posted by Christian Paratschek on Mon 3rd Jan 2005 18:35 UTC

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Part 2 - The KDE-Gnome shootout:

Here comes the delicate part of this article. I have not used KDE for more than 2 years now. I used the KDE 2.2 series back in 2002 on Suse and Mandrake but jumped ship as soon as Gnome was getting usable (probably around Red Hat 9). I have followed the Gnome development ever since version 2.0 and used it with growing satisfaction. In the meantime, I've read through a lot of KDE reviews, but the screenshots that I saw were quite a turn-off to me. As Gnome got simpler and more straightforward (and a lot of people are arguing that it became too simple), KDE seemed to get more messed up from version to version. On second thought, that's not true: KDE probably improved the "messy situation" from version to version a bit but with Gnome becoming slicker at a rapid pace all the time, KDE looked worse in comparison. As if two 120 kilo people decide to lose weight and, a year later, one of them has 70 kilos and the other has 100 and everybody only seems to compliment the slim person. I would have loved to test a more recent version (read 3.3.1) of the desktop environment, but it was much easier to use what was included in SimplyMepis 2004.06. Well, let's jump right into it and start comparing applications:

The KDE Winners

Let's start with the KDE applications that I preferred to their Gnome counterparts. JuK is a better music management application than Rhythmbox. I have major gripes with Rhythmbox, because it lacks essential features. The most important thing for me: JuK includes a well-designed and perfectly usable tag editor. It even displays the compression setting, so whenever I find a bad quality mp3, I can rerip it now with good quality. Another welcomed feature that Rhythmbox is missing: JuK can sort my music by year (O.K., it's not THAT important, I admit...). A minor bug: when I sort by year, JuK fails to keep the correct order of complete albums, instead sorts by song title. But that's really a small issue. On the whole, JuK is a very nice and clearly laid-out application. In fact, JuK looks so polished, I thought I was looking at a Gnome HIG-ified application! There's not much optical difference between these two music management applications. I just hope Rhythmbox's next version has the features JuK has right now. Way to go, Juk-team!

Next jewel in KDE: Quanta Plus. Quanta Plus has no direct competitor because Bluefish and Screem are not official Gnome applications. On initial startup Quanta Plus looks pretty bloated and the first thing I did was close a lot of small windows and remove some - for me - unnecessary toolbars. After that, it was a pleasure to work with Quanta Plus. It is as close to being "feature complete" as a web development application can get. HTML Tidy is integrated, preview works fine, syntax highlighting is perfect. I normally work with Bluefish and Screem and they both do not feel as feature complete as Quanta Plus.

Next up we have K3B: again there's no direct competitor in Gnome and that's a very unpleasant blank spot in the Gnome Desktop. K3B does a decent job at burning data, creating Audio and Video-CDs/DVDs, and copying discs. I don't really like its design but everyone who has worked with Nero and the likes before will be able to handle K3B. K3B especially helps to make KDE a "feature-complete" desktop today. As I said, I prefer Gnome, but I really have trouble recommending it to everyone because I know that you can't even burn an Audio CD with it.

Close Race - Tie!

Next matchup: gedit vs. KWrite: both applications serve the same purpose: easy text editing. While gedit looks a little more polished, its syntax highlighting feels a little rough: it highlights words like "for" and "and" in php-files, even when they are part of the plain text. And, worse, syntax highlighting has a nasty bug when it encounters a ' (also in php-files). KWrite on the other hand does a better job at syntax highlighting, but fails to highlight entites (&...;) which is quite handy in gedit. Kwrite uses nicer colors, but I guess here beauty completely lies in the eye of the beholder. One more word on text editors: I compared KWrite to gedit - and not Kate or KEdit - simply because SimplyMepis opened this editor when i clicked a text-file. I believe having three different text editors is kind of redundant, but this matter has been beaten to death by other authors before me.

On to the "instant messengers" Gaim and Kopete: a clear draw for me here. One can use Kopete as a drop-in replacement for Gaim when switching from Gnome to KDE. Both applications are very simple, clearly laid out, yet mighty tools. Both are integrated in their respective desktops nicely and can connect to all the established networks.

gThumb vs. Kuickshow: another draw. I like Kuickshow, just as much as JuK. It's a well-designed and optically pleasing application, just as its Gnome counterpart. gThumb stills looks a little more polished to me (probably because I am used to the Gnome desktop, I admit, but I tried hard to view them as objectively as possible). I don't like that Kuickshow opens a new window when I click on a photo. But also gThumb has its weak spot: rotating pictures, a very commonly used option is not easily accessible, but a matter of four clicks (yes, I am quite picky when it comes to Gnome usability...). Altogether, as I said, a draw.

To be honest, I didn't test the mail application KMail much. I don't use Evolution either, I'd go for Thunderbird anyway just because I am very used to it. I played around with KMail a bit however and I was not pleased with the account setup. Every mail program I know sports an easy wizard to guide me through creating an e-mail-account, adding name/e-mail address/incoming and outgoing server and password. In KMail I had to set up account and respective servers independently. The setup process is definitely more complicated than in other mail applications.

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