Full disclosure: I don’t use KDE on a daily basis.
So, if I don’t, why then am I recommending it to you?
Because I like it, it has a great number of great things going for it, and if you found this article, it probably means you’re interested.
I recommend KDE to Gnome2 refugees that aren’t settling on MATE or XFCE. I also recommend KDE to new Linux users switching from Windows or Mac OS.
The reasons you should use KDE are many:
- It’s the most mature Desktop Environment (DE) out there.
- It is extremely well integrated.
- It is both feature-packed and customizable.
- It has out of the box eye-candy even on lower end machines.
- It is easy to use on a desktop, laptop, netbook, and soon even tablets.
- KDE applications are typically some of the most mature, powerful desktop applications available for Linux.
Now, the flaws need some mentioning as well.
- There are bugs. More features means more room for errors, yet these are constantly being fixed.
- Utilities you may not need are integrated.
- There is a Windows-like tendency to have a million confirmation dialog prompts, though these can typically be disabled without issue.
- KDE is QT centric, so GTK apps will feel slightly out of place. Some GTK apps include Gimp and Firefox.
- It’s not a “minimal” DE, and as such it has a bigger memory footprint than LXDE or RazorQT, though on a reasonably modern machine (post 2005) it will run quite snappily.
Let’s go into a little bit more detail about the main points.
KDE is mature. KDE is currently in version 4.8.4. That’s the fourth version and the 8th major update therein. Even in Debian Squeeze (the current stable version of one of the most conservatively updated distributions) KDE is at version 4.4.3, a relatively mature update. KDE has been in its current major version since 2008, Gnome has been in version 3 since 2011. KDE has been there for 3 years longer. KDE started in 1996 reaching version 1 in 1998, Gnome started in 1997, reaching version 1 in 1999. KDE was a little ahead of the game.
KDE also was ahead in its game-changing (and for some show-stopping) version update to the current version 4. This had similar negative fallout as the Gnome 3/Gnome Shell update, but it’s had plenty of time to mature past that.
Basically that means, if you need a feature, it’s probably there. Desktop configuration like power settings, monitor and display settings, network configuration, desktop theming, and many other basics are all built in.
KDE is well integrated. This also means that it has a lot of dependencies. This is a double edged sword for many, and is one of the reasons I don’t use KDE. Some of the benefits of this approach are that you can expect consistent workflow between applications. Drag and drop should work between practically any aspect of the desktop and any other program. Right click context menus will give you KDE-oriented options like send to desktop, set as wallpaper, etc, etc. KDE also uses a file indexing utility to make desktop search fast like Spotlight in Mac OS. It manages your passwords for you and your e-mail contact settings if you want it to. You can use these across different applications and expect the information to generally be there when you would want it.
On the downside, if there are features within that integration that you don’t use, especially if there are more that you don’t use than you do, then the extra baggage that comes with KDE might just get in your way, as it does with me. Depending on what I’m doing though, I sometimes prefer KDE utilities over others.
KDE is customizable. You can change everything and the kitchen sink in KDE. This is in stark contrast to modern iterations of Gnome where customization options are intentionally crippled. KDE’s default set-up is usable for most, but if you want a particular desktop organization you can make it. The Plasma Workspaces are designed for that purpose. Nothing is required, if you don’t want a panel, you can remove it. If you want a list of applications to show up when you right click the desktop, you can have that. If you want six panels and a dock, you can set that up. If you want to search for your applications instead of using a menu at all, you can use the Search and Launch interface. Appearance settings and toolbar placements and the like are all fully customizable. KDE can become your monster, any kind of monster you like. Best of all, you don’t need to know any special knowledge or edit any configuration files to do it, everything is point and click.
KDE has some of the best applications available for Linux. KDEnlive is the most mature and powerful native video editor for Linux. K3b is the most feature-packed disc burning and image management utility available. Gwenview and Digikam are some of the most powerful photo-viewing and management applications out there. As far as file managers go, Dolphin has the most features of any of the graphical ones. I tend to prefer the command line for file management, but that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Basically in every category, you could consider the KDE app one of the heavyweight contenders, powerful and hard to beat.
One by one DE comparisons (Your mileage may vary):
KDE is better than Gnome because it’s customizable where Gnome isn’t.
KDE is better than XFCE because it has a unified set of applications that are more feature-packed.
KDE is better than LXDE because it’s more mature, better looking, and more feature-packed.
KDE is better than Razor QT because it’s much more mature, and has a unified set of applications integrated with each other.
KDE is better than *box window managers because you don’t need to configure anything and it works out of the *box… err works out of the box!
KDE is better than tiling window managers because you don’t need to relearn how to interact with a computer to use it.
KDE is better than Icewm/JWM because it is more customizable, more feature-packed, and much more attractive.