Saturday, March 15, 2008

A First Look at KDE

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are options about which desktop environment to use in Linux. This is difficult to wrap your mind around when you're used to using either Windows or Mac, which only have their own displays that you can only slightly modify or configure. When it comes down to it, if you want Windows to look drastically different, you have to buy another version (which often means buying a new computer!). Linux GUIs (Graphical User Interfaces) have basic functionalities you can't modify, but with know-how, it seems like you could tailor it to whatever you want. This is part of what is meant by "free software" in the GNU and Debian definitions of the term (also mentioned in that other post) - you can modify it however you want. Anyway, the major GUIs for Linux are Gnome and KDE.

As I mentioned, Gnome is the default desktop environment for Ubuntu, and it is the only option that comes with the initial installation. There is an Ubuntu variant called Kubuntu that has KDE as the native environment, and I was considering giving that a shot sometime soon, but after doing some reading on the Ubuntu Forums, I learned that using both is quite easy, and that I just have to download it from the software repositories and install it. This I did, and I got a chance to give it a whirl. Here's a screenshot:

My first impression is that everything is blue (I changed the default blue background to the photograph you see), which is a shock after the orange-brown "Human" theme of Ubuntu's Gnome. All of my installed files and programs are still available, plus a positive slew of KDE programs: games, widgets, educational software, and many others. With the Gnome programs also available in each menu, I'm actually having a hard time finding anything. One thing about KDE that grates on my nerves a little is that all of its applications either begin with the letter "K" (Konqueror - the default browser, KNotes, KPilot, etc.) or have the letter "K" prominently in the name. The names also often don't correlate with any function of the program ("Kaffeine" is a music player, I learned), which makes the menus a little more overwhelming. This is strange (in my view) for a program touted for its usability. Here's a shot of the screen with the start menu:

The other thing I noticed is that KDE looks a lot like Windows, and moving from Windows to KDE, at least visually, would be a more intuitive switch. Other things to mention:

  • I found that Firefox does not display as well in KDE. The default text size is too small.
  • Konqueror, the native Internet browser and file manager is very nice, and in some ways, I like it better than Firefox. It actually resembles Opera a little.
  • The "eye candy" factor is quite impressive. It seems that Linux desktop environments rival Windows Vista and Mac in this respect.
There are many features and applications I have yet to explore. I'll report back when I have more to say!

No comments: