOME one ? KDE one ? Windows one ? There is no dominant look on linux and that's the problem.

By Julien Olivier at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

"There is no dominant look on linux and that's the problem."

I'm still not convinced it is a problem. I used Windows and Macintosh as examples of popular platforms that do not have consistant interfaces, and whose users are NOT complaining about it.

One of the recurring mantras of the Linux community is "if we don't do xxx then we will never be accepted." But other platforms are accepted that have exactly the same problems. OSX has a more integrated look than Windows, yet I fail to see the hordes of users migrating from Windows to OSX because of it. Maybe the problem really isn't as big as people claim.

There are some things that need to be standardized, such as drag-n-drop and menu layouts. But a mere difference in the look of widgets is not that big a deal. In my opinion. Of course, I use FreeBSD instead of Linux, so I've never seen the need for a look-and-feel czar.

By David Johnson at Sat, 2002/11/16 - 6:00am

I'm not saying that we must have a consistent look and feel in order to be accepted and get users. I don't care about how many users Linux has. Really. There are, of course, bigger problems that Linux has to solve but that's not the point here.

What I say is that I prefer an unified desktop than a patchwork. If Windows users and Mac users prefer a patchwork, that's great for them. But in the free world, we have the possibility to make things better and we shouldn't say 'Windows and Mac don't have this feature so it's not important'. Else, we would be glad with virii, lack of freedom, unstable software etc...

More over, Windows has a better integrated printer dialog: you set up printers once and every app use it. That's not the case on Linux. That's an example of details that make Linux look weird for beginners.

By Julien Olivier at Sat, 2002/11/16 - 6:00am

Uhm, the real matter here is usability for the new users. First of all both worlds, Windows and Macintosh, are extending and tweaking their already existing UI with new features while many core parts stay true over all system revisions and are often still set up globally. On the other hand Linux, as well as BSD, has several toolkits which are fundamentally different and just now things are moving in the direction to avoid irritations due to them for new users.

I'm still not convinced it is a problem. I used Windows and Macintosh as examples of popular platforms that do not have consistant interfaces, and whose users are NOT complaining about it.

One of the recurring mantras of the Linux community is "if we don't do xxx then we will never be accepted." But other platforms are accepted that have exactly the same problems. OSX has a more integrated look than Windows, yet I fail to see the hordes of users migrating from Windows to OSX because of it. Maybe the problem really isn't as big as people claim.

By Datschge at Sat, 2002/11/16 - 6:00am

> Hmmm, may be the Macintosh is better. But wait! Apple's own
> Quicktime has a brushed metal look that clashes with Aqua.

That's not a good example. They do this with iTunes too, but it's only the 'skin' that's different. It might as well just be a change of colour. All the buttons, sliders and other widgets remain the same.

By John at Sun, 2002/11/17 - 6:00am

That's a kickass idea, and you wouldn't be the first to have thought about it. There's absolutely zero reason why a widget toolkit theme system couldn't be specced out on, the only reason why it hasn't happened is that it's a big task and nobody has yet had time to do it.

I dunno how much you've done/are doing for free software, but if you want to jump in that'd be a great place to start.

By Mike Hearn at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

What about a patch to swap Gnome2's dialog button orders back to Gnome1/KDE order?

By Anonymous at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

Why? The current GNOME2/MacOS button order is more usability friendly. It's more applicable to how people in either RTL or LTR languages think. GNOME1/KDE/WINDOWS show it opposite than what people think internally in their heads.

By asf at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

If it is more usability friendly then why do I have problems with it and am confused that different X clients use different button orders? If I use MacOS I know that everything will behave different (but equal!) so that's not a problem. For Unix/Linux it introduces needless inconsistency. Why should I have to adjust my internal thinking (how?) just because someone suddenly thinks that I have to in contrary to previous thinking?

By Anonymous at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

gnome is doing the right thing

By noone at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

> it introduces needless inconsistency

fix KDE then.

By asf at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

No, and you wrongly assume that only Gnome and KDE X clients exist.

By Anonymous at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

of course other clients exist. I wasn't implying as such. anyways, inconsistency is commonplace in the world of XWindows, so your point is moot. much more important to improve usability, imho.

By asf at Sat, 2002/11/16 - 6:00am

Have a look in the GTK section of There you will also find matching GTK themes for Liquid and QNX, although these do not follow the KDE colors.

By Carsten Schlipf at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am


I think this is a great idea to make matching styles. It would even better if GNOME and KDE acted the same (file/printer dialogs, ioslaves for example) and had common icons.

But I still think Keramik is not so great. Neither is liquid by the way. I mean, those are nice-looking styles and they'll probably please a lot of people but I think they're "too much".

Look at GNOME2's default look: it's simple and elegant. Isn't it possible to reproduce GNOME2's default theme in KDE ?

I think Keramik/Geramik and Liquid should be options for those who like "speacial" eye-candy but not for everyone.

I must admit that I really like what RedHat did with BlueCurve. My only problem is that I don't like the WAY they did it. Isn't it possible for KDE people to take BlueCurve's code, make it better and include it in KDE CVS (with a different name) and for GNOME people to do the same ? SO we would have a simple default style for both KDE and GNOME (modified BlueCurve) and an "artistic" default style for both of them (Keramik/Geramik).

The same for icons: extend GNOME icons with KDE "gnomized" icons to make a standard icon theme for both KDE and GNOME and extend crystal with some GNOME "crystalized" icons to make an "artistic" icon theme for both KDE and GNOME.

This post is not a flame against KDE artwork. I just say that some people prefer keramik/crystal and some prefer GNOME artwork. And in my case, I love GNOME artwork but I prefer KDE apps. So I have to chose between look and feel. I chose 'feel' (KDE) on my work's computer where I need code colorization, a working ftp ioslave etc..., and 'look' (GNOME) on my home's computer where I just browse the web using Mozilla and read emails with Evolution.

What do you think ? Do you like keramik ? Do you like GNOME style ? What about BlueCurve in CVS ?

By Julien Olivier at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

I too really prefer clean/simple to cool/artistic. Of course, taste differs, which is the very reason for having theming in the first place. As a Gnome user, I think it can only be good for everybody if the most used themes are ported across; with the exception of a few ranting zealots, most of us do run apps from both desktops and it is nice to have an integrated look for all your stuff.

That said, having a full common theme format will never happen. This is not due to any animosity between desktop developers, but due to the simple fact that many themes (at least for gtk) are not just an xml file and some icons, but theme engines, coded as a plugin for the toolkit (thinice being maybe the most used right now). I assume you can do similar stuff for Qt. These won't be portable, ever. What _could_ be done is to write an engine for gtk and for Qt that accepts the same theme format. The downside is that it would be sort of a least common denominator of both toolkits' capabilities (theme creators would not have the same fine-grained control over their creations) and would likely not be as fast or efficient than an engine used only for one of them.

As an aside, the "where is the close button" thing is really a non-issue. I have observed users using both Gnome2 and KDE apps at the same time and there is never any confusion. It seems this is due to the 'safe' option being highlighted by default, and users will take that - rather than position - as a cue for what button to press.


By Janne at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

Texstar made the blue curve theme available on his ftp site. This is advantageous for those who want the integrated look, but doesn't mess with the features of kde or gnome, ie single-click versus double-click or any other such controversies.

By Mike at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

Texstar's Bluecurve (renamed to Freecurve due to legal reasons) is sooo cool!

Get it from

By meee!!! at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

Where exactly? Looked everywhere with no luck :-(.

By Clueless at Sat, 2002/11/16 - 6:00am

I am a very simple person I guess, I really like keramik, same with Liquid...I find the
themes beautiful and enhance a person's kde experience.

Redhat is doing it their way with bluecurve and I respect that, But I guess that will be one of my reasons of not using redhat, I appreciate KDE and is very satisfied with it, (kde user since the very first version of kde).

By Kenneth Oncinian at Sat, 2002/11/16 - 6:00am

Well, I like the keramik style. I just like the "flat" windows, i.e. the flat window borders. And I think the icons are more abstract and that's more modern.
And the buttons look more like the buttons on other modern devices. The old themes use a button style that looks like a device from the 60s or 70s.
But I think that the UI of my desktop has to adapt to the modern styles. So I use keramik (and would us Aqua on Mac if I had one, and even prefer the new MS Windows XP desktop over the "old" Windows).

By Detlef Grittner at Sun, 2002/11/17 - 6:00am

ok, this is one step forward. what is still needed is:
1. packages which include both gtk and kde version of some style -> and which can easily be installed using the control-center or gnome's equivalent.
2. ditto for icons.
3. a way to have gtk-apps use the kde-filedialog and the other way round.
4. ditto for print-dialog.
4. a way to include gnome-configlets (control-center modules) in the control-center.
5. and a way for gnome/gtk to read other things from /.kde/config and take over those options.
6. a common way to use kio-slaves. (this should probably be for all*nix-apps)

By Johannes Wilm at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

As for icons, the newest gnome beta (2.1.2) has support for Icon themes!....unfortunately, it's totally packaged differently than the kde icon themes, once you get under the size directories. This causes some pain and hassle in porting kde themes to gnome and vice versa. Perhaps there could be a conversion script, and perhaps this would be just too complex.

By karl11 at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

Could this problem be fixed with 1001 symbolic links, or is it more complicated than that?

By Joel at Sat, 2002/11/16 - 6:00am

Hey, I just installed Mandrake 9.0. Now I can play like
8 songs simultaneously with this noatun. Its really cool.
Great stuff!

By Mandrake at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

for those who have slower computers, Rik Hemsley (kde developer dude) has written a very very fast fast fast ogg (not mp3. oh poo.) player 4 kde. is very difficult for me to make it skip. it plays without cutting out even when i have my system (750mhz) so overloaded my applications stop drawing themselves. is very nice. well, when using arts it skips a bit under these circumstances. when using oss it doesnt.


By static at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

Big whoop. In BeOS, I used to be able to play 4 AVI's at the same time on an old PII-300. The system would max out at around 30 MP3 streams. Don't get me wrong, I love KDE (using it as my only desktop for a long time) but Noatun and aRts aren't exactly the most amazing parts of the project...

By Rayiner Hashem at Sat, 2002/11/16 - 6:00am

would be also good from a kde user standpoint since you wouldnt lose that kind of datas when you have to wipe out a .kde directory after upgrades or problems.
The themes datas are fairly consistent over releases and would only require some small scripts to actualise them after a kde version upgrade.
Right now, it's a PITA. Either you lose all your datas and rebuild your prefs from the grounds up, or you copy .kde prior to the wiping out, and then manually copy directories and files afterwards by errors and tries.
there could be a common /usr/share/themes and ~/themes with inside directories for kde, gtk, gnome, qt, whatever other wms you use.
It would make also such cross wm theme like the one this news is about more consistent for people who want to use them even if they dont have qt or kde installed.

By jaysaysay at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

This is about the desktop providing a common look and feel across all applications, not the porting of a theme to GNOME.

Currently, when a user runs a GNOME/GTK-based application under KDE, it looks out of place. The theme means that GNOME/GTK-based applications will look similar to KDE applications, and thus provide a more integrated experience for the user. Ok, provided that the KDE and GTK themes match. :-)

But this only solves one problem, and that is of look. It doesn't solve the feel problem, since KDE and GNOME do things differently. Personally, my heart tells me that the look is more important than the feel, but my head tells me otherwise. That is probably the same for most people, hence the reason so much effort goes into developing themes, and little is done on developing a shared user interface experience.

By AccUser at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

I think that effort has be done on look first. Because when the look of both desktops will be consistant, people will really see "Linux" as a unified desktop and will feel differences between KDE and GNOME as bugs. So they'll ask more and more consistancy between them and developers will start taking it very seriously (if they're not already). Nowadays, with so different looks, people expect apps to behave differently so everybody is accustomed to make a choice between KDE and GNOME and avoid the counterpart desktop.

By Julien Olivier at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am

I absolutely agree with your point of view.
My heart says: Eye-candy!
My head says: Function!

So I settled on KDE with some Apple Platinum-like
theme and colourscheme, since I like that GUI a lot.
I never owned one of these paradise fruit myself,
sadly enough ;-)

Maybe we´ll really see a shift towards "same functionality"
when people (programmers?) are satisfied with the
number of themes with the same look.

If I was into coding, I´d started doing it myself a while

By Ingo at Tue, 2002/11/19 - 6:00am

>>> If KDE and GTK+ apps don´t act the same should they really look the same?

IMHO, yes -- though I understand and find your observation important enough to imply that differences in appearance would be useful so the user is not misled.

But I think we´re in a process here. Everyone is starting to understand looks and feel do not necessarily imply the same internals. If we can have Gnome and KDE to be externally identical, then one can choose between them based on real technical advantages they have.

This, of course, doesn´t imply everyone should use Keramik/Geramik; we should have tons of themes so that one chooses a GTK theme he likes and the respective KDE alternative will be available. If I´m not wrong, the XFCE people already work on this for their upcoming version 4.

So, IMHO, we must accept some usability problems for the moment, hoping this "sacrifice" will bring one day more control for the user of his/her own desktop.

By Anonymous at Fri, 2002/11/15 - 6:00am