Saturday, December 23, 2006

Suse 10.2, part 3: Looking at KDE

This post comes at the convergence of a number of events. First, there was the story on OSNews titled "Has the Desktop Linux Bubble Burst?" That generated a number of responses, one of them from Aaron J. Seigo. With all the drama buzzing in the background, I went back to my Suse 10.2 installation and started to look at the KDE desktop.

When I installed 10.2 I installed both Gnome and KDE with an eye towards really testing and comparing both. I've slowly grown dissatisfied with Gnome over the past year, and I'm ready for a real change. I've played with KDE in the past, and I've started to use the underlying GUI toolkit, Qt from Trolltech. I've wondered if I should switch and use KDE as my default desktop. With Suse 10.2 it looks like the answer is yes.

With both environments installed it was a simple matter to log in using KDE. The first thing I did to my KDE desktop was to change the blue background into something, anything, a little livelier. I like a mix of colors in my desktop theme, with some warmth to it, not shades of blue all over everything (but I am not a fan of Ubuntu's themes). I've been over-exposed to blue for 17 years, starting with OS/2 and extending through Windows. I'm tired of blue. With the KDE desktop I was able to go out to the net and get this particular desktop image via the applet functionality that lets you change the background.

I then fired up Firefox and played with it a bit. The first thing I noticed was the rendering of the tabs on Firefox. On every distribution I've played with that came before Suse 10.2, the rendering of the tabs (and other controls) on Firefox looked pretty poor on the KDE desktop. If you wanted Firefox to look decent, you ran it under Gnome not KDE. And I say this having experienced Firefox 2 on both Suse 10.1 and Suse 10.2. With Suse 10.2 Firefox 2 looks equally good under either KDE or Gnome. For my Firefox comparisons I was using ClearLooks on Gnome and Plastik on KDE.

That lovely shade of red for the window border was picked by me. The ability to pick your window border color for a desktop theme doesn't exist in Gnome. It does for Windows, it did for OS/2 and CDE on Solaris, but I've never been able to do something that simple on Gnome. Like a lot of other simple things I should be able to easily do under Gnome, but can't.

I've read many comments about the KDE desktop menu, some good and some not. I like it. I like it a lot. It responds quite nicely as the mouse moves over the tabs, and I like that fact that it doesn't grow all over the desktop as you drill down multiple layers. On a constrained desktop (such as a compact notebook) it makes efficient use of the available space, and it's just a lot easier (for me anyway) to quickly find what I'm looking for. It's a good unique addition to KDE and Linux desktop navigation.

Konqueror has grown quite polished over the years. My only complaint, the same one I always have with Nautilus, is the default view does not have tree navigation on the left side. Unlike Gnome, however, I don't have to hunt down a second application to change the view. The ability to enable this feature is on Konqueror under Window | Show Navigation Panel, or you can press F9 when Konqueror has the focus to enable it.

Navigation isn't limited to just a narrow tree down the side. Using the image viewing mode, I've got both the navigation on the far left and a narrow strip next to it to quickly look at images. The rest of the screen at the right lets me view the image. This image viewing capability comes in quite handy when browsing my every larger collection of digital images from my Olympus. Konqueror has moved far beyond just being a file listing utility into a valuable tool in its own right. I still don't care for it as a web browser (I turn to Firefox), but for just about everything else it's as good if not better than the other alternatives.

The final reason (out of many) why I'm moving to KDE is Java. Up until Suse 10.2 and this release of KDE, I could not get anti-aliased fonts by default with Java under KDE. Now, with this version of KDE and Java 6, I get the same level of rendering quality under both platforms.

In this example I've created a simple C++ project inside of NetBeans 5.5. It might not be obvious from the screen capture, but the font rendering is very good and easy enough to read and work with for hours on end. With the high performance of Java 6, the right plugins for NetBeans, and the good looking font rendering, KDE can now be my default desktop, at least on this machine. It goes without saying that I need to install 10.2 on my Gateway notebook to fully test it's capabilities, but I have high confidence it will do just fine.

Thom Holwerda spoke of a problem with Gnome in his article, the lack of core maintainers for Gtk+. I agree with him that the lack of Gtk+ maintainers has a negative impact on the overall quality of Gnome. Gtk+ is the foundation for Gnome, and frankly, that foundation has collapsed. Gtk+ and Gnome were a response to KDE and Qt in the early days of the KDE desktop because Qt was not released under the GPL. Trolltech, the owners and maintainers of Qt, have long since addressed that issue, and Trolltech has continued to drive the features, performance, and overall quality of Qt to the point where it is one of the most polished multi-platform GUI toolkits around. And that quality adds to the quality of KDE. The motivation for Gtk+/Gnome's existence is gone, and has been gone for some time. The result has been the gradual eclipsing of Gnome by KDE, and it will only grow greater over time.

I believe that there's nothing that can be done for Gtk+, even if a miracle occurred and the right number of highly organized, superbly qualified software engineers suddenly appeared with a plan to fix the problems that beset Gtk+ and Gnome. Unfortunately finding such a group is nigh on impossible; they're already working for Redhat, Novell, Trolltech, Apple, and even Microsoft. The GUI toolkit is the foundation, the cement that helps build a great desktop environment. It takes years of vision and hard work to create it, and even more time to use it to build a great desktop and corresponding desktop experience. And all along the way the GUI toolkit needs nurturing to fix problems and evolve solutions to new challenges. Trolltech's Qt has this. Gtk+ does not.

Starting with Suse 10.2, KDE has my vote. It's fast, good looking, polished, and it works in ways I've come to expect from working in other environments. Unless KDE does something truly horrible to mess things up, then that's where I'll stay from here on out.

Update Dec 25th:
At 8:40 AM, frdrx said...
You can easily bring up the side pane directory tree in Nautilus by pressing F9 and choosing `Tree' from the pull down menu in the side pane.
That's true, after you've gone to the trouble to bring up gconf-editor, navigated down to /apps/nautilus/preferences, and then enabled always_use_browser. Once you've done that then you can toggle the side panel tree navigation via F9. But until you take that first step with gconf-editor, you've got spatial view and there's nothing available in Nautilus while it's in spatial mode to put it in browser mode. Toggling back and forth between spatial and browser is no big deal with Konqueror. The odd fact is that toggling between spatial and browser directly with Nautilus was available with Suse 10 (right before it became Open Suse). Why it was dropped from the application in later releases is an infuriating mystery.

Update Dec 26th:
At 12:36 PM, Behrang said...
Hi there,
Could you please let us know where have you found that background wallpaper? I want to download it :p
The wallpaper is known as known as Landscape Keltern #2. You can get it via the "Configure - KDesktop" utility when you right-click on the desktop and select it from the properties menu, as shown below.

This brings up the "Configure - KDesktop" dialog. The first selection on the left is of course the background image. On the lower right click the "Get New Wallpapers" button.

As you can see below, the "Get New Wallpapers" dialog presents a long list of wallpapers via the wallpapers section. Just click the one you want, and click the "Install" button in the lower right corner.

After installing the wallpaper, click 'OK' on the Configure dialog, and you're on your way.


  1. Well, I don't agree with you at all. There is a shortage of maintainer for GTK+ but to tell that "nothing can be done" is a blatant lie. For example, you complained that you couldn't change the windows color in GNOME: that feature, who requires work is being worked on and it will be included in a future release of GNOME (maybe in GNOME 2.18, but I'm not sure). This is just an example, GNOME has its problem, but they always get addressed, in the end.

  2. Like a lot of other simple things I should be able to easily do under Gnome, but can't.

    And that, my dear friend, is exactly why I haven't used gnome for more than 10 minutes at a time tops for the last 5 years, before installing KDE.

    GO KDE!

  3. "I've read many comments about the KDE desktop menu, some good and some not. I like it. I like it a lot. It responds quite nicely as the mouse moves over the tabs, and I like that fact that it doesn't grow all over the desktop as you drill down multiple layers."

    That Kmenu you show doesn't look like the one in Fedora, so I think its the result of the opensuse tinkering. As of Fedoras Kmenu is really like the start menu in windows: screenshot here

    That may be a point for kde or against because it shows the way kde can be modified (good) or the bad default it comes with (bad).

    Either way I really don't use much the kmenu (Alt-F2 gives me a run command prompt and I have a second panel with all my daily used programs).

  4. I like the SUSE startmenu but I wasn't able to find it anywhere in source. I use the Tasty menu (head for, it is not as polished but still much better than the standard KDE thing.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everybody!

  5. I was a long time KDE user. At some poitn this year I switched to Gnome. The reason is simplicity. It is clear that the underlying code of KDE is better. KDE is snappier and smoother, and in general it is much more customizable. But it is confusing as all get out. Something I hate about Windows is endlessly searching for that one option in some wizard or dialog box somewhere. KDE suffers the same fault. Yes, I miss KDE in may respects, but the overall ease of use is Gnome's strong point, and has been more satisfying to me. Is it persfect? Not by a long shot, but I am hopeful it will continue to improve --and pray not go down the same complexity road as KDE.

  6. Hi!

    You got the point here man but let me say couple of things to you.

    KDE is result of true freedom, it's like an english garden. Gnome is japanese garden.

    I like the feature rich KDE over simple and pure Gnome. Worst thing in gnome is that everything is so bold and it feels like a brick.
    Gnome became like this when 2.1 was released and nothing good came with it.

    GTK+ sucks, it's true, it's not never ment to be a full UI Toolkit for Desktop. GIMP's foundations lay on it. What else can we expect from it? GTK doesn't have enought maintainers, true, but how much is enought? I think that KDE needs more developers too. Trollech is doing exelent work with QT. QT 4.0 is something which can be compared to Windows Presentation Foundation.

    I think that GTK+ lacks features and needs a complete redesign. Gnome desktop itself needs also a complete redesign, it's freaking limited pieche of shit. (was that too direct? or is there anything you as a gnome supporter didn't understand?)

    For Gnome 3.0 I am ready to sign up as a developer if they just would be more open towards everybody, allow design freedom and not just have their inner circles which develop and test desktop for people with limited IQ.

    GO KDE!

    PS. Yes, I am KDE supporter and fanatic about it. (invent more crap here if you want, but you don't have to be engineer in atomic science to find out that gnome sucks. I got fed up with it when nautilus, that unstable shit, didn't got that if I replace folder A with folder B that contents in A and B will be in that new folder C, and won't remove the contents of folder B)

  7. I think it's funny that the Open Source is always telling the world how badly engineered Microsoft's software is, but they support unconditionally the mess that Gnome is.

    Everyone who understands a little about software knows that Qt is so far ahead of the game that GTK has absolutely no chance of ever catching up, no matter how much money they throw at it. That's why Gnome has focused on usability (aka removing features). They really have no other choice. Oh, and someday someone at Novell will realize that their support of Ximian has not been but a waste.

    Meanwhile, the KDE team keeps building the best open source development platform that exists, and when KDE4 comes out, we'll all see how a good architecture does really make a difference.

  8. You can easily bring up the side pane directory tree in Nautilus by pressing F9 and choosing `Tree' from the pull down menu in the side pane.

  9. Shame on you all! Why the hell are we still on this desktop fight?
    I mean, I've been a KDE user since 1x times, and now I'm using Gnome, but I think BOTH are great desktops. I'm not the one who will judge a desktop by the way it lets me change my window colours, damm.

    I'll say more, I think that Gnome it's quite faster that KDE, and that's something important for me.

    Wich one is cutier? Well, at this point I'd say KDE, but Gnome it's also frankly great.

    Well, the only thing I wanted to say it's that saying things like "[...]but they support unconditionally the mess that Gnome is." will not help the Open Source Community at all. Would you tell me now, please why in the hell is Gnome a mess? As I'm using it right now to write this and I use it for my everyday work, would you please tell me why is it a crap??
    Same goes for KDE-haters worldwide. KDE it's also brilliant and great.

    It's a matter of choice. Choose the one you like, 'cause choice is one of the great things of Open Source.

    And please, stop frustrating the developers of the one you didn't chose.


  10. I've been developing commercial code using Qt for 2 years now as well as .NET since it was first introduced. Not only is Qt better than GTK+, but I fell it is better than .NET.

    The simple fact is Qt allows anyone to make a truly cross platform application quickly and reliably. There support team is top notch, and is willing to even make changes to Qt upon request. These are things you could never get from GTK+ or .NET.

    It only makes sense that KDE is better since it is built using the best GUI Toolkit. KDE 4 will be amazing simply because it is based off of Qt 4.X

    I also disagree with the desktop wars comment. These wars are important for improvement. Unless people make it known that Qt is better than GTK+, nothing will ever be done. And the simple fact is we all strive for the same goal; An Open Source desktop environment everyone can use. We simply need to make sure are comments are in good taste. :)

  11. Hi there,

    Could you please let us know where have you found that background wallpaper? I want to download it :p

  12. As a programmer, whenever I use the Qt development kit I get a fuzzy feeling from the level of perfection it demonstrates. Ive done alot of windows programming as well and the windows sdk just does not cut it when compared to Qt. The signals and slots mechanism is a work of art. As for KDE, it gets my vote for two reasons: its based on Qt, and every KDE based app fits together like clockwork (A reesult of Qt I'm sure). GNOME on the other hand does seeem to focus on simplicity (lack of features). I havent used GTK+ but its my understanding that its based on C (no classes) which would explain GNOMES lack luster offerings. It's depressing as a programmer when your writing a program that you know could be written much easier in another SDK or programming language.

    KDE for me.

  13. jose:

    Gnome is a mess on the internals. I don't mind Gnome as a desktop, it's quite OK for basic tasks though it can't compare with the capabilities KDE offers. It's the development platform what is seriously lacking.

    And yes, Gnome is Open Source but that does not mean we cannot state some facts about it. It's not all a matter of taste. Everyone who has taken an objective look at both projects know that Qt and KDElibs are vastly superior to their Gnome counterparts and that GTK cannot hold a candle to Qt4.

    I want the best for the Linux desktop, and objectively, the best is not GTK, nor Gnome. You cannot build a desktop for the future on a platform like Gnome, which to this day still lacks a component system, just to name one of its multiple shortcomings.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Ole: Me to like KDE a lot more than Gnome. The functionality and integration of the applications is great.

    Joaquin: SuSE have their own special version of the gnome menu with similair looks aswell, but yes, it looks great, to bad Novell isn't ok longer ;)

    Josef: I checked the url you gave and found this, might that help?

    Anxa: :D, the very retarded file dialogue of gnome/gtk a few versions back was a pain in the ass aswell. Why should you develop for gnome if you don't like it? Improve KDE instead ;)

    Oh and what is this shit gconf? Everyone who likes the windows register raise a hand! Why would someone want the piece of shit gconf is? In solaris you get some sort of localization dialoges on all windows by default and it's said to be removable with gconf but how should someone know without being told by someone what to type? And even when you do it the freaking boxes come back/isn't removed anyway. Retarded feature, but I guess it's for people who uses many locales at once.

    Rian: I think it also needs to be told that KDE is better a lot more considering how many distribution and oses uses gnome as default. Redhat, SuSE, Ubuntu, Solaris, .. all gives you gnome by default. (I don't see kubuntu as another distribution but just as a version there gnome isn't installed and the kdesktop packages instead.)

    Now I should go read the article ;)

    (I just removed the other post because it just had my first name from my gmail account.)

  16. Johan: openSUSE (at least the latest version, 10.2) doesn't come with Gnome as the default. In fact, it doesn't come with anything as default, it lets you choose what you want to install.

  17. Gnome has always lived in the shadow of KDE which has always been a year or two ahead in development.

    In KDE things makes sense, they do not in Gnome.

    Go Go KDE!!

  18. I agree with the above poster that pointed out choice is a value (That's why we don't like MS - remember?)

    As long as you can run programs under both desktops (and the people are working on making this even better than it already is) then why the constant flamewars over KDE/Gnome. Use the one you like - let other people use theirs.

    What's the problem?

  19. When I installed OpenSuse 10.1 I choose the Gnome GUI. How to change it into KDE?

  20. Thanks a lot for the update on the wallpapers :-)



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