Reflection: KDE 4.5

Main Screen, Widgets, and Lancelot Launcher
I've been using KDE 4.5 for the last 2 weeks (since I reviewed it), and though I generally like what I see, I think my first experiences with Linux (i.e. with a GNOME desktop) have already biased me against fully accepting KDE 4.5. I think it also has to do with the fact that I'm using KDE on top of GNOME instead of just KDE, as would be the case if I used Linux Mint 9 "Isadora" KDE (or something similar). I've already gone through what the KDE developers have gotten right, so while I may touch on these things a little bit through this post, I will end up talking mostly about why I don't think this can replace Linux Mint's implementation of GNOME (and remember, part of this has to do with what I started using first and how I have installed KDE). Follow the jump to read more.
Desktop Cube
As you can see, I have changed the theme to a dark theme, as I really liked this dark style in the early days of KDE 4.X. The wallpaper is "Lightning" instead of the default "Ethais". The Folder View across all of my virtual desktops shows my home folder. The Plasma panel, widgets, and Lancelot Launcher menu (whose behavior I have modified slightly to better mimic MintMenu's behavior) use the Oxygen style instead of the Air style that has become the default since KDE 4.3 (I think). I also changed the window style to "Obsidian Coast", so that all the title bars and window regions are dark, but things like buttons and text boxes are white. However, sometimes this doesn't work out too well, as the contrast between the text and background of window buttons and menus is minimal. Finally, I have changed the arrangement of the virtual desktops slightly, and I have added lock/logout buttons to the panel.
I have applied the Oxygen KDE theme to Mozilla Firefox and have installed the Oxygen style to OpenOffice.org. I also wanted GTK+ applications to better integrate with KDE 4.5, so I installed the GTK-Qt engines and the QtCurve theme, but try as I might, other GTK+ applications (e.g. Pidgin, the Mint tools) would not look right (though the color scheme, if not the theme itself, was applied properly). Maybe I'm still doing something wrong, but I've run out of ideas regarding how to fix the problem.
Mozilla Firefox, OpenOffice.org, and the Update Manager

So what exactly do I still find wrong with KDE 4.5? There are a couple of things, one of which I just mentioned (GTK+ applications not integrating well with KDE).
The Lancelot menu takes up a little too much space but doesn't leave enough room for favorites (as the menu of application categories is listed alongside favorite applications (instead of as a separate, clickable pane as in the MintMenu)).
The neat Folder View trick I mentioned in my comparison of KDE distributions where I can hover over a folder to view its contents and subfolders (which can also be hovered over to do the same thing) is gone, and I haven't found a solution in terms of restoring that very useful functionality.
The shutdown functionality is screwy, as even when I change the default logout option to shutdown as opposed to logout, the system still logs out (and I have to shutdown from GDM) when I just want to shutdown straight.
The DE in general seems a bit slow, as doing things like the desktop cube seems slower in KDE/KWin than in GNOME/Compiz. (Also, if you noticed in the above picture, there appears to be a strange artifact of the Linux Mint GNOME wallpaper displayed in virtual Desktop 1. I haven't seen it until today, and it seems rather strange.) Furthermore, Dolphin, whose virtues I have extolled numerous times, seems a lot slower in KDE 4.5 than in previous releases.

That's really all that I don't care for in KDE 4.5. There are other reasons for why I'll switch back to GNOME for daily use, and these have to do with speed and comfort, as (Linux-wise) I cut my teeth into GNOME, not KDE.
I like the idea of Activities, but I don't really see the point as I don't really use many widgets, and the ones I do use end up being applied on all Activities.

There are a few KDE applications that are better than their GNOME counterparts. For example, I prefer the KDE games over the GNOME games for the wider selection available. I like Gwenview better than Eye of GNOME as the former seems to be the same speed and it has more features in terms of editing and categorizing images. It reminds me of the awesome (but, sadly, Microsoft Windows-only) IrfanView image viewer. I like Okular better than GNOME's Evince for the same reason. KolourPaint (as a simple image creator and editor) has all the features of Microsoft Paint and more, and it doesn't have a GNOME counterpart that comes close to matching it in features, usability, or stability. (GIMP is not a fair comparison here, as GIMP's KDE counterpart would be Krita.) KSnapshot has a lot more options than GNOME's screenshot tool in terms of selecting regions of the screen and time delays. I'm still not sure whether I would use Amarok or Rhythmbox, but I'm leaning towards the more powerful Amarok. Finally, digiKam is a lot better than Shotwell and F-Spot in terms of image processing and editing power.
Other than that, however, GTK+ and other applications just seem snappier, more feature-filled, or both compared to their Qt counterparts. I would rather use Mozilla Firefox over Konqueror, OpenOffice.org over KOffice, Pidgin over Kopete, Nautilus over Dolphin, and GNOME MPlayer or Totem over Dragon Player, and these are the applications I use most often. Again, part of this has to do with familiarity, while part of it has to do with features and/or speed.

As I don't really use things like Activities or Desktop View that make KDE 4.5 special, I don't see the need to ditch the GNOME desktop either. In terms of beauty, while KDE 4.X's default looks easily beats GNOME 2.2X's default looks any day of the week, Linux Mint does a superb implementation of GNOME, and I've seen an even better implementation in the form of the Elementary desktop (and this brings with it Nautilus Elementary, which is a cleaner, easier-to-use (and many would say more Mac OS X Finder-like) version of Nautilus). Elementary is simply a package of icons, desktop and application themes, and some other things to make the GNOME desktop look a lot more professional. I think I may try it sometime. Until then, aside from all the KDE applications I mentioned that I really like, I'll probably totally remove KDE 4.5 from my desktop and switch back to GNOME.


  1. There's this really strange thing where Qt seems to be faster for some people and GTK for others, even across the same distro.
    I don't know why this is, but it seems to be the case.

  2. I think that on some level, it boils down to perception and familiarity, as well as whether GNOME is installed on top of KDE or the other way around.
    Thanks for the comment!

  3. A lot of your issues seem to be based on adding KDE to your GNOME-based Mint install, although others are indeed just app preferences. Get them looking right and you should be able to mix and match apps to make yourself a perfect desktop. Except that GNOME's File Picker (file > open) requires double-clicking to open folders :( leading to huge inconsistencies in the desktop apps if KDE is set to single-click.

    The GTk-Qt-engine thingy doesn't seem to work very well for me either; recently I installed the QtCurve theme for KDE and for GNOME and (within the KDE System Settings) I set both to use that theme; all seems much better now (but the theming is much more limited).

  4. @lefty.crupps: Thanks for the information. Unfortunately, QtCurve didn't work for me either (in KDE, but somehow GTK+ applications were themed properly in GNOME, which is really strange). Thanks for the comment!

  5. > GIMP is not a fair comparison here, as GIMP's KDE counterpart would be Krita.
    No. there are no "gimp-kde" gimp is an (gnu) image manipulation programm. krita isnt an manipulator, but a creator. "Krita is a creative sketching and painting application based on KOffice technology. Whether you want to create art paintings, cartoons, concept art or textures, Krita supports most graphics tablets out of the box" (:

  6. Your logout/shutdown problem seems to be related to GDM. Try to use KDM instead.

  7. @Tids: Thanks for the information. Looking at each program's respective article on Wikipedia, for my (very basic) purposes, both things seem to do basically the same stuff that I need. I don't really go deeper than basic touch-ups, cropping, and stuff like that anyway.
    @Christian Gonzalez G.: That may be so, but I've read many articles on the installation procedure practically demanding that users stay with GDM, as using KDM when KDE is installed on top of GNOME seems to be notoriously buggy for various reasons. Anyway, thanks for the information!

  8. The Gtk integration problems are Gtk problems. :) Qt integrates very well in Windows and Gnome and this isn't Windows or Gnome merit. There are some ways to make Gtk application look nice in KDE. You're right about Compiz being faster then Kwin, but this is also related to graphic drivers. I use KDE mainly, because I like its applications. I also like few Gnome applications like Inkskape, GIMP, Pidgin which doesn't have mature KDE counterparts yet. If you're looking for a good video player I recommend to try smplayer (feature rich Qt mplayer frontend) and VLC. Btw. very nice article. :)

  9. @Anonymous: Thanks for the support. I will keep in mind from now on that GTK+ integration issues relate to GTK+, not to KDE.