The majority of free software users made their minds up about their preference for KDE or GNOME a long time ago. However, GNOME just released its third edition this week, and this has opened the door again for those that were once critical of it. Now, both KDE and GNOME have versions that are significantly different from past editions.
However, you won’t find the difference in the software. The applications that are designed for the respective desktops hasn’t changed. In the majority of cases, the services have the same features, but GNOME still doesn’t have a font installer and a music player with all the trappings. KDE could do with a bit better accessibility, and the right network connection tools.
However, if you check out their system requirements, design philosophy, and workflows, then you will find some serious differences.
When it comes to GNOME 3, the system requirements are pretty generic. They say that computers made over the last four or five years should be able to fun GNOME 3, but anything beyond this is anyone’s guess.
GNOME 3 takes up 883 megabytes of RAM on a one gig notebook. This is twice that of the last edition of GNOME, but it’s also way more than the 615 megabytes that KDE requires. This means that you will need to have at least two gigabytes free to install it. This most likely means that unless your computer is less than a couple of years old, then this isn’t the kind of desktop that you should invest in.
So, with KDE you haven’t got hardware acceleration, which prevents you from being able to run some compositing effects, but with GNOME 3 you need basic hardware acceleration for it to operate full stop. The majority of intel video drivers will be enough, but with some other chip set options, a proprietary driver will be required, which some free software activists disagree with completely. GNOME 3 is supposed to come with a ‘complete fallback interface’ according to the FAQ section on their website, but we couldn’t find it.
Work Flow and Desktop
In some of the earlier version of both, they offered users a different appearance. GNOME came across as professional and minimalist, while KDE came across as casual and artistic. However, with the updated versions, you’ve got abstract wallpapers that closely emulate OS X and Microsoft.
So, beyond their aesthetics, both of the updated versions of KDE and GNOME indicate an effort to update a basic desktop that has otherwise remained unchanged for the past twenty years.
For both desktops, this effort involves creating an interface that everyone can be happy with, and still looks good even on a mobile phone. However, how they’ve executed both couldn’t be more different.
One of the foundational changes of the KDE 4 series is to make everything abstract. With this particular arrangement, only the interface needs to be changed to adapt to KDE for a specific use, and developers have to maintain a slightly different desktop.
KDE refers to these as ‘containments’. If you go to folder view activity – activity – Type, you will be able to see some of their default options, including the Search and Launch Containment. KDE doesn’t actually have a singular desktop where you can put your icons. Instead, you have multiple sets of icons that you can see in what is called ‘folder view’, and you can quickly switch them out depending on what you are working on. You can switch them out by changing the set that you’ve got on your current desktop, or by switching to a different desktop completely.
GNOME 3 doesn’t have a similar design, despite what you might think. You will see this most notably when you select the ‘activities’ screen, as the results are vastly different to what you will find with KDE.
GNOME 3’s ‘activities’ are virtual work spaces, but they aren’t separate desktops that come completely equipped. Instead, each one is a stripped back interface, with a panel that doesn’t include any widgets or applications. It just has a clock, sound controls, a task bar, chat, internet, and logging out options.