One of the most common questions asked by newcomers to Linux is "Which is better, KDE or Gnome?" The answer commonly given is, "It depends. Try them both and see which one you like best." It's a reasonable answer, because it costs nothing but time to try them.
The same answer is given in articles with similar titles to this one. Again, a reasonable answer. I won't be giving you that answer. I'm going to tell you which one is better.
My first distro was Red Hat 7.2, and the default desktop manager was Gnome. I was happy enough with it, then I changed distros to Mandrake (now Mandriva). Mandrake's default desktop was KDE, and I thought I'd give it a try. After using it for a while I found I liked it more than Gnome. It was more configurable and customizable. I could select which applications I wanted to open for all different kinds of filetypes instead of the miserable choices of email and web browser that Gnome gave me. There were also way more options for customizing the desktop and windows.
When I plugged in my iPod KDE would let me choose to open Amarok automatically, or any other program I wanted. Gnome opened Rhythmbox, and only Rhythmbox. In order to get it to run Amarok I had to delete Rhythmbox, write a small script that launched Amarok, and name the script Rhythmbox. Then when Gnome tried to run Rhythmbox, it would actually run my script, which would run Amarok. It was an ugly kludge.
KDE also let me do "pretty" things easier. I could run Xplanet as a background using KDE's "Use Program" option in the background selection. You had to use a script for Gnome, and it never worked the first time, and you had to go to forums to figure out why, and you finally decided that it wasn't worth it. Well, maybe not you, but me.
KDE also has a neat random desktop background feature that Gnome needs a script to do. Nothing wrong with using scripts if they work, except they can be more of a pain to configure and just feel uglier.
After using KDE for a while, though, I started to notice the little things. I'm sure some of the bugs were distro specific, but quite a few bugs followed me from distro to distro. Yes, in KDE I could select which programs to use for which filetypes, but it would sometimes forget, and I would have to choose again. Editing menus in KDE was hit and miss. USB devices would sometimes mount, and sometimes wouldn't. The extra keys on my multimedia keyboard never worked in KDE, no matter what I did.
Gnome was always much more dependable. Menus would be edited properly, devices always mounted nicely, and the extra keys on my multimedia keyboard just worked, even without configuration. This was true even on distros that used KDE as their default.
KDE was a little flakier than Gnome, but I was willing to put up with it for customization's sake. Then I got a new digital camera for Christmas. I could not access my pictures. KDE would detect the camera, but it would not let me see the pictures. It was like KDE promised a friend that it wouldn't let me see them, no matter how much I begged. I spent hours trying to get it to work, and almost decided that Linux just wasn't able to use this camera yet. Then, on a whim, I started Gnome, plugged in the cable to my camera, and there were my pictures. Just like that. No fiddling around, no searching forums, no changing permissions, no mucking about with configuration files. It just worked.
Now I had a choice. I could use KDE for everything else, and switch to Gnome when I wanted to use my camera, or I could give Gnome another shot. I switched to Gnome, and am happy that I did.
I was surprised to find out that my main pet peeves have been somewhat addressed. I can now choose more options for opening programs. Gnome now has a control panel for removable drives and media, where I can choose which program to run when I plug in a device, such as running Amarok when I plug in my iPod or digiKam when my camera is plugged in.
KDE still has more options, but I don't feel as constrained as I used to in Gnome. And it's nice having a desktop manager that Just Works.
I still mostly use KDE applications. Amarok is the best music player on any platform, I use Kmail for my email, Kopete for instant messaging (although it may get the boot soon), K3b is the best for CD and DVD burning (although I'm using right-click -> Write to Disc in Nautilus, the Gnome file manager, a lot. Spiffy.), and so on. Firefox is my web browser of choice, although I use Konqueror for some of the other protocols like ftp, sftp, and webdav. It's like a swiss army browser.
So in the war between KDE and Gnome, Gnome is the winner. What good is customization when you're constantly fighting your computer to get it to do what you need it to? Gnome works, and that's what you need a desktop manager to do.
Why do you use Gnome? Does KDE do everything you want and more? Do you hate them both and use Fluxbox instead? Let me know in your comments and emails.Powered by Sidelines