For those of you who may be reading this that are expecting a review, you might as well stop reading right now. This is not a review, this is a rant.

I want to like KDE4.  I really do.

But every time I’ve tried it the experience just makes me furious. The entire time I’m struggling with it, I’m thinking “THIS? THIS is what they dumped KDE3.5 in favor of? THIS?”.

I can appreciate moving to Qt4. I can understand the excitement — as someone who has worked as a developer — of developers drooling over a new set of tools and the enthusiasm of “Wow, we can do some REALLY COOL STUFF with this!!!!”. I can understand the appeal of “let’s dump the entire codeset and start from scratch, rather than just migrate KDE3.5 over to Qt4”.

But from every time I’ve played around with KDE4 with the intention of forcing myself to use it for a while to “get used to it”, I abandon it after less than two days. Why? Because it’s garbage, at least at this point.

I know, the common response is “you just don’t like it because it’s different!”. It is different, but that’s not my problem with it. I don’t like it because I can’t DO anything with it. Seriously. The KDE developers have gone off their rockers. I can appreciate the eye candy, but if you are transitioning from KDE3.5 to KDE4.2, you’ll be losing 80% of what you’re used to being able to do with your desktop environment.

And I’m not a GNOME fanboi either. I dislike GNOME, even when it’s relatively well-implemented, like in Ubuntu. It seems like with every release, the GNOME people remove more functionality from their product. I don’t like that kind of philosophy. I want options, damn it! There’s almost nothing more frustrating to me than to click on “preferences” for something and find only two options in there, and NOTHING about the relatively simple thing I want to do.

It makes me feel like I’m using a program that’s only half thought out. That’s what I feel like whenever I use GNOME. It’s so dumbed down, you just can’t make it do as much.

You want an example? Here’s a simple one. The desktop switcher. In GNOME, if you go into the preferences for it, you have two options. How many columns and how many rows. That’s it. Nothing else.

What about the name of each desktop/workspace? What about the behavior of the desktop switcher with respect to the mousewheel over it? What about whether or not to display little thumbnails of each workspace’s contents?

Nope. In GNOME, the desktop switcher gives you rows and columns.

And the sad thing is, when I’ve tried KDE4, every single time, I find myself thinking “If this is where KDE is going, I’ll be using GNOME, because it has far more flexibility”.

And that’s sad.

Yes, I understand that it’s a “new project”, and that “transitioning can be difficult”, and that “in another year or two, you may change your mind”. And that could be the case.

But in the mean time, I really hope that KDE3.5 isn’t abandoned in favor of it by everyone, because that’d be extremely premature. KDE4 feels like a bad alpha to me — yes, even recent releases — in that they are missing massive chunks of basic functionality that I guess I’m spoiled at having. It’s great that the KDE development team is enthusiastic about their new tools. Absolutely wonderful.

Now get to work on bringing in the main things that caused me to use KDE3.5 over GNOME to begin with: flexibility, tweakability, options, and functionality.

Because without those things, KDE4 is just pointless eye candy.

Another blogger tried to use some pretty bad analogies when making excuses for KDE4, mostly claiming that in any major transition, there’s always lots of trauma.

Here’s what I say to that. When people switched from OS9 to OSX in the Apple world, at least OSX was a usable environment. It wasn’t something that just looked pretty but was lacking functionality. And when most of the open source world switched from XFree86 to X.org, well… that wasn’t very painful at all, in my experience. Sure, I had expected it to be (because at the time I had finally gotten to the point where I felt like I knew what I was doing with XFree86, and then I was going to have to learn everything from the ground up again), but I was wrong. Only a couple of minor tweaks’ difference and actually better performance out of the deal in the end.

And comparing this to the transition from KDE2 to KDE3 is not a fair comparison. KDE3 was built on the same codeset as KDE2, and it was better. KDE4 is an entirely new codeset, and it is not. It’s different, but certainly not better. Making something different just for the sake of making it different does not automatically equate to it being “better”. It usually just pisses people off.

The only comparison in that blog post that seems apt to me is the comparison to Vista. Microsoft started with a new code set, focused on eye candy rather than functionality and performance, and that’s what they ended up with. Sure, some people apparently like it, but there’s no accounting for taste. Some people like to get tattoos on their faces too, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

My conclusion to this rant is simple. Wait and see. KDE4 needs a lot of work before I’ll bother wasting any more time with it. I’d say a year or two at a minimum. My reasons I’ve mostly already explained (functionality, flexibility, et al), but what it boils down to is the simple fact that it doesn’t do what I want it to do, and KDE3.5 does. Your mileage may vary, of course. But as I have already mentioned, KDE4 sucks so bad, it has made me appreciate the flexibility and functionality of GNOME, for crying out loud.

I leave you with this lovely quote from our dear friend Linus Torvalds:

“I used to be a KDE user. I thought KDE 4.0 was such a disaster I switched to GNOME. I hate the fact that my right button doesn’t do what I want it to do. But the whole ‘break everything’ model is painful for users and they can choose to use something else.

I realise the reason for the 4.0 release, but I think they did it badly. They did so may changes it was a half-baked release. It may turn out to be the right decision in the end and I will re-try KDE, but I suspect I’m not the only person they lost.”

If GNOME is good enough for Linus, I guess it’s good enough for me. At least until I find something better.

3 thoughts on “KDE4

  1. FYI, this poster on the Raiden.net forum hit the nail on the head, in my opinion:

    “Look, I’m an avid supporter of Linux, and a KDE user. KDE flat out not only dropped the ball with KDE 4 and rolled it out featureless and incomplete, but they arrogantly defended their stance. KDE 4 has thrown away the conventions KDE users were so fond of, dropped support for a number of configuration options, and to this day, they continue to be arrogant about what they’ve done. KDE users have spoken, and they’re not happy. PCLinuxOS is still running happily with KDE 3.5.10, and many distros allow users to install it as an option. There is just reason for this.

    If we just happily go about our way, and act like it didn’t happen, would KDE listen? Would changes have been made? It’s been reported that the developers had no intent on including some of the features until there was massive outcry about it. IMO, they attempted to dumb it down like their rival Gnome.

    KDE 4 is Linux’s Vista, plain and simple. Developers packed it full of bling with little thought about usefulness and usability. Things I’ve done for years in KDE not longer even work as of KDE 4.2.2. This shouldn’t have happened. This is not the Linux way. Even when OS X first shipped, things relatively worked as usual for Mac users. It didn’t reinvent the UI. It enhanced it and made sure users didn’t feel like they just changed to a completely different operating system altogether. The Linux model is to release early and release often. This implies that releases are incremental, and not revolutionary.

    I know a lot of KDE 4 had to be done. KDE 3 has become too fragmented and not cohesive. However, They simply went too far, released when it wasn’t even close to being feature complete, and they still, as of KDE 4.3, will not have the all the features KDE users want. KDE 3 was never released like this.

    So, I say, let the bashing continue. Maybe KDE will get their act together and get it right. Until then, I’m still using KDE 3.5.10 and happy with it.”

    Right on, man. Well-said.

  2. I’m right there with you on this. KDE4 is absolutely atrocious. I have tried to like it, too, but it just plain sucks. Hate the tray with a passion. I go through it trying to tweak things like you can with KDE3.5, and there’s just nothing there! And I don’t care about freakin’ Plasmoids! If they made them like the OS X Dashboard, that would be cool, where you can bring them up with a key command, and then make them go away again, but no, they’re always there! Not a fan of Dolphin either.

    But I can’t stand Gnome, either. I used to like it fairly well, but no more. I’ve taken to using either XFCE, or LXDE, with occasional forays into fluxbox or Openbox.

    Speaking of which, I’m still looking forward to that fluxbox configuration article you were talking about doing…

    • Oh don’t even get me started on what they did to Konqueror’s file manager side. They completely broke it, presumably so that they could force people to use Dolphin. Grrr.

      I’ve used XFCE some here and there, but never for very long… something about it never quite felt like home to me, whereas Fluxbox always seemed really intuitive for me.

      Don’t get your hopes up too high on my pending Fluxbox post. I’m planning on making it pretty simple, with a couple of basic tips and tricks. I’ll be relying on my friend Pat (who wrote the alternative partitioning article a week or two ago here) for the in-depth tweak-it-until-you-bleed article. He really knows his Fluxbox. 🙂

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