KDE: a call for a change (or: why I moved to GNOME)

[Disclaimer: I'm merely a KDE user, hardly involved with the KDE development processes; my criticism is based on what I see as a user, I'll be glad to be corrected in the comments]

Back when I started my way with Linux with the brand new RedHat 6.0 (which as always, preferred GNOME). KDE always went forward: KDE1 was pretty.. basic, KDE2 was a big step, and same goes from KDE3. I've been using KDE 3.5.x for quite a long while (RHEL/CentOS5 and Debian sid until recently). 3.5.x symbolizes, in my opinion, the last "winning' era of KDE:  It had the right features, but more important: it was mature and stable.

KDE 4 introduced important improvements:

  • User interface continued the tradition of being much nicer than its predecessors. Compare for yourselves: KDE 1 2 3 4
  • Very nice OpenGL effects were added with two important advantages over GNOME+ Compiz: the OpenGL features are fully integrated inside KDE, configuration is way easier (Compiz configuration tool is scary), and the attitude is more towards productivity and less toward eye-candiness. For example, instead of the useless wobbling windows and water effects of Compiz, KDE provides the useful feature that displays all open windows and allows search-as-you-type for choosing the right application by its name, by simply putting the mouse pointer  on the top-left corner.
  • Simplified user interface: the developers had the courage to do some rewrites and strip complicated GUIs, even lose some features, and make the new KDE 4 apps more simple. This is mostly notable in konsole and amarok.

But, it also got worse than its predecessors on some areas:

  • Relatively instability and immaturity: i've been finding too many elementary bugs, such as closing the laptop lid when locked doesn't send computer to sleep, or low battery warning increases screen brightness instead of decreasing (My examples are especially in the power management area, but not only). Being important yet unresolved for almost a year, makes it really frustrating. which leads me to the next point...
  • Relatively inactive community, bad bugzilla state: the KDE bugzilla is too messy: lots & lots of bugs stuck, neglected, on UNCONFIRMED, many bugs that are open for years (even bugs from KDE2). There should be much stricter policy there, irrelevant bugs should be rejected, confirmed bug should be set to NEW for distinguishing real from imaginary, and relevant bugs should be addressed. I'm aware that it's a (mostly?) voluntary project, but it doesn't mean that its problems shouldn't be discussed.
  • Unattractiveness to debug and fix the problems by myself: I admit that I didn't try hard enough, but reading and fixing KDE's code is an activity that I'm quite scared of. Maybe its the massiveness of the code, maybe it's because KDE is not yet another application but my desktop environment.

3 things I recommend to the KDE project:

  • Focus on stability, start a real feature freeze for the 4.x tree, clean the bugzilla: by either rejecting or fixing bugs.
  • Attract more users to become developers and QA guys.
  • Elect a leader. As far as I understand the KDE project doesn't have a single leader. This is quite puzzling. I believe that in order to achieve real goals, there ought to be a single person to dictate the direction of the project.

As a new GNOME user, and for being fair, 3 things that GNOME should learn from KDE:

  • gnome-terminal lacks many important features that konsole suggests: search buffer, unlimited buffer, notify on [in]activity.
  • GNOME's Run dialog (alt+f2) is quite "dumb" compared to KDE's krunner.
  • Compiz should be more integrated in GNOME, be simpler to configure and more productive.

I thank for the KDE developers and the Debian-KDE guys for their efforts; I hope to start a real discussion about the KDE project's weaknesses, in order to improve them significantly, so I could switch back to KDE at 4.5.x !

5 thoughts on “KDE: a call for a change (or: why I moved to GNOME)

  1. Shai

    You haven't specified which version of KDE4 got you so frustrated. I've been using KDE4.3 on two desktops (Debian Sid and Suse 11.1) and I have very little but praise for it.

    Some of your points, in particular, feel funny: The light-increase-on-low-battery bug, for example, is far less of a problem than you make it out to be: It only applied when you have manually dimmed the lights, not by default.

    The issue about bugs open for years just shows you misunderstanding the KDE processes. The KDE project has moved to work on KDE4 several years ago, and since then -- especially since 4.0 -- bugs in KDE3 which do not apply to KDE4 have been very low priority. They are left in the bug database in case someone wants to fix them for people still using KDE3 (much like the KDE3 branches are not trimmed from the SVN tree), but of course nobody in the mainstream cares. Would you feel better if the KDE project said "anyone still on KDE3 should use their own bug tracker"?
    The specific old bug you linked is notorious, because it still applies in KDE4.4; it wasn't fixed because, for several years now, it has been clear that kmail would be rewritten in a way that would resolve it, and resolving it in the old code base requires almost as much of a rewrite.

    About attractiveness to debug: The KDE code is quite modular and well written, I was able to fix some Hebrew-related bugs quite easily when I tried. To me, the object-oriented C of Gnome sounds a lot scarier. But that could be just me.

  2. Oren


    Thanks for you response.
    * I've been using KDE4 since v4.1.2 until v4.3.4 (Debian latest)
    * I indeed don't understand the KDE process enough, and I wrote that in the disclaimer. Thanks for clarifying some things I wasn't aware of.
    * Yet still, I think that the bugzilla issues that I mentioned are still very disturbing, no matter what the development process is:
    ** Amount of OPEN bugs is too huge
    ** Bugs can stay on UNCONFIRMED for very long times

    To prove my point I tried finding another random bug, and very easily found a 2 year old UNCONFIRMED bug set as *critical*, with no activity at all: https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=161570

    I'm sure there are dozens or hundreds of them; someone should really make some order there. I'd volunteer for that.

    Also I think that if there's no active development of KDE3, all KDE3 bugs should be closed (either FIXED or WONTFIX).

  3. admin

    Just to keep proving my point, the two bugs are still not resolved in 4.5.0, according to recent user comments (I myself have moved to gnome…):
    - https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=198463
    - https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=205453

    Now of course that not every bug could be immediately fixed, but the KDE project should take these tickets way more seriously, even assigning it to KDE 5.0 is something better than ignoring. (one of them is still UNCONFIRMED!)

    Something is very wrong there.

  4. Kirby

    No need to fear Compiz. Download Simple Compiz Config Settings Manager. That should have everything you need to configure compiz - even desktop corners and sides.

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