[svlug] gnome vs. kde

Dan Martinez steeljack at gmail.com
Thu Jul 7 19:37:41 PDT 2005

Bill Hubbard inquired:

> Is it safe to ask which is better - gnome or kde - or are thems fightin' words?

Definite fightin' words.

I'll take a shot at a brief, agnostic answer anyway.

KDE is based upon a C++ toolkit named Qt, which itself was the focus
of some furious license-related debate a few years back. That debate
has, to the best of my knowledge, since been laid largely to rest.

GNOME is based upon C, with libraries to make C behave in the sort of
object-oriented-ish way that comes naturally to mind when you're
dealing with GUI application development. If you've encountered this
kind of glue before, you know just how messy it can be.

KDE is generally considered to be the more polished of the two,
possibly because its core development is a bit more centralized. Some
people feel that it tries excessively hard to win converts from
Windows by trying to look and feel too much *like* Windows. It has
also been accused of having a raging case of "Not Invented Here" (NIH)
syndrome -- useful programs that lack the KDE look and feel tend to be
re-implemented from scratch in KDE.

GNOME is a little more eclectic -- some would say chaotic. It feels
more like a collection of elements that happen to use the same toolkit
than it does the coherent system that KDE tries to be. Its help system
is, in my experience, pretty spartan. I haven't tried programming in
it, but I've been given to understand that the programming model isn't
as clean or as fun as KDE's C++-based one is. I think that Karsten has
had some... memorable run-ins with GNOME developers, and doesn't think
too highly of their methods or their attitude with respect to their
user community.

Personally, I use GNOME, just because it feels lighter-weight to me,
and because earlier encounters with KDE turned me off. I'd probably
steer new users in the direction of KDE, though, just because it
seems, as I've said, a bit more coherent.

The important thing to bear in mind is that "choosing" one over the
other isn't an all-or-nothing deal. When people identify themselves as
KDE or GNOME users, what they typically mean is that they enter
graphical mode using either the KDE or GNOME session managers. You can
run GNOME apps from within a KDE session, and vice-versa, provided
that you have all of the relevant libraries built.

(In fact, I just tried launching a few KDE apps from within my GNOME
environment, and I've got to say that they really are quite polished
and pretty. Maybe it's time I look into switching over, at least for a
while, just to see where the state of the art on the other side of the
fence is.)


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