For geeks like us, it can be hard not to get caught up in the over-enthusiasm and fanboyism of our favorite technologies. One of the biggest, and perhaps oldest in the GNU/Linux world is the contest between KDE and Gnome. Now, back in the long long ago KDE reigned supreme having the lion's share of usership. Then along came KDE 4, and people ran screaming to Gnome. Now, Gnome 3 has arrived and many people have ran screaming to KDE. This can tell us a couple of things, the most obvious being that no desktop environment is perfect. Secondly, as so many of us have moved from our beloved old to something different and perhaps not beloved, we have had to come to terms with the idea that ultimately what we once thought solid fact was really just a matter of taste.
Since I started using Linux I preferred KDE. I started with KDE 4.0, which was bloody rough... but I saw the potential and the beauty and stood in awe. Now with the KDE that shipped in 12.1, I ran screaming. Now, I knew fully well that KDE is a constantly evolving beast and I was okay with that. I found it was stable enough to meet my needs and expectations. For me though, I ran into so many bugs that I had to use something else if I wanted to stay sane and productive. Not to say that KDE (I believe the version that shipped in openSUSE 12.1 was 4.7) has gotten worse, but it isn't unusual for me to run into an awful lot of bugs that are rare for other people. Indeed, the reports from friends and on forums was that our KDE was incredible and stable. It seems God thinks I should be a QA tester.
Right now, I use Gnome 2 and 3 on my two systems. When I upgraded my 11.4 netbook to 12.1, it was a bad experience with KDE. I wound up rolling back my system to 11.4. Now, I saw some serious improvements in some areas that I would certainly miss, (especially since performance improvements are very noticeable on a netbook) so when I rolled back, I decided to use Gnome. I figured also, that I needed to get reacquainted with Gnome anyway in order to be able to help others who use it instead of KDE. Also, it had an odd power regression so I wanted the older kernel from 11.4 to address that issue.
Recently I acquired another laptop. I bought it off a friend who had a messed up Windows installation, and hadn't used it in a long time. Part of why I bought it was to have a machine I could be more risky with, to experiment more with. The other reason is that it had a 64-bit AMD processor and an ATI Radeon GPU. These are all unfamiliar territory, so this was a good chance to become acquainted with AMD, ATI, and the 64 bit openSUSE. Frankly, I didn't want to go so risky since the hardware is beefier than my netbook so I opted to use Gnome 3 instead of the KDE that had been so problematic for me before.
I was a bit reticent about using Gnome 3. I had tried the preview of it in openSUSE 11.4, and found it comfortable enough to use on my netbook. In fact, it was very comfortable on my netbook. The final clencher on it, and the explanation for my reluctance was its trouble with resuming the desktop environment after suspending the system to RAM. Since I had rolled the netbook back I got pretty cozy with the Gnome way of doing things, and figured Gnome 3 was worth another chance. I'm not going to go too much into that since I have done so in another blog posting. Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised... though not entirely without some frustration.
So, KDE vs. Gnome; who will win? Its irrelevant, in my opinion. Each has their respective strengths and weaknesses. If you want configurability, you go with KDE. If you want your DE to get out of your way, you use Gnome 3. Honestly, I'm personally torn between them. I love the amazing configurability and the power and flexibility of the KDE environment and its application ecosystem. On the other hand, I love the clean interfaces and ease of use of Gnome. Quite frankly though, the configurability of KDE means that I can easily recreate the Gnome 2 or 3 experience with it. So, in essence once I feel my issues have been mostly addressed in KDE then I will go back. But not without having learned a lot, and picking up many fresh ideas from the world of Gnome.
A small note. Since I have clients that I do conversions and maintenance from Windows to openSUSE, I put them on Gnome. Gnome tends to be a bit more predictable and solid, as well as slightly lighter on system resources. Though the default KDE interface looks a lot like Windows, some of its rough edges spook users and cause me to use more time in maintenance. Plus its complexity in the options it gives the user can be very intimidating and confusing to someone coming fresh from Windows.