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James Alan Brown: Some Constructive KDE Criticism

Nov 13, 2000, 16:57 (74 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by James Alan Brown)

So now KDE2 has been released and we have all had the chance to try the first non beta version I feel it is now time to make some constructive comments.

First, I need to make this quite clear that I support the KDE organisation fully and also their unflagging regard to pure open source software. I am very grateful for the many programmers who give as much of their free time in writing KDE software. I am also totally opposed to this KDE/Gnome war of words that I know most would agree is not the way to do things.

For me personally I have this dream, a goal in my life, that is, to work on producing total standalone desktop PC systems that can offer a real usable alternative to the Microsoft "own them all" way of doing things.

Most people in the PC business that have embraced Linux as a real viable alternative way of working and have a real wish and desire to see Linux thrive. What is going to achieved that is the need to have good stable reliable working programs. I think most Linux users would agree fully that the Linux base system is indeed much better that the old DOS way most of the, including me, Old Timers got so used to.

The Desktop Environment:

Not wishing to upset others but it seems to me that we have just two main choices and that is in KDE or Gnome. Having tried both my choice became KDE and for a number of very clear reasons too. I like some parts about Gnome particularly regarding the depth and nice look of its display using GTK themes. The biggest downside of Gnome though was its total lack of geometry control and childish idiot looking icons. Another big factor was with its extremely annoying messages, if used when running as the root user, and its total lack of menu layout editing with its silly comments regarding Xauth every time you try to make changes.

KDE on the other hand, even with KDE 1.0 was so easy and totally customisable to use and at last, just as with MS Windows, I could maximise each window and save the maximise setting as the default. Some excellent packages and partially nice looking multimedia programs that worked very well. When KDE 1.1.2 came out then it became very clear that Linux was at last going to make a viable alternative, for the many MS windows users, quite possible.

The downside of trying to use Linux as a total standalone PC with ISP connection was still however held back by a total lack of some real good word processing packages. Star Office certainly has helped change that situation also AbiWord is getting quite nice and very functional. Take a good look at version 0.7.12 that is due out within the next week or so! The nice point regarding AbiWord is its ability to dual theme in making use of GTK theming when running under KDE 1.1.2.

You may like to look at my URL: http://www.jabcomp.force9.co.uk/download/ to see an example screenshot running on my pure gold theme.


I downloaded every beta, as they became available, and took a good hard look at those to see what future direction KDE is going to go. I was very keen to download the full release of KDE2 but I must say that I am somewhat disappointed in what I have found so far.

Please note: All my KDE2 installs, to date, have been done using total clean Linux installs. (formatted hard drives and with the correct QT versions too)!

You can't help but notice how much it looks like Gnome particularly regarding the lack of geometry control. I have never liked opening programs that are half hidden off the bottom of the screen or that open half way across the width of the desktop.

The ability to open a word processor maximised and yes sure you need sometimes to minimise it when cutting or pasting. There is nothing, that is, so dam annoying as to have to click on the maximised button each time! The nice strong part regarding KDE1.1.2 is to use the -geometry flag on a link that now seems so sadly lacking in the new KDE2 version.


I can't begin to tell you all how much I looked forward to koffice as I felt so sure at last a real alternative to MS Office and that this was the final link to getting my many customers on to Linux. So many things wrong with it and it is still so unstable as to render it useless at the present time if you plan on doing any business work with it!

I am really sorry to say that but I do feel it is justified, however. No disrespect to all of those who have worked so hard on Koffice but it is important to understand that it needs to function much better if it is ever going to be a fully working usable program.

Sound Problems:

I have a PCI Yamaha XG soundcard that works like a dream on KDE1.1.2 with excellent sound quality in running Quake III, Midi files, Mp3 files and CD sound tracks. The Alsa drivers also really work well on KDE1.1.2. Another nice feature was with the 3 programs Kmidi, Kmp3 and CD player. They looked so nice as also functioned so well. No longer a part of KDE2 though but some flash looking media player that just made the odd noise; tells me that something is very wrong indeed!

I notice too that what little sound I now have was badly distorted and it was no longer able to play even basic wave files let along do anything at all with Midi or Mp3 files. So what has been changed to bring this about? Surely KDE2 should be a step forward?

What happened to KFM?

One of the best features with KFM is the total ability to customise fully the file manager's views and colour schemes. In fact with the split view, mini folder tree view on the left side and with long file view on the right hand side, using a black background, folder/file names in green with details in white it really looked something. The ability to save ,so easy, your colour settings, view preferences and geometry to suite your customised themes was really great.

KDE2 thinking now seems to be going in the direction of total web integration and please note that that has already taken place under the Microsoft banner! This became one of the main reasons why so many have taken a long hard look in the Linux direction. Many, and indeed I am one of those, who in using KDE1.1.2 loved this new found freedom of being able to be totally in control.

The new KDE2 File Manager has lost most of this control and stability too by trying to go down that very same road of web integration. I really think that the KDE team need to look very hard at this side of things! Geometry and customisation is now very poor, and although the icons look nice, take a good look at what happens when you change the icon size or try to set colours or geometry!


I can't help but think that KDE2 has been rushed out to counter what's new in the Gnome camp rather than to get things sorted out correctly. KDE's good name for stable software needs protection!

None of this is in any way to be taken other than as for what it is and it's just my view.

Constructive criticism is the best way that I know to change things.

I want all of you think hard about these comments, and if you wish to reply then please do so, but, in a way that is not going to create negative or rude remarks.

This is an open invitation to a real meaningful discussion.

I really want to see KDE succeed and be something that makes others feel that at last Linux has come of age.

James Alan Brown

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