Linus Ditches KDE and Gnome (so what?)

Having made an earlier defection from KDE to Gnome, Linus Torvalds has now rejected both in favor of Xfce. It’s only natural that the actions of the creator of the Linux kernel would attract extra scrutiny, and I think that his decision is reflective of a wider disenchantment amongst long-term Linux users.

So is this post a sky-is-falling complain-fest? Not at all. It might be time for some of us to say, “I don’t like the way that the big two DEs are shaping up, so, I’m going to use something else.”

There was a time when KDE was the desktop for geeks who liked an intricate, customizable interface and Gnome had found its niche as a business desktop. No prizes for guessing which one Linus chose. However, upon the introduction of KDE4, he jumped ship in favor of Gnome 2. He stated that he was disappointed with the performance and reliability of KDE4, in addition to being unconvinced about the new direction that the developers were taking.

He made the announcement of his latest defection via Google+. His first remark was fairly benign:

“While you are at it, could you also fork gnome, and support a gnome-2 environment?”

but then he followed up with some more specific and scathing criticisms:

“I want my sane interfaces back. I have yet to meet anybody who likes the unholy mess that is gnome-3.”

“In gnome3, the developers have apparently decided that it's "too complicated" to actually do real work on your desktop, and have decided to make it really annoying to do.”

“I'm using Xfce. I think it's a step down from gnome2, but it's a huge step up from gnome3. Really.”

Ouch. But also... not ouch. I think that there’s a positive side to all of this. Linus wants to get back to what he considers to be his favorite era of the Linux desktop. What we’re talking about here is a desktop that uses an interface mechanic that is reminiscent of both MacOS and Microsoft Windows and that favors a modular approach to application selection. KDE4 and Gnome 3 are breaking with traditional desktop mechanics while introducing some new elements. KDE4 fails on the second criteria of the the “classic” Linux DE as it will increasingly make use of highly integrated applications.

As for the criticism that has been hurled at the KDE and Gnome development teams, lets be fair: they are introducing new ideas that will allow Linux to keep up on the desktop (and mobile) space, and hopefully, even get ahead of the competition. I’m sure that that some of the first wave of Linux desktop users wished that TWM could have remained the default choice of the major distros.

Before KDE and Gnome came on the scene, many Linux desktop users used TWM derrived desktops like this one. The great thing is that you still can, if you want to.

This could be the opportunity that that Xfce (and Enlightenment and Window Maker and all the others) has been waiting for because Xfce can offer something approaching the classic Gnome 2.0 experience. This gives Linux users a choice between the integrated approach of KDE4 and the simplified, “average user” oriented front end that Gnome 3 (and Unity) is aiming to provide, or [shock horror] something else . Perhaps it will be left to a distro maintainer to use Xfce plus some Gnome components to provide a desktop that continues to offer the look at feel of a circa 2008 desktop while offering a hope of maintenance and future improvements.

Let’s face it, hiccups in development aside, no other operating system offers as many ways of working as dear old GNU/Linux does. No one has to be stuck anything that they really hate and new GUIs are under constant development.

To the complainers I say, “you’ve never had it so good!”


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


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Prefer KDE 3, Gnome 2

John in Kansas USA's picture

As a hobbyist using an older PC, I want a light but adequate desktop and a console window like Konsole. I play chess a little and want a code-running machine, not a bloated desktop wasting machine cycles. The Mandriva 2008.1 I'm using has perfectly adequate versions of KDE 3 and Gnome 2, and I'd be fine with just leaving them as is for the next 10 years. I switched to Gnome on Mandriva 2010.0, found some issues and went to Mandriva 2010.2, issues remained and I re-installed this nice older version that does what I want. Other desktops mentioned here proved a bit buggy. Haven't found any problems with IceWM and Fluxbox, which haven't been mentioned so far. Like many others, I want development tools to play with compiling and bug fixing as well as learning a bit of programming. GNU software is a volunteer effort, not a high priesthood like commercial software is, and development tools should be available in distros.

Since 2005, I have been using

wmaker's picture

Since 2005, I have been using Windowmaker on my 1.5GHz laptop with 512 Mb as
well as on a desktop machine. Back then, KDE or Gnome would have startup times
of about 10s seconds, while Windowmaker would start in less than 1s. Moreover,
KDE apps would sometimes crash and bring down the entire session.
Even on a new HP Z400 desktop machine, I have found more convenient to remain
with Windowmaker. For now, this is a satisfactory situation.

However, the existence of KDE and Gnome is a bad thing for Linux and Unix for the following reasons.
1) the appeal of Linux used to be that it could run on old, low-spec hardware
and not just the most recent computers. Complicated graphical interfaces may
cause failure of install process by eating too much memory, or result in unpleasantly slow response of the computer even if install has been successful.
2) the instability of KDE and Gnome may reflect badly on the perception of
the stability of Linux. It may well be that a crashed KDE or Gnome session
does not crash the entire OS, but if it leads to the loss of a Fortran code
or a LaTeX document resulting from several hours of work, the advantage over
using Windows is not much.
3) the apparent simplicity of KDE or Gnome results in hiding the features
of the underlying X-Window System. It is not clear whether users of Gnome
or KDE have a chance to know about X forwarding in ssh or the use of the
-display option. Hiding the X terminal emulator from the users is an extra
step in the wrong direction. Some repetitive tasks such as converting a
bunch of encapsulated postscript file to pdf are better done with a shell
script than by a tedious repetition of pointing and clicking in a window
manager. The windowing environment should simplify the use of Unix/Linux,
instead of becoming a hindrance to efficient work.
4) The tendency to modify constantly the graphical interface in Gnome and
KDE makes the skill gained in working with one of the other system essentially
worthless as this skill will have to be forgotten as soon as a new version is
out. This should be contrasted with the features of the Unix shell and utilities
(sed,awk,make,lex,yacc,vi,find,grep...) or the TeX/troff document processing systems that have seen little changes in the course of 20 years, or the evolution
of Fortran which has guaranteed that mathematical libraries developped in the 80s (SLATEC, Linpack, Eispack...) remain usable today. A book on KDE or Gnome written
today will become paperweight in a few years, while an old Unix textbook from the
early 90s will still be useful.
5) Both rival systems have been in existence for years, and have absorbed
the attention of many (competing) developers, drying the field for alternatives. At the beginning, in the mid-90s,
OpenLook had been placed in the public domain by Sun Microsystems, but received
little attention, although olvwm, Mailtool, xvfilemanager were already functional
and many openlook applications needed simple fixes. Instead, developers of Gnome
and KDE have preferred to twice reinvent the wheel. With Lesstif, the same story
repeated: working applications (Plan, nedit...) were ignored in favor of unstable Gnome/KDE ones. With GNUStep, which has some similarity to OpenStep (and might
offer a route to applications portable to/from Unix/MacOS) the same situation
has repeated. It is fortunate that XFCE has managed to survive in their shadow.

For now, Slackware has kept a text mode install process, offers both Windowmaker and XFCE and installs TeX and C/Fortan/Ada compilers. However, the modern
distributions tend to improve the so-called "user-experience" by using an
all-graphical install process, installing only KDE or Gnome, and lacking
any development, text processing or scientific software, at the risk of
turning Linux into a toy operating system only good to read email with
thunderbird and browse the web with firefox.

Happy as a Clam

Abe's picture

If you are comfortable & happy living under a rock, good for you. It is your choice and don't knock everyone else's preferred and favorite software.

Not living under a rock, but doing real work.

Don il's picture

I do a lot of development every day and, when I seat in front of my machines, I expect them to be ready, with my tools of choice as unchanged as posibble. Ditto for the window manager --Xfc4 in my case--. For the casual Linux user, it may be good to test any and all settings that the gui has to offer, but for me, I expect it to keep the same look and feel day after day, despite all package and security upgrades that my distro has to offer --Debian stable, of course--. Not that I live under a rock. It's a question of doing real work while not having to deal with the environment, system settings, etc. Usually some configuration and tweaking has to be done once in a while, after a distro release, which with Debian can happen as infrequently as two or more years. That's ok with me.

Another reason for this is that I am currently supporting some 200+ Debian Linux desktops which largely resemble my own. If I have to support a desktop, I better make sure I know how to deal with it and avoid fancy desktops and special setups I could not deal with (besides, many of these desktops are very far from my office, so almost all support has to be done remotely).

Also, don't think Debian is the only distro I know. I have over a dozen distros, mainly live versions, installed in USB sticks which I use very often for different purposes, from banking while far from my desktop, to rescuing a Windows box, recovering a gone partition, demonstrating the benefits of Linux to potential customers, and learning. They include Mint, Mandriva, System Rescue CD, Bodhi, Clonezilla, Puppy, Fedora, etc. And no, Ubuntu is not among them. I don't like it. I even don't like the name.


It's all about choice

NixSince85's picture

The great thing about Linux--and one of the main reasons I only use Linux--is the freedom it gives its users to choose the way THEY want their computers to look and act.

For me, KDE is the way to go. I freely admit that I was less than thrilled when KDE changed so dramatically from its 3.x to 4.x versions, but I sucked it up and stuck with it and I'm glad I did. (I even gave GNOME a fair try...but still didn't like it.)

It's great that Linus has found XFCE more to his liking than either KDE or GNOME. Isn't choice wonderful? I like XFCE, too, along with IceWM and a few others I've tried. But I keep my computers booted up with KDE 99% of the time as it's by far my favorite. MY favorite. It doesn't have to be Linus's favorite!

By the way, I resent the common misconception that people who use KDE must be windows users/converts. I started on Tandy, and then SCO, Xenix back in 1985 when there was no such thing as a GUI. I programmed and administered the system solely from the command line. I know my way around the guts of *nix but I choose to use KDE because of its beauty, stability, and truly limitless customization choices.

Choice is at the core of Linux

Fidel Viegas's picture

I must agree that I wasn't that impressed with Unity when I first saw it on the Netbook Remix 10.10. However, there is one thing that we all have to take into account. DEs evolve just like anything else, and if we compare all the recent operating systems, they are introducing all these fancy features.

I haven't yet upgraded to Unity not because I don't like it, but because I always like to give it some time before I make a move to something new. I am still with Ubuntu 10.04, but will probably move to Ubuntu 12.04, which I guess will be pretty stable for me to use.

I haven't really grasped Unity, but I will learn how to use it just as I have learned to use my iPad and my Android based Tablet.



Well Said

Kevin Bush's picture

Well said Michael,

Right now Linux users have more choice than ever. For those that want the traditional Gnome 2 experience, Debian Squeeze with firefox, thunderbird, and a kernel from backports works really well.

People will always resist change. The great thing about Linux is, users have the freedom to resist change. Users can create whatever desktop experience they are comfortable with using one of the many options available.

Kevin Bush is a Linux systems admin, dad and book-lover who spends far too
much time tinkering with gadgetry.

Same here, bounced a little

Jay Yaneza's picture

Same here, bounced a little while before settling with XFCE. And, even then, I had to look for the proper distro that can host the DE (dumped Fedora + XFCE a long time ago), and am now using Xubuntu happily. But then again, maybe I'm using Xubuntu + XFCE for my own reasons. Heck, I've used TWM and preferred it for some time since I want a hypervisor-type of Linux OS (stripped down to the bones) ... I think I was running VMware Workstation (VMware Server at that time was flaky) or some virtualization platform for that host so I really needed nothing more than X and a terminal.

Realistically, the DE should present what you're doing with your own Linux Desktop at that point in time - mere preference, a snapshot of those times, because of freedom that Linux provides and nothing more.


Anonymous's picture

I was a Kde man all the way until the developers released Kde4. I bounced around using Different DEs for a while, I used Xfce, and found it acceptable for a while unfortunately nowadays it's just Gnome2 in disguise. I say that meaning most Distros package almost all Gnome components and software with Xfce, rather than using the software specifically developed to for Xfce.
I ended up using Enlightenment as my desktop and have been very happy with it. I used it on Elive for the first couple years then switched over to PcLinuxE17, because Elive seems to have gone dormant, and have used PcLunuxE17 for the last couple years.
I've never liked Gnome and will certainly never use Kde4.
I do also have ExeLinux installed, which uses the Trinity desktop, which is a security updated version of Kde3.10, Its really nice but realistically how long can it last?

Gnome 3 or Unity or XFCE or KDE

mglimpse's picture

The choice is yours to use whatever DE or WM you want. That is why we use Linux, for the choice and freedom. I am of the minority here. I use Unity and after some tweaking, (removing some of the bloat) am quite content with it. The original transition was somewhat painful and several times I thought of moving back to XFCE.
But I stuck with it and now have a complete desktop that will do everything I need to do, whether it be video editing, or audio editing working in different workspaces it all seems to work. Like I said I had to tweak it to make it work for me and remove some unnecessary apps. But isn't that what Linux is about for us? Is not that the reason we use Linux?

Thanks for the comments so

Michael Reed's picture

Thanks for the comments so far guys.


It's a great front end, but I wonder if it would be comprehensive enough to serve as a drop in replacement/recreation of Gnome 2? That's what I was hinting at in the article.

re:being able to use the backdrop for files

I used to use the backdrop, but somehow, over the years, I have changed and I now couldn't tell you what the backdrop image is.

re: Linus' choice of desktop

He's not an average user but he's an important one, and his comments seem to parallel what a lot of average users have been saying about KDE/Gnome.

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.

Linus and I seem to be in lock-step...

fredbird67's picture

My first introduction to Linux was in the form of Mandrake 10, and Mandrake (now Mandriva, recently forked into Mageia) has always been a KDE distro at heart. And lemme tell y'all, I loved KDE 3! In fact, I never would consider a distro that didn't come with it.

But that all changed when KDE 4 came out. At the time, I remember thinking "oh my word, what a complete and total train-wreck!" So I did what, for me, had been unthinkable and switched to GNOME and Ubuntu, and later to Mint, and I got to where I liked GNOME 2, too.

But in April of last year, I saw a preview for GNOME 3 on YouTube and didn't like what I saw one bit. Besides, the hateful attitudes of some people on GNOME-Look pushed me over the edge and made me jump ship for Xfce. Even though I've got a computer that could possibly run KDE 4 comfortably, Xfce has been my desktop of choice for over a year now and that's likely where I'll be in the desktop department for the foreseeable future.

Why a DE at all?

Sriharsha's picture

No DE is perfect. So, not having a DE at all, is the best one suited for me. I've used Gnome, KDE, and XFCE, over a long period of time and a large set of jobs. Though a DM is a good way of getting many things in one simple box, I prefer installing only what I want, which come with minimal bloat and unnecessary dependency. after some distro hopping and DM hopping, i finally landed with a stitched-together system of arch+compiz+emerald as the DE and finding equivalent alternatives for most of the softwares i was using. No reason to complain whatsoever! everything is clean, no question if integration problems and easily manageable. you dont have to keep anything that is unnecessary.
coming to the usability part, if u cud use some time to set up your working env the way you want, there would be no need of whining over upgrades/new versions becoming suddenly alien to you.

Even Gnome2 begins to annoy me

Innocent Bystander's picture


I can cope with changes but when a change is made just for a sake of change and become less convenient. I find that stupid.

The episode of moving the window buttons to the right is OK. I concede that I am stubborn but Tweak Ubuntu allows to put them back to the right side so it's OK.

The next item is the minuscule scroll bar. This slow down my scrolling because I must hunt for the scrollbar now. Worse yet, in Nautilus, I want to grab the divider to resize the panes. It's hard to get a hold on it because the scrollbar popup and prevent the mouse from hitting the divider.

Areosnap? It's that hard to double click on the titlebar. What if I move the window around and DON'T want to maximize it?

Slowly, Gnome introduces a bunch of useless GUI gimmicks. While the real useful stuffs like improving the configuration of dual monitors is overlooked. Or fixing current bugs. Increase the size of your Gnome panel to bigger than 24 pixels. You see a horizontal split line. This looks like a minor bug, and yet the Gnome dev team is incapable of fixing. I wonder how they can do something more complex like designing a brand new GUI.

Overall, I understand why people begin to move away from Gnome.

Why does it matter?

Darryl's picture

While I have great respect for all the hard work Linus does, I honestly don't care which desktop environment he chooses.

The little people.

JEDIDIAH's picture

Linus is merely repeating what many of us "little people" have already said.

He merely adds another voice to the chorus of dissent, one that is a little less easy to casually dismiss and sweep under the rug.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Abe's picture

I have been using KDE for a long time and I consider it the best for me. I never used Gnome or any of the other DEs unless for testing and exploring.

Linus is not the average desktop users, he is a top notch developer and his needs and requirements of a desktop are way different than those of a average user. When he switch from KDE, he was complaining about bugs, missing features, performance and over all reliability. That was then and KDE 4.7 is now and doesn't have the issues any more and missing feature are no longer missing and many more were added. So there is no comparison between KDE 4 & Gnome 3. Many are lumping KDE 4 with Gnome 3 and consider its changes as bad. Well, I don't think those are informed enough to make such decision.

KDE 4 changes were in the background and not so much visible by the user. They were mostly infrastructure changes and the front end basically stayed the same and familiar to the user. Contrary to Gnome 3, KDE 4 did abandoned the classic desktop interface, it just enhanced it. KDE 4 didt adopt the icon driven interface, it just created an additional one for the user to choose, on the fly and depending on the device at the time without a reboot or even a re-login.

KDE 4 does need more resources than before, but that is expected. It furnishes many more features and capabilities than KDE 3.x. That definitely needs more memory, more processing power, and some times more click. Some user don't appreciate that, but many other do.

The bottom line is, Linus is NOT the average user, and his choice is not necessarily applicable to everyone else. He will choose what is suitable for himself, just like everyone else will choose what is suitable for themselves.

Choice is Good.

KDE 4 is STILL broken

Praedor's picture

The developers are focused on childish eye candy crap and childish icons/artwork. They ignore core items that were broken in KDE 3 and remain broken in KDE 4. Konqueror is a pathetic joke. STILL. I cannot handle MOST of what is on the standard worldwide web. It's as if the "developers" are stubbornly insisting that their konqueror is right and the entire world of the internet is wrong and it is the internet that must bend to work on konqueror. Konqueror is great at failing to render web pages, great at crashing on web pages, fantastic at crashing on most flash containing pages, or failing to play flash at all. I quit using konqueror last year when it became clear that the KDE developers had no interest or intention of actually making konqueror work on the internet.

Nepomuk. WTF? Useless piece of crap software that does nothing but consume CPU cycles and crash constantly. Kmail. Can't handle HTML email. STILL!

Plasma. Buggy and unstable as all hell.

KDE is broken. KDE 3.5 was the pinnacle of KDE development. After that, it all has tumbled downhill into a sewage treatment plant. Gnome is no better.

Gnome 3 and Unity are style over substance

Calum's picture

As a long term Gnome user, I eagerly awaited Gnome 3 only to be bitterly disappointed. All the arguments have been made and I'm afraid I just cant get on with it as a work environment. It is just too finicky and is impossible to customise to overcome the bad interface. On reflection, Gnome 2 is about as good as desktop environments get with reasonable simplicity and relatively easy and extensive customisation available. Please Gnome, revert to the desktop of version 2 and offer Gnome Shell as an option.

What's not to like about XFCE?

George Mitchell's picture

I am an avid KDE user, but its instability drives me crazy at times. Mageia has a pretty decent KDE rendition that just works for me. But XFCE has come a long with. It used to be primitive to the point of being difficult to use. But XFCE4 is a delight to use. And it REALLY just works. It certainly does everything I need a desktop to do with a lot less flash and glitz and a lot more stability and practicality. At this point I am not ready to adopt it for full time use, but its now the first place I go when KDE lets me down. Its a place where you can just get things done without having to figure out all the useless but difficult to get rid of paraphernalia that comes with KDE and Gnome. So now when I initially load Linux I make sure that I have a full XFCE suite onboard.

instability!!!??? Whaa????

Bart Burroughs's picture

You don't use kde.. no way you could possibly use it and say it's not stable.. what are you using, like, kde 4.0.. dude, upgrade to the latest version. I use Kubuntu 11.04 with the latest kde and have never had stability issues of any kind.. period. so I can't believe you have ever really used kde. Everytime I hear some start a thread by saying "I am a mega long time super huge expert fan user of desktop x" I know they most likely used it once about 8 years ago but want to make people think they know what they are talking about. In a word.. Troll.

Right now I'm using 4.6.5

George Mitchell's picture

Right now I'm using 4.6.5 and, as I stated in my initial post, it is working fine. The problem with KDE is that when you start to turn on features like desktop effects, plasma stuff and/or the indexing stuff, my experience has been that weird stuff starts to happen. I have plasma features that I REALLY like, but I don't dare try to use them because I have been so burned in the past. So much for KDE's exotic features. With all that stuff out of the picture it is stable right now. But I saw a HUGE period of instability when they stopped all their support for KDE3 and pushed all of us into a still not ready KDE4. AS I stated in my initial statement, I have stuck with KDE all the way although sometimes I have wondered why. I have a home computer and three business computers. I had enough problems on one of the business computers that I shifted it to XFCE and that is where most of my XFCE experience is from. Gnome is now suffering from a lot of the problems that affect KDE. I suspect that a lot of "advanced" KDE "features" may be hardware sensitive. I have been a KDE user since 1999. I remember REALLY liking the KDE2 period. I am hardly a troll, but I do think I understand some of Linus's frustration.

I haven't had many problems

Michael Reed's picture

I haven't had many problems with overall stability of KDE4, but I still have problems with some of the new tech. I had to turn off Strigi for the moment as the Virtuoso backend was running all the time and eating up CPU cycles. All for a desktop search experience that still hasn't caught up with what Beagle was offering a few years ago.

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.

I'm have used Ubuntu for

Gnome Classic's picture

I'm have used Ubuntu for several years (6.04) or something like that. I just love Gnome2 plain simple look and feel. No stupid unnecessary eye candy like KDE4 has. It was an huge shock after firs install 11.04. Unity is totally useless. I tried to use it for three weeks, but I had to give up. Gnome3 and Unity = Linux's Vista! Yes Unity and Gnome3 are like Vista for Microsoft. Total catastrophe that no one wanted to have. Even Windows7 is not liked as much anymore, but it's better that Vista. Now - Gnome3/Unity is like Vista^2.

They should keep tuning up the performance and not playing god with useless eye candy. Usability totally sucks on Unity. Nothing works. They should end all: Gnome3, Unity and KDE4 and join with each other. We don't need three bullshit Desktops - we need 3 excellent desktops and neither of Gnome3,KDE4 or Unity is one of those.

Unity+Compiz = catastrophic failure !

So - Linus is totally right !


Biffster's picture

I've been using XFCE for longer than I can remember. I will never switch off. I've tried every DE/WM as they come around, and the newest versions when they drop. Each has pluses and minuses, but none have stacked up to XFCE. XFCE is actually getting better and better and could conceivably start passing by Gnome 3 and Unity.

Well, theoretically. :)

Anyway, I'm an XFCE man through and through. I don't begrudge anyone their right to choose.

Change is not always better

rdn's picture

I thought the desktop metaphor was broken from the get-go: why put something you want where it's going to be covered up by application windows? So in principle I'm in favor of a change, and was initially enthusiastic about the plans for Gnome 3 and Unity. But both have turned out to be big disappointments in terms of usability, performance, and appearance (particularly Unity's Playskool interface). So I also switched from Gnome 2 to Xfce a while ago. And I'm enjoying its faster performance and the longer battery life on my laptop.

Don't forget tiling WMs!

Anonymous's picture

I use Window Maker as my primary desktop, but if I need to juggle a bunch of different terminals and browser windows, Awesome makes that so much easier for me. Oddly enough, I use Window Maker because of the per-pixel manual window management and the dock. I'm glad I don't try to shoehorn both behaviors into one WM - KWin is pretty bad at doing that.

empowering users

Roland's picture

A GUI should empower users to use their systems the way the users want, not the way the developers want. If I can't take (for example) strigi or nepomuk (whatever they are) out of KDE4 then it is empowering developers, not users. Too many GUI developers see the GUI as the only way to use a system. Their only tool is a hammer, so everything looks like a nail. Detailed configuration via GUI can be a nightmare--that should be a clue that using a GUI for that job is a poor fit. Give users (not developers) freedom of choice! Don't take stuff away! That's why I switched to XFCE.


NOYB's picture

LXDE is pretty good too. Ever lighter than xfce.

>> There was a time when KDE

Anonymous's picture

>> There was a time when KDE was the desktop for geeks who liked an intricate, customizable interface and Gnome had found its niche as a business desktop.

Say what ?! you sound as though "businesses" had adopted the linux desktop years ago, unless, by businesses, you mean RH and FSF. Yes, they shoehorned "gnome" ( then only known as GTK, until ximian came and used gnome interchangeably with GTK). ironically, large scale business deployment use of desktops actually use KDE and we continue to hear lies and FUD from RH/gnome/ximian even now.

gnome is the CDE version of linux- just as ibm, sun and hp converged on CDE ( inspite of far better alternatives available even decades ago), RH, novell ( which for curiously unknown reasons bought gnome founder ximian) and the lackey shuttleworth's project ubuntu all formed the gnome covenant. They have continued to promote gnome, via marketing and FUD.

That is the history as I know it.


Marcus's picture

GNOME3 really rocks. Of course it takes some time to get used to it, but it's definitly worth trying.



Aparaatti's picture

I have to second that, and in my experience it's not that much heavier than standard gnome 2 is. I have used a lot small desktops like iceWm, open box, xfce and xmonad, but of these I have really stayed with xmonad+dmenu combination, and to me gnome 3 on terms of work flow resembles a lot what xmonad+dmenu has to offer. Someone else also hinted above to another tiling window manager+dmenu combination, so maybe it's not just me.

So gnome 3 is "heavy" on resources, but it also manages windows really well and has basic things working out of the box (the thing smaller projects often don't have). I didn't really have reason to use gnome 2, since it didn't have any panel apps I needed, didn't need the menu, since these speedy find utilities are way faster, and compiz with wobbling windows and rolling desktop cube? Not much use of them. Gnome 2 did not offer (me) much more than xfce offered, while still being heavier.

On the other hand I have been a little annoyed lately on the constant changing between desktop and shell in gnome 3, it could be a little more peaceful to use, but I guess there's got to be some kind of interface. Besides the introduction of shell gives a really fast and straightforward access to any application or file and at the same time allows to manage windows easily. The bird eye view of all windows is also something I just don't have in xmonad. In it I had to often jump through multiple workspaces before I found the app I wanted, since I didn't come up with a simple enough system to choose workspaces for different apps intuitively.

Anyway I'm really curious on where gnome 3 will evolve. What kind of extensions there will be... wish I'll be getting thunderbird lightning integrated to the calendar...


I should also mention that I use gnome 3 on laptop, so it's a rather small screen.

Excellent article!

LeoM's picture

The only thing I would add to this great article is that the recent success of Android is a great example of how open source technologies including linux desktops can/should thrive: a corporation needs to take all that good stuff and shape it into a consumer oriented, polished product. Apple did it with *bsd, google with the kernel + Java in android and webkit in chromeOS, Intel is trying with Meego and the list goes

In the meantime, we lucky geeky bastards get to enjoy a plethora of desktop options created largely by volunteers and packaged for us in easy to use distributions. Life is good!

On my machines there are a

Anonymous's picture

On my machines there are a plethora of WM/DEs installed. They are all good but the ones designed to be eye-candy-ish come in real handy when showing my computer off to someone who never (knowingly) used linux. But I do agree that there should be a fork of gnome2; it promotes too much user efficiency to be abandoned.

RE: Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

Anonymous's picture

I've tried Gnome 3 myself on Fedora 15 and didn't care for it. I'm using Debian 6. I've said it before and probably so have others, fork Gnome 2 into "Gnome Classic" and make Gnome 3 "Gnome[pick-a-name]." Saying Gnome 3 a "breakaway from Windows/Mac..." clouds the issue which is change for change sake. The only thing I can see this change does is irritate almost everyone. Add features, make options, i.e. WinXP's Fisher-Price look back to Win Classic.


salparadise's picture

KDE on Slackware.

Everything else just sucks.

Fedora and Gnome3

Chris___ 's picture

I may be in the minority but on my netbook I particularly enjoy Gnome3. It works well for the smaller screen and because most of what I do is either in the terminal or web browser, I do not feel like anything much has been taken away. It is a clean and modern looking desktop that is easy on the eyes.

I have not used it on a full desktop system and I have not spent much time using a GUI file manager in it so my opinion may change whenever I get around to it. It will probably be some time before I get to that point. On my netbook I am more than happy with it. I wonder how many people that put down Gnome3 have spent any time working with it and learning it.

KDE for me

Gnome 4?'s picture

I use KDE 4 because I absolutley love Digikam, but I use it as a traditional desktop. I don't take advantage of the widgets at all. One positive aspect of KDE 4, however, is I have become much better at organizing my files since using the desktop as a virtual flat surface is no longer convenient. I thank the developers for that. Also, regardless of the desktop one chooses, the price can't be beat. The developers and companies who devote so much time and resources deserve an awful lot of gratitude from us gripers.

Could you please explain to

Anonymous's picture

Could you please explain to me what you mean by:
"One positive aspect of KDE 4, however, is I have become much better at organizing my files since using the desktop as a virtual flat surface is no longer convenient."

Still like the command line

barton's picture

I agree with Linus, the new Gnome, KDE and Unity desktops are not my favorites. I still do a lot of my work from the command line and always have one or two terminals open all the time. I am using Ubuntu but have not upgraded to Unity. I also use LinuxMint which has not gone the Unity road yet. I liked Gnome2 and think that Xfce is a step back.

I am sure a lot of people like and want an interface that is more MS-Windows or MacOSX like. I am sure that there are a lot of Linux users who have never seen the command line prompt via a terminal -- more power to them (or should I say less power to them).

I like the flexibility that Linux gives me. When Windows 7 came out without the "Classic" interface I was really mad. I hardly every use Windows except for testing web sites on IE but I was still mad that Microsoft didn't give me that old "Classic" interface I knew.

Mac OSX is just to cute for me and they have changed the entire file system structure (for who knows what reason) which makes using the command line difficult. Why, why, why?

Command line is still available in Unity

Fidel Viegas's picture

Hi Barton,

The command line is still available in Unity, and I don't think it will ever be ditched.

I was configuring an Ubuntu 11.04 machine and I was still able to access it even though I was finding it difficult to find the apps. But there is always the good old Alt+F2 shortcut that allows you to run any app.

All the best,


Xfce FTW

likemindead's picture

I do tend to distro-hop but for the last three years I always end up back at Xubuntu.

ever since ubuntu switched to unity...

samqdos's picture

I went for lxde (/w peppermint) and seriously I like it, it's fast, light and simple. I've never liked KDE (it makes my eyes bleed :) ) nor XFCE, E17, Fluxbox, AmiWM, Sawfish, IceWM...

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