2011-04-05

Ditching KDE Applications

Exactly a year ago to the day, I visited Caltech, and we visited some old family friends; one of the guys there is my age, and he's also a free software enthusiast, like me. Yay! We got into a discussion about free software and the applications we prefer. I mentioned that I prefer using Okular, GwenView, and Amarok compared to the default GNOME counterparts in Linux Mint. He told me that mixing and matching GNOME and KDE applications hurts performance. I remembered that since then, but I never really gave it a second thought until recently. That's because I noticed that opening files in GwenView or Okular would take 3 to 4 seconds, which in these days of being able to open any file almost instantly on a modern computer is unacceptable.

But why should I care now? Shouldn't I have continued being happy with 3 to 4 second wait times to open images and PDF documents? Well, there was one other application that got in the way of that contentment: Gloobus Preview. Follow the jump to read the rest.

Gloobus Preview is the holy grail of file previewing. It works best in conjunction with Nautilus Elementary, but that's a minor point. That aside, it can show virtually any folder, document, image, sound file, and movie in existence; it's like VLC Media Player on steroids. If that wasn't enough, it can do so extraordinarily quickly. I just press SPACE on the file in question, and in mere milliseconds the slick Gloobus Preview window is appropriately sized (more on that in a bit) to show the file. Do note that Gloobus Preview can't edit files, and it can't even zoom on images or PDF files; this is a problem when I have to view PDF homework assignments with really small text, so for cases like that, other programs which I will mention soon are required.

So Gloobus Preview's amazing abilities and superb speed and light weight drew me away from the KDE applications that once enamored me. But what else happened? Well, after Gloobus Preview drew me in, I reevaluated whether I really needed many of the features offered in Okular, GwenView, and Amarok. Actually, that's not strictly true; at one point, my love affair with KDE applications in GNOME also included Dolphin, but once Nautilus got split-pane viewing in version 2.30 which is what is included in Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora" GNOME, I decided to not install Dolphin again once I upgraded my old computer from Linux Mint 7 "Gloria" GNOME, and that's true on my newer laptop too. So that leaves Amarok, GwenView, and Okular.

I don't really use any music applications, because if I listen to music, I listen to it on Pandora online, and if I want to listen to a specific song on my hard drive, I listen to just that using either Nautilus's built-in sound previewer or...Gloobus Preview. So Amarok could easily go. Actually, Rhythmbox could go as well, but I think I'll keep it around just in case.

When viewing images and PDF files, the most I would need to do would consist of zooming, rotating, or cropping. I don't mess with the colors of an image unless I really want to do so, in which case I would use an actual image editing program. I don't annotate my PDF files; I just look at them and maybe zoom in or out. GwenView and Okular's other functions were just superfluous to me. Plus, these two applications were starting to load a little too slowly. I thus banished those from my computer, replacing them with Viewnior and EPDFView. (I also removed Evince and Eye Of GNOME, because they had no reason to stick around.)

For some reason, I also had Akonadi-tray on my computer; it was probably an artifact from when I had installed KDE 4.5 alongside GNOME 2.30; I never used it for obvious reasons, but I didn't bother removing it until today.

There were two KDE applications that I really liked but removed for consistency: KolourPaint and KSnapshot. Both are stable, solid, very functional, and yet very easy to use. KolourPaint reminds me much of Microsoft Paint, which I like very much, with a couple more useful functions; KSnapshot is much more functional than the standard GNOME screenshot tool, yet it never feels like too much to use. Hence, I felt a little sad letting them go, but I've replaced them with Pinta and Shutter. I like Shutter a lot already for its immense functionality, so that shouldn't be too difficult a transition. I've never really used Pinta before, but it seems to have a similar interface, so we'll see how it goes; that said, it seems to basically operate as a GIMP-Lite in terms of functionality but with a nicer interface, which doesn't really sit well with me because it's just hiding all the really complicated stuff in the menubar and toolbars.

You may be asking why I installed Viewnior and EPDFView when I could have just used Gloobus Preview anyway. (If you aren't, well, now you are. Hehheh.) Well, for one, Gloobus Preview doesn't have zoom functions, which I sometimes need; also, if I download a PDF file from online and open it with Gloobus Preview before saving it to my hard drive, I can't use Gloobus Preview to save it to the hard drive. Finally, for some reason, when Mozilla Firefox calls Gloobus Preview to open a downloaded file, the application window starts out really small, so it's annoying to constantly have to resize Gloobus Preview just to see a downloaded file's contents. That's why I installed Viewnior and EPDFView. But I'll still be using Gloobus Preview for simple viewing, as well as listening to music files and watching movies.

So it was a combination of Gloobus Preview's awesomeness, the KDE applications' slowness, and said applications' features that I didn't really care about that made me move away from them. This isn't in any way meant to bash KDE; I just found better applications and reevaluated some priorities about KDE applications. If I used KDE on a regular basis, I'd probably also try to remove as many GNOME applications as possible.
On a side note, don't confuse KDE and Qt. I still have Qt on my system because of Skype and VLC, both of which I use regularly. I'm not getting rid of those.

24 comments:

  1. woopty doo. Who cares if you like Gnome over Kde.....

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  2. @Anonymous: Honestly, that was neither productive nor an attempt starting any sort of conversation, so while I encourage comments here, could you please try being a little more constructive while you're here?

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  3. As a kde user, I feel exactly the same about gnome apps - they start slow and perform badly- so the only gnome application I have is firefox, though konqueror with webkit is what I use more and more.


    I will add that I prefer KDE over gnome because a) KDE apps are MUCH better integrated with each other b) gnome is tightly controlled by RH and ximian and their agendas as opposed to KDE which I believe is a more community based and oriented desktop and c) these entities have acted and are acting a lot like m$ w.r.t. their dictation of policies and agenda in the desktop arena ( not to mention all the FUD they have spread and keep spreading on KDE)

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  4. Really I wish the idea of choose KDE over Gnome or Gnome over KDE would die.

    Mostly because it has the habit of causing tunnel vision.

    Some KDE applications are very good at what they do. Some GTK based are.

    Yes there is a memory usage and cpu hit running both KDE and Gnome side by side.

    CPU hit is mostly because KDE and Gnome will not agree on common systems in places.

    Heavy hitters here are, Two different virtual file systems, Two different indexing systems. Should be sortable out if people using KDE and Gnome put enough pressure on them.

    http://community.kde.org/KDE_PIM/Akonadi Akonadi does pay to read on. Akonadi is design to be integrated into evolution at some point.

    Memory usage is basically not avoidable two different toolkits in memory more memory used should be expected.

    Basically if you are taking cpu performance hit running KDE applications on Gnome or Gnome applications on KDE there is something wrong that should be fixed.

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  5. There are some ultralight apps out there that are fantastic. Epdfview is a great example as you mentioned, and I use it on my openbox machine. On gnome I'd prefer evince which has an option for continuous display of pages (epdfview doesn't), and you already have the gnome dependencies installed. You could also try out FoxitReader.

    Viewnior is just amazing. My computer is 6-7 years old now, so apps like that make it fly.

    I mainly use GTK applications, but nothing keeps me back from using a Qt app like SMPlayer, or KDE apps, like K3b. They all run just fine.

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  6. "... so the only gnome application I have is firefox ..."


    Firefox is NOT a GNOME app.

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  7. @Anonymous 1: I do also get the feeling sometimes that KDE feels like a more complete package than GNOME. And yes, you're right that GNOME feels a bit too tightly controlled; one such instance where I found this is that KDE allows for the hiding of menubars if the user wants that, whereas GNOME doesn't allow it at all for some really odd reason.
    @Anonymous 2: Well, I had already chosen to use Linux Mint GNOME to begin with, so this is just me evaluating how well KDE applications work on GNOME. I was starting to find out they weren't working as well as they should have been and that there were faster and lighter applications out there. Also, Akonadi integration with Evolution doesn't mean much to me because I check my email inside a browser; that said, it'll of course be useful to quite a few users.
    @Mitsos: Yeah, I found a lot of these when using distributions like #!. Also, my disk burning needs are quite limited, so Brasero works for me; I don't need something super-amazing like K3B.
    @Anonymous 3: That's true. For a moment there, you scared me thinking I had written that somewhere in the post.
    Thanks for the comments!

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  8. I guess I'm confused, why were you using Gwenview or Okular at all, if gloobus-preview is good enough, because gloobus-preview has no features. This would mean you could have used Eye of Gnome or Evince, as it's clear you didn't need Gwenview or Okular because of the extra features they support over Eye of gnome or Evince?

    I installed gloobus-preview on my machine and wasn't very impressed. In Gnome, gloobus was no faster at preview than Eye of gnome, or Evince. So why would I use it, since those other application also have other features that I often need, and even if you don't they are just as fast? Minimalism for OCD minimalisms sake?

    Gwenview and Okular were slower by at most 1 second in Gnome, but they also have a few extra features over Eye of Gnome, and Evince, if you need those, they might be worth that 1 second.

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  9. I think your results more likely reflect your choice of distro than inherent problems running kde apps inside of gnome. Ubuntu has the well deserved reputation of having one of the worst kde implementations out there. And running kde apps inside of the stock ubuntu also results in more problems than with any other distro I've tried. I'm not that familiar with Mint but I suspect the apple didn't fall far from the tree when it comes to kde.

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  10. ""Firefox is NOT a GNOME app. "

    yes it is - try installing firefox without any gnome dependencies. Not only the vfs component ( which firefox will work without).

    If GTK has bound itself to be gnome dependent, GTK apps are gnome apps, period.

    On another note, there is no such dependency between QT and KDE - qt apps will run happily without KDE.

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  11. Firefox isn't a true GTK app, it only has some aspects that allow it to integrate with GTK themeing etc.

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  12. @Anonymous 1: The truth is, I saw a bunch of features in GwenView and Okular that I thought I'd use regularly but never ended up using. However, for a while, I got used to using these applications, so I never thought of going back to Eye Of GNOME or Evince. Also, I've found that Gloobus Preview starts much faster than Eye Of GNOME or Evince, and that's why I replaced both of those with Viewnior and EPDFView, respectively, just for when I download a file and open it immediately from the web browser itself. It's unfortunate that your Gloobus Preview experiences weren't so great, but to answer your question about minimalism, it's not minimalism for the sake of minimalism (because otherwise I wouldn't even have Viewnior or EPDFView), but because I wasn't using most of the features provided, and they were just slowing the programs down. I hope that helps.
    @Anonymous 2: I've tried Linux Mint KDE, and it's a whole lot better than either Kubuntu or installing KDE on top of an Ubuntu-based GNOME system. That said, I'm running Linux Mint GNOME now, so the most applicable thing for me would be the latter. As far as I know, there isn't that much difference in the implementations of individual KDE applications among the various distributions, but I could be wrong.
    @Anonymous 3: No, Mozilla Firefox is built on the XUL toolkit (as are Mozilla Thunderbird and Songbird); it just happens to integrate very well (by design) with GNOME.
    @Anonymous 4: That's absolutely correct.
    Thanks for the comments!

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  13. It really doesn't matter which DE one use. What matters is implementation of it. For example, KDE on Kubuntu is slow and lame. KDE on openSUSE is just perfect.

    However, KDE apps will win in long run. Qt4 apps, especially with KDE framework are:

    (developer view)
    - Easy to maintain
    - Easy to build
    - Easy to crossplatform
    - Easy to transform and inherit
    - Easy to integrate with other apps and code

    (user view)
    - fast (let's say equally fast as GTK)
    - more beautiful

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  14. @Emil Beli: I agree with most of your points about Qt, except for the speed part. Sure, Qt applications within a KDE environment are going to be quite fast, but as I have just written above, that isn't true in a GNOME environment. This is true not just for KDE applications but other Qt ones as well like Skype and VLC. Thanks for the comment!

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  15. PV and anonymous,

    you are wrong in the following way-
    yes, firefox uses XUL for UI toolkit but currently, AFAIK, XUL only has a GTK renderer. There have been unofficial ports to QT that couldn't keep up and so got abandoned.

    The problem is that GTK is too tightly tied to gnome - the credentials, the VFS, the notifications and for many other features.

    XUL has nothing to do with gnome so if firefox is 'well integrated' with gnome, WHY is that ? It has to be because of GTK's assimilation into gnome.

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  16. @Anonymous: Oh, huh. I did not know that. Thanks for that excellent clarification!

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  17. In terms of file dialog boxes taking too much time, you might be running up against this(not entirely fixed) bug: https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=264487 Basically, when any dialog box (or Dolphin) with a "Places" sidebar comes up, all removable drives are probed and spun-up.

    With KDE trunk (and Fedora's patched 4.6.x; not sure about other distros), the problem has now been fixed...for optical drives and optical drives only. Opening a file dialog box still takes ages when you have lots of partitions on theoretically-removable drives (such as drives attached to a SATA AHCI port, internal or external). Which means that it still takes ages to open a file dialog box on my computer, as I am an avid distro hopper who likes to have lots of distros available at once.

    I put up with it and stick with KDE because I still prefer it to other DEs by far, especially now with the horrific GNOME Shell and Unity being thrust upon most GNOME-based distributions (but XFCE is still alright at least), but it is by far the most annoying bug I've seen in KDE, and is barely acknowedged by the KDE devs (who must not have any computer with AHCI, or only have one partition or something...).

    Other than that, KDE is just as fast as GNOME; there is a delay loading any KDE app in GNOME the first time as all the libraries need to be loaded, but after that it should be snappy. If it's not, then aside from the bug I ranted about, it's probably a distro-specific problem.

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  18. @Anonymous: Well, it isn't actually the file dialogs that take too long too load. But anyway, thanks for the tip!

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  19. Gpicviewer is another good and light weight one.

    Talking about KDE, I just wiped my Fedora 14 KDE install that I had around since October a few days ago, even upgraded to 4.6 it was still very slow, and that without effects turned on. It depends on the distro though. KDE 4 in Salix, Kongoni and Chakra is markedly faster.

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  20. @Barnaby: Yeah, I've tried GPicView before, and that's pretty lightweight and functional as well. Thanks for the comment!

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  21. When it comes to KDE's efficiency and performance, it seems to me to be a distro-specific thing more than anything else. Look at KDE-specific distros like Pardus. I'll bet that they likely only do one DE for a reason - to keep everything as tightly integrated as possible.

    The whole connection between RH/Novell/Gnome/Mono is an issue of concern. One of the reasons many of us moved to Linux as an OS in the first place is to get away from the (ultimately) coercive influence of corporations, who do not always have our best interests (ie. freedom), as end-users, at hand.

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  22. @Kevin Hellman: Are you implying that Red Hat somehow concerns you too? I'm just wondering, but if you ask me, I would say of the entities you mentioned, Red Hat is the most supportive of the Linux community and freedom in software. Also, it is true that most medium-sized to major distributions that do only one DE do it quite well. That said, there are distributions like Arch where it is possible to install vanilla KDE, GNOME, or whatever, and anything will work beautifully. Thanks for the comment!

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  23. @PV: I wouldn't say that RH (or even Novell) has a hidden agenda, but the degree of control/influence they have on those distros never made me feel too comfortable. I guess the arguement can cut both ways that whether or not Canonical, RH and Novel all help or hinder the Debian, Fedora and Opensuse communites, respectively.

    This is why I feel best supporting the Arch and Debian communities, and can't wait for good to come from the new fork of Mandriva, Mageia as well. (also can't wait to see you review Mageia)

    Cheers.

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  24. @Kevin Hellman: OK, I think I get what you mean now. Also, I will certainly be reviewing Mageia and Mandriva 2011 when they get officially released. Thanks for the comment!

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