Running GNOME apps in Kubuntu

These days there is a lot of discussion going on surrounding the future of Ubuntu and GNOME with respect to desktop user interface or “desktop experience”. For me personally I find a lot of good in both Canonical’s Unity and GNOME’s gnome-shell. There is, however, enough issues, both technical and political, that I have been more of a mind to try other desktop environments.

Every since KDE 4 first came out I have periodically tried it out. One of the biggest issues when I do that is that there are quite a few GNOME/GTK applications that I like and I have a hard time switching desktop environment and day-to-day applications all at once. Of course we Linux users have been able to run GNOME applications in KDE, and vice versa, for a long time but it hasn’t always been that pretty. Well, when I tried Kubuntu 11.04 on my netbook after some promoting from Scott Kitterman I was pleasantly surprised to see that my usual set of applications when I’m in Ubuntu, Firefox, Pidgin, and Xchat, worked just fine in Kubuntu complete with very native feeling (because it is) indicator support. One of the things that always turned me off about KDE was that it had a somewhat monolithic feel that seems to be melting from what I’m seeing. What I realized in my last Kubuntu adventure was that I could run KDE’s plasma desktop as a desktop but could freely go between GNOME and KDE applications without a significant difference. That may sound trivial to you, but it is pretty significant to me.

Kubuntu seems first-rate to me. I takes many of the best parts of Ubuntu like ease of installation, lots of packages, good hardware support and combines it with one of the most developer friendly and user empowering desktops I’ve ever seen.

I have two wishlist items for Kubuntu:

  1. I found it pretty hard to get KDE to look like an Ubuntu GNOME desktop. There are a ton of options, etc. but it’s hard for me to get a good theme and get everything looking like my other desktop. I love the look of GNOME.
  2. While there has been some real improvements in terms of CPU usage, KDE still takes a fair amount more RAM than GNOME/Unity on my netbook. On my Acer Aspire One with 1 GB of RAM, KDE runs at least 100MB more RAM, a 10% increase. As flexible as KDE seems to be, it seems like it ought to be possible to make a more streamlined desktop. I would love to hear suggestions!
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KDE Kudos

After Jonathan Thomas’ nice overview of KDE 4.2 Beta 1 I decided to give it a go. I’ve been mostly a Gnome guy for the past few years but I’ve been keeping my eye on KDE 4, as many people have. Each time there’s a new release I give it a test drive and while it’s certainly flashy I usually find too many bugs, incomplete implementations, and a lacking usability. That’s certainly to be expected for a platform that large changing as much as it is, but it’s still not great when you’re just trying to get some work done.

So, today I installed Kubuntu 8.10 on a spare partition and upgraded it to to 4.2 Beta 1 and I’m really impressed. KDE 4 is really getting to be functional for me. It’s always looked slick and had that new technology “smell” but with 4.2 I think it’s really getting to where I could use it daily. So well done KDE! Well done to the Kubuntu packaging team!