Sal Cangeloso's writeup (three reasons to use GNOME) inspired me to talk about the flip side of the coin. Yes, I know it's smug to pretend that there's only KDE and GNOME; yet KDE is my desktop of choice, and here's why. Of course, Sal's right when he says lists are the effective way to convey information in writing, so I'll take a page from his book and do so:
Efficiency: The fast desktop
A few weeks ago, I read a very interesting (and purportedly fair) analysis that compared memory usage among desktops, which featured GNOME, KDE, and a baseline 'lightweight' desktop, plus "official" applications from each desktop suite.
The conclusions of the test appear, on initial glance, to be contradicting. The first and foremost conclusion is that, upon fresh start, the 'lightweight' desktop (Xfce) consumed way less memory than the other two. Apparently, the Xfce guys have done a great job in keeping their feature set and memory usage to a minimum
But then, the big surprise. When real productivity applications were opened, it turns out that the winner is KDE. KDE wins over both GNOME and Xfce. Both the Web browser and the office suite applications caused GNOME and Xfce to balloon in size, compared to KDE.
And there's an explanation to this: KDE core shares more code with its official applications than GNOME core with its official ones. More sharing, less memory usage. Less memory usage translates into an immediate and appreciable speed boost.
Of course, this only goes to show that, in software engineering, there's always more than meets the eye.
Internet: The network desktop
Sure, GNOME's file manager (Nautilus) has several ways to access network shares: FTP, SSH, Windows file sharing, and more. But the official GNOME applications don't do such a great job in this sense. Ever tried playing an MP3 on a share with Rhythmbox? Maybe opening a remote file in OpenOffice.org? Due to the way remote file access is integrated into GNOME applications, these operations sometimes and have quirks, or are outright impossible. For example: you cannot just drag and drop a file in an SSH share from Nautilus to OpenOffice or other applications.
With KDE, this is a non-issue. Literally, remote files and directories work in a fully transparent manner. I routinely drag and drop icons of PHP program files on my Web server from Konqueror's window onto KWrite and edit them in real time. It's also very fast and the desktop environment doesn't block -- it's certainly faster and more responsive than Nautilus' network access. All K applications have this network transparency built-in. In practical terms, this is the only productivity booster I truly depend on. As a matter of fact, that's the only reason I always kept Konqueror and KWrite open during my latest short flirt with GNOME.
Do you use Google a lot? You should use KDE too. Hit Alt+F2, type
gg: followed by what you want to look for, and behold Konqueror opening up in a matter of seconds with your search results. Sure, Firefox's got the small Google search box. But with KDE, you don't even need to go there, because it's instantaneous, Alt+F2-search term-ENTER. Of course, Konqueror also does tabbed browsing and advertisement blocker, and something you might find as useful as I do: split window browsing. It's all batteries included, and then some.
Applications: The useful, powerful and fun desktop
GNOME has put a great deal of effort in choosing its official applications. And, mind you, the applications aren't bad at all: I use Evolution as my only e-mail client, and OpenOffice.org for the rare document and spreadsheet editing tasks.
But KDE ups the ante with extremely useful applications I fiercely depend on every day:
- Akregator: never has a newsreader performed a better job. Though it's got a couple of warts (especially in terms of speed, which I forgive because I really abuse its archival capabilities), it's a godsend, and it goes hand in hand with the Beagle and Kerry desktop search utilities.
- KNotes: yes, I know I should be crucified for switching to Tomboy, but KNotes is really lightweight and blazing fast.
- KMix: I can map keyboard keys to each volume slider! Try changing the bass levels with GNOME's volume control and your keyboard.
- Kaffeine: my only DVD player application. It's great!
- KTorrent: though it was only a few months ago when it crashed every single day, now it's stable as a rock and downloads my TV series and albums like the best of them. Plus, it's got amazing KDE integration: I click on a torrent link, and pop KTorrent handles it -- I didn't even need to configure it!
- KWrite: it's just how a text editor should be. KWrite is so addictive, I haven't moved to Eclipse or another RAD environment yet, simply because it does 95% of what I need with a fraction of the resources.
- Konsole: try dragging and dropping an icon from Konqueror to Konsole: you'll not only get the chance to paste the URL of the icon, but to copy or move it to the shell's working directory. Talk about power.
- Klipper: ever hit Ctrl+C to copy some text and panicked, because you had important stuff in the clipboard? It doesn't matter, because an elephant's memory's got nothin' on Klipper's. And a big plus: just select an URL (you don't even need to Ctrl+C it), and have Klipper pop up and ask if you want to open it in your browser.
- Kopete: I don't really like how it does its thing, but, hey, it's a multiprotocol chat client, and it beats GAIM.
And the number 1 spot where KDE technology has enabled something that kicks major ass: Amarok. Yes, I'm aware that Amarok isn't the "official" music player for KDE. But you'd have to be braindead not to use it, even if you used GNOME. Amarok has zero-handedly cleaned up my music listening experience, and made me discover music I didn't even know I had. Plus, I don't need to keep track of my music anymore: Amarok does it for me, and it can even tell me which songs I listened to in the past week were songs I liked. It's, of course, faster and more useful than Rhythmbox.
Thus spake I
KDE saves klicks, saves time, saves memory, and keeps me from going insane. Whenever I need it, KDE's there to help me out. And the KDE guys, though two percent points behind in market share, show no sign of stopping. If anything, with KDE4, I'll expect an even better, more integrated and faster desktop experience. I already amaze my friends when they visit me and ask "what the hell is this" (in all fairness, I may be cheating here, since I also run Beryl). How will my computing experience be with KDE4? Only time will tell... but I can't wait.
In eight words: GNOME is good enough. KDE is the best.
That's my take on the matter. Flames and kudos on the comment boxes below.