KDE 4.13.4 tested and the results are…

KDE logo

Let me introduce by telling that I’m a dedicated Ubuntu user and I’m using Unity on daily basis. But now and then I try KDE to see how it works, as it’s released in new version with new features. It haven’t been able to convert my view on Gnome/Unity as first choice when it comes to desktop environments, but it deserve some time now and then, to see how it works and if the user experience is getting better.

So, once more I thought I would give KDE a chance, now the Plasma 5 interface has been on the marked for some time, and most of the bugs should have been fixed.

let’s jump right into it…

Look’n’feel

This topic is one of the most important arguments for the KDE users. KDE have from day one had a high intension of being a customizable desktop, where the GUI isn’t just some dictated experience. The user have all kind of choices to change the way it looks and works.

The default interface that meet you right after installing and booting it the first time, is actually quite nice. You do sense that there have been a lot of focus on make it look different – in a good way that is.

Notification area

Notification area

There’s a nice fade in/fade out effect on the loading panel, the background is colorful and it have what you expects: a start menu in the bottom left corner (beat that, Windows 8!), some launchers (shortcuts) next to it a bar where icons of the open windows are located, and some notification/info/system icons in the right side, from where you can see/adjust the sound volume, network, Dropbox (in my case), keyboard settings, clock etc. etc.

Window with blue glow

The windows have some blue glow around it, which makes it easy to find the active window, and all-in-all it seems nice.

When you start using it, you’ll quickly notice there’s some default effects as well; minimize/maximize animations, transparent background in the windows when you drag them and the things behind the windows is blurry, the start menu does some fancy sliding when changing between the sections etc.

Window “geany” minimizing effect

Notice the graphic on the snapshot of the minimize effect. It’s not that good looking, and although the effect duration is very small and the effect is quickly over, you’ll still notice the bad rendering, which it a pain in the eyes.

Each of the individual effects are okay, but combined it quickly gets a little too much and messy. You can’t touch anything without some special effect starts doing stuff.

Start menu

Start menu

The start menu comes in two variants: the default (mentioned as “Application Launcher style”) and a classic style menu (looks a bit like the old menu in Gnome <3). At first glance, the default menu is smart, since it’s a set of tabs, each representing a category containing related icons. When hovering a tab, then category-frame nicely slides into the selected category.

It’s all very nice, but at the end of the day, I think many will think it’s a bit too much.

Of cause look’n’feel if a matter of subjective opinions, and my view of it isn’t the final, overruling judgment. But as a person that uses a computer many hours a day, I think my view does represent a lot of people. :-)

Performance

Everything seems to run smooth, I haven’t discovered any lag in the graphics and opening programs is quite fast.

Of cause this depends on the machine you’re using. Mine is a i7, SSD disk, 16GB RAM and NVIDIA GTX-770, so I wouldn’t expect the UI/OS itself to be slow and challenging. But the lack of good rendering of the animation makes me think that it will ruin fine on slower computers as well.

Applications and extensibility

You will not run low on programs with KDE! There’s a lot… The default installation contains everything you need – and a lot you don’t need. Is that good or bad? Well, I prefer a selection of often-used programs in visible parts of the menu, and not-so-often-used programs reachable with a quick search function.

In the (default) start menu, there’s a nice search-as-you-type search function, that allows you to search quickly in programs. However, it seems that it only searches in the selected category, which is a bit annoying, since you then need to know in which category the program is located.

One of the first things I noticed is the content of the categories in the start menu. Theres a lot of programs you will never use, and many programs for each use: There’s two image viewers, two browsers, two video players, etc.

It seems like the developers wanted to have everything that every user want to use. The result is chaotic in my opinion.

Extending the OS with new programs are easy, using the KDE software installer. Theres a huge amount of programs that are supported in KDE – I bet you’ll find everything you need, even specialized programs for scientific use, educational use, etc.

Conclusion

I’m still not impressed. I really tried to give it a chance and look at it with objective eyes, but I cannot see the reason to choose KDE. I’m not saying that Gnome/Unity is the only good desktop environment, there’s a lot to choose from, but as a “normal” user, that need a good, solid, intuitive UI, I still prefer Gnome/Unity, and KDE has a long way to go, before it can compete against it.

I have been trying to find uses and person groups, for whom KDE would be a good choice, but I really can’t. Perhaps the new Linux user, that want to play around with some customization and have fun, but I’ll bet it will get too much and it will be replaced by Gnome/Unity.

Should you give KDE a try? No.