I tried, I really tried.

While working on yawl this morning, I finally had had enough. I just can’t get my head around Gnome and what to me are very poor design decisions. Without much fanfare, I installed the Kubuntu KDE packages on yawl, restarted X, and was happily back in KDE land. For those curious on how to install KDE on Ubuntu:

sudo aptitude update
sudo aptitude install kubuntu-desktop

I completely replaced the GDM login system with KDM, and after a restart, all was restored.

Why did I make this choice? I’ll freely admit I’m a lot more comfortable with KDE than I am with Gnome, but in the interest of learning, and that it seems most folks are defaulting to Gnome in their installs nowadays, I decided to try it. I lasted about 2 months before the frustration level got to be too much.

Here’s a brief summary of why I switched back.

  • Dumbed-Down interface
    Gnome has made many decisions to ‘dumb down’ it’s interface, so it is not as ‘intimidating’ to new users. In doing so, however, it’s made the interface too sparse, too simplistic, and frankly dull.

  • Audience targeting is wrong
    The choices that Gnome has made in their interface seem to fall into two categories. The first is the aformentioned ‘dumb’ mode. Make the interface simplistic and boring to avoid confusing users. The second set of choices is ‘make it not look like Windows’. My question here is “WHY?” The number of ‘new’ users on the planet right now who have never touched windows is incredibly small. Of those that fit into this category, many are Mac users. So building an interface that deliberately avoids any of the ‘existing’ UI designs is a ridiculous approach. What audience is trying to be targeted by making those choices?

  • Deliberately limiting power users
    I’m a power user, I admit it. I will tweak, update, and modify my desktop the way I want to. I enjoy doing it within the paradigm of the environment, to understand the design philosophies that went into it. The Gnome interface appears to either be “Dumb dumb dumb, it looks like this, maybe in a shade of blue”, or it is “Edit the gnome registry to get what you want.” The entire desktop experience seems to have been shoved into “We make a pretty window manager, everything else is up to you to hack.” KDE’s desktop, applet, toolbar, and UI tuning is vastly superior, with mature, stable, and complete tools for doing whatever you’d like. These tools also stay out of the way unless you need them. Another bonus.

  • Konqueror
    I can’t say enough about Konqueror. Gnome’s equivelent to the filesystem browser, Nautilus, is a sham. It looks like something dragged out of the Amiga days, and never updated since. I would never even remotely consider doing serious file manipulation work with Nautilus. Konqueror has a long history of stability and growth and expansion. Nautilus appears to change with every gnome release.

    And this is the final win. Because KDE is truly an integrated desktop environment, it’s quite possible to define alternative IO methods. An excellent example is the ‘fish’ kioslave plugin. It allows urls within file open/save dialogs that reference a remote SSH server, just as if it were part of the local filesystem. When I do a screenshot with ksnapshot, I save it to a bookmarked location called “fish://boomer.homeport.org/home/dbs/public_html” – which pops up in my Save as… dialog, as if it were a local filesystem. This occurs in all KDE applications. Bookmarks, kioslave pointers, links I’ve defined – they’re all there in the file save/load dialog.

I recently had a conversation with an old friend of mine who, while his wife’s computer was down, decided to give her a try on Ubuntu linux, running Gnome. They set up Thunderbird and Firefox, and let her work on it. She was intensely frustrated and annoyed at the environment, because it was totally UNLIKE windows, which she had worked on for years. This deliberate ‘breaking’ of paradigms that users are used to, for no other reason than “We don’t want to be like windows”, is, I believe, one of the major reasons Linux desktops do not have more widespread use. The interface is TOO different, and too hard to understand, despite the ‘dumbing down’. The intuitiveness level is non-existent, so people will not want to use it.

Gnome folks, sit down with the KDE people and start learning about UI design. Shut down your emacs editors and bash prompts and learn how the rest of the world has advanced beyond these poor outdated models. Perhaps you’ll begin to understand that a desktop is not just pretty graphics on top of shell prompts, and start designing accordingly.


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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2 thoughts on “I tried, I really tried.

  1. Forgive the bluntness, but it seems like it would be much easier to simply not use a piece of software than it would be to both not use it and then write 9 paragraphs about it. Why? Doesn’t the internet already have enough of posts like this? I’m asking this seriously, not as a criticism, because you’re not the only one who posts in this style.

  2. @Dan:
    I post because I like talking about the things I’m doing. Why do folks post about what they had for breakfast? Because they like sharing and talking about it.
    But more to the point, I post like this because the people who write GNOME and these apps read as well. The voices on the net that say “GNOME has made many UI mistakes, here are the details…” are what drive developers to improve or change their software.
    GNOME doesn’t have sales numbers or surveys or revenue growth to see whether their environment is ‘selling’ or not. They depend on buzz and community feedback to say whether their environment is useful or not.
    This is community feedback. This is opensource.

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