Words by c.z.robertson

Misconceptions about GNOME and KDE

2003-06-27 15:43:03 UTC

John Gruber takes issue with Paul Boutin's Flipping the Switch. I think he's largely correct that Apple is not really competing with Linux. However, he has a few misconceptions about Linux, particularly about GNOME and KDE, which I'd like to put right.

Third, “Linux” is not a single platform. Technically, Linux is just a kernel, but complaints from Richard Stallman notwithstanding, it’s also become a catch-all description for any operating system built around the Linux kernel. But it is not, in any way, a desktop GUI environment such as Mac OS X or Windows.


There are several such environments for Linux, and they’re not compatible.

This is also correct, but be careful...

E.g. even if Adobe went institutionally insane and ported Photoshop to Linux’s KDE desktop environment, it wouldn’t run on a Linux machine running the GNOME desktop.

This is where it goes wrong. GNOME and KDE are not compatible, exactly, but they're not so incompatible that you have to choose between applications written for one or the other. I'm running GNOME at the moment, but not all the applications I'm running were written for GNOME. For example, I'm typing this in NEdit, which was written using the Lesstif toolkit and which knows nothing about GNOME. It doesn't look quite right compared to all the pretty GNOME apps, and if I wanted to change the fonts or colours I'd have to go and hack my .Xdefaults file rather than using the GNOME preferences dialog, but apart from that it works perfectly well. Similarly, I'm perfectly capable of running KDE apps alongside GNOME apps, and I do from time to time.

That said, though, I do try to stick with apps written for just one environment. It looks nicer, and it's easier to configure things like fonts if I can do it all in one place.

So it doesn’t even make any sense to claim that “Linux” will become the second most-popular desktop operating system — KDE and GNOME are entirely different desktop platforms.

I used to think that there would be a distinct winner and loser in the GNOME/KDE wars (which were never really wars -- for as long as I've been around it's just been good-natured competition), but there hasn't been any sign of that happening so far and it's looking less and less likely as time goes on. Now, looking at the work of freedesktop.org, it looks like there will be a period of closer cooperation.

In short, the situation for us Linux users is not so bleak as Gruber paints it.