Desktop Configurability: Is More Better?

One of the oft-recurring debates on KDE mailing lists is, how configurable should
the KDE desktop be? With recent indications that GNOME seems to be heading
in the "less is better" direction, independent KDE developer
Mosfet has written an editorial (related article)
urging why KDE should not follow suit. Anyone else have an opinion on this?


are you as big a freakin moron in real life as you portray here? have you ever tried not being a moron?

A user will feel good using a computer when he feels good doing so. Some do so using MacOS X, others don't, some do so using Win XP, other don't, some do so using Gnome, others don't. This applies for all GUI's and also for KDE, regardless what opinion, taste or feelings "UI experts" have.

by Androgynous Howard (not verified)

I think the GUI for the Theme Manager desperately needs an overhaul. I would like the Theme Manager to be a simple interface to the Colors, Style and Window Decoration pages. For example it should be possible to change to Mosfet Liquid style without using two different dialogs (Window Decoration and Style). And the separate "Mosfet Liquid" page is also very confusing. Yesterday I saw some user who had installed liquid via rpm and could not figure out how to select it because he thought the relevant page was the separate "Mosfet Liquid" page.

by Void (not verified)


All this Colors Window decorations and style and other blaah is way too dispersed unlike in Windows since 95.

by Soup (not verified)

You mean they should do it like how it is currently done in GNOME?

by ac (not verified)

You can do it in KDE already. GNOME has nothing to do with it.

by Datschge (not verified)

Looks like this is becoming Mosfet next project. =)

This story has been posted on Slashdot. If you read all the comments there (and here), you can only conclude 1 thing: _there is no universal answer!_
Too many people disagree with each other. 50% wants a minimalist desktop, while the other 50% wants a highly configurable one.

If people *want* a miminalist, less-is-more desktop, then they'll use GNOME 2 instead. That's why KDE should be the opposite and have lots of config options instead. KDE should be an alternative to GNOME (and Windows and MacOS X and....), so people can have a choice.

Again with the choice thing! Users do not know if they want a choice ... it is up to us to decide for them whether they should have a choice because they are not Desktop Environment developers.

By giving the users a choice of desktop you are throwing out years of research on Desktop Environments sponsored by O.T.W.R.C.D.E.S.E. (One True Way Research Council of Desktop Environment Self-appointed Experts).

We should be kind to the user so that he doesn't have to suffer through making a choice of Desktops that might be confusing for the poor stupid fool. By making the choice for him he will be happy and can have something that Just Works^TM.

So you see, the whole concept of 'choice' should be thrown out the window and everyone should just use the Desktop Environment that is dictated by OTWRCDESE since it is the real scientific answer. After years of research the OTWRCDESE has determined that the command line with absolutely no preferences is the preferred Desktop Environment for everyone.

Have a nice day and happy computing :-)

You have committed several mistakes in reasoning:

less configurability does not mean no configurability.
A novice user is not stupid.
less choice does not mean no choice.
You are allowing your self-centerdness to cloud your judgment. You think only about what you want and not what would be good for the majority of people.

You have committed several mistakes in thinking:

no one said squat about configurability.
you are stupid.
no friggin choice for you.
you are a pretentious bastard for thinking 'papa knows best'.
You are not papa.

by ace (not verified)

No, GNOME should be an alternative to KDE because KDE was here first and is the most advanced of the two.

by Ryan (not verified)

Really. "I was here first." Man thats mature. "My desktop can beat up yours!" Seesh.

by Mats (not verified)

First: I would not like to reduce the configuration options.

It is very important to make things easier for the user.

Scenario: Configuration of the language used.

If I set the language in KDE why dont that have effekt when I login through the console / telnet / ssh? Why does XFree have its own language settings and KDE its own, and so on..

I would like to be able to set the language and the next time i login XDM / KDE / GNOME / ssh / rlogin / telnet / console I would like to have my prefered language.

There are numerous other examples like this. If we want better usability this is one BIG issue. I would like to reduce the number of places I have to configure to achieve the same thing in different domains.

One way of achieve this is to create a library for setting/reading this kind of information that could be used by KDE / GNOME / console apps.


by Anonymous (not verified)

I have a 3 year-old, give me the ability to do the following to her account:

- Prevent desktop icons from being deleted, moved, or "right-clicked".
- Permit a desktop icon to be clicked once to fire off the program.
- Prevent "start menu" items to be moved, clipped, pinned, or deleted.
- Prevent applets to be moved/added to the status/control bar.
- Prevent commands to be "run" from the menu.
- Prevent "right-cliking" anywhere including any task bar items.
- Prevent screen saving while she is logged on.
- Prevent screen locking while she is logged on.
- Prevent any key-sequence/function keys to be active.
- Prevent cut&paster anywhere.
- Prevent any Terminal to be used.
- A few more that I can't think of.

And the clincher: I have to be able to disable this mode and re-enable it via a complex key-sequence.

So, I guess the concept of User Desktop Profile Templates that an admin can apply to new accounts, would be what I'm looking for too.



by Navindra Umanee (not verified)

You know what? I would keep your 3-year old as far from the computer and TV as possible. Really. :-)

Someone else might want to talk about where the KDE Kiosk mode fits into all this.

by Daan (not verified)

Maybe you want to let her use "BOB". See

For the rest you can also use WindowMaker, remove all icons, add those for the Potato Guy etc. and lock them.

by Anonymous (not verified)

This is easy, remove the power cord whenever she is near. Infact just keep her well away, unless you particularly a sticky keyboard and juice in your motherboard.

by Vivek Biswas (not verified)

1. For lockin of panel u may visit the below site. This will help u to solve ur first 5 queries.

2. For disabling left/middle/right mouse button u can diable in the configure desktop program, so that it won't work on the desktop. This will help u to solve ur 6th query.

3. The rest of the querys can be done by disabling function keys, and will let u know as soon as i find it out, b'coz i'm still working on it.


by Hakenuk (not verified)

I think some Usability work has to be done. there are too many ways to configure your desktop. I don't know KDE 3.1 yet but the control center was confusing.

by Datschge (not verified)

Konfigurable Desktop Environment, joy! ;)

PS: And I like it this way, thank you. =)

by Bryan Edewaard (not verified)

I don't want to jump in with another "this is what I want in a desktop" post. Instead I want to make an observation. Of all the people I've met with computers, most are compete novices. They have some Compaq they bought at Sears or whatever, and they know just enough about Windows to check their email. Many are running 16 or 256 bit color at 640x480 because they don't know they can change it, and their systems are way out of date and full of security holes (they're probably hosting a half dozen trojans without knowing it too). They go to work, where their limited computer knowledge allows them to use Word, Outlook and Access. And, they consider themselves successful computer users. These are not the people who will be represented in this discussion, but the environment that reaches them will be the de facto standard Linux desktop. When this happens, the Linux power-user will suddenly find himself in the minority, but it must happen for free software to really hit critical mass.

It's aggrivating enough under Windows to have some app ditch the standard interface in favor of some pretty home-brew gadget set. Although you can completely re-skin Windows, only a very small percentage of users do it (although Microsoft seems to like to mix it up without warning, could the XP scheme be any uglier?). It just doesn't promote efficient work. What KDE should have is a simple, functional (and attractive) interface that is the installed standard. If no one touches any settings, it should be no more complex than the interfaces Microsoft and Apple have spent millions researching & developing.

I don't think it's the settings and features that are bad, it's the idea that consistency across Linux desktops is oppressive and evil. Eventually, a casual user must know that his functional knowledge of a platform will serve him well across the majority of the installed base.

by Beldin (not verified)

SWAT interface for SAMBA has a nice approach for can elect to just access the main congifuration page, which is a few items that set the configuration.

Or, you can choose the "full" parameters page, and spend hours just trying to understand the options...this would be the expert view.

by Funklord (not verified)

I use KDE daily and am more than astonished with almost every aspect of it.
I also agree with Mosfet, the day configuration options start dissapearing is indeed a dark one, when someone is forcing "their way" upon you.

What I'd like to see configuration options for kcontrol itself, ie. allowing you to "hide" your choice of menus etc. (not to protect them, but to make them less easily accessible for the earlier mentioned 3yr old etc)
But, this should never be default behaviour, when we start piling up stuff in an "advanced mode" then you will have 2 defaults which fit noone, a newbie user will always want to change certain "advanced" features, and the advanced mode will start to fill with more dangerous and mostly useless options.

My opinion is: nothing should be hidden from the user by default, but a more experienced user should be able to hide certain options from them and make relevant options more visible.
If I want windows I will use windows, right now I am more than happy with KDE and its extensive configurability and so are everyone else I've talked to, newbie or pro.

Same goes for you lot who seem to want windows/gnome; pipe down or use something else.

by bopeye (not verified)

good article by mosfet, which i agree with. And good comments above - seems to be a 50/50 divide between more configurability versus a cleaner UI.

The newly introduced Kiosk mode for KDE sounds promising, especially for locking down features so that your resident 5 year old doesn't mess up your desktop.

However, i agree with an above poster about Theme Management - it's quite frankly, a mess and too scattered around the place. You've got fonts, colors, icon sets, styles, Window decorations , Mosfet's Liquid, blah blah blah.

A single theme control center would be VERY useful for easily configuring the look of your desktop.