Wednesday, December 14, 2005

GNOME vs KDE - the history

With all the fuss surrounding recent Linus' rant about GNOME, a bunch of "KDE rulez, GNOME is for idiots" (and vice-versa) arguments sprang again. Personally, I'm a satisfied GNOME user, but I also understand why some of my friends choose KDE, and why they like it. We have different preferences. This is good. Choice is good.

So this post isn't about that: it's about the history. The flamewars reminded me of my first contact with Linux GUI environments. 'twas in the time of fvwm1, xterms, when men were real men, women were real women, and small furry .. err, when NCSA Mosaic was still usable. Then, everyone agreed GUI on Linux sucked - bigtime. Smart people began working on a solution, sometimes coming to an extreme.

Sometime after, I heard about a cool new project, which aimed to be a free alternative to CDE. For a lack of a better name, and in spirit of CDE naming, it was named Kool Desktop Environment (they couldn't be Cool Desktop Environment, for obvious reasons :). I was excited to see this project (I learnt about it at the time of the first release, I believe), and if I knew more about C/C++/Linux programming I'd probably try to get involved... but I did not, I stayed in the CLI.

As for GNOME, I haven't noticed it until it was already a popular environment. I've used Linux oblivious to any GUI progress, until I replaced my old 15" CRT with an LCD monitor a few years ago - the text mode sucked, so I switched to X. I looked at what KDE and GNOME looked (& felt) at the time, decided I like GNOME better, and I still haven't changed my mind.

Anyways, enough with the nostalgia. I've googled a bit, and came up with several screenshots of early GNOME (from here, the official GNOME site, O'Reilly and Wikipedia) and KDE (from the screenshots page on the official KDE web):

KDE had a head start in 1996. This dates from 1998, I believe before the first release. Compare with its model.

A bit after KDE 1.1 release, GNOME shows off its 1.0, in 1999. KDE 1.1 looks polished here (already better than the original CDE, IMHO):

In 2000, KDE 2 adds more applications and features and shiny stuff. GNOME 1.2 improves a lot, but is clearly a KDE lookalike:

2002 brings improvements in toolkits, KDE 3 looks more shiny & polished than ever, with lots of applications. GNOME upgrades to GTK+ 2 and gets more apps:

In 2003 the paths diverge. KDE 3.1 and GNOME 2.4 have different visions and different goals, and that shows. The default icon teme as we know it today is set around this time (at least the screenshots would suggest that):

The present: KDE 3.5 with the "Conquer your Desktop" slogan, and GNOME 2.12 with the goal "Just Works[tm]". Both desktops are very mature, a lot of hard work has gone into them, and both are pleasure to use - just, to different user bases:

If you're still reading this, congratulations! As a small easter egg, I present you with a proof of how great open source community is: there's a scratch for every itch ;-)


Anonymous Igor Pozgaj said...

Personally, I don't use GNOME nor KDE. I find them to big and bloated for my taste (I am wmaker user for a long time). But when I look to that two desktop environments, I would rather prefer GNOME over KDE. KDE is damn slow, and it seems to me that you need to have a monster machine to run it
properly. GNOME is somewhat faster, but it is also a bloatware. KDE has a nicer set of useful applications and it looks nicer and more consistent but it irritates when I must wait for a long time that application starts! On the other hand, I tried to make same applications for both of environments. Qt is much nicer, better designed, has better documentation, and shorter learning curve than Gtk (lately I tried to make one bigger project with Gtk, and I was really disappointed with its design) but it takes time to compile! I really don't know why is Qt so damn slow (both to run and compile). If Qt/KDE becomes faster in future (or if I get a more powerful machine), I will use KDE. In the mean time, wmaker rulez, and KDE and GNOME sux big time :).

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@igor, Actually, the fact if KDE or gnome are faster is disputed. KDE has a lot pre-loaded (libs) but if you start OO.o on it indeed is very slow. koffice, however is as fast and snappy as you will ever get. Nothing beats it, not even abiword.
Gnome on the other hand is much friendlier to alien apps, and in that much faster.

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Dankles said...

If I had to choose a desktops, I definatly would choose KDE over gnome. I run KDE 3.5 on a 450MHz computer with 386MB PC100 RAM. The biggest resource hog is X.Org, not KDE or even gnome.

But on a normal day, I just simply run from the CLI with svgalib. I can do almost any thing from the CLI that I can do from the GUI. I can view pics with "imagemagik", surf the web with "links2 -g", program with "emacs", browse network shares with "smbclient" or "nfs", and much more.

I highly recommend learning to be a CLI user.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Dugald said...

I started out on KDE, and enjoyed its versatility. However, I have been pushing Linux into the business I work for and have found that the technophobic end users find Gnome more natural to use. It is simpler and less 'in your face' and so it is the desktop of choice in the office. As I have to provide support, I have also switched to Gnome and now prefer it to KDE. It all good though. Each GUI has unique features and if it wasn't for the fact that there is choice out there, I may not have found an interface my staff feel at home with.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aye I've started using CDE on Sun which was decent, but slow and rather unfriendly to use. When I made Linux switch for home as school lab used Sun, I was rather pleased with GNOME at first. Then I fell in love with the eye candy of KDE and even enjoyed developing in Qt as well. But now I think the eye candy and slowness of KDE is growing old. Doesn't have that clean look to it. I like GNOME best now and look forward to learn Gtk+. I haven't coded in legacy C in a long time so I wish I can use C++.

5:53 PM  

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