Is Usability Really Simplicity?

What usability reasons do you have for using Gnome vs. KDE? I’m looking for usability issues here and not specific bugs that cause you to drop one on its head. Bugs can be fixed. I’m talking about hard features that lack from one environment to the other. What makes you use it in Ubuntu versus KDE? Remember, not bugs…features!

I prefer using KDE or Openbox as my main desktop when using Linux.  I’ve used Gnome quite a bit too when working for rPath last year (Foresight is THE Gnome distro).  Still, I prefer KDE…I really like the direction that 4.x is going also.  Sure, they’re not there yet, but I trust they will be because I haven’t been let down in the past 🙂  I have a little faith (Plus I’ve run snapshots of 4.2).

The thing that boggles my mind is that everyone says Gnome is better for a Windows convert taking his/her Linux steps for the first time.  I have to disagree based on the experience I’ve had with conversions of new users from Windows.  I think KDE gives the best experience for a new Windows user…it’s familiar or at least feels familiar…things are in similar places to Windows.

I’d say that 80-90% of the users I convert across to using Linux prefer KDE to Gnome.  I always wonder why people think Gnome is so new user friendly.  Since I’ve always wondered, perhaps some Gnome users can tell me, what usability reasons do you have for using Gnome vs. KDE?  I’ve often heard that Gnome has integration and simplicity as the main reason…but could I not argue the same for KDE?  I’m looking for usability issues here and not specific bugs that cause you to drop one on its head.  Bugs can be fixed.  I’m talking about hard features that lack from one environment to the other.  What makes you use it in Ubuntu versus KDE?  Remember, not bugs…features!  Please let me know which desktop you prefer below and don’t forget to let me know the reason in the comments section below.

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Author: devnet

devnet has been a project manager for a Fortune 500 company, a Unix and Linux administrator, a Technical Writer, a System Analyst, and a Systems Engineer during his 20+ years working with Technology.

11 thoughts on “Is Usability Really Simplicity?”

    1. Just compare the Gnome System Menu to the Mandriva Control Center and you'll understand what I mean. The system menu doesn't do the same thing that the control center does at all. Give it a go and it will become apparent 🙂

      The things the Mandriva Control Center can do, like YAST in OpenSuse, is what gives most of the new users I convert a warm and tingly feeling. They don't want to figure out right away how to edit a config file to get something to work. Give them small victories up front and you'll have a user for life.

  1. I've used both KDE and Gnome as well as XFCE for long periods of time on my primary desktop box. I currently run Openbox with bmpanel under arch linux. However for new users I always recommend Ubuntu with Gnome, mostly because I believe Ubuntu to be the most user friendly distro for new users and unfortunately last time I tried the KDE version it just wasn't as easy as the Gnome version. This is not the fault of KDE but a result of the choice of Canonical to focus on Gnome. I however haven't tried Kubuntu since about version 7.04 so I should probably try it again before I recommend a distro to a new user in the future.

    1. I've found PCLinuxOS to be the most new user friendly with MEPIS and Mandriva coming in a close second. I honestly think that Ubuntu lacks the centralized control center like Mandriva and PCLinuxOS have and that's the kicker. Windows converts are looking for that central control panel if you will. This gives them that ability to get things done quickly and have success right away instead of discouraging them by dropping them to a shell immediately (if you know windows users…they don't use cmd often)

  2. I am a big fan of KDE – I didn't like KDE 4.1 – but I am sure I will after they iron out all the bugs.

  3. I'm fairly new to using linux (about 3~4 months now) and I've been using Ubuntu with Gnome, though I'm by no means some virgin being introduced to something other than windows for the first time. I've had to use macs for school (I don't like macs at all) and I tried to become a linux user a few years ago, but neither Debian nor Fedora would play nice and install on the computer I owned ("Disk Geometry Error" means ABORT!). That said I feel much more comfortable using Gnome than KDE, I think it's because while KDE is similar to Windows no matter what it's not Windows, so it gets confusing when I go to find something and it's not there because it's not Windows. The fact that the menu slides over when you select something is extremely annoying to me because I can't see the other categories that could be hiding what i'm looking for. I'm working with a tree menu but it's like i'm not working with a tree menu. In the end, when I sat down with Ubuntu for the first time and started using Gnome I just understood it. Everything was laid out in a very neat and organized way for me. Since I had played with Linux in the past at the homes of friends I understood the concept of workspaces, which would have probably been a bit of a hurdle for me if they hadn't installed compiz-fusion ahead of time. I've toyed with KDE (and still do from time to time) but it leaves me feeling lost. The only thing I really liked about KDE was the widget button, and that I don't need that badly.

    Also: a side note, the KDE community has no sense of style! I looked through the themes available by default and found nothing I liked. With the themes in Gnome the default is nice, and dark room is awesome.

    1. Once again, I'd have to point you toward Mandriva or PCLinuxOS. Using KDE in Ubuntu is a far cry from using it in these distros who really do KDE the way it is suppose to be done.

      The menu doesn't slide in PCLinuxOS 2007 for example…it's standard, just like an XP menu would be. It's simplified and organized.

      I've found that PCLinuxOS for me is KDE done as it should be…I barely have to change anything at all to suit me. As for style, inside Synaptic in KDE are tons of style, icons, and themes that the community has done all ready to be installed. If you have a chance, you should setup a Virtual instance and play with it a bit to see what KDE can do for you and what it is capable of. If you need help working out the style see my post here:

      Have fun and congrats on using Linux!

    2. To get a nice (tree) menu in kde, simply go to "Add Widgets…" on the top right menu. In that screen drag "application launcher menu" to your panel, where your current menu is. After that, right click the menu you don't like and click remove. You may also be interested in "Lancelot launcher" search your widgets and repo for it. Just follow my instructions above (replacing "application launcher menu" with "Lancelot launcher" to use Lancelot.

  4. I think the only thing that makes KDE more newbie friendly for the users coming from windows land is the fact that panel is by default at the bottom of screen. Respectively users with Macintosh background are accustomed to seeing the panel at the top…

  5. I think that Ubuntuism is the main reason people think the Gnome is better for new users. (Kubuntu is so weird, you'd almost think someone was paying them to screw it up.) Granted, I'm not a new user…anymore. To me, Gnome (Ubuntu) reminds me of the new Microsoft Ribbon. It looks familiar, and you know the feature you're looking for should be there, but you just can't seem to get it to work the way you think it should.

    Before PCLinuxOS, I used Arch and Slackware, and both of their KDE installs were just basic vanilla installs. I thought they were great. (In fact I still don't like the changes PCLinux made to the menu groupings.) Now, every time I use WIndows at work, I'm wishing that I were using KDE.

    Mikko, I've tried using KDE (and Windows) with the panel at the top and I just can't get used to it. I always change back with a week.

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