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I don't get KDE

Last night while browsing the internets, I saw some screenshots of KDE 4.3 running on openSUSE 11.2. I've never tried KDE, so I installed the openSUSE 11.2 M8 build to briefly play with it.

What got me interested was this element of the KDE desktop:

I look at that and see hope. It is elegant and refined. It is glassy and tasteful. It says: "I can easily compete with Windows 7 and OSX." Simply put, it is beautiful.

Yes, there are some problems with it. The buttons do not highlight in any way on hover. There are no tooltips, so I don't even know what the top two buttons do. From what I can tell, they do absolutely nothing. But it really lives up to KDE's reputation of eye candy.

And then you open a window:

It is.. gray. There is no glass. There are no gradients. There is no depth. There is no elegance. There is just gray. It says: "I am kicking Windows 95's ass! Barely!"

I just don't get it. How can half of your desktop (let's call it "Plasma") be so beautiful, while the other half (let's call it "the stuff that is always going to be covering up Plasma") be so ugly and uninspired?

- I do not know if I am complaining about KDE, or openSUSE's implementation of KDE, or both.
- I lamented on the aesthetics of GNOME previously, so it's not "let's start a desktop war".


Anonymous said...

I don't get it, the grey thing is not that ugly, furthermore, you can easily change it or change to completely different theme.

Not that I want to start a flamewar, but ugly is subjective, in my opinion, default Gnome GTK+ themes in Debian, Ubuntu, and OpenSUSE are ugly and dull (and also every widget is oversized)

Barry Kelly said...

I far prefer the grey theme to drop shadows everywhere - I'd rather spend my performance on applications than eye candy.

The major problem with the picture as presented, though, and this is common to pretty much all Linux desktops, is that the icons in the view have absolutely obscene spacing. Getting a compact file listing in a Linux file browser is next to impossible, in my experience - your best bet is to pop into a console with a nice compact font and fall back to ls.

Contrast with the compact toolbar / menu layout possible with XP's Explorer, and a typical list view in details mode. This KDE window dedicates less than 50% of its area to its primary purpose, viewing the actual contents of the file system, whereas Vista allocates far more, and XP makes it possible to use well over 90% of screen area for what you're actually interested in.

That concludes my rant on Linux file browsers, which are probably 40% of the reason I don't use Linux on a more regular basis.

Amber said...

"it is not that ugly"

well "my car is not that broken"

"your wife is not that sl..."

"life is not that boring"

Don't make me laugh?

CausticMango said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CausticMango said...

Agreed, KDE apps are not very attractive and haven't been for a while. The new look has a very random, unbalanced look to me and it's a huge turn off.

In the screen shot you posted, there are elements that are oversized, others that seem shrunken and the flat grayness doesn't help (lends no sense of layout).

The "start menu" or "launch window" or whatever it's called is another case, too, where it just looks unfinished, more like a prototype or early mockup.

I used to love KDE when I first started using Linux, but now I wonder if that's just because it looked like Windows 95 and made for an easy transition.

Oh, and while every UI has warts and pimples (OS X, GNOME, Windows), Windows 7 is full of visual incongruities, too. Try to see how many variations of a menu you can find in just the built in apps. You'll find buttons in the square 95 stype, the cartoon XP style and the glassy Aerto style everywhere. No two toolbars seem to use the same UI engine. There are at least three competing window layout schools at war within Microsoft. I credit Microsoft for trying to freshen up the look, but it's schizophrenic, too.

(reposted original comment to fix a nasty typo)

Anonymous said...

hey it's an opensource world, right? If you think you can do better, join the oxygen, plasma or whatever team and proof yourself!

Alex said...

Good article. Thanks for writing it - it's a pity that KDE 4 went that way...

@ Barry Kelly, you're right! What a waste of space!

Anonymous said...

I understand you. I don't use Mono because I dislike programs with ape name that remembers me Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

Re spacing, it's KDE,that's all configurable...

The 2 icons are resize and rotate.

Anonymous said...

Nice if the tooltips missing off the two buttions had gone in a bug report so it fixed for next version.

The glass effects are not currently open to all applications. Note not currently. Plasma being intergrated into kwin will allow the glass effects to be more used.

Art is the last thing you worry about getting perfect while you are having stability problems.

Also it is possible to get a compact file manage for Linux. Defaults are designed to be all rounders. KDE default supports split view that is really handy when sorting out directories.

Close the parts you don't need and KDE default can be taken to 80 percent of screen.

Any particular reason why the menu cannot be overlapped or closed. Yes so you don't have to play find the menu. Makes KDE file-manager a little less effective. Size of toolbars is controlled in theming. Nice bit about KDE is theming if required can be applied on a application by application base this comes from QT it self. Loading up a QT style sheet.

Most people don't notice in split mode kde file manage shares the same folder list with both split sections so saving screen space.

Its not as ineffective as people make out. Not using the split mode means you miss out on where it kicks the tail the windows filemanager. Sorting between folders is a pain in but under windows.

Thinking you are on to how ugly KDE is means the code base must be getting stable. KDE 3.5 is known for its look. KDE 4.x is kinda new to the game. It will come. Feedback will help.

Hopefully for all you who complain about application screen layouts the tech behind becomes main stream and we can let you make your own.

Anonymous said...

First time I installed KDE I asked myself the same question: Why desktop is so beautiful and apps so ugly?
It's so strange, so much effort put in the plasma that nothing left to the apps, unbalanced unfinished work.

skilly said...

Yea, lets face it, GNOME and KDE have some catching up to do.

Anonymous said...

Starting off your post by stating you've always disliked KDE only foreshadows your already decided opinion. Personally I dislike most things associated with a certain company who happened to develop a certain language that you appear to now work on. Really, because of that bias, Mono to me was dead on arrival as it is with many others.

There actually is a gradient, its subtle.

Qt can actually draw using the native GTK+ themes these days.

The default theme as always should be accepted to be "the least offensive to the greatest number of people." I could point at screen shots of the default mac, windows, or gnome themes and desktops and say "we just barely made it past windows 95. " Seriously, nothing there is really unique or exciting.

The problem with all the fancy canvas based UI is that it ends up being inconsistent. Its like DOS all over again, only in higher resolution. Where's the ability to deal with accessibility then? Keyboard shortcuts? User intuition as to where things are? Where's the consistent placement of tool bars/menus/widgets? Do you really want to go and write your own widget set with effects and all? Its not like any of the widely used libraries for making GUI programs really look good at the moment anyways. I think actually, gnome, kde, and mac do a good job of being consistent in their own realm. Despite your claim of it being ugly, I'd argue its simply a different consistency.

So I certainly hope your not suggesting everyone ditch the GUI tool kits available and start writing their own unintelligible GUI's.

Anonymous said...

always asked myself the very same question..

jpobst said...

> Starting off your post by stating you've always disliked KDE only foreshadows your already decided opinion.

I do not see where I stated that, perhaps you are reading into it what you wanted it to say?