I have been using KDE as my desktop environment ever since I started using Linux. Everyone once in a while though, I had the urge to try out something new. I moved in and out of GNOME a couple of times. Over the past couple of months, my desire to try out something new was fuelled by the fact that a lot of really Linux savvy users that I know rarely used KDE or GNOME — most would be using something weird like Enlightenment or Fluxbox or Xfce or IceWM and so on. I didn’t want to be left behind.
So over the past few weeks, I tried out a lot of things, and it was an honest effort mind you. Just to be sure that I didn’t end up using my old desktop, I uninstalled KDE before moving on to anything else. My first shot was at Enlightenment. Lightning fast start up, slick (albeit a bit weird) looking desktop. Extremely, //extremely// configurable. I’m sure E (short for Englitenment) could be a great desktop. But its more or less useless until you spend some time configuring it. I wasn’t in the mood to do that. Besides I really missed the usual niceties of KDE/GNOME like the system tray or the task bar.
Next, I tried GNOME. To be honest, I really liked it. Damn fast, damn slick — much better than what it was when I had seriously tried it last (but that was around 3 years back). I loved the themes, the control panel — and one has to admit, GTK2 is really really good. However, a few things really disgusted me — the main GNOME panel absolutely sucked — the icons didn’t look good, they were too close together at times, no icon zooming, look cluttered at times or too far apart, and most importantly, there was no news ticker applet. Now this might seem like a silly reason for not liking GNOME, but I really miss knewsticker — its just awesome! Apart from some minor quirks, GNOME was good though. I mean look and feel apart, there’s really not much of a difference between KDE and GNOME functionally. But like most other applications (be it editors, desktops, browsers), its the minor quirks that make all the difference.
Still enthused, I went ahead and tried Xfce. I must say that I was impressed. Its faster than both GNOME and KDE. The settings manager is really well organized. Its GTK2 look is actually better than GNOME itself. And its the only thing I’ve seen so far that can really effectively use both your GNOME and KDE stuff. For instance, you could have the main panel use GNOME icons, the file manager use KDE icons and everything else use Xfce default icons. Same goes for window decorations, borders, and desktop themes. On the flip side, a news ticker was missing here as well. Also, there’s no straight forward way of adding desktop icons in Xfce (though I don’t use them much anyways). The default shell Xfce uses is xterm, which kind of sucks. I could always use konsole or gnome-terminal, but that would be kind of cheating right? Another thing I missed was an easy way to configure keys (especially multimedia keys) on my keyboard. KDE, GNOME and Enlightenment all really excel at doing this. I might be wrong of course, there might be easy way I just overlooked.
Anyways, after doing all this for a few weeks, I realized that after spending some time in configurations, more or less all of the desktops were equal as far as functionality went. But eventually I did come back to KDE. And funny as it may sound, I realize that the clinching factor in favour of KDE was the knewsticker applet :-D