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Of Apples and Oranges, GNOME and KDE February 17, 2007

Posted by Carthik in commentary, gnome, looks and feel, ubuntu.

I find it very annoying the the apple developers fail to provide many of the features that have been standard with oranges for years. For example in oranges there is a very hand segment feature which allows the fruit to be broken up into small convenient bite size peaces. With apples the only way to do this is to use a third party utility such as a knife. I have tried to submit patches to get segments into apples but the developers arn’t interested telling me that it is just to much the orange way and thats not the way apples are. Against this kind of mentality what can you do. Lets not even get on to oranges convenient juice feature and how hard it is to get juice out of apples. (Hint requires a full application suit).

This made my day.

So Linus wrote a few patches to make GNOME work his way. The above quote is a comment to that article.

I find Linus’ GNOME-bashing phenomenally, umm, retarded (**). GNOME is made for those who want computers to be usable. I am sure there are many who appreciate KDE’s configurability, but the first feeling that hits me on logging into KDE is a feeling of being lost. I dread having to find something, since it most definitely will be placed in some non-intuitive sub-menu. I dread to think I have a choice to change “anything I want” to the way I want it to be, since I will have to find where to change it first, or what “feature x” is called in KDE. I lack KDE context – maybe with a few months/years of use, I will feel at home in KDE. But that brings home the beauty of GNOME – I felt at home by the time I had logged out of it after the first time I used it recently.

A little bit of history, now, if you will. The first time ever I used Linux was in the Summer of 1999. I was an undergrad back then, and on red hat I had the choice of GNOME and KDE. GNOME use Enlightenment as the window manager back then. I hated it the first time I used it, and I used KDE. But back then I did not have a computer to call my own. So whenever I used Linux (which was like once in two months or so), I used KDE.

The bad impression I had about GNOME persisted in my mind.

Then, when Ubuntu was released, I sort of regretted the fact that it used GNOME by default. Still, now that I had a computer of my own, I decided to give it a shot, after failing to get my network card working with a whole lot of other OSes.

I fell in love with GNOME. It was love at first sight. The emotional response was inexplicable, hence I call it “love” – which is a strong word! I could not figure it out, given my bad memories related to GNOME. Later, I installed Kubuntu as soon as it was available, to see if KDE would be better for me. Surprisingly, after a few months of GNOME, I could not stand KDE.

None of this goes to say that I hate KDE. In fact, I love some things KDE gets right, like how their apps interoperate beautifully (DCOP), and how apps like Amarok blow my socks off. I love the Konqueror idea – one browser to browse everything from files on a remote server, to webpages, to local files. I just happen to love the clean, orgnaized world of GNOME better. I like the way GNOME display fonts on the screen. I don’t want to have to change every little variable to get the perfect system. I want a good, functional, usable system. I will trade-in customizability for usability. Yes, I find GNOME’s lack of some features frustrating. I’d rather live with that than with the frustration of not finding where or how to change behavior “X” in KDE. The knowledge that something is customizable makes me want to customize it, and causes frustration when I am not able to find out how to do it.

Someday, I will do a side-by-side comparison of GNOME and KDE with respect to various factors like usability, features, etc. Finding a baseline list of “which is better” is hard, especially when it comes to usability. Defining a series of “tests” to impartially compare the two systems with regards to usability is hard, if not impossible – and that keeps me from going forward. X vs. XP does a pretty good job of comparing OSX and Windows XP. So, with an investment of a significant amount of time, I should be able to create a comparison. Searching for feature comparisons, or guides to choose from between KDE and GNOME either yield subjective articles, or biased commentary, such as this article. This has to change. There has to be a page to answer the question, “so what is the essential difference between KDE and GNOME, and what can I read to make a good decision regarding which of the two to use?”


1. Ryan - February 17, 2007

I agree that gnome does a very good job of being well thought out and hiding their feature clutter and is very well thought out. However, you say that sometimes you are frustrated by “missing” features in Gnome. Call me crazy, I would think most people would be infinitely more frustrating to not have access to a feature at all than to turn have to hunt a little bit for a configuration option.

2. xabbott - February 17, 2007

I find this post umm, retarded. That’s all I have to say as that is when I stopped reading.

3. sam - February 17, 2007

I agree about GNOME’s user friendliness, but I think GNOME takes the simplicity principle too far sometimes. KDE is so configurable you could spend all day figuring out how you want every little detail to work, or on the opposite spectrum you could run GNOME and have very little say over how apps function. Striking a balance between these two extremes would be heaven. Simplicity so friendly you feel at home the first time you log on, but enough configurability that apps can be tailored for specific needs.

4. I’m a fruit lover « Robitaille’s Blog - February 17, 2007

[…] 18th, 2007 So it seems some people only love apples, and some only love oranges. Personally I want to be known as somebody who loves fruits.  Looking at the last few years, for […]

5. James Fields - February 17, 2007

I understand the comments about some of KDE’s configuration options not being in plain sight, but I am not entirely certain why anyone would claim it’s too complicated to use. KDE comes with perfectly sane defaults just like Gnome or any other desktop solution. Those defaults are not necessarily identical to Gnome’s but they’re fine if the point is to just sit someone down to use the system.

I certainly would not try to talk a Gnome fan into switching as I don’t think that’s what having choices is all about. If you like Gnome, by all means please continue to use it! But the idea that KDE is somehow too complicated for “normal” people to use is a myth that we need not perpetuate.

6. Hari - February 17, 2007

Ok, so what you like is essentially “Ubuntu’s Gnome” and not necessarily the general Gnome, and the same goes for “Kubuntu’s KDE”

Calling Linus’ arguments retarded is wrong (I know, it’s your blog, you are entitled to your opinions). What he is trying to say is that Gnome is simplistic, but too simplistic to a fault. You have had no problems with Gnome, simply because you have never had to face difficulties that Gnome doesn’t solve. In the same mailing list, there are other more thought provoking posts about what Gnome does wrong.

Of course, I am not trying to say you are wrong either. Just that your “retarded” comment was a bit uncalled for. But still, I know, it’s your blog. Whatever.

7. Ubuntu | Daniel Robitaille: I’m a fruit lover - February 17, 2007

[…] it seems some people only love apples, and some only love oranges. Personally I want to be known as somebody who loves fruits.  Looking at the last few years, for […]

8. Stan - February 17, 2007

I just don’t get WHY people just don’t get that Linus has HIS OWN OPINION about gnome. What’s the deal of it? It’s even worse try to disqualify his argument (harsh apart) saying ‘it”s retarded’. It just didn’t add anything but poor words to the discussion.
Linus is right (including the arse part). Just look at any gnome app running on a different DE than Gnome. They don’t care about integration on Linux, sure that’s not the case on Windows. 😛

OBS: Usability defines the way how you should use things, previewing possible issues. Gnome has the less is less (problems) approach. Just lazy…

PS: Cool blog 🙂

9. Someone who knows octal and hex - February 17, 2007

Linus wrote patches to clean up the backend of gnome (mouse processing), not anything to do with how users see it.

Sheesh, you’d think people would inform themselves before running off on tangents based on headlines.

10. Stephen - February 17, 2007

With all due respect, you are mistaken (though I won’t call you retarded). Keeping it simple and have deeper options are not mutually exclusive choices. You can have both. For example, we’ve all seen dialog boxes with some basic settings plus a button labelled ‘advanced’ which leads to some less common settings. That’s an example of having simple options while also allowing access to more advanced options.

Further, Linus was particularly talking about a specific setting he wanted to access to allow him to catch certain mouse-click events. He looked into the source and found that the programmer had hard-coded the event action, so he submitted a patch to stop it being hard-coded and instead turn it into a configurable option – just like other types of mouse-clicks were already options.

11. ubuntonista - February 18, 2007

Folks, Linus is not retarded, not by a mile. But his GNOME-bashing seems to be, to me. It is a personal, subjective opinion. The last time he was at it, from anyone else, the comment would count as “flame-bait”. This time, I agree with some of his comments, but have to disagree with the part where he disses GNOME – the confrontational attitude.

You guys are right, I should not have called him, or anyone else a retard – just that I was lost for words, in a way.

A more articulate way of saying it would be – Linus is wrong in assuming the worst of the entire GNOME community. He is wrong in saying people should “just use KDE”. He should know better than to adopt a confrontational attitude. And yes, this is only my personal, perhaps uninformed opinion.

The things GNOME gets plain wrong should get fixed. Nothing is ever perfect – some things are closer to my personal ideal than others.

I have to agree with sam above in saying that there must be a well-thought-out way of having simple options, with the required “Advanced” options present if required.

When I talk about KDE’s “problems” I am referring to the confusion caused by terminology used in the UI, the proliferation of menu items everywhere, and the general issue of trying to figure out how to accomplish what I need when I need it. I also think that the GNOME UI just seems more beautiful.

It’s my opinion, and I totally respect the opinions of others, Linus included, as long as the opinion is not that I am an idiot for using GNOME.

12. MC-RPG - February 18, 2007

“Freedom of choice” is all I have to say. GNU/Linux and the libre/free software are about CHOICE, if linux can’t understand that is his problem.

I’ve use KDE a couple of months ago and I prefer the simplicity of gnome, simply because some people prefer the simplicity, not because they’re stupid. I also saw some things in KDE that gnome can improve and the same goes to the KDE folks, and in my opinion with more sense since I am a gnome fan/lover 🙂

13. Hameed Khan - February 18, 2007

In my early days I was a KDE lover, then after joining my first job. I had to use GNOME, I resisted it for some time then I became used to it. Now I’ve been using GNOME for a year now at my work. But now I don’t have any hate feelings for any of them. They are good Desktop Environments and both are usable.

When I used KDE in the beginning days of my switch to Linux, I had no problems with it. So, I don’t agree with the statement that KDE is difficult or confusing for new users, I myself was a new user and wasn’t confused of KDE.

So, both Desktop Environments are good and usable, they are just different in nature. Everyone has different likes and off course different dislikes, and there is no point arguing on them.

14. Chxta - February 18, 2007

Linus did the best possible thing, he didn’t just yak along, he sat down and improved the code. That is being proactive, not reactive as most of us tend to be…

15. numerodix - February 18, 2007

This reasoning isn’t very solid. Who says you have to customize everything in KDE? I use KDE and I customize very little. The fonts, the theme (this I don’t do in Gnome, but there’s nothing to choose from anyway), the wallpaper (doesn’t everyone?) and window behavior to focus-follows-mouse (which I also do in Gnome).

So basically I do the same amount of customization in both. And the defaults are so good (unlike Windows for example) that I have no need to change any more things. So what’s the big problem? If your whole reasoning is based on the premise that “if I can change, I will” just for the heck of it, then I guess you would be the happiest with no possibility to change anything at all.

The big difference is that KDE lends itself to customization if you *want to*. Gnome doesn’t (gconf editor anyone?).

16. Dave - February 18, 2007

If gnome came with a file manager that did not stop me copying/moving files accross file system I might be more amenable to it.

17. hvm - February 18, 2007

what makes me choose kde over gnome whatever distribution i use (currently i’m on ubuntu) is the fact that gnome tends to copy windows especially at the idiot-safe part. because of that, apps tend to make decisions for you and hide ‘dangerous’ settings from you. i hate it when my computer says i’m not supposed to this or that or when it chooses something without asking. plus the code is not abstract enough making it messy as it grows (i’m not an expert but that’s how i feel).

18. Miguel - February 18, 2007

Hi, I’m a KDE fan and a Linux newbie too. I’m not a techie neither a “geek” and I can’t even find a single reason to say that KDE is difficul. It isn’t: it’s user centric and has a plan of future (KDE4). Gnome (to me) is too minimalistic, too simplistic. The very firts impression using Gnome was “where the hell can I change…?”: I simply can’t stand the Gnome way, sorry. Oh, then Nautilus… well I’m sorry for Gnome developers, not his best.

Linus is right

19. Marcus Moeller - February 18, 2007

I agree to this. Gnome was once invented to offer a desktop environment that is based on a open development framework (which QT wasnt once upon a time).

Now QT is GPLed for GPL projects, which is a really good licening for projects like KDE, but (perhaps) not for some commercial software developers.

Thats why many mainstream distributions like RH or Novell chose gnome. But after GTK comes Mono and with Mono comes .NET which consists of a lot of pantent components – so why don’t just stick with QT again?

AND – I really think KDE is a lot more user friendly than Gnome. Take a look at the confusing File Dialog which has now also been implemented in Windos Vista. I have to click on the folder browser icon nearly every time I want to store a file or I have to add a favourite for every storage location I am using.

There is also no way to open the folder browser per default. I don’t think thats usability.

Best Regards

20. neurol23 - February 18, 2007

I think that Joel Spolsky is right about this issue:

“A lot of software developers are seduced by the old ‘80/20’ rule. It seems to make a lot of sense: 80% of the people use 20% of the features. So you convince yourself that you only need to implement 20% of the features, and you can still sell 80% as many copies.
Unfortunately, it’s never the same 20%. Everybody uses a different set of features.”


And that’s the reason why I really don’t like GNOME and like KDE. In KDE almost everything can be set up with a moderate effort. In GNOME few things are really easy to set up, but when you want something out of that limited scope, it’s really difficult and in many cases impossible. How can something be usable, when it can’t do, what you need?

21. links for 2007-02-18 at jensen - February 18, 2007

[…] Of Apples and Oranges, GNOME and KDE « Ubuntu Blog A reaction against the complaints Linus Torvalds made against GNOME. (tags: ubuntu gnome kde linux torvalds window managers) […]

22. Samat - February 18, 2007

I’ve written a response (Yes, GNOME is limiting!) on my weblog to some of the points that bothered me in this article.

23. Ubuntu Tutorials : Breezy - Dapper - Edgy - Feisty - February 18, 2007

One Week With KDE : My Challenge

In response to all this recent nonsense about gnome vs KDE vs Linus vs everyone else that has jumped on this bandwagon I thought I would do the responsible thing and put the two to the test.  I will use KDE for one full week and post my thoughts …

24. Orange and Apple~ at Systems Thoughts - February 19, 2007

[…] From: Ubuntu Blog […]

25. Lumba - February 20, 2007

Guys, could anyone please tell me which configuration options you desperately need for GNOME? I find it pretty strange that everyone says “GNOME is limiting!”, but which features are actually missing and which of them will actually make your life easier or make you more effective?

26. Sebastian Bengtsson - February 20, 2007

The reason I use GNOME is that I don’t have to configure it to get a working environment. KDE is configurable, but I don’t want to spend the hours of configuring needed to get the system useable each time I encounter a default setup.

There are things that I miss in GNOME. But those things can be fixed. My view of GNOME is that they do *design before implementation*, meaning they think things through before adding another GUI feature. This is why it is easier to get an overview of GNOME than of KDE.

27. John - February 20, 2007

I switched to KDE 3 days ago. I had tried it once before and hated it. The reason being I was inexperienced with linux in general and KDE is no place to start. When I tried it last Saturday, however, I realized that I could use it confidently with minimal suffering. Now I sort of know my way around and have decided that KDE is better than gnome. I feel, in retrospective, that GNOME made things too simple for me. It is good for a beginner, but now that I am experienced I want to utilize the full power of the Operating system by default.

28. Chris - June 5, 2007

“I find this post umm, retarded. That’s all I have to say as that is when I stopped reading.”

I find your reply umm retarded. That when I started ignoring you!

29. TRE - June 17, 2007

I just had the unpleasant occurrence of a video card failure (ATI X300). This card was in a plain AMD 3200+ BOX dual booting Suse 10.2 X64 and XP. The reason I had Suse was that attempts at installing things like Fedora and Red Hat failed right from the start – basically they did not recognise a 1440×900 monitor with the ill-fated ATI card.

So, having lost faith with ATI, I decided on an nVidea card, installed it into the PC, booted XP, installed the drivers and all was well.

Then I booted Linux – oh what a tale to tell. Back to the shell prompt because X failed – where was the device detection? – you mean X can’t update devices because it is independent of the kernel?

Oh well, I decided, maybe I’ll go back to Fedora 6 and proceeded to install. All was well until the last 2.56 minutes – and there hangs the tale -literally.

Well, not quite. persevering, I decided to reinstall Suse and figured that I might as well install gnome as a testbed for the software I work on, so away I went. Re-install Suse 10.2 with KDE, Gnome and dev tools – it looked OK until 5.00 minutes before first boot – another hang.

Well to cut a long story short, I tried several other installs that installed Gnome by default and all failed – so I re-installed Suse (KDE based) and thus you have this missive.

30. AmaroK + Real Media - India Broadband Forum - September 13, 2007

[…] Can’t remember, but some softwares would never run in Gnome and vice versa. Will try Amarok. Of Apples and Oranges, GNOME and KDE Ubuntu Blog __________________ "It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only […]

31. g2g591 - October 1, 2007

The first time I tried linux, it was Gnome (On Ubuntu) as the brown and orange theme greeted me, I immediately wanted to change it, however after about half an hour of looking, I settled for changing the wallpaper, as I could not seem to find a theme I liked. I tried Kde (Kubuntu) and immediately liked the (default) theme and was impressed by how easy it was in contrast to configure all that I wanted (even changing the wallpaper was much better, manly because I could download new wallpaper right from the dialog)

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35. rubiks42 - January 9, 2008

As a newb, I tried both KDE/GNOME distro’s and have both installed… but mostly still do my stuff in gnome because kde didn’t mount my hdd’s automatically, so i had (total newb i know!) 2 learn how 2 mount it wich wasn’t an issue @ all.. but most ppl migrating from windoze want 2 click-and-go. I love the kde configurability and the fact that compiz-fusion is pre-installed with gnome.

It’d be very sad if either gnome/kde “wins” because competition drives progress.

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