So many operating systems and so many graphical desktop environments… This article is a comparison of the UI and usability of several Desktop Environments (DEs), that have been widely used, admired and reviled: Windows XP Luna, BeOS 6 (Dano/Zeta), Mac OS X Aqua and Unix’s KDE and Gnome. Read on which one got our best score on our long term test and usage.
First of all, please let me apologize in advance for not including QNX’s Photon, OS/2’s WPS, Amiga Workbench, Solaris’ CDE, IRIX’s 4Dwm or other X11 desktop environments in our comparison. While I have used all the above during the last two years, I don’t have them readily available on my machines anymore (for example the SPARC and Octane & Fuel review boxes we received last year were returned to Sun and SGI respectively), so I decided to include in this test only operating systems that I can reboot at any time and test them more thoroughly when and if I need to.
Also note that this is a quick overview. We can’t possibly cover these environments in-depth, as that would take not five pages, but probably one hundred and five. I am sure that our readers will agree on some points while they will disagree on others. This is fine and normal, so please keep the discussion in our commenting area intelligent and calm. What we are comparing here is the overall user experience generated by these desktop environments and their underlying OSes.
I include the BeOS in this comparison not because I consider it an OS with a bright future but because it was very highly regarded in
its heyday and it still good (in other words, even after 2,5 years of the last update by Be, at least in the desktop area, not many OSes have managed to surpass it yet).
Third note: what we are testing here is not just how things look. The “eye candy” factor is just one of the many factors that makes a DE great or… sucky. Some other factors are when a DE is easier to use or more “delicate” or more speedy than another, or more consistent or more integrated. But let’s start with the looks, as it is the first thing someone will notice when first loading a graphical DE.
The Look and Feel
I recognize that this part is kind of subjective. Some like small fonts, some like bigger fonts, some like funky buttons, others like….
Nevertheless, no matter the different tastes, there is always a threshold line where the majority of people will define as “good”, while under that line would define as “bad” all in one voice. Speaking for myself, I like clear as crystal widgets, with big window manager buttons that no one can miss, and as the perfectionist I am on this subject, I want the UI I am using to be pixel-perfect.
Starting with Windows XP’s Luna interface is not the most pretty one. But it is the most logically designed one. Its widgets are well defined, while special care have been taken to the way things work in a way most people expect or are accustomed to. It is clear to me that the Windows interface is pretty mature and most issues have been ironed out since 1995. However, this all-blue default color on XP is kind of 60’s psychedelic, it gets on my eyes soon enough. On the bright side, the fonts are great, the font shadow on the desktop and window manager is great looking too, making them easier to read. By default the Windows XP interface doesn’t enable antialias on its fonts, but Windows is making use of some very high quality fonts so they don’t look bad at all, even without antialiasing. With XP, the Windows graphics interface is now more skinnable than ever, however the majority of the users that use Windows stay with the defaults.
MacOS X has probably the most in-your-face eye candy of all the DEs compared here. Some don’t like this ‘lickable’ interface while others simply love it. My opinion is that the Aqua interface has seen a clean up with the release of OSX Jaguar 10.2. The button quality is much better now, for example. I am quite happy with the way Aqua looks even if it is not skinnable without the use of some scary hacks. The metal interface seen on some Cocoa apps is an interesting idea, but it is not as easy to read text written on top of the metal surface (for example Safari’s new tabs in the latest unreleased beta are pretty much unreadable without wearing glasses). It is also great to see brand new widgets into the play, like the drawer or the animated alert window attached to the master window. All in all, an innovative and fresh look when it was introduced 3 years ago.
KDE is compared here with its new default theme, Keramik. Personally, I dislike Keramik (for the most part). I find it clunky, extremely loose on details and too much in-your-face. The Qt toolkit actually doesn’t seem to have much of a good support for what Keramik is trying to do. For example, I get Qt or KDE applications not supporting the background gradient Keramik is trying to impose on the back of toolbars, and so we get some apps having some toolbars with the intended color or gradient, and some other toolbars on the same app don’t (and that’s ugly). That might be an app bug, but it is so common (even on KDE’s KOffice) that it reflects badly on the whole experience. It doesn’t matter whose bug it is. The point is that it is there. The buttons are so overwhelming that sometimes their text goes unnoticed (at least they should either bold or shadow the text on these kinds of buttons to expose their importance). I also don’t like its window manager buttons, I find them clunky. Its tabs are so not part of the tab view, they feel alien to it. I do like other widgets offered by Keramik, but the most important widgets are either overwhelming or they lack care on their details. Have a look here for more info on my gripes on that theme (discussed on the kde-usability list a few months ago). Thankfully, KDE is fully themeable. The icons are nice on KDE and their alternatives, like the Noia icons, are great looking too. But Keramik is not.
Gnome is compared here with both its default GTK+ theme and Red Hat’s BlueCurve (Red Hat is the best selling ‘Gnome reseller’ so most of the Gnome users will be using BlueCurve, essentially making that theme virtually a “second default” for Gnome). So, Gnome is not going to get any praises on having a great looking widget theme, but overall it ain’t ugly either. Its widget set is very plain (both BlueCurve and especially the default GTK+) but it doesn’t try to be ‘something else’. The window manager looks of BlueCurve is nice and clean. Its buttons are big and easy to reach and this is a plus. The Gnome/Red Hat icons are not as good as MacOSX’s, XP’s or KDE’s though, but are definitely better than BeOS’ (the default BeOS icons were great in their time, but they have been surpassed now).
As for BeOS [6/Dano/Zeta]’s looks, it was an improvement and a step backwards compared to BeOS 5, at the same time. Today, the BeOS legacy is continued by YellowTAB‘s Zeta product, while there are still a large number of active users of the BeOS 5. Fonts are way better on the Dano/Zeta version of BeOS than before, the Interface Kit is now more themeable (but not fully), and it now supports non-rectangular windows. However, the widget set has seen great innovations and back-steps. For example the Z-Snake effect as seen in the screenshot is a great eye-candy effect (and pretty complex programming-wise), the radio buttons have this clever “switch” while combo boxes are also having animated effects and they also use the Z-Snake when enabled. On the down side, you will find terrible looking buttons, small default window manager buttons that need to be aimed with a gun and not with a mouse…
Rating: (out of 10) Windows XP 8.0, MacOSX 9.0, KDE 6.5, BeOS 7.0, Gnome 6.5.
The best usability I get is from Windows XP. This is the only reason I keep WinXP still as my main operating system. The user environment does what I expect it to do at any time. 95% of the applications carry out user-interactivity actions exactly like another Windows app would do it. There are tooltips everywhere, great keyboard navigation that will let you move everywhere in case your mouse has screwed up. It is just the ‘standard’, we like it or not. Can it be better? Possibly. But from usability/accessibility point of view, Luna is the best out there. However, it is not all sugar. The new “Start” menu found on XP is just too loaded with stuff. Programs need an extra click to get into them while it is the most common reason why would someone would click on “Start”. The Open/Save dialogs can be better as well by including a drop-down menu for recently-visited places. I hate it when I save something with Paint Shop Pro on the A directory and then I need to save something else on the B dir and I have to navigate manually each time between 5 and 8 clicks, while it can be done with only one.
On usability, MacOSX and BeOS are the second best, both at the same level I could say. They are consistent and OSX offers some new tricks on the play, like quick navigation with the help of Finder, excellent drag-n-drop support, speech recognition & hand writing recognition (not with great performance on these two features though). What Mac OS X lacks though is good keyboard navigation. For example, I get an alert window to save my text file and I can’t move fro a button to its next button with the cursor keys. Yikes! (Update: Apparently you can enable this via a pref panel, but it is not there by default) Another thing I recently realized deeply is that Macs are way more keyboard-oriented than the rest platforms, because of the lack of a second mouse button (however keyboard navigation is not as good as noted above). If it was not enough for the CNTRL and ALT buttons to do things like context menus, we also have the OPTION button… Not good for most mouse-oriented users, especially in a period where Apple is pushing their Switch campaign to Windows users. Also, I don’t like the fact that Finder doesn’t have more options on its context menus or elsewhere, like the “Open Terminal Here” option (hey, it’s a unix underneath).
BeOS has great usability. Everything is brainlessly easy on that operating system and it is one of the reasons people who have tried it, like it. The OS is extremely simplistic in its nature (even installing drivers is as easy as dropping a file on a directory – and you probably won’t need rebooting either) and its user interface is also simplistic on the way it works. Its context menus make sense and they add great functionality, like the Tracker add-ons (similar to Nautilus scripts), easy ways to copy/move/shortcut files with a single click and has even the easiest way to date on mounting other filesystems! The Deskbar is also easy to use and it does the job adequately. Drag-n-Drop works everywhere! Tracker, the integrated file manager, is awesome too. What I always needed from BeOS though was more context menu functionality when right clicking on some widgets. For example, when having an input box, a text view, or a selectable text item, I want to be able to right click on it and have a cut/copy/paste menu. I always missed that on BeOS, which I know that it never had that because of its Mac-oriented roots regarding its interface (BeOS ran first on PPCs before coming to x86). Also, having the CNTRL key as the default action key instead of ALT, wouldn’t hurt either (and I have heard of some big fights about this in the management/engineering departments at Be back in the day…)
KDE has a lot of new features and goodies with version 3.1, but Konqueror (the main KDE application) leaves a really sour taste. It tries to be everything for everyone, so we get functionality from file viewer, to image viewer, to CVS front-end etc., in addition to its two major uses as web browser and file manager. All that may sounds good, but the problem is that you get extremely long menus or context menus with options that have nothing to do with the KPart currently loaded. I find Konqueror abusing the otherwise great KPart technology; it adds extreme bloat to its interface when it is not truly needed, while configuring its toolbars is a pain in the rear (with bugs too). I have outlined my problems with KDE more detailed here, which was later discussed in the kde-usability list. Another problem with KDE is the extremely bloated default KMenu (which unfortunately many Linux distros keep), big icons for shortcut/launchers on Kicker (a default KDE screen doesn’t fit well on a 800×600 screen) which makes difficult to distinguish that the K is a menu and the other icons next to it are just shortcuts. Thankfully, work has been done on the context menus on the desktop, but when right clicking on the icons on the desktop we sometimes get options that shouldn’t be there (e.g. the Trash’s long menu, while it only needs 2-3 options – this has been fixed in the CVS from Waldo Bastian AFAIK). The main problem I have with KDE is its extreme bloat. Cut the fat and suddenly everything will be better. Second grade problems are the choices for the defaults, like the single-click action and the “hook on the other windows’ borders” of the window manager. I believe that KDE should leave-in the hook on the monitor’s border, but take out the application border hook as it creates a bad impression to the user thinking that “Xfree is slow because when I move my windows around, it is not smooth”, even if this has nothing to do with the reality. It is all about perception, UI is all about psychology, and KDE takes an F on that department.
Gnome is more simplistic than KDE in its choices. It goes straight to the point and the applications written for it tend to follow its Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). What I dislike though is the default Application menu bar on the top of the screen. It takes space for a no good reason in my opinion (not everyone adds icons to that bar all the way through the 1600th horizontal pixel, come on). I am more in agreement with Red Hat’s and Mandrake 9.1 defaults personally. Gnome also is not all that great when it comes to its Trash context menu, Nautilus is ok but I want a dialog box asking me for the root password when I am in need making a system copy/move. The functionality of the Red Hat’s Gnome taskbar is fine, but it feels a bit amateurish, icons in the notification area move by themselves and create unwanted space, the menu is ugly and looks like a potpourri. However, applications like FileRoller and Red Hat’s RPM installer application make the whole experience better. Gnome can easily become better than what it is today. Exactly because it is already simpler than KDE, the work required to clean up things, I think, would be less overall. However, I don’t understand what took the Gnome project (especially Red Hat) developers so long before they start working on the new GtkFileSelection. It is now scheduled for Gnome 2.4, which comes out at the end of the year. Also, why can’t I move the toolbars from Nautilus next to each other and save some real screen estate? Anyway, more here.
Rating: Windows XP 9, MacOSX 8.5, KDE 6.5, BeOS 8.5, Gnome 7.
The best desktop environment regarding consistency is BeOS, hands down. Because of the (double-edged) sword of not having other toolkits ported to the BeOS and because the guidelines were quite clear on the way things should work under BeOS, you get a very consistent (and simple) environment all the way through. The only other real toolkit ever created for BeOS was LibLayout, which was always very BeOS-ish anyway (except the tab look). Preference panels and even applications share a common behavior, look and feel. They do what you expect them to do (the BeOS way).
As for Windows, It is great to be able to run old Windows software under Windows XP, but that doesn’t always mean that you will get same look and feel and even behavior throughout all applications (example: PaintShopPro 5’s old Save/Open dialog). Additionally, Microsoft has introduced different behaviors on their own products, notably with MS Office offerings, toolbars are more flexible on IE than on other apps, while the .NET apps have a dual look. However, control panels, dialogs, preference panels and all “default” tools found on Windows all follow the Microsoft HIG, so that is a plus.
MacOSX has three main toolkits to play with and while there are a few small differences between Carbon and Cocoa applications, all in all, OSX is very consistent with itself. However, not everything is roses here either. Apple has decided to go “wild” regarding the metal-looking applications like Safari, iMovie, iTunes etc which do create inconsistency to the whole experience. Mac OS X users have written down their complaints about this and other issues. A lot of people though still need to run special MacOS 9 applications who have the old look, so that doesn’t help the current consistency either…
Hmm… Gnome and KDE… Well, it is impossible to say that any of the X11 environments are consistent. By definition they are not. Maybe they are consistent with themselves, but not when counting the whole experience. Even for people who run KDE and don’t want to run GTK+ apps, there are so many other toolkits under X where every now and then you have to download and use an application that only exists under another toolkit (e.g. Motif or Tcl/Tk). Also, the brand new commercial ports of Moho, TextMaker and Pepper also are using… their own toolkits in order for their port to happen easier. The most important free applications under Linux today are also not consistent with the two main DEs: OpenOffice.org and Mozilla. All that adds up to the overall inconsistency of the X11 environment. And we haven’t even mentioned the original Athena widget set, neither the different looks and interface layouts we get from important applications that are still available only as Qt 2.x (e.g. Opera) or as GTK+ 1.x (e.g. AbiWord, Gnumeric, GNUcash and many more).
Additionally, we get Qt applications that have different open/save dialogs than KDE’s… We also get big Gnome applications that don’t follow the Gnome HIGs (e.g. BlueFish 0.9). Surely, badly designed applications can be found under any operating system, but the main applications for the other DEs are HIGified and usability-tested, something that doesn’t happen often for the main third party apps of any X11 environment.
Rating: Windows XP 8.5, MacOSX 7.5, KDE 5, BeOS 10, Gnome 5.
For me, integration is one of the most important aspects of a desktop environment. The reason I use a graphical desktop environment in the first place is to hide the complex aspects of the under-the-hood system and provide me with tools to configure the system, if and when this is required.
I found that the best DE on integration (see: the DE that requires you LESS to open a terminal window) is Windows, hands down. Everything can be configured with a GUI and when there is not a preference panel for something, there is always… the registry, even when you want to enable the most weird hacks on applications found or your system.
After XP should be MacOSX. A lot can be done via the GUI and via the NetInfo Manager or other utilities found on /Applications/Utilities. Great stuff.
BeOS is very good on abstracting the complexity as well, but it doesn’t offer too many tools (though there are third party tools for such operations and also is easy to add more, as BeOS is a solid and simple system as we reported above). There are times that you will need to open a terminal to do things, like checking the integrity of the BFS, the makebootable utility, lsindex etc. Overall, this doesn’t look bad for BeOS, just because working with that system is simple. But if BeOS was a Unix, the lack of more utilities would be more glaring.
Both KDE and Gnome include some preference panels to configure their own UI aspects, but none of these X11 environments are integrated to the underlying system. Maybe because X11 itself is not integrated, but runs “on top” of whatever Unix carries it. The good thing about it is that you can have choice of different DEs and that you can restart X when something becomes screwy, but in my opinion the bad stuff overwhelms the benefits: non-optimized X11, slow window manager architecture and more. Additionally, both Gnome and KDE don’t offer tools to change the native resolution of X (this will change soon though, but it should have been here years ago already), no tools to configure internet connections, startup OS items, a GUI to load/unload/install/uninstall drivers on the fly [or by rebooting], no GUI on configuring printers/scanners/other hardware. Gnome and KDE feel more like shells, and while this is what they really are if you clearly look at them, they don’t solve the given problem (even if they never meant to, it is irrelevant here, as the overall experience is what matters). Integration is the main key for an OS to feel mature and professional, but because of the multi-platform nature of these projects, it is not possible at this time. Most Linux distributions offer their own additional tools on whatever else is needed, but I don’t get these extra tools with Solaris and Gnome, or with IRIX and KDE, and certainly not with FreeBSD or AIX. You might think (and rightly so) that this is a job for the OS provider to add more tools, but the fact remains that Gnome and KDE are far from integrated to any OS they run on and that does have an impact in the experience.
Rating: Windows XP 10, MacOSX 9, KDE 4, BeOS 8.5, Gnome 4.
I think that Mac, BeOS and Windows have roughly the same amount of flexibility in their UI. They all follow the philosophy of “less is more” and the OS provider just tries to provide the best defaults. You can change a fair amount of things, like position and size of the taskbar, but overall, the experience remains similar to the default.
Gnome is also like the bunch above, but it is more flexible in the way you can play with the way your Gnome panels look and behave. On the other hand, Gnome does not have a proper menu editor and modifying or creating new desktop shortcuts is a pain, going through all those tabs in the dialog box for such a simple operation.
KDE is the most flexible of all. Literally, every modification you can think of is possible there (expect automatically resizing kicker when more apps are sitting on its taskbar and Kicker is aligned in the center of the monitor like OSX’s Dock). However, this flexibility comes at a cost. The Kontrol Center of KDE is just bloated, plain and simple. It is impossible to easily find the most common options which are under tones of other mostly insignificant or nit-picking options. There is a huge list of options on the left of the GUI application of KCenter, and on the right you get the selected KPart application with a number of tab views which each one has a number of options to explore. Some say that this is the very strength of KDE, but for me and others, this is a plague which results into confusion, usability and bloat headaches. I give KDE an 8 (and not a 9 or 10) because of these problems created by this flexibility, not because the flexibility is not there (it is).
Rating: Windows XP 7, MacOSX 7, KDE 8, BeOS 7, Gnome 7.5.
Ah, speed… Speed here is not (just) “raw speed” but also “UI responsiveness” (BeOS users will ‘get’ that term better). Who doesn’t like responsiveness and smoothness when using a desktop environment? Everyone does, and everyone complains when they get lags between clicking a menu, or a button, or loading an app…
I have used all these DEs on new and old machines. I used MacOSX on G3s and on dual G4s. I used BeOS from a AMD K6 300 Mhz up to 1.6 Ghz machine (which is already overkill for BeOS). I’ve tried Windows XP on a dual Celeron 533 and on faster machines. And KDE/Gnome on the AthlonXP 1.6 Ghz and on my dual Celeron 533 (multiple distributions, Linux or FreeBSD). I also used Gnome on a $3000 machine SPARC and KDE on a SGI $18,000 Fuel machine last year.
BeOS clearly wins on UI responsiveness because of its extreme multi-threaded nature and its fantastic kernel scheduler (which plays very well with the app_server). Everything is just snappy. I run BeOS on a 1.6 GHz machine and it is simply overkill. No matter what I do, there is always CPU left for other things. I primarily run BeOS on a dual Celeron 533 and it is also extremely snappy. You click a window and while this application might have another window doing something else, nothing gets paused to wait for the other window to finish what it’s doing. Everything is just readily available immediately. Make no mistake, BeOS is not a fast OS when it comes to server operations (except if you have installed the BONE networking stack), or when you do heavy compilations, and despite popular belief, its SMP scaling could be much better. But being a “multimedia OS”, the engineers over at Be had special-cased a lot of things, making latency and UI a snap. BeOS “feels” fast to the user perspective, even though some under-the-hood operations are not really as fast as Linux or Windows XP. Check out this very recent YellowTAB Zeta DivX video from CeBIT, showing what BeOS can do and how fast it can do it.
Windows XP would be my second best regarding UI responsiveness. It is already very responsive, a huge (and I mean HUGE) improvement on multitasking/multithreading over the Win9x codebase, but it is not as good as in BeOS. The user can get a lot of freezing under some special cases until a window finishes what it’s doing, while when I want to save an attachment with Outlook Express and I navigate to the “Desktop” entry of the filesystem it takes up to 10 seconds to read the whole root dir and refresh that window. Or when I right click on the desktop and navigate to “New”, the submenu takes up to 3 seconds to open on the dual Celeron if it is not already in the cache. That’s slow but they seem to be special cases which can probably be optimized easily.
MacOSX is the slowest of all in my opinion. Even on the fastest dual G4, scrolling and resizing a window (or a web page on ANY browser) is jerky and imprecise. Also, when IE or some other app is doing something, the menu bar on top doesn’t respond and all I see is the spinning beach ball. There is no real responsiveness there. In fact, speed is my number one problem with the otherwise excellent OSX. As someone else said once “after you have used BeOS, anything else will never be the same and it would just seem slow” and that has proved true.
Gnome is a bit faster than KDE. While GTK+ 2.x is several times slower than GTK+ 1.x, it still manages to run adequately well (however Metacity is so slow when resizing an window it will redraw its button bitmaps in a really ugly fashion). KDE is plagued mostly of the fact that all its applications are slow to load. In fact, even the smallest Gnome application (e.g. calculator) is slower to load than the big and fat Blender because of the number of shared libraries is linked against! But KDE’s performance on loading its apps is worse. Overall, these Unix DEs are based a lot on how the kernel is configured (same goes for the other DEs too though) and I found that the default FreeBSD 4.x ran KDE much faster than a stock Linux 2.4.12 last year. I remember Gnome 2 running slowly on that brand new Sun SPARC workstation though. So, there is definitely some responsiveness to be gained depending on which platform you are running or how well optimized your X or kernel is, but on the stock Mandrake/SuSE/Red Hat distros these DEs ran from well to slow-ish. They could be better, but right now they are definitely usable.
Rating: Windows XP 9, MacOSX 6, KDE 7.5, BeOS 10, Gnome 8.
Stability and Bugs
I found Windows XP and MacOSX to be the most stable environments in this long term test usage. Sure, I have seen both Finder and Explorer crashes (which are the “desktop shells” for these DEs, as Nautilus is for Gnome and Tracker is for BeOS), but overall stability is good. I think XP has fewer bugs than MacOSX though (has anyone seen the OSX Font panel not showing the preview of the font selected? You need to manually drag that panel down..). I had a few bugs with XP’s taskbar in its first versions (it was freezing after a cold reboot for about 5-6 seconds) but they have all been ironed out now after the SP1. In fact, the most notable bugs I have to report about XP’s default apps is how sucky this Notepad application that I write this article right now is.
Gnome 2.2.0 is somewhere in the middle regarding stability (especially Nautilus which crashes easily). It has a number of bugs (especially Nautilus) but if the guys are able to iron out Nautilus more, Gnome is pretty solid overall. And the good thing is that if something is wrong, you just kill X and you reload. Update: Gnome 2.2.1 seem to have been a stability and bug fixing version mainly for Nautilus.
BeOS and KDE are the most unstable of the lot. BeOS Dano is a beta, but even on BeOS 5.x I could crash the app_server of Tracker easily (both part of the DE part of the OS). BeOS is pretty stable overall, but if you “overwork” it or do weird stuff on it can crash easily too (that doesn’t mean that the whole system will go down. If Tracker goes down is easy to reload it, but if the app_server goes down, you’ll need to reboot).
As for KDE, well, Konqueror is just not stable. Applications written or coming with KDE also tend to crash fairly easily (on a number of machines and different distros/OSes I ran it). However, the biggest problem with KDE is not stability, it is the bugs. Konqueror has more bugs than the whole BeOS does. I just can’t stand it being so inconsistent, bloated, buggy and crashy. Poof. It’s gone.
Rating: Windows XP 9.5, MacOSX 9, KDE 7, BeOS 7.5, Gnome 8.
Surely the back-ends of the DEs might or might not be part of the DEs themselves, but point is that some of the features found on the graphical servers can be used for user-visible effects and they might have an impact on speed, smoothness, features or quality of rendering. Therefore the technology used behind these DEs is an important factor on this comparison. In fact, this factor can be what allows a DE to do, or what locks a DE to not be able to do because the back-end functionality is not there or because architecture or legacy problems might prevent the creation of new cool stuff (and that’s bad for the future potential of any DE).
MacOSX takes the lead here regarding the technology used. Double buffering everywhere, non-flickered UI, vector icons (Update: someone emailed in to say that they are still bitmap icons used by OSX), good font rendering engine, “real” transparency support, PDF-based, QuartzExtreme for 3D assistance on the 2D space of the desktop and my personal favorite “smooth window dragging” (for lack of a better naming of a VSYNC’ed desktop).
BeOS Dano/Zeta is the only other desktop that supports the VSYNC’ed desktop. However, even if the Dano version of BeOS featured a newer font engine that did a better job than the BeOS 5 one, it still lacks on rendering quality. BeOS Dano also supported full double buffering and non-flicker, while regarding vector icons on the file manager and desktop is currently available via a third party patch over the Tracker codebase. However, Dano still doesn’t support bitmap icons with more than 256 colors (not sure if the YellowTAB guys fixed that for their Zeta though).
Windows and X11 don’t have many of these cool features, in fact X11 is the least powerful of all. While it is network transparent and everything, it lacks the speed and integration to the rest of the system. There is lack of proper overlay support (it just slows down everything), no true accelerated transparency or easy modification of cursors etc. In fact, up until recently many were discussing its limitations for not being able to render well fonts or the ability to not change real resolutions on the fly. These issues are slowly changing for the better with RandR and FontConfig, but X11 is still not up to speed and all that legacy code it carries might prove a stumbling block on adding more demanding features in the future. However, KDE and Gnome support vector icons, while GTK+ 2.x does a better job on non-flickering of applications than QT does (however not as good of a job that MacOSX does).
Rating: Windows XP 8, MacOSX 10, KDE 7.5, BeOS 8.5, Gnome 7.5.
The programming framework is an important part of any DE because it classifies them as “platforms” with a strong back-end that guarantees their power, flexibility and potential. My favorite here would be MacOSX and KDE. My worst would be Gnome. BeOS and Windows will be somewhere in the middle, for different reasons each.
I like the API of Cocoa on MacOSX and the API of Qt/kde_libs. They are powerful without being way too complex. Tools and documentation of Qt are excellent too.
For Windows, well, MFCs, .NET and Win32 are really powerful APIs which let you do the same thing in many different ways, but that is also what you might call bloat. I find the Windows API to have a steep learning curve, while the .NET API is certainly cleaner and easier to use overall, a step in the right direction.
BeOS has a very elegant API, really a pleasure to work with, but it is not as powerful than any of its competitors. Additionally, there are no good development tools for BeOS, no good visual GUI designers, no full-featured debuggers, no profilers… Also, under BeOS you constantly need to take care of multithreading issues and write your code around the fact that everything is so multithreaded on BeOS that could create deadlocks where you would least expect it. Writing small apps for the BeOS is a joy, writing anything more complex or serious though is a real pain.
As for Gnome, well, I dislike GTK+ and C. In my opinion, for a desktop environment is more suitable to use a real OO language and a more OO-oriented API. GTK– is there as a C++ wrapper to GTK+, but it ain’t elegant or easy to use. And CORBA is not that easy to deal with either.
Rating: Windows XP 8, MacOSX 9, KDE 8.5, BeOS 7, Gnome 6.
There are a lot of things we did not discuss in this article, but it would not be practical to write a real paper on these DEs. It would take me a month each and many-many pages. But I think this article summarizes well my view on how well these DEs they function and deliver what they are supposed to deliver to the user.
I acknowledge that there are good reasons for dealing with the negatives of Gnome and KDE, since there are other reasons for using Linux, and many people weigh the options and make that choice. However, today we live on times where everyone is pushing Linux on the desktop (or the corporate desktop by the mighty Red Hat) so including the main X11 offerings in this comparison article was appropriate.
Personally I much prefer overall the Windows XP experience with a close second the ones of MacOSX and BeOS. In fact, a DE that could have the best values found on these three operating systems, plus the power of Unix underneath, would make my utopian desktop environment. But there isn’t such a DE (in fact, there is no such thing as “the perfect desktop”, this is just a myth), so I usually reboot to them to enjoy their capabilities.
Here is the final rating, summed up from all the ratings above:
Windows XP 8.55
Roberto no need to be a fucken prick (i mean that as respectfully as possible ). At least she got off her fat arse and took the time to review it. i dont agree with all she’s written but im not gonna slag her for it.
I agree with many of the criteria used to evaluate the DEs.
I want a DE that is particularlly good at these points:
#1 Operations must work in every single app I run in the DE (e.g. ctl-o == open, selected text on X == copied to clipboard)
#2 Forcing my to switch between my mouse and my keyboard had better only happen when appropriate. If the DE opens a dialog box with only two buttons, and then opens a follow up dialog box where I must type in text, and THEN I have to click on a button to advance the dialog box I want to kill the next cider-head I see. Usability and consistency guidelines, my ass.
#3 Most common and useful operations quickest to get to.
Perfect counter examples (GRR!!!)
– Windows explorer/browser – creation of a folder is in varying menu locations and takes several clicks to get to
– Windows explorer – clicking on a file will switch my context to renaming a file. Right, because I rename my files and folders at least 20 times a day.
The review gave examples about the CVS commands being so near the first operations you encounter while working with files, while the operations you could perform with the “trashcan” where several sub menus. Then everyone talks about how great CVS is. Hello? go to goole, enter “find clue” and read.
#4 Resonpsivness – When I click or otherwise request some action, I want to see indication that progress is being made. I find this frustrating in GUI as well as commandlien tools. Let me know what’s happening. Freezing my mouse cursor after turing it into an hour glass/spinning wheel is _not_ useful feedback. Here are some good examples of how shitty DE/OSs are:
– Printing, isntead to checking how much paper is left, or if the printer is ready, my print job waits for 5 minutes and then a dialog box pops up in the middle of whatever I was doing to tell me that my print job “encoutered a problem”. Check the printer first.
– Copying files (Mac) Drag a folder of files from one location to another to copy them. The Mac waits for a while and then starts grinding along. At some point during this operation, I am interrupted with a popup telling me that there isn’t enough sapce to complete the copy. My only option is to abort the partial copy. Check the destination for enough space first. If there is a problem mid operations, then give me some reasonable back out options, like undoing the complete copy, or, better, tell me what the problem was, let me fix it, and then gasp, resume the operation.
I’m willing to learn any DE if the operations allow me to get my work done efficently. I suspect many people here have. Show of hands for people who can get work done in Windows?
Jeez look at unix with commands like (ls -l, ps -auxww, grep -name, vi or emacs key sequences, etc.), or windows with alt space n, alt tab, ctl shift tab, etc.
These arcane commands are just fingerings that I’ve muscle learned. I can fire them off at very high speed. My brain thinks in terms of operations I want to perfrom. My fingers just translate.
What aspects of the DEs out there have people really enjoyed?
A nice review, indeed. Instead of trolling like Petreley did, she took the time to test and play with stuff.
Only some opinions…
1) IE for MacOS Classic/X sucks, but sucks a lot in every conceivable way, probably the worst browser around. Unfortunately for Apple Safari is still not ready for prime time.
2) Konqueror is TOO confusing! Its easy to lose myself with all-oh-those loads of features and buttons and all of this.
3) Nautilus still sucks, but nowadays fortunately is near the unsuckiness state.
4) If you take out the Microsoft history and all those Microsoft-sponsored spyware, XP is a good system, EXCEPT for those horrid Luna colors.
5) Troll people sucks. 🙂
And for those who havent seen enough trolling: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/03/18/0040211&mode=nocomment&…
Yup, well rounded overview of the DE’s available.
I love Linux, I hate microsoft, I can hack a linux distro to fix problems, but i’m a busy chap. Installing linux on a server *nice*. Install linux on a desktop arrgghhhhh. I always end up hacking the x config files to get fonts to work. I shouldnt need to.
All the application software I run is opensource. Mozilla, Open Office, python, cygwin etc. I am NOT dependant on using windows. Which GUI do I use? Windows 2k. Why? It lets me get on with my job. (xp sucks imho)
I can break explorer about once a week and i can break win2k (after a heavy 24h+ session). I can live with that.
On the same notebook (dell 8200) using SuSE 8.1 (and redhat 7.3). I can kill the desktop within 8 hours (not sure its an x, kde etc). Koffice – its not usable, within 30 minutes of playing with koffice I killed it. Linux is still running like a rock, but sometimes i have to ssh into my notebook from my linux server to kill x.
Open Office fonts suck (even more hacking)
Konqueror – it *sucks*
1. major, major bloat. it should be split into separate apps
2. walking directory trees is pure evil compared to Microsoft
3. Way, way too many icons taking up far too much space.
(i love the shell like autocomplete of filenames though)
The default editor in windows is notepad, it is basic as hell, but works. The default kde editor (kate?) does nasty things to config files. (but it has lots of options 😉
I work faster using win2k gui than using cygwin and vim, i work faster in linux using xterm and vim than i do in kde.
Kde has all the functionality I need and bags more. I would love to use KDE, but for me KDE need to change their priorities.
1. total freeze of new features
2. focus on stability
3. split konqueror into separate apps (and fix directory walking)
4. focus on usability
I like the comparison and fairness that you shown throughout the comparison (the results are another story ). The main thing I would’ve done differently would be to judge the ui after modification are made instead of over the defaults. E.g. taking KDE’s many themes into account instead of using Keramik as the basis for your judgement. I have not yet seen any bugs with KDE visually, (and I appollogize if someone asked this earlier), what version of Redhat are you using? Mosfet (www.mosfet.org) has many points on how Redhat 8.0 changes to KDE for the worst.
And remeber, usability, ui, and the internals isn’t everything. For instance, many people use KDE/Gnome because it is open source (with OpenBeOS making a good steady progress).
Still, though, a good overview of DEs
just, my 2 pieces of copper
Roberto, There is really no need to be stupid about the whole thing, she stated her opinions, she is entitled to do that. If you dont like it then dont friggin bother reading the articles. Let me educate you on what a review is. Okay a review is when somebody, in this case Eugenia, uses a product and gives you what she feels is highlights and or faults and the review is based on their user experience–not yours not mine. dude, grow up.
Now as for you mac users out there that so maliciously decide to trash Eugenias review. Im going to say this much. I have never understood mac zealotry, I guess I never will. Its a hunk of plastic, glass and metal. I have never been that passionate about a computer, even when I was a full time mac user working in a mac farm. You guys are scarey and when somebody says windows or Linux is better than the mac, OMG its like ” MAC USERS UNITE ” You cant stand the thought another OS out there is better than the Mac, just because we dont share your ideas about the Mac doesnt mean we are brain dead it just means, WE DO NOT LIKE THE MAC. Get real folks, a computer is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. I like Linux but my entire wardrobe doesnt contain any Linux t-shirts and I do not have any bumper stickers on my car that says Linux, and I dont have 25 Linux posters decorating my house. Just because I dont like the mac or its GUI dont push your politics off on me, because quite frankly I dont care. I want a platform that is stable, that I can develop on, and one that is simple to administer. Right now SuSE Linux 8.1 Pro and Windows XP fit the bill. I like them, they work and I have fun using the OSes when I use them. I never really liked the old Mac OS and Mac OS X, even though it is based on NeXTStep, is still too much in its infancy for me to trust anything professional to its care. I was raised on NeXTStep,It was my first introduction to a UNIX based OS. I know the internal workings of NeXTStep and of Mac OS X, I just dont like Mac OS X, call me crazy, call me stupid call me a jerk, But if Im all that just because I dont like Mac OS X, I have one word for you guys…PROZAC
“let me apologize in advance for not including…”
If you used Linux to look at KDE and Gnome, you could have easily looked at many other Dekstops. I use WindowMaker every day, and here is my 2c’s:
The Look and Feel
“Clean” comes to mind when using WM.There is really a minimum of clutter on the Desktop, and what I like most is that there is no “task bar”. The menu is anywhere on the desktop – just right click. For me it’s the small things like this that really makes WM perfect.
My Rating: 9
The less “gadgets” there are the more usable the Desktop should be. What do you really need? A menu system, a configuration agent, Date and Time, Desktop Switcher and a place to get you minimized apps from.
WM does for me what I expect – 100% of the time. BTW, my current Desktop session is up for 48 days and a little over 23 hours.
Come on – seriously now! The only thing then let WM loose a point here is that they changed the theme formats at one stage – which led to incompatibility between themes and versions of WM. Today that is a non issue.
This is also the weakest point in stability in Windows XP. You can’t manage a PC with BSOD – even though an underlying app caused a problem.
Granted – most of the stuff in Unix ( in general ) is done in a terminal. Then again, if you use Mandrake Linux you can configure your system without going to the terminal to often.
My Rating: 7
For me this is a non-issue. Maybe it’s because I’m not into fancy stuff and eye candy.
In terms of configuration options to customize WM, I think all the other reviewed desktops take a distant 2nd anyway.
My rating: 9
Stability and Bugs
No bugs visible in the UI. As I mentioned – my session uptime is close to 49 days now. Scary if you take into account WM is still Beta
Technology + Programming Framework
Windows and Mac are really out of their depth here. Especially since they are Closed Sources.
Interesting article, but very Windows bias. I hope you will have more objective reviews in the future.
It was a very unbiased review, many of the things she points out, myself and others happen to agree with her. If you dont think its fair or it is biased, write your own review. Choose your winner and I will watch as these people who dont agree with you tear your review to shreds.
I really didn’t like this article. As other posters have noticed, it seems to be entirely on subjective and anecdotal – “I thought it was faster/smoother/better”.
I found it especially odd that Windows XP scored highest in the stability/bugs category. Eugenia, you must be using some special version of Windows that the rest of us have never seen! My experience is that Windows XP (with all the updates installed) is more unstable and much less responsive on a >1GHz machine than the first release of KDE3.1 on a 330MHz FreeBSD machine. And bugs? _Please_!
X11, as a graphics architecture, is showing its age. But there is _nothing_else_ that provides the same mature network and platform transparency.
The fashion in commercial Windows (and Mac) apps seems to be for applications to roll their own interfaces – using custom widget designs and ‘artistic’ interfaces. The hoary “windows is consistent but every X app is different” argument no longer holds water.
My subjective, anecodatal counter would be that the X11 based environments are improving rapidly in all areas (KDE faster then GNOME, IMHO), Windows is getting worse, Mac OS X continues to lead the way, and BeOS is interesting but irrelevent in practical terms.
This review seems driven by preference instead of function. Anyone used to a Windoze interface would pick Windoze as an interface of choice. Having used Windoze until about a year ago, I would have agreed. However after using KDE for the last year, I like its custom-izability. Out of the box Windoze is easier. For tweaking, KDE is it. Women like things that just work. Men like things to work with.
> it seems to be entirely on subjective and anecdotal – “I thought it was faster/smoother/better”.
It is based on LONG TERM usage. Do you have a specific benchmark that runs on ALL of these platforms and measures EXACTLY the above? NO, there isn’t such a benchmark. Therefore, it can’t be anything else but write down the experience of long term usage and evaluate the lot.
Many people will stay with the default settings that come out of the box. This is why tweaking settings before a review is such a bad idea. Default settings are very important.
Say you’re going to buy a car. Just because you can tweak up the car with a different paint job, exhaust tips, vtec decals, rear spoilers or whatever else those ricers do to their Hondas doesn’t mean you are not going to seriously consider the default things that come with that car. Get the things you want in the first place (default UI settings) and your user experience will be much better, especially since the ricers are in the minority and most people stick with what they buy.
>My experience is that Windows XP (with all the updates installed) is more unstable and much less responsive on a >1GHz machine than the first release of KDE3.1 on a 330MHz FreeBSD machine. And bugs? _Please_!
Speaking of the truth, I run WindowsXP Home w/ALL UPDATES on a 2.8GHz P4 machine with 1GB of RAM, and I have it to see it crashes more than 2 times in the past 2 months.
Speaking of the truth, I run WindowsXP Home w/ALL UPDATES on a 2.8GHz P4 machine with 1GB of RAM, and I have YET to see it crashes more than 2 times in the past 2 months.
GTK/Gnome apps are being updated for GTK2 and as such are expected to be inconsistent during this transision. Many of the latest stable builds for the apps mentioned that were inconsistent (Abiword, gnumeric, Gnucash) all have CVS versions with GTK2 being implemented and should be in the next major releases. Also dragging office apps into these DE comparisons isn’t really fair either. You could do a whole other article comparing them (Gnome Office, KOffice, OpenOffice, MSOffice). Does Mac even have its own office suite? Or is it just praying that MS or OO port their suites to their platform?
We must have the same version of Windows XP that no one else has, that gives us cause to celebrate. We are special. First Tiger, I have never had a problem with stability in XP as I previously stated it is the most stable and the best version of Windows Microsoft has ever released, I am running XP Pro with Service pack 1, sure I have had application crashes, but I havent had a system crash, well I cant remember the last time I had XP crash. Mac OS X seems to crash more apps than Windows XP does, You wanna talk stability my AMD Athlon 900 mhz with 2 gig of RAM and my 140 gigs of HD, running SuSE 8.1 hs never had an app or system crash and I run that system 24/7 and I use it intensively, daily. My Alpha Workstation running Linux hasnt crashed in forever either. My XP box is a dual 366 mhz Celeron with 256 mb of Ram with a 10 gig HD, and yet Windows is pretty speedy on that machine and I dont find speed or performance lacking. My G4 450 mhz Dual Processor machine crashes at least twice a month with Mac OS X 10.2 It also has 1.5 gig of RAM.
…when the /. weenies come out and state their opinions without reading a thing.
And Roberto, stop lying and quoting people for saying things when they NEVER did.
I agree with most of the article. Even so, I think GNOME has a great future, and soon we’ll see newer and better applications (and with better responsiveness, supported by the linux 2.6.x kernel).
The truth is that Free Software is reaching the point where it gets the main development focus, and from there things will get fast.
And being a C++ coder, all I can say about GTKmm is that it really rulz!!!
>I am running XP Pro with Service pack 1, sure I have had application crashes, but I havent had a system crash, well I cant remember the last time I had XP crash
well it is all about tweaking and other stuff. In the past 2 months my 2.8GHz P4 w/1gig ram system only has one BSOD, and it is because of an old game that is not compatible with Windows xp and 2k.
Wow, even though BeOS finished 3rd, I have to thank this guy for being so absolutely fair and honest. Wonderul.
Not only that, but his information was very much accurate for pre-Zeta BeOS.
Okay, in Zeta to maintain R5 code compatibility (oh.. binary too) we have to decide how to implement new features. We also want to keep our code seperate from the Be code allotment (whatever that may be, only Bernd knows for sure).
The current plan seems to be to create a series of libs. Of course, logically created and well documented (and appended to the BeBook in appropriate locations).
uint32 resizingMode = B_FOLLOW_LEFT | B_FOLLOW_TOP,
uint32 flags = B_WILL_DRAW | B_NAVIGABLE)
Fun to use huh?
Well, yeah actually, pretty easy.
ZPictureButton*button = new ZPictureButton(button_rect,”button”,”Only If Bitmap not found!”, buttonBmp, buttonBmp, buttonBmp,new BMessage(button_MSG), B_FOLLOW_ALL, 0)
What I did is just use the same image over and over. Of course, I guess I will now have to write this class..hmm.. more work.. good idea though 😉
More midnight coding!!
–The loon, cutting it short
Are this a review of desktop environments, windowing systems, or operating systems? The title leads me to believe it is the first case, but then the article mixes all three together.
The “spinning beachball” has nothing to do with the desktop environment. It is caused by poor application design. You’re experiencing the same problem that you get when a MS Windows or X11 app stops repainting itself. Including IE 5.5 as an example was not very nice. It is well known that it was an AWFUL port from the old Classic Mac OS codebase. It is generally consider to be the poster child of “the wrong way to do it.”
Mac OS ISN’T keyboard oriented, it’s mouse oriented. Always has been and probably always will be. I won’t go into the details between which is more efficient versus which people perceive to be more efficient. As a UI expert, Eugena is probably familiar with the studies I would cite anyways. (Of course I spend most of my time in the world’s most keyboard intensive app, Emacs. Go figure.)
I have coded against both gtkmm and the BeOS API (DR8-v5). Gtkmm is hands down more “C++”. The BeOS API is basically “C with classes.”
Are, Is. Close enough
I must say it was no suprise that WindwosXP won in your review
since you often point out that is what you like, find best, and use
all the time. No suprises here but to rate BeOS higher than
KDE or Gnome is completly bullsh*t. I use BeOS (yes its dead i know)
every day and i find it a very nice OS to use but with all
gimicks and features enabled it does not come even close to the functionality of kde2, left alone 3 and Gnome. You lack enormous fileds in the review, visability and usability (blind/deaf people) costs, scalability etc. Anyway MacOSX should be no 1 for me followed by KDE and Gnome.
GTK excels in areas the WinAPI/MFC can only dream of. It is clean, easy to use, not derived from a legacy API and doesn’t try to change the ANSI standard. Also, GTK is free for any kind of development use. If you write an app with GTK+, it can run on just about any *nix you can point your finger at, Win32 and Beos AFAIK whereas WinAPI/MFC is Win32 natively only (WINE isn’t native).
MacOSX/Cocoa uses Objective C, the Red Tape C with an awful syntax. It is MacOS only.
QT is rather nice and runs on Win32, Unix, MacOSX but not Beos. Also, like MacOSX it does not integrate seamlessly with the language, it requires MOC, a cheap way to get around a signal implementation.
As for the comment about Windows’ UI being more responsive than GNOME/KDE. LOL!! Thanks Eugenia, I needed a good laugh today! Honestly though, in the development environment and during the heavy copying of files, WinXP’s UI can freeze up like the antarctic, causing me to have to CTRL-ALT-DELETE, kill exporer and Run->explorer.exe to restart it. Thank goodness that project is finished! Also, the drop shadows on XP can take ages to render and the transparent selection rectangle takes ages to render compared to nautilus’ on this S3/VIA ProSavage.
In conclusion, I believe:
GTK+: 10, QT: 9.5, MacOSX: 8, Beos: 7, WindowsXP: 5
I get a link back to the story and a request to ‘link only to the story, not the printer version.’ Do I have to remind you that YOU linked to the printer version?
I think your referrer test is screwed up.
(Yes, I accept cookies.)
If you don’t have a card that can accelerate transparency in XP of course those effects would be slow. I have a Geforce2MX400 card and it accelerates those things so they are not slow on my system.
I do not work with Beos or Linux, but on the windows-OSX sides I wanted to express my humble opinion:
– On OSX, command-W closes tabs in Safari:
That is the expected behavior in most (all?) tabbed programs on OSX/OS9. On macs a tab window is considered like a regular (nested) window. command-w closes the front tab/window. command-alt-w (dont know if it is implemented in your build of safari) should close all windows/tabs. No inconsitancy here.
– Usability and performance: Frankly, multitasking appears to be much better on OSX, and for me it is the biggest usability issue with computers (I guess we all have different needs). Throw heavy computation (saturating ram, making a large use of I/O and network) at a XP/2K/NT system and you get something close to a unusable user interface, user space slows down to a crawl, and intermittently freezes. While Aqua is not the zippiest on a system without load, its responsiveness remains practically constant when heavy loads are thrown at the system.
– I find the Mac finder in column mode to offer the a better file browser experience than the windows counterparts. Simple, efficient, elegant, flexible.
– the (OSX) dock IMHO is superior to the taskbar, offering more flexibility, spatial arrangement, user configuration..
– I agree that XP/2K are more malleable and configurable, but the control panels on windows is really the weak point: not explicit, barely readable, multi hidden tabs, options, surprise pos up, inapropriate labelling, etc… The OSX system preference app is something my grandma can actually use: easy to read options, well organized and labelled buttons, text fields, icons and toggles.
Smoke Wrote: “If you don’t have a card that can accelerate transparency in XP of course those effects would be slow. I have a Geforce2MX400 card and it accelerates those things so they are not slow on my system.”
I’m just saying that on my system (ProSavage), Nautilus shows a near identical rectangle in a flash while XP (only installed once, when I purchased the PC) jumps all over the place with the selection rectangle. I didn’t trial this on 2 different systems
While RedHat is geared towards ease of use on the desktop, it is not exactly configured for performance. While their version of Gnome is fairly refined, they have severely hacked and abused KDE. I do not complain though. I like KDE, so I use other distros for that when I require it. The point is, that basing KDE on a distribution that has notoriously bad support for KDE is kinda silly. It would be like using IE in OSX as a comparison for …. oh wait….
Sad to see my favorite DE missing.
I have a couple of things to say. First is that just because a DE is overall better than another doesn’t mean it is necessarily better for your particular use. Some people seem to think that just because KDE was rated lower than Windows that some huge wrongness has occurred. This is not true. It just means that windows may be better for general use. For user Y though, KDE may very well be the best solution.
I chose my DE based on a few things:
1. App support
3. Ease of configuration
App support is in here for windows. I work for a computer gaming company. This means we’re windows centric. We do other os’s, but primarily windows. I am also a gamer. This means windows. Mac has some. Linux has fewer (with compatibility through winex but what’s the point of running at half windows speed?). Windows is just fine for most task, and once you learn it pretty well it works very well. It has security issues. It can’t be fully configured. It’s not the fastest thing in the world. But it runs the apps I want, how I want; bottom-line!
That said, I’m an engineer, so when I do engineering work, linux is generally prefered. When I’m running linux, I do use CLI, but the gui is important. I keep trying to like KDE, but I have to agree with Eugenia, it’s too cluttered. Konqueror is much harder to use/slower to use than individual apps because of the excess of buttons and functionality. Yes I know it can be changed through configuration, but so can just about anything in windows…that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. I use Gnome. That is not really by choice, but it seems the be the best combination of usability and prettiness. I look at the small ultrafast DEs (icewm, fvwm, wm) but they all seem to be lacking something I want, and while they can be configured, no doubt, it’s a question of time spent configuring versus time spent on my current project. I said I use gnome, but I HATE nautilus. It’s incredibly slow and clunky. Maybe I just have something wrong but I find it way better just to use a console for nautilus like things.
Ease of configuration is where I like aqua. It is a pretty DE with great (and powerful) configuration tools. It has its problems as everything else does though (these are mentioned in the article).
Speed is really dependent on what you want to do. Windows is usually most responsive for me (with the exception of BeOS, but it doesn’t really count since there are very few apps worth running BeOS for). I presume this aspect will be fixed in linux before too long as it has always been one of the selling points of linux (fast on old hardware).
Just a comment on HIG. Games have no HIG for them. They have no consistency in user interface at all. They don’t need it. HIG is generally an unnecessary thing assuming the app was designed to be intuitive. I don’t mind if things look different if I can figure out how to use them and they do something close to what’s expected.
So to sum up what I’m saying Windows is great for most things, but if it doesn’t suit you, use something else and nobody gets hurt. This is why there are choices.
One huge problem with XP is not the UI, but the fact that it uses locking with each file operation per default. For example, you can not move a folder full of mp3s while it is playing, you can not move a text document while in use, you can not do a backup while applications are running, etc.
This is not really a problem with the UI, but it makes using Windows much harder and more cumbersome. In linux there is only locking if the app asks for it. One should think that this leads to huge consistency problems, but I never had problems with it.
Why was this not mentioned? Am I the only one who thinks this sucks?
It seems like that KDE and GNOME are having some kind of “speed cap”….. :/
I don’t think that is the issue. I think the reason Windows XP ran so much better on your faster machine is because it is very memory hungery. Your 1GB of ram keeps XP healthy and happy. KDE and Gnome (and the linux underneatht them) aren’t so memory hungry. Xp is proven to perform crappy on machines without much memory, so on your lower end machine (you didn’t say ram, I am guessing 128-256), Xp wasn’t pleased. Linux on the other hand didn’t mind the change so much, thus KDE and Gnome operated more consistently.
XP has a most horrible user interface. If you launch two apps and start working in the first one that pops up your focus will be stolen by the other app when it pops up.
This is a serious error because it’s the user who should control the machine not the other way around.
The same thing if you are trying to do something in a menu ( I think they fixed it on the Start-menu) and focus is stolen your menu disappears and you have to do it all over again.
I would also like to know what knowledge the reviewer has in engineering psychology / human performance and man – machine interaction.
If you plug in a 2-button mouse, you can use both mouse buttons. And the same goes for 3 and 5 (scroll) button support. The rest of the article is pretty much crap as wel…. I personally rate osx far ahead of win XP, and i think the opensource desktops on linux are just as good as on windows.
I think eugenia is right. I use the two oses ( win2kpro &xp/office xp, linux ( RH/mandrake))at my place. Although linux is stable, but the responsiveness and the ease of installing is good in windows. Even there is no dependency probs. Win2k/officexp is one of the best combo i ever had. Infact better than winxp/officexp. Winxp is for kids with its all sugar candy’ish look and long horn i see from the builds, is taking it to heights.
Eugenia has done well at least in comparing windows and linux. KDE is just bloated and not as responsive as WE. No need to talk about nautilus
I’m running both XP and OSX. I use XP for almost nothing, but still need to restart about once a day. I don’t remember the last time I restarted my mac. I find that any speed advantage in XP is negated by its’ tendency to hang for incredibly long periods of time. I find that internet explorer, in particular, crashes constantly.
Hardware: 667 Mhz PIII deskop w/ 512 MB ram
600 Mhz G3 iBook w/ 384 MB ram
I’m a CS major, and yet I still found setting up my windows network painful. The only computer that could see anything else on the network was the mac, which could see both PCs, no problem. Meanwhile both PCs were busy trying to create their own network while refusing to join the existing one. Only by doing a complete windows reinstall did it sort itself out.
Its really surprising to see a CS major unable to setup network in win xp. I am a bio grad working in one of the big acad insti in india. Win 2k/xp goes into network like magic.
I think there is some fault in your installation of windows xp
how unreadable the text on desktop icons gets in windows if you pick the wrong deskop image.
how utterly nasty the windows file organization is… any unix is so muchcleaner.
how windows hides everything from you, so you never know what the fuck is going on.
how windows requires a security update every two days.
how much better office works on a mac.
how java doesn’t work in windows until you install it yourself.
how half the time uninstalling software in windows doesn’t work.
shit, drag-and-drop, folder-less installation of most software should be reason enough to ditch windows for OS X.
how OS X aliases actually work properly, whereas windows shortcuts are just clutter… then again, the file system is so well organized in OS X that I haven’t needed to use any aliases.
Eugeniea said that because XP is the most usable of these desktops, she keeps it as her main OS. What if XP is the most usable for her because it’s her main OS? If you use XP more than others, of course you get used to it’s quirks and it becomes the most usable of them all.
And many of the complaints she had about KDE (I don’t use GNOME so I can’t comment on that) are not the fault of the desktop but the OS. What distro did you use to test KDE? In Gentoo (for example) KDE is fast and stable. And there are ways to make KDE order of magnitude faster (like prelinking).
And her complaints how “bloated” KDE is are…. well, strange. Bloated how? It would be same if I just said “Mac OS X(for example) sucks!”, without telling how it sucks. Just telling that “KDE is bloated” without telling what’s exactly wrong with it is rather lame and counterproductive. KDE can be trimmed down, it’s has been getting faster and faster and it’s memory-requirement are going down. People have been running it on 166Mhz Pentiums and it works fine (once it finishes loading that is)
OS X DOES have the power of UNIX underneath. Therefore under the conclusion of this story it is the “utopian desktop environment”.
Man XP so works for me .. no wasting around with stupid graphical fx, no “unix” underneith to confuse issues with the host OS.
XP has COM (how else does 1 program support communication with a program not yet even written)
XP has WDM audio and video subsystem (think coreaudio for video .. ie download the DX sdk and run “jukebox” then click load in filter graph)
XP is FAST
XP is completely accessable from keyboard.. or mouse.. all its widgets were designed this way (unlike Mac)
XP is multithreaded and has been for years (Even 98 is multithreaded yet OSX finder only just got there)
XP dosent need 2 processors just to go at a resonable speed (p2 200 works great at work with it)
XP supports remote desktop all the way up to terminal server systems.
XP contains no Open Source components not written by microsoft, yet many Open source programmes work on windows if u want them.
XP runs DOS programs, win 3.1 programs win 95 programs win 98 programms win NT programms win 2000 programs.. all almost without fail.
XP has DX8 and soon 9 (Mac and linux have NOTHING as comprehensive dont kid they dont)
XP is scalable from CE to the Nasdaq
This is the tip of the iceburg.. Windows is the technology leader and OSX and linux are playing catch up.
What I really mis, is the amount and price of applications available for platform X, to get my work done.
For example: with Linux/KDE you can do your work. One can browse the web, read email and write a letter with the apps delivered with it.
With Linux/Gnome2 this is not possible. It does not come with a webbrowser, nor does it have a email reader or a word processor. Well, reading email will be possible within a short time.
On windows, this is possible too. Okay, Wordpad is not the best but it is possible. And MS-Office also exists.
On BeOS networking does not work for me, and for the rest it does not ship with a good browser, nor with a good email program or wordprocessor. BeMail, Opera and GoProductive are there, though.
MacOSX ships with iMail and AppleWorks, and Safari can be downloaded. MS-Office is available too.
So the environment where you can do your work for free, there is KDE. Second place goes to MacOS-X, as it bundles the software with their computers. One can say this is ‘free’ but MacOS costs money. Third place for Windows, as it ships only with Wordpad, but better apps are available, but costly. Fourth place to BeOS, as opera and BeProductive cost money and do not have good enough free counterparts, and Gnome2 comes last as at the moment it does not have applications available.
KDE has DCop
KDE has aRts and KParts audio and video subsystem
KDE is FAST
KDE is completely accessable from keyboard.. or mouse.. all its widgets were designed this way (unlike Mac)
KDE is multithreaded and has been for years (Even 98 is multithreaded yet OSX finder only just got there)
KDE dosent need 2 processors just to go at a resonable speed (p2 200 works great at work with it)
KDE supports remote desktop all the way up to terminal server systems.
KDE is Open Source so everyone can make it better
KDE runs Console apps, Motif apps and more, almost always without fail
X11 has Mesa.
I found this article to be both insightful and informative, as well as unorganised and lacking in focus. Firstly, let me say thank you for putting so much work into such an article and of course into OSnews. I enjoyed the article. However, there were several aspects I found somewhat suprising. Firstly, you were much too apologetic, don’t appologize when writing an article, it just cheapens it and diverges from the focus. Secondly, state your goals clearly and consistantly and stick to them. This article seemed more like a stream of consciousness than a review. Thirdly, stay on topic, every paragraph it seemed that you went off on a tanget as you wrote. I was also suprised at some parts by what seemed like you didn’t take the time to research enough, the facts came out bare, not clear and consise. One point that struck me as particularly bothersom was when you said,
“As someone else said once ‘after you have used BeOS, anything else will never be the same and it would just seem slow’ and that has proved true. ”
Someone? who???? Scot Hacker!, Eugenia, shame on you, you should know that, he only wrote that in a review on this very site! Why paraphrase when you can get the real quote? You only had to look into your own archives to find it. Took me ~1 min to find this quote by Scot Hacker:
“While BeOS did get faster as years went by, the OS was a speed demon from day one — radical efficiency was one of its hallmarks from the start, and one of its great drawing cards. The fact of the matter is, BeOS on a Pentium 233 with 64 Mbs of memory is faster than OS X is on this so-called supercomputer. ”
I also found several parts simply factually incorrect and highly opinionated. That is great for an opinion piece, but this is suppose to be a review. FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS. I also detected some BeOS bias, I can understand that as you are married into the BeOS family and all, but, it really showed through, which is a bad thing when you are trying to write an impartial review.
I know that this is comming in late in the tread, but I hope that someone will read it. Thank you for this article, and I hope that when you write your next one, you will take some of my advice to heart.
Long time reader,
that’s hilarious, windows xp win…
mmm… let me see, how much money do you receive from them?
don’t answer please. I don’t want to explain how slow is windows xp with a Pentium II and how much different behaviour it have with gnome or kde, the stability and flexibility and everything is out of range when you compare windows and gnome or kde, giving the linux desktops more than never know flexibility and stability.
so I think, I disagree with ratings…
– Windows XP: 6.5
– Mac : 7.2
– KDE : 7.9
– GNOME : 8.0
I tend to disagree with large parts of this article. Particularly, I really don’t see how you can say that XP and OS X are about the same when it comes to stability.
I’ve used OS X now for 1.5 years, and not ONCE has it crashed. The only times i’ve had to re-start it was after system updates. I’ve installed loads of different apps (large ones like Office and Photoshop to a very large number of smaller utilities), i’ve customized the OS using various hacks (themes etc..), i rarely turn the machine off, and it just keeps pluggin away. AND, i’m using a 2 y.o. low-end iMac.
Conversely, i know not a single XP user that hasn’t had a crash. Many of them are extremely reluctant to install any new software, through fear of it crashing the system – this fear is not borne in a vaccum. One person i know gets continuous restarts in XP for no apparent reason – it looks like a serious hardware problem, but then why oh why does it not happen with RedHat or SuSe booted??
They way the UI look and feel is judged is also very suprising. IMVHO, the only reason you find XP more productive is because you, like many people, have become locked-in to the Windows UI and it’s start menu, widget style/location etc… If you consider the individual elements and the reason for doing them in that way (Mac OS X single menu bar which reduces screen clutter, always located at the top of the screen for easy access etc…) an truly unbiased review will find OS X to be superior.
For those of you that want a more complete and (although it is written by a mac user, still) unbiased comparison of XP and OS X, have a look:
It seems like these comments were directed toward both KDE and Gnome UI managers, since they seems to have brushed you off during the last interview. I could tell in your Q&A that you were not happy with the responses from both camps.
Both KDE and Gnome seems to have gotten low scores in the integration and consistancy, a big petpeeve of yours.
Everyone ticked off at Eugenia’s comment should relax, it’s only one person’s opinion; nothing more nothing less.
Besides, how many guys really care that much about appearance?
Linux will forever be a GUY’s ultimate toy; atleast KDE/Slackware/Gentoo.
“XP is scalable from CE to the Nasdaq”X
Not quite. Windows CE (or Pocket PC or whatever) really has nothing to do with XP, apart from having word “Windows” in their name. And the XP you use is quite different from the server-editions (datacenter-server etc.). and FYI: NYSE recently migrated to Linux .
Linux on the other hand… It’s basically the same OS, regardless that is it running on a PDA (like Sharp Zaurus) or a mainframe. Windows on a PDA is completely different from Windows on a server.
“XP has DX8 and soon 9 (Mac and linux have NOTHING as comprehensive dont kid they dont)”
Linux has OpenGL. Direct3D has only recently started to approach OpenGL in features and functionality. As for sound, Linux has ALSA, OSS, OpenML, SDK…
“XP supports remote desktop all the way up to terminal server systems.”
X has had that for years! I’m glad to see XP finally reached the level of functionality X has had for as long as anyone can remember.
“XP contains no Open Source components not written by microsoft, yet many Open source programmes work on windows if u want them.”
Linux has no Windows-apps made by MS, yet many MS-programs work on Linux if you want them
“Windows is the technology leader and OSX and linux are playing catch up.”
Heh, MS only recently got features that has been standard in Linux for years.
Its funny windows caching technology has ment for ME and for my LINUX friends windows is faster on old and new technology to use.
Dunno what ver of linux u guys are using but IE on windows sure cains netscrape on unix.
OSX fanboys.. I like each meny with each window.. i oftern click directly on a menu of an app not in focus.. i hate the slow OSX way.
Its always the ppl that claim the others are locked in that are the ones who are really locked in.
First Gnome doesn’t have a menu-editor. But you can edit the menus.
1. Start-here (what does it say? Right!!!)->applications, here you can add and remove links to applications (what does it say? Right!!!). The menu is called applications, what can you find there? Right, the same applications.
2. Right click in the application menu, go to entire menu and here you can add a new link to the menu.
You expect a menu-editor, first they complain that every DE wants to look and funtion like Windows XP, but then they expect it to look and function like windows XP. Double standards.
Your dislike of GTK+ and C makes your judgement of Gnome very biased. The development-tool agnostic nature of gtk+ is in mine opinion more a strenght then a weakeness. What is you dislike of gtkmm?
I’m surprised the author of this comparison didn’t mention the inconsistency of Windows XP running a mix of SDI and MDI apps. To me that’s much more inconsistent and a bigger usability issue than Apple’s metallic windows, MDI apps work in a significantly different way to SDI apps.
For example they don’t show all their windows on the taskbar, while all Mac OS X apps I’ve seen use the Dock in the same way. MDI apps have a single menubar for all windows, SDI apps have a menubar for each window, while Mac OS X apps all consistently use the menubar at the top of the screen. The window management behaviour inside different MDI apps can be totally different. For example some have their own internal taskbar, some have a window menu and don’t let you minimise windows. I could go on, there are a lot of other inconsistencies and they aren’t just in older apps.
IMO MDI is a terrible design, it makes working with multiple windows of different apps a real pain. Having to deal with MDI is the main reason I prefer a slower Mac to my fast PC when doing DTP and Photoshop work.
But I guess everyone has their pet hates that don’t bother other people, that’s what makes UI design such a personal thing.
Not quite. Windows CE (or Pocket PC or whatever) really has nothing to do with XP, apart from having word “Windows” in their name.
CE is diff from windows but the APIS are very similar. Terminal server and XP home share a very very very simlar codebase. Perhaps u dont program?? so u dont realise this?
Linux has OpenGL. Direct3D has only recently started to approach OpenGL in features and functionality..
U proved my point that u dont understand DX. A even John Mcormak likes DX better than open GL now. The rest of DX is unique to windows .. the bits for controllers, client server network code, audio with real time automatable FX etc etc
Linux has ALSA, OSS, OpenML, SDK…
None of these are as good as DirectMusic and DirectSound.. also its AWEFUL having 4 standards .. lack of audio standards on linux is a big minus, the apis are ok but nowhere near DirectMusic and DirectSound.
X has had that for years! I’m glad to see XP finally reached the level of functionality X has had for as long as anyone can remember..
Yup it has its also slow thats why ppl want to change X to be like windows without the bad network implementation.
Linux has no Windows-apps made by MS, yet many MS-programs work on Linux if you want them ..
Yup thats good .. bear in mind i was refereing to OSX .. which sells OSX on the fact it comes with Apache ..
Heh, MS only recently got features that has been standard in Linux for years.
Linux is still chasing the performance enhancements windows has.
“Dunno what ver of linux u guys are using but IE on windows sure cains netscrape on unix.”
Nobody uses Netscape. Mozilla maybe, but not Netscape. And what do you mean “cains”? Do you mean IE is better, or faster or more secure? IE is not better. Mozilla and others render websites correctly and it renders them faster. And don’t even get me started on security!
Opera is also miles ahead of IE. For all intents and purposes, IE is pretty mediocre browser.
IE might start faster but that’s because parts of it is loaded when Windows starts. But there are lightweight alternatives on Linux that load just as fast (like Galeon or Phoenix). And slightly tweaked KDE/Konqueror loads instantly.
I’d have been surprised if XP didn’t win. It has the biggest application base, biggest user base, biggest hardware support. I currently run XP and I don’t care what anyone says, on my PC it is fast and stable. The only other platform I can get apps to do what I want on is OSX – I would love a Mac but can’t afford to buy one and replace all my software. I’ve tried every major distro of Linux, BeOS, and QNX and while they all provide nice desktops, nothing matches XP for its applications and hardware.
I do a lot of 3D graphics, web/graphic design, photography, and music on my PC and there are NO alternatives for the software I use on any other platform except OSX. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve looked into all these OSs because I wanted to get away from Microsoft’s quirks and I had high hopes for BeOS with it having the weight of a company behind it and with it’s aim of being a Media OS.
Since Windows XP came out and I believe it has addressed a lot of issues with the Windows 9x range and does continue to improve. But whatever OS you run you need to take the rough with the smooth.
Now if I could get OSX on Intel/AMD… well I can dream 😉
First: could you please type properly? You sound like a 14-year old.
“_CE is diff from windows_ but the APIS are very similar. Terminal server and XP home share a very very very simlar codebase. Perhaps u dont program?? so u dont realise this?”
So you admit that the OS’es are different? Thanks for proving my point. As to Linux: The OS IS the same, even if it’s on PDA or mainframe.
“U proved my point that u dont understand DX. A even John Mcormak likes DX better than open GL now”
Wrong. Carmack said that only with DX9 Direct3D has reached OpenGL (1.4. OpenGL 2.0 is in the pipeline). And still, OpenGL has the advantage. For example: if you want to use ALL the new features of GeForce FX, you have to use OpenGL, Direct3D just doesn’t cut it. And why do all professionals use OpenGL and not Direct3D?
“None of these are as good as DirectMusic and DirectSound”
How do you know?
“also its AWEFUL having 4 standards”
The word is “awful”. And there’s nothing wroing with having several competing standards. In MS-world, MS dictates what goes on, in Linux, it’s free competition and the best tech wins.
“Yup it has its also slow thats why ppl want to change X to be like windows without the bad network implementation.”
What is slow? X? Nope it ain’t. Some IMPLEMENTATIONS (like Xfree) could use more tweaking, but X itself is good and fast. And the network-implementation is good. Fact is that X has had features for a long time that were unheard of in Windows-world. MS touts their “remote desktop” as an innovation, when in reality it’s has been standard in X since it’s birth! MS just lags behind. Big time.
You obvously don’t know what you are talking about.
“”Heh, MS only recently got features that has been standard in Linux for years.”
Like the remote desktop you raved about. Old news on Linux. And besides, MS has started copying KDE and Gnome with XP (like application-grouping).
“Linux is still chasing the performance enhancements windows has.”
Yeah, right. It’s a well-known fact that Linux mops the floor with Windows. Windows might SEEM to be faster (on the desktop that is), but in reality it isn’t. And in Linux you have the choice to choose your UI to fit your needs. Don’t need full-featured desktop but a lightweight UI? use something like Fluxbox. On Windows, you are more or less stuck at what you get.
And the new 2.6-kernel bring HUGE benefits to end-users, desktop-user included.
> The bug is still there on the three distros I tried with > KDE 3.1 on them: the text size buttons in particular.
Which 3 were those? Are there three distros that include 3.1 yet? I have to agree with Roberto this is not a good article – it tries to cover too wide an area and fails to do any part of them justice. It is simply a rehashing of your previous complaints.
I found this article fair and well written. I use WindowMaker 8-10 hours a day, Gnome 2.2 for 6 hours and there are still little problems. I use W2k for 2hours a week, but certain thins run better on w2k to be frank. Good work!
So you admit that the OS’es are different? Thanks for proving my point.
And thanks for ignoring mine that Terminal server and XP home are pretty much the same OS. I dont see many useual apps for a PDA, u usualy want to run specialised smaller apps which u then compile for it. Exactly the same as CE .. good thing about windows is useually u dont need to recompile except for CE. (Making it the only time its as much hassle as linux)
About DX, its got a standard for pixel and vertex shaders.. unlike open gl. If u want to use the advanced features of the latest cards u write them specifically for that card. DX provides a layer so u can come a lot closer to writing the pixel and vertex shaders once. If u really want u can code directly for the card anyway i believe. DX is obviously better, providing a common framework AND the ability to utilise the newest features. Dont call the vendor specific enhancments part of opengl.
The “pros” used to use opengl cause it was made for modelling and rendering not gaming, nowdays ppl write games in 3dsmax with direct support for directx. It depends on what your aiming for. DX supports way more features then opengl (without vendor specific addons) and as i pointed out there is DirectPlay and many other parts to DX that arent on any other platform.
None of these are as good as DirectMusic and DirectSound”
How do you know?
Because im a programmer and have programmed both. How do u not know? havent u looked?
As an IT lecturer once told me “the great thing about standards is theres always so many to chose from”.. just think about it for a bit.. just look at the state of linux audio apps .. maybe then youll understand. So far u dont have a “winner” so linux has many problems.
I wouldnt say i raved about remote desktop i just mentioned it. Ive used X for over 10 years.. i know what it does.
Appears to be faster on the desktop .. lol i like that .. so when apps run popup and swap faster its just in the appearnce.. not the real performance.
Linux wins some brute force benchmarks but not real world transaction etc type benchmarks.
Windows wins on the desktop .. and on the REAL server benchmarks.
These huge benifits of 2.6 are pretty much the things that hve been in windows for quite a while now.. start naming the things that windows dosent have.. U dont have to use explorer.. but its so fast the exploere replacements keep dying because nobody wants them.
MDI is the main reason I prefer a slower Mac to my fast PC when doing DTP and Photoshop work.
MacOS X is using MDI too, just look at ProjectBuilder…
Ofcourse this review is subjective, that’s what you get when you try to compare things that you can’t measure with standard tests.
I use KDE/Fluxbox (depending on the power of the machine I work on) on FreeBSD. I also use WinXP (Hey, I like to play some games every now and then :-)). I hate it when an GUI steals a large part of my screen for buttons & bars. It’s quite hard to get KDE good looking with small icons & buttons though.
I tried Gnome a few times, but I can’t get used to its way of working.
WinXP has the option to use the ‘classic’ windows look. It might not be beautiful, but at least it’s consistent, small, and EVERYONE is used to that look. Most people I know that use WinXP use the classic look for one of those reasons.
I don’t really care if my GUI is beautiful, as long as it’s functional. (Although things can be too ugly to be usable (see AmigaOS 1.3 with the default colours)
I always said that Windows XP is the best!
Sorry…. I’m really hungry for an alternative but the only one who could beat Windows XP is BeOS but it’s dead…
Basically, Eugenia has her opinions, and then set out to prove them, rather than the other way round. How else can you explain BeOS’s inclusion, for example?
The bugs in Kongueror do not exist in the latest version of KDE – the fact that she obviously used KDE 3.0 proves that this was not a fair comparison. She presumably used RedHat 8 as well, which is well known for having introduced several bugs and inconsistancies into KDE.
On the subject of stability, GNOME applications fall over if I look at them the wrong way. I have also had problems with several WinXP apps – bearing in mind that Eugenia sees fit to include app bugs as DE bugs (eg konqueror), this should also bring XPs score down. But it didn’t, did it?
I agree that Keramik is ugly, which is why I use the KDE 2 Default style, which I find much cleaner. The buttons in the kicker are too big by default, but it’s trivial to make them smaller though.
I agree with other posters comments, you installed kdesdk, then complained when you get various sdk tools (cervisia) integrated into KDE. If you install stuff you don’t want/need, don’t turn round and blame somebody else when you see icons for stuff you don’t want/need.
On the whole, I’ve seen several articles by Eugenia, and agreed with practically nothing she has ever said. Oh well.
I would’ve liked to have seen Windows 2000 used instead of Windows XP, simply because it is the most polished version of the “old theme” that so many know very well.
I more or less agree with the final scores, having used everything mentioned with the exception of BeOS, except I would place Gnome above KDE when the Blue Curve RedHat 8.0 theme is used – I find the basic interface the most slick I have seen in X11 to date.
The bottom line is that Windows and MacOS are far more mature than either KDE or Gnome and I’ll also add that they are far more focussed, mainly because they are a result of a closed source development team that is very tightly knit and controlled.
On the flip side, Gnome and KDE, although still very “young” in development terms, have showed major improvements with each release – I’m sure they will only get better as time goes on.
Your article was over opinionated and completely bias. You obviously hate X11 and throughout the article stepped around that fact.
…important applications that are still available only as Qt 2.x (e.g. Opera)
Opera is actually using Qt3 from version 6.1 and upwards.
I agree from the point at which you install all these GUI’s this is a fair assessment. I think though if all of them where tweaked and customized you would get very different results.
Also I think the current Linux GUI’s suck ass and I find them irritating. Windows 2000 is a pleasure to use and I can’t speak for Beos or Mac because I have never used them
Ok, first off I disagree with the review in many respects, but an opinion is an opinion and I’m ok with that. Although calling a single person’s review “The Definitive” review is a joke.
Anyway, my one major complaint was about Eugeia’s belief that the KDE control center is too complex and bloated. Quite the opposite compared to the winner, XP. I would assume that in writing this review you are assuming the user has had the same amount of time to learn each DE, and assuming that it is rediclous to assume the user would find the KDE control more complicated than XP’s.
Yes, there seems to be a lot of options in the control center, but in reality, there are no more (possibly less) total tweaks than in XP. The difference is that they are all in one spot. Have you ever seen a non-computer person look for a single option in XP? They sort through menu to submenu through sub-submenu, etc. Several of the options are just illogical, but as a regular computer users, most of us accept that and remember their location. I believe that unintentionally, the writer assumed her ease of using the control panel was because of it’s design, and not because of her years of experience. A new user to KDE can simply open up the kontrol center, and while it may seem frightening at first glance, it is structured logically and everything is there in one spot.
I am not a zealot.
These kind of comparisons are utterly useless as information source. It just reflects the taste of the writer.
I’ve seen no objective numbers in the review. And no sound controls when things were compared. In addition, a lot of the things under examination were subjective.
Lastly, many things under investigation are actually not caused by the toolkit.
The result is that everybody here is complaining (and rightly so) or just happy (also rightly so) because their observations are different or similar to the author’s.
conclusion: pointless review. OSnews: please be a bit more objective next time.
But well, if Eugenia would have written down: ‘if you want to know which DE is better, you will have to try it yourself’, nobody would have published it:)
Overall I think your comparision is very good. Your observations are always enligtening. Having coded some intro/demo code earlier, I am as depressed as you are on the state of the art environments. (Vsync isn’t exactly rocket science.)
There are two minor points regarding your KDE tests. I think what makes KDE a real DE is that it actually has all those apps for it (as opposed to any of the other free environments). Mozilla and Openoffice, no matter how good they are themselves, aren’t integrated in *any* DE (actually, Mozilla is almost its own, see OEone).
So I believe you should give KDE higher consistenty rating, and look only at KDE apps such as Konqueror and KWord. (Galeon for GNOME, then.)
You should also tell us what distribution you are using. To to fair to KDE you should use Gentoo with the ‘prelink’ package (there is a Howto available at the Gentoo web). KDE is heavily dependent on shared libraries, and prelinking these (which is NOT static linking!!) makes a large difference on application startup times. This is how Mac OS X behaves as default. The frequent crashes you see with KDE 3.1 may also be a packaging problem, it is very solid for me.
I’m not saying KDE is better than the others, just that some of the comparisons may be a bit unfair. I believe KDE sucks. A lot. But it shows a great promise and has the most potential, which is why I’m leaning towards it for the future.
As everyone that’s been working with MFC for more than 2 months knows, MFC sucks!
I’ve been forced to use XP recently at Uni, and I must say that I find it slow, extremely unresponsive, ugly, and overall unpleasant to use.
I use KDE 3.1 at home, which I greatly prefer, but my favourite is Gnome 2 which I find to be a very easy to use and logical layout. I also have Win2k at home, but I only use that for Visual Studio (too many incompatibilities with other compilers, and uni insist on using VS), and viewing sites using Quicktime or Shockwave.
Not knowing your criteria for marks, I will rate my experience in terms of XP, KDE3.1, GNOME2(best first)
Look and Feel: GNOME2, KDE3.1, XP
Usability: KDE3.1, XP, GNOME2
Consistency: XP (it all looks crap), KDE3.1, GNOME2
Integration (your definition): XP (wish I could use text config files though), KDE3.1, GNOME2
Flexibility: KDE3.1, GNOME2, XP
Speed: GNOME2, KDE3.1, XP
Stability and Bugs: not much difference, i’ve had more problems with XP than the others, but not noticed any real “bugs”
Technology: not up to speed on this area (not very “desktop” subject really though)
Programming Framework: not done too much programming, but I cannot stand MFC, and tend to shy away from it and .NET as I try to do cross-platform stuff.
Conclusion: KDE 3.1, GNOME2, XP (I realise that GNOME2 and XP had the same average position, so I decided their place on “which one would I prefer to use?”
GNOME2 (13) KDe (10) XP(13)
– Currently OpenGL2 is still under development while OpenGL1.3 supports new features of modern video cards through extensions. Direct3D usually lacks behind.
You can read about OpenGL2 and what it will do here:
– The syntax of Direct3D had changed a lot over the years and is by now almost the same as OpenGL. Cause of the Direct3D syntax changing that much a lot of documentation is outdated by now. The OpenGL syntax is still compatible with older versions and in my opinion easier to learn.
– My biggest problem with DirectX is that its not portable to other platforms. I like to write a program so I can use it on different platform only by a recompilation. For example on Unix I can use Mesa.
– As what you said about John Carmack, here a direct quote from what he said about Direct3D:
Direct-3D IM is a horribly broken API. It inflicts great pain and suffering on the programmers using it, without returning any significant advantages. I don’t think there is ANY market segment that D3D is apropriate for, OpenGL seems to work just fine for everything from quake to softimage. There is no good technical reason for the existance of D3D.
Recently he didn’t say that Direct3D was better than OpenGL, he only said that Direct3D is approaching OpenGL to be as good.
– A benefit for Direct3D is that it has better support for older video cards. Correct me if I’m wrong.
– Just like DirectX under Unix you can use SDL (www.libsdl.org) in combination with OpenGL (www.opengl.org) for 3D graphics and OpenAL (www.openal.org) for 3D sound, this is pretty much the same and fully portable to other platforms. That way it doesn’t matter if you use OSS or ALSA for audio, these are just choices you can make abstracted by SDL were eventually the best one will win, probably ALSA will replace OSS in the future.
– Linux currenly has a complete audio framework ready to be used. Have a look at Ardour (http://ardour.sourceforge.net/) and you’ll now what I mean. But I agree that one of the things the open-source community still needs is a descent music/sound editor, may be like what the Gimp does to graphics. Everything else is pretty much there and well integrated.
I’m using Gnome myself and think it’s one of the best desktops out there, I cannot believe why Gnome is ranked that low, even lower than BeOS. And WindowsXP is ranked that high, why?
Gnome is so very clean, it does the same what any other desktop does but does it right, like for example being able to change multiple desktop configurations at once using GConf. The only thing that still misses is a good file selector, everone knows that by know, but it’s better than nothing.
What’s wrong with Gnome using C, the reason they are doing that is to make it easier to create language bindings. Like C++ (http://gtkmm.sourceforge.net/) and many others (http://www.gtk.org/bindings.html). Damn, parts of windows are written in C as well, is she complaining about that?
If she really thinks that Gnome looks so bad she probably used the wrong theme. She should have given ScalableGorilla a try, many people like it more than the default Gnome theme.
You think Eugenia is completely wrong? You think she doesn’t have a clue, is a troll and hates X11 above everything else?
Why don’t you go ahead and write down your own comparison? You can even try and submit it as an article on OSNews. I think it’d be only fair if you contributed your opinion in a well-formed article to OSNews, so that readers are educated about both sides. I’d love to see where and why you think Eugenia is wrong.
However, that would take a little more from your side than just posting “What a load of crap”.
How else can you explain BeOS’s inclusion, for example?
Was wondering about that one too. This is the only site I ever see talking about this dead OS. I’ve never seen, heard, or known anybody or any organization that uses BeOS. I’m certaintly not saying it needs to be popular to be a good OS….just don’t understand where is it being used, by who, and why.
Can it be considered primarily a hobbyist OS?
I personally think that KDE is the best environment but I also like Gnome. I cannot follow you in your assumption KDe was slow. I run KDE from CD (Knoppix) and it works fine. Especially the QT-Toolkit is the best structured GUI toolkit araound. Motif programs run but are not part of KDE. Another important factor is internationalization.
I prefer the control center. Settings of Windows are distributed.
I also prefer an editor with more options, what I dislike with KDE is that 3 editors are provided.
A Windows default desktoip is nothing worth.
The new start-menu of XP is garbage when you want to run your programs.
XP does not offer you 4 desktops.
KDE with Keramik and lightweight buttons – fantastic.
Don’t run KDE-ripoff on RedHat or Lindows. That gives a bad impression.
Many apps don’t follow guidelines yet. Sure, but would it be better if they ran on BeOS? It’s the problem of the apps.
The bluefish argument is silly. Bluefish is not part of Gnome. Dreamweaver also has a different UI than Windows XP. Who cares? KDE Quanta is nice as well.
I dare all the oriented critics here to ellaborate such an exhaustive and meaningful DE review, they probably don’t have half the competencies Eugenia has to write their own. Ok, it reflects Eugenia personal opinion about DE but bear in mind that it is soundly argued and provided with article references and screenshots whenever appropriate. Anything said in this review can be verified easily.
Chapeau for your review and thanks for sharing it with us !
Operating system maybe just “tools” BUT if i had a tool like a screw driver i would expect to use it as i please. Rather than the tool say “Sorry this nail is not compatible with your screw driver” and then on the flipside organistations are trying to further force “users” to buy their screws because you as a user of that screw driver can get your own because your friend has a device which stamps pieces of metal into new screws.
Bah i’d rather build my own screw driver (linux) or get somebody who offers me a screw driver that can do anything i want it to (Apple) unlike from the other guy who is limiting me to his nails for his screwdrivers (ms).
So they may be tools but its nice to have a favoutire one and then preach about how much better it is compared to others on the market.
>Check our archives. We wrote already 3 reviews on Lycoris. >But Lycoris has less than 3% of the *Linux* market. Which >translates as 0,01 of the world OS market. Therefore, Lycoris >is irrelevant at this point. Especially for this
I hate to break it to you, but BEOS has even less marketshare than Lycoris. BEOS is irrelevant at this point. Especially for this article. I’d agree with your article but I’ve been too busy resetting my Silver XP theme every 30 minutes because my file menu seems to lose it’s ability to blend with the rest of my desktop. Honestly, I think XP GNOME and KDE ALL deserve a 6, but that’s just me.
If one wishes to review RedHat, then please don’t call it gnome in the future. RedHat’s gnome is a bastardized version, like everything else they do. Use Gentoo and review the straight unaltered source for crying out loud before you review something! If you’re not reviewing an unaltered product, then you’re not presenting a straight review.
You have obviously never used it. I hate to burst your bubble but they have invested more into GNOME than all of the other Linux distributions combined.
I use it on a daily basis unfortunately, and yes I know that RH has invested a lot in gnome, but a stock gnome install from source runs a hell of a lot better and doesn’t have that god awful menu layout! I appreciate RedHat’s work on gnome, but their presentation of the environment is highly flawed. It’s half the reason she gave gnome a bad rating. A lot of her problems were RH specific. You have obviously never run gnome from source.
Under X11, and in this order, are four alternatives far superior to XP: IceWM, Xfce, WindowMaker, Blackbox…. Each of them is more than three times as fast. The fact that you find the XP interface superior to either the Gnome or the KDE environments is not a testamony to the superiority of XP, but rather a sign of the degeneration of the others to the point of lumbering unuseability, especially in Gnome’s case, and the incompetence of Distro developers when it comes to consistent integration.
I simply cannot believe that anyone with your knowledge of Operating systems would choose XP as the “best” in anything. Well, as they say, we all create or own private helll, and I must say, you are welcomed to yours. But this may have an upside for you. Now maybe you can sell some AD space to the convicted monopolist.
I’ve been running GNOME as long as there has been a public release of GNOME. I have used the gnome.org, Ximian, Gentoo, and RedHat variants. Eugenia is showing bias in this review, for example:
>The functionality of the Red Hat’s Gnome taskbar is fine,
>but it feels a bit amateurish, icons in the notification
Huh? Can you resize the XP startbar to use only 45% of the screen, and remove the start button? No.
>area move by themselves and create unwanted space, the menu
Riight, they move by themselves, they appear and disappear like any others on any other OS.
>is ugly and looks like a potpourri. However, applications
The menu while not beautiful is not ugly by any means.
>like FileRoller and Red Hat’s RPM installer application make
> the whole experience better. Gnome can easily become better
> than what it is today. Exactly because it is already
>simpler than KDE, the work required to clean up things, I
Clean up what? You realize that the menus have been cleaned up in the RedHat beta, after all YOU reviewed it.
>think, would be less overall. However, I don’t understand
>what took the Gnome project (especially Red Hat) developers
>so long before they start working on the new
>GtkFileSelection. It is now scheduled for Gnome 2.4, which
They were busy with other things.
>comes out at the end of the year. Also, why can’t I move the
> toolbars from Nautilus next to each other and save some
>real screen estate? Anyway, more here.
See my comment above about the Windows startmenu
I’ve been very disappointed with OS bloat in the offerings of Microsoft and Apple, but at least Apple’s excuse is an overly ambitious graphics engine. How is it that WindowsXP feels more sluggish in operations on a 2.4 GHz Dual Xeon machine than Windows2000 on my 900MHz laptop? How is it that this dual processor machine can still be brought to its knees simply because explorer is trying to find a network file server?
BeOS was cool in the responsiveness category, as was illustrated above. On my 500MHz Pentium, to show people how neat the OS was, I ran every mpeg movie I had on my system simultaneously. Then I started up Gobe Productive and started working, and there was no speed degradation and the movies were all playing reasonably well. Is that a stupid benchmark? Certainly. It had no practical use whatsoever. However it was cool looking, and a testament to the fluidity of the OS.
I miss BeOS, and may buy Zeta out of nostalgia. However it is dead for all intents and purposes. It will live on in a dedicated few users, but will never reach critical mass. That is a sad but accurate statement. I’m therefore hoping Apple gets their processor act together to keep OS X alive, otherwise we all get to be sucked into the MS vacuum.
“How is it that WindowsXP feels more sluggish in operations on a 2.4 GHz Dual Xeon machine than Windows2000 on my 900MHz laptop?”
I agree with this statement. My 400 running Win2K feels faster than my 1.6 running XP home. I’ve tuned XP as far as it can go too, it boots into 90MB of RAM and I’ve applied every tweak in every combination out there. 🙁
Right on man! That is definitely the angle I was coming from. Sorry that we didn’t see eye to eye at first. My apologies
Each of them is more than three times as fast.
If you come up with such figures, may I ask how you do you measure that?
let me laugh….
the m$-xispe desktop is something really hugly….
You do realize that Zeta is coming out this year, from YellowTab, right?
They’re far from dead, imho.
Avid BeOS User.
a cleanly installed XP has only 60MB to 80MB mem load after bootup
a tweaked XP can do 35MB to 45 MB on bootup
Biased, subjective, superficial…That’s not a serious review, that’s a 5-page long opinion about OS that could have fitted perfectly in some forum or just as an Editorial. I thought I was @ osnews, not osopinion…
In my Opinion twm rulez, so twm: 10, WinXP: 0.
Anyone who has read Eugenia on OSNews more than twice knows that she is infatuated with Windows XP. She used to be hung up on BeOS, but apparently she has noticed that BeOS was a failure and has died.
All of Eugenia’s “unbiased” reviews have the same outcome: Linux, KDE and GNOME suck because they don’t follow her personal preferences; OS X sucks but less than Linux; XP has minor flaws, but overall is absolutely dreamy.
For me, XP is an ugly kludge, suitable only for computer newbies and Aunt Tillie. I cannot understand why people get the idiotic idea that one DE is going to be right for everybody – CHOICE IS GOOD. Anything (Windows XP, BeOS) that satisfies Eugenia’s ideas about DE design is going to feel like a child’s toy to a poweruser who is happy with KDE.
D3d had imediate mode but nobody uses that.. eveyone seems to agree it was a stupid mode, and using the other mode was more complex than opengl. DX has improved and until recently it was the only way to attempt to program cross card pixel and vertex shaders.. open gl had been stuck.
It seems because MS was pushing so hard to try make DX8 utilise all the features of Nvidia and Ati (it failed to do a complete job hence Dx9 soon) Opengl has had a big resurgance catching up to the latest features, however its been slow to create a cross card pixel and vertex shader standard.
It seems for doom3 John is now using ARB_vertex_program’s which work on opengl and directx. Its very good to see nvidia and ATi working this out.
I also happened to find cross platform tool, looks pretty cool.
“Support for DirectX Pixel Shaders with the OpenGL Renderer!” etc..
I wouldnt have much of a problem if the D3D part of DirectX was really just openGl, if it supported the latest hardware with cross card compatibiliy. ARB hopefully will solve these problems anyway
About DirectX my point was that all the DirectX libraries together make a very easy free way to develop games and other multimedia titles. There are several very good libraries for linux, but they dont fit together and oftern lack all the features provided by DirectX.
If linus decided multimedia was part of the OS and tried to forcus on a single video , 3d, 2d accel, controller input/output library (using filters and graphs like windows)this would be a very good thing. The amount of free stuff still mighnt include a client server network game engine or some of the other plentify features of DX but that wouldnt matter to much.
For those who think that GNOME is consistent, looks clean and esthetical. You probably have skipped or ignored my UI review that I made 2 days before official GNOME 2.2 release. None of these issues have been solved or paid attention to. You can read the review here:
Some of the points I brought up such as the Toolbar issue are said to be solved with a new Toolbarcode from LibEGG which soon replaces the other Toolbars (all the old code is getting wrapped). But pay attention to the other issues there. Some people also worked to fix the Toolbar issues in the various old Toolbarcodes which are spread over the GNOME libraries, they are on bugzilla for various weeks now and instead applying the obvious fixes they still discuss wether this makes sense or not. All in all from esthetical standpoint I find GNOME very unpleasing to use. But that’s what one has to expect when unprofessionals are working on serious Environments and talk about corporations and business customers in the same sentence. KDE is a bit undervalued in this review (no doubt) but GNOME deserved that place.
The article says “GTK– is there as a C++ wrapper to GTK+, but it ain’t elegant or easy to use”. gtkmm hasn’t even been called “GTK–” since November 2001. This suggests that the author hasn’t actually looked at it. That’s fair enough, nobody knows everything, but in that case it’s best not to express strong opinions about it.
As ever, we would be interested to hear about any specific problems – most people find gtkmm to be clear and easy. If you can get your head around MFC’s bizarre undocumented API, as you suggest, then gtkmm is going to be a walk in the park.
I forgot: The worst thing of the article is that it’s autoproclamed the “DEFINITIVE”…
Default is all well and fine, after your virus scanner and all of the other things that are necessary on the Windows platform 90 is quite good.
Taken from an informed post on Slashdot:
1. What we are comparing here is the overall user experience
2. I decided to include in this test only operating systems that I can reboot at any time
3. the way things work in a way most people expect
1. What we are comparing here is *my* overall user experience
2. I decided to include in this test only operating systems that I can reboot at any time, thus rejecting any scientific methodology or averaging effects which may significant when determining membership of a particularly fuzzy data set
3. the way things work in a way *I* expect as a long time user of $MYFAVOURITE desktop environment
I’m not going to go on, all of Eugenia articles are like this. Stating opinions as if they were facts does not make them facts. “The buttons are overwhelming” is not the same as “the temparature of the solution was 26 degrees”. None of this is helpful – I (as a random member of the computing community) do not care what Eugenia’s preferences for colour, widget style and theme are. I care whether these environments can be made to work the way I want them to. I (as the adminstrator for other desktops) care whether these environments have the ability to make my users happier; if their particular preferences can be accommodated.
This brings me to what these sorts of reviews should focus on… absolutes only. e.g.
features of WinXP: themeable, log multiple users on simultaneously, clean fonts, ability to choose classic style or luna
features of KDE: virtual desktops, themeable, transparent menus, adjustable levels of eye candy, full featured keyboard shortcut editors
Writing those lists just now I noticed how hard it is to keep my own opinions out of it, but it can be done and a journalist should certainly be doing that. If a personal opinion were required, it would be preferable that a third party was used as the source of opinions as we are more likely to hear a balanced view than the rantings of one particular user.
In such a subjective area – more care must be taken to remain objective. It is not sufficient to simply write at the top of the article “I realise this is subjective but….”; I’m sure what she meant, as a professional journalist, was “I realise this is subjective so I have taken the following steps to minimize any influence my own opinions may have on this review”
This is a difficult task, articles such as these must by definition include some element of opinion; comments like “The menus were slow to respond” are acceptable even though “slow” is a subjective term; but one I would be willing to allow under the assumption that an experienced computer used could assign fuzzy terms like “slow” and “fast” with the same skill that we can all use terms like “hot” and “cold”. This is not an excuse to decend into the completely unquantifiable “I want my UI pixel perfect”.
All these environments will gain equally from a more balanced review process and as such we will all gain.
In the end Eugenia is hilarious, but with nothing of any real value to offer. Why should any of us listen to her when she clearly has no problems declaring this to be the ‘Definitive’ review and stating that she has no bias when in fact anyone (no matter what the favorite desktop) that reads the article can tell immediately that it is littered with opinions, contradictions, and generally a bunch of subjective blather.