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The default KDE theme is so pale and low contrast it actually looks as though the monitor is broken. The low-contrast idea seems to affect the whole of KDE; the app installer shows pale featureless grey blobs that seem to be application icons, and the explanations are given in a pale gray font on a white background; file browser tabs are pale, with a pale blue outline; icons are pale and featureless.
In short, I hated its look; I hoped Suse would be better than Kubuntu, but except for the wallpaper color, that is now green, the rest looks exactly the same. Alternative themes are so similar, (except for the dark ones, those DO have dark colours) that they make almost no difference.
As for the usability, I rate it down low. I hated the default menu, with panels that shift in and out of existence, and a hodgepodge of setup options smattered or repeated in unrelated menus. Discoverability of features is low; most things might be only four clicks away, but the whole universe and its parallels might lay thus far, for all the confusion that lies the way. And the way KDE forces its kool-talk lingo unto users is extremely irritating -- "Plasma Desktop Options", "Akonadi Settings", "Sticky notes Plasmoid", "Nepomuk has crashed"...
And SUSE not only would not install a proprietary nVidia driver, which for some frames of mind might be OK, but refused to believe that resolutions over 800x600 were possible using the free driver. Yeah, running sax2 from a console as a superuser let me reconfigure, but that is not exactly what usability is about.
I DO want to like KDE, and I am really giving it a try, but each time I boot I feel my heart shrink. It really has a VERY LONG way to go. Every 4.x version is expected to be the real one... maybe 4.4 witll be it?
Would you like to do a keynote at next year's Akademy? I haven't laughed so much in ages.
How has the Novell-Microsoft deal affected the FOSS community so far? I still have yet to see evidence of FOSS coming under danger from manipulation by that "Giant Evil" Corporation.
Thankfully, KDE4 is excellent on Gentoo. With the monthly bugfix releases, it almost finishes compiling before the next one comes out!
It's a shame however that this stresses the CPU a bit and the flash videos of people falling out of burning buildings end up choppy, but I consider that a reasonable price to pay for such an experience.
I must agree on the default KDE theme Oxygen. It's not on par with many Gnome themes. The blue shadow (or is it glow?) that windows cast is the top of the ice-cream..
Looking at random screenshots of OpenSuse 11.2 on google, I don't really see how you can call it low contrast. e.g first hit:
That has far more contrast than Windows 7, for example.
With the default panel, what exactly are you having trouble with doing? Which applications do you feel are in the wrong place?
I really can't see why people can't use the new menu. You just type the name of the app, and there it is. Far faster than navigating layers of menus.
First: Notice that the colorful icons are not KDE's. Look at KDE's icons in the same screenshot (Dolphin, Kontact, Applications, Computer, even OpenOffice, as well as everything inside Konqueror's MyComputer view). Look at the pale gray entry titles in My Computer, the seamlessness between window title, menu and toolbar, the window control buttons. The status bar does not look like that by default: it shares the pale gray theme.
Believe me, if you scratch further, you will get treated to yet more of the same. The application installer is an example.
I'm not using it right now, so I cannot recall exactly, but I found the panel dreadfully organized, and did not find the shifting panels that may turn into full-fledged windows with more shifting functionality to be a good idea at all.
And "Just typing the name" is what you did in MS/DOS, but then you only had, like, four apps in your PC. In KDE, the names certainly Karacter (sorry!), but there are a lot of them to remember, the names themselves are often less than helpful and, to me, they feel a bit ridiculous. Do I have to remember Akonadi, or Nepomuk, or Krita, or Amarok?
No, no, no. I do believe usability is low. I hope they understand and work to improve it, because the technology is very good.
Perhaps your monitor is broken. Others complain that KDE is overly colourful. Personally, I find it just fine; it's pleasant while the different elements don't all scream for attention at the same time. And it's not like you can't change it.