Open Ballot: Has KDE become a second class desktop?


Last week, it was announced that Canonical are no longer going to fund Jonathan Riddell to work on Kubuntu. Add to that, Aaron Seigo has also announced that his funding to work on KDE development is also coming to an end. This got us thinking, has KDE become a second class desktop on Linux?

No major distribution ships it by default openSUSE is the only major distribution to ship it by default, its funding is being cut back, and it seems that, when people talk about alternatives to Gnome Shell or Unity, it's XFCE that gets mentioned.

What do you think: Is KDE slipping in mind share and importance? Or maybe you see a bright future for this desktop, as Qt and other KDE technologies spread on to mobile devices and TVs? Let us know in the comments. We'll be reading out a selection on this week's podcast, and of course we'll be throwing in our own thoughts too.

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Your comments

"No major distribution ships

"No major distribution ships it by default" - have we forgotten OpenSUSE?? #4 on Distrowatch

Choice at install?

Jon here, since I wrote this:

my understanding is/was that openSUSE offers the user a choice at install time. Looks like I was wrong though, so I'll correct it in the post. I should probably go and install openSUSE right now, since I clearly don't know enough about it.


First Class Desktop for Power Users

I think KDE is a first class desktop for power users, especially on a multi-monitor setup. It probably is a little too involved for day to day computing, with too many configurable options for an average user. However, if you regularly have to flit between disparate and relatively involved tasks, KDE gives you the flexibility to configure your desktop environment in the manner that best suits your working style. It's only natural that a simpler DE such as Gnome or XFCE is favoured by quick-deployment distros in order to improve first-time user experience. Whenever I install Linux for a new user I always go with something simple (Mint now, Ubuntu previously) to lessen the gradient of what is already a steep learning curve. I would be interested to see a breakdown of which DE users choose to install for a more complex, DE agnostic distro like Arch.

KDE is still my first choice!

To be honest, I don't know why Gnome is popular, as far as I'm concerned KDE is a better desktop environment (more attractive and more usable).

Perhaps if there was less FUD about one of the best KDE distros (openSUSE), it would be more popular.

My suggestion is: if you haven't tried KDE in a while, give openSUSE/KDE a spin. It is continues to improve.

Down with KDE! Up with XFCE!

Down with KDE! Up with XFCE! KDE is too bulky.


The fact that they chose to stop funding one developer who was working on Kubuntu has next-to-nothing to say for KDE as a whole, and possibly not too much even for Kubuntu. Canonical has to focus its financial efforts into making their main product viable, so having another spin of the same product which also loses money doesn't make sense at all.

"Look, they killed KDE!" seems like a bit of an overreaction, doesn't it? But I guess people want another reason to hate on Canonical these days, so speculation like this is probably welcome.

Confused about appeal of Gnome??

You know, I finally got fed up with lack of control and choice with M$ about 4 years ago and made the switch to Linux. At the time I had reviewed a lot of DE's and went with KDE. First went with Kubuntu, then openSUSE, and now Arch. Couldn't be happier. So with things going good I decided to also switch over the family and kids to Linux as well and went with MINT Gnome since I thought it would be easier. You know what, I've been listening to nothing but complaints and confusion for the past 6 months. Ready to move them over to KDE as well. There is something about the new Gnome 3 interface that is either not intuitive or too many clicks to get anything done. Maybe I just need to spend more time with it, but don't see the appeal.

+1 KDE user here.

I've preferred KDE since my start on the Linux journey with SuSE 7.1 way back when. My current favourite distro is Mepis which is effectively KDE only. (Assuming you count antiX to be a seperate distro these days.) Mepis is at #36 on Distrowatch so although not one of the big boys, it's still up there to some degree. I think most people will have heard of it.

No Second

Sorry but KDE is the first to no second.

so slackware is ignored

As far as I have check slackware ships kde by default and it is major distort. It is 17 on distrowatch but is one of the originals and arch is 6 on distrowatch and is also kde focused. So no its not dead and will never be put to the way side. The desktop is still important and people need to easily configure there desktop when the auto things break.

KDE becoming aggravating

I've been a KDE fan for many years and love some of the new changes that came with version 4 but there are just too many drawbacks for a new user.

Turning off the aggravating on-screen messages is a simple example, how do you keep nepomuk from nattering at you?

Once you have icons on your desktop how do you deal with the aggravation of them being random widths and not re-sizable using the drag handle?

KDE settings are a nightmare, what is buried where and what do the options really do? Quick, how do you set new windows to open centered in the screen?

If I was new to this I'd probably switch and I dread giving a copy to someone new and having to deal with the very unreasonable learning curve.

KDE is simply too much for a normal user

I've been using for somewhere between 3 and 4 years now and I have only started getting into using KDE. I started using Ubuntu as my first distribution and gnome was just intuitive (gnome 2 mind you) and quick. KDE was always bulky and slow and required too much time for me to use it. Currently, I use KDE 4.8 with Fedora 16 and I really like it, but it did take me that extra 10 or so minutes to get the effects and the composition of the desktop to be the way I wanted it. To KDE's benefit, multi monitor desktop setup is the single easiest thing in the world and it does it all for you (come on gnome do I really have to tell you I have two monitors?).

I think Gnome 3 and Unity will eventually mature to the point where all users will at least give them the time of day, but on a low power setup I would choose XFCE any day.

It's Ubuntu's fault

If Ubuntu hadn't been quite so popular, we might have seen more people migrating from Windows to fedora / OpenSUSE / Mandriva instead.

With Ubuntu blatantly favouring the Gnome desktop and so many people installing it, it's no wonder so many new users favoured Gnome. I know I did.

I believe KDE is on a decline. It's a shame really for many reasons, not least of which is that it's the closest in appearance to Windows 7, so it should be more comfortable for people to switch to than Gnome or Unity.

I also prefer KDE to Gnome 3, but haven't found a Debian based distro to favour it. They all seem to have Gnome as default (or shell, or unity or cinnamon etc) and KDE as an afterthought. I think it'll always play second fiddle to Gnome.

KDE rides first class!

Putting KDE first (or second) over another alternative needs some qualifying, because it's not ideal for every computer, nor every user.

There are some great KDE-based distros out there (Sabayon, PCLinuxOS, Mepis, OpenSUSE, Pardus, Kubuntu) but I currently use Linux Mint 12 KDE, which is far from a second-class respin. I personally think it's the best distro for what I do (multimedia, graphic design and video editing) but then it's more about the applications rather than the desktop. I prefer the QT-based Digikam, Kontact, Clementine, Kdenlive and K3B over their GTK+ alternatives.

In a way, KDE is very much the Deluxe Desktop for the discerning PC user, because it's sleek, stylish and runs like a dream on a new computer. It will also do everything you want it to. Yes, it has tons of options, but you can happily ignore most of them since the default set-up is usually fine.

Right at this moment, I think KDE offers the best stable and traditional desktop design (in the Windows sense) available on Linux & BSD. If you love QT-based apps, then clearly this is the best choice, but with Unity and Gnome still immature, for full desktop functionality, KDE really does set the benchmark.

It's definitely first-class, but should deserve more attention than it gets.

Not necessarily second class

KDE has been a victim of its own developers, it has many first-class applications and is potentially capable of doing almost anything one might require. However, neglect of core functions like KDE PIM and apparently functionless bloat (like the file indexing that doesn't seem to make finding files any quicker or more accurate) don't do it any favours.
It's still a better single-click desktop that either Gnome or XFCE (by which I mean single-click works in all windows and dialogue boxes).
I'd love to move back to KDE full time, having grown up with it as a Linux user, but I migrated to Thunderbird for email and I've got used to the single/double-click peculiarities of Gnome 2.x and XFCE, so I'll probably just go with XFCE on my next major system upgrade.

Personally, I left KDE a

Personally, I left KDE a long time ago (been a Gnome user since 2002), and have not looked back since. I have latched on Ubuntu since it came out because it worked better with my hardware choice at the time than Fedora did. I liked what KDE had to offer with KDE 4, but it seemed like their UI didn't really click with me. I like Gnome's UI and now Unity's UI. I personally don't think KDE is second class desktop I just prefer GTK apps over QT ones.

A War on Qt

Microsoft has killed Delphi when Kylix was launched. A multi-platform IDE for a already established developer base based on Qt. Bye bye Borland. Elop shuts down Symbian and Meego, by the time Nokia got Qt as a unified platform for developing apps for it's devices.

Is Qt always too late or I smell conspiracy here?

I love KDE

I run Arch and KDE runs just as fast as Gnome 3. It could not be much more configurable so I can have it set up exactly how I find useful. On KDE I can have it set to be like LXDE, Gnome 2, Gnome 3, OSX or whatever else I can dream up. I love it. Anyone who has not tried 4.7 or 4.8 should give it a go because in my opinion KDE is becoming very good. Im not (yet) a programmer so I cannot really comment on QT vs GTK.

It is a shame about Riddell

KDE has always been my desktop of choice, although making me weep at moments through the early 4 releases and still has annoying niggles. It clearly is a shame that Jonathan is not going to be funded. The sort of plumbing work that he was funded to do (printer configuration springs to mind) makes KDE a joy compared to a certain non-free desktop in that respect.

That Aaron's funding is ending I am not so concerned about. He will be pursuing a Tablet + Plasma future, which is one I have little or no interest in. I find the alternate nature of the Plasma desktop's widgets created a double-paradigm desktop on KDE which jars; pretty as it is. To my mind Aaron has been focusing on the tablet direction fruitfully but to the detriment of the traditional desktop.

In fact the Desktop / Tablet split is becoming clear everywhere with Unity and Gnome Shell aiming at tablet space too (fortunately Gnome Shell is flexible to be remixed to a Desktop paradigm.) I think that it is next to impossible to have a unity of paradigms when the means of input differ in subtle but important ways.

It may be the beginning of the end for Kubuntu, but I very much doubt it for KDE, although some more paid developers would be nice!

Why do you even ask?

I really think we're reading a whole lot more into Canonical dropping official support for Kubuntu. (Do we really want the project to be lead by the great company that made Unity default on Ubuntu?) KDE is still just as ever. I've only used Kubuntu once (KDE 4.7 kicked my poor, underpowered laptop to an early grave), but I was quite impressed by it and I think, as distros such as Arch and Mint have shown us, community-driven does not at all spell disaster for a distro. On the contrary, I think Gnome is the DE that needs to start sweating, there's only so much more time we can squeeze out of Gnome 2 before it becomes totally obsolete. Also, I've been hurt to my soul that you've counted Slackware as "not a major distro".

Categorical not

We all know the reasons Canonical dropping support - they need all new users to focus on Ubuntu and the Ubuntu related products. That's why there isn't a KDE client for Ubuntu One as well.

There are a lot of distributions offering KDE as a default choice (besides Kubuntu) as: Mageia, Mandriva, Chakra, Pardus, Mepis, openSUSE, Sabayon, PCLinuxOS, and more. PC-BSD uses KDE as default too!

I use Netrunner at the moment and the experience is pretty awesome!

KDE 4.8 was just released and it's really a nice improvement. Plasma on Mer and the tablet was announced, which is another nice improvement! Calligra will be Final soon which will shake some ground too.

These kind of kde-dead-style posts just demotivate the KDE community and the KDE and Kubuntu contributiors. Not good!


I went to the effort to try and learn KDE4.8 and I had a pleasant enough experience, if not enjoyable. It just felt too big, not bloated, my computer is powerful enough to run pretty much everything so I had no way to measure performance. It just felt like there was so much that could be used I just went back to XFCE.

It's possible that's way it's packaged, kdeedu, kdeaccessability etc, but it's just way more than I could need.

I have nothing bad really to say about KDE, I just didn't enjoy it, guess it's a preference thing.

KDE's alive, well and living in Paris

Ubuntu is slipping in the ratings though.

KDE, Gnome, and Unity are all second class bloathog desktops.

'nuff said

too many turns

For every turn in KDE, there seem to be three or four strring-wheels getting you there. Even though I know I'm in the minority, I'll stick with Openbox or Xfce [crunchbang].

Superior programs, inferior desktop

I'm a *buntu user, typically sticking with Xubuntu, but having the other DEs available at login. I just find the KDE desktop to be too clicky for my tastes. I get particularly annoyed that when I 'apt-get install kubuntu-desktop', it completely takes over my boot-up, and login screens.

While my favourite desktop at the moment is XFCE though, I tend to immediately remove some of the stock programs in favour of KDE ones - Okular, kdenlive, k3b to name a few. They're highly featured, and well organised. I'll give Mint/Cinnamon a go when the next Mint comes out, but it's XFCE for me now.

The 'Apple' type

I think KDE has become more of a 'premium' type of desktop like the Apple equivalent of PCs.

Actually KDE was the first

Actually KDE was the first DE I used and have always been my first choice, besides a while just after the 4.x cycle began. It's simple enough, works great and doesn't treat you like your a 8 year old, e.g. all I want from a DE.

KDE user since 4.2 speaking here...

I actually think KDE is growing in popularity now, quietly. Especially in media coverage, it's future is with Qt, and it's future is in mobile, as is everyone's.

Linux on the desktop is losing relevance, we have to face that now. This is primarily because we're going through the biggest revolution since the GUI, web 3.0 if you like. Everyone's losing relevance to your average consumer, other than the mobile devices, our desktops are slowly evolving into web browsers, that's the reality whether people like it or not, we laugh at chrome books now but in 5 years it's a feasible device.

With this in mind, every desktop has to evolve, and that includes Linux.

I think KDE4/Qt are about to explode, KDE4 is more than a desktop, it's a framework, you can build whatever you want with and around these pieces, I mean, look at Plasma Active. I find that really exciting.

Kubuntu was always second class, always lackluster, it always seemed far less stable than other KDE4 distros, ans that was due to lack of support from the beginning. It's sad to see it lose funding, but I don't think it ever had enough to be great anyhow.

In conclusion, then, all Linux desktops are losing relavance, and are rapidly trying to innovate, KDE4 did the hard work at 4.0, the others need to catch up. I think we'll see it rise in popularity in the next year or so, even if it seems second class now. But I'm probably wrong!

Also, has everyone seen Spark? It's pretty freakin' cool.

It's not dead, merely pining

I used to be a big KDE fan, prior to version 4 anyway. The nonsense about KDE4 moved me to Gnome and that's where I've stayed.

However, now that good old Gnome2 is being phased out, then maybe it's come time to look at KDE4 again. Especially as Gnome3 is reputedly as unusable (unintuitive and bloated) as Unity is.

So there's my conclusion - Gnome3 and Unity may reawaken interest in KDE4. There's certainly no love for the "single DE to rule them all", so there's space for it.

The Sun Will Rise Tomorrow

After 4 years of trying distros like Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, OpenSuse, CrunchBang and others, losing "official" support for Kubuntu doesn't mean much to me.

KDE does not belong to Canonical...they just use it. Any user could patch up there own system with the K just as easily.

I think KDE is great but I have never been able to wrap my head around the configurations. I don't want to sound like the president of the Mike Saunders Fan Club, but XFCE is simple and elegant!

Choice is good for all and the sun will rise tomorrow!

Yes Of course!

KDE has become a second class desktop because:

- KDE 4.0 sent many of KDE users away from it.

- Ubuntu is the most popular distro by a large margin and doesn't use KDE.

- XFCE is seen as the alternative to Unity/Gnome not KDE.

KDE Distro's

Sorry Jon, I think there are a number of distributions which ship KDE as their default/preferred desktop environment - Chakra, PCLinuxOS, Sabayon, Mandriva and Mageia come to mind. In my experience, KDE is very easy to customise and offers a very attractive/intuitive user interface. For this reason, KDE will always remain a viable alternative to GNOME or Unity (if not better)

Diehard KDE user!

I don't know what all this talk is about Gnome's superiority to KDE. I have used KDE for years now and it is yet to let me down. Being a power user, I just can't cope with Gnome's lack of control. My experience with Windows? Yuck! Open source all the way!

I dont think so

When KDE changed at 4.0, there was a migration away from it. When Gnome changed at 3.0, there was a migration away from it. All this did was to elevate desktops like XFCE to a more a prominent position. Will distros at the top of Distrowatch start shipping with XFCE by default? I don't think most distros will take this approach, but I wouldn't be surprised if more started shipping with KDE soon.

Linux Mint is at the top of Distrowatch at the moment and Cinnamon will soon be the default. Will others pick it up? It is shaping up to be a decent replacement for Gnome.

One more thing, it looks like Ubuntu has started a little war against... well, everyone. I expect they will drop further down the ladder before they wake up. Then again, who needs several different versions of the same thing? Also, Unity sucks.

Chakra is on the way

Why hasn't anyone mentioned chakra?
it's a kde-only distro with semi-rolling update mechanism that some people think it's the best kde implementation ever,
Really it's fast, faster than OpenSuse that I have on the same machine.
Overall KDE is the only usable DE nowadays IMO, it's faster than Unity, easier than GNOME 3, and obviously it's prettier,
When I was using Unity it takes with no apps open a whole gig on my RAM, with KDE it's under half a gig with most desktop effects turned on.

KDE is the DE for me!

I find KDE and its programmes much more visually appealing than Gnome/GTK ones. However, I'm a pragmatist when it comes to software and will use a Gnome/GTK programme where I find it to be better. Strangely enough though, I do find that Thunderbird looks better on openSUSE 11.4/KDE than on Mint 10/Gnome. I tried standard Ubuntu (with Gnome) during its ascendency but I couldn't see what all the fuss was about. I thought it was ugly, I couldn't configure anything to be how I liked it, there was no single Gnome configurator but several separate ones for each aspect of Gnome that was configurable. I also couldn't find programmes easily, a problem confirmed in LXF 155's article on Penguins in Africa. With KDE and openSUSE, there is a plethora of programmes in the K menu just waiting for almost all of your computing needs.

KDE second class

Excuse my cynicism, but it could be Canonical not funding Kubuntu may be to 'encourage' us to use Unity.

by no means, my dear Watson

I've just switched to KDE (the newest Mint release) after years of using Gnome. Gnome 3 has become largely unusable to me, with its pathetic customization options (for God's sake, I'm not going to look for an extension - which might not even exist - to change a little aspect of the interface, that's just ridiculous). Gnome2 was pretty configurable, yet simple. KDE 3 seemed awkward and ugly. But KDE 4 is a different story: it's beautiful, it is fully configurable, a bit on the complex side, but nothing to scare off anybody who has been exposed to computers for a couple of years. I think (or at least hope) that KDE IS the future of Linux desktop computing. Linux Mint is now the most popular distro, and although it's default desktop is based on Gnome, the new KDE desktop is very promising and might change the landscape a bit. And there are others, some people have mentioned OpenSuse, I've tried Chakra (which is brilliant, except for its very under-supplied repositories).

bah... desktop environments

KDE is boring.

Fluxbox or Openbox with Midnight Commander and a terminal FTW!

And those mouseless environments like Ratpoison are niftier that you'd think... Like the memory of a hazy dream about a parallel dimension's paradigm shift.

they'll all be doing this

New to kde more or less, so only cursorily familiar with the idea of a fallout about kde 4, etc... and do not care about it.
Having recently checked out 4.8 I have to say one thing I am very impressed with is the 'activities' feature.
Given the move to mobile platforms, and the increasing hardware capability of those platforms, I think all operating systems will be moving to a similar idea.
It's clear that shortly we will have tablets or phones which can be used portably and then docked and used as full-on desktop systems.
As that comes about the ability to easily switch between fully customized environments will be needed.
KDE 4.8 is a real step ahead here.


Even just a few years ago, it felt like a duopoly with all the other DE's being fringe elements that a few die hards used. Ever since the Unity and Gnome 3 debacle people have taken a closer look at their DE and the competition instead of just taking what they had for granted. At the same time, new and old players had become more usable in that time. There is certainly a sizable group of people unhappy with Unity who have switched to Mint or XFCE where in the past they may have switched to KDE as the only other viable choice.

Bottom line: When faced with more competition, KDE has lost support. In the end, it's better for everybody.



What do I care, last time I had a full blown DE was a decade ago. There is nothing they can offer me that I want but can't get as a standalone application and it leaves me free to pick whatever WM I want.

Having said that, I have fond memories of KDE because it was installed on the university machines. Yes, back in the day not every student had a laptop. I know, can you imagine? Pity how the whole thing turned out. Someone fork an old version, stop creating new paradigms and just keep it updated.

KDE could make it, but I don't know why they dont...

KDE has been my first choice, since Mandrake 9.1 (what year was that?). Back then I installed both KDE and Gnome (i even forgot what version both were then?) on my old Intel Pentium II PC with 256 ram, and surprisingly KDE ran better than gnome. Since then, whenever I got my over new distro (SUSE, RedHat, and then openSUSE, Fedora, then, Ubuntu,etc), KDE would always be my first choice of DE. It was sleek, beautiful, responsive, and I loved it soooo~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ much!!!!

..then KDE4 was born........
At first, when I saw the preview of it, some screenshots, I was impressed. "This thing gonna be cool", I thought. So, when it became available, I installed it on my Slackware (ver 10 or 11, i don't remember). And My first click on it, ruined every expectation I had. "Where's my desktop icon, where's my cool panel..where's...where's..?". So after exploring a while, I decided to throw it away. 3.5 was much, much better.

After that, I decided to hanging around with Gnome 2 for a while until 4.5 came out, I decided to go back. But, although it is pretty, it still never gives my better feeling than what I had in 3.5 days.
Login is slow, annoying useless animation, plasma is ugly (I hate those control buttons,ugly).

I really miss those days when everything was zap zap. I miss baghira, domino.

My hope for KDE team is, make everything simpler, that's what most user want. Make customization easier, especially in theme making. QtCurve is great, but it has it's limitation. Gnome has new beautiful theme almost every month.

That's it. I know I said a lot of sh*t. But I just want to express my "rage" that has been piling up over years.
Oh, and I don't speak English (in case you don't understand anything I said)


I remember Tuxradar doing a podcast to address people peeved by their negativity, in particular towards KDE.

They say they want what's best for Linux and use it every day so they should know...

But I doubt many of them have tried KDE properly for any decent amount of time. It's just like a Windows/Mac user giving up on Linux at the first obstacle.

I respect their views but if I were to place a bet it would be on KDE and not the GNOME/Cinnamon/Mate/Unity gtk-mess.

Linux is for power users so how people can complain about configurability is beyond me. KDE and it's applications, especially Dolphin, Gwenview, Okular etc. strike a perfect balance.

KDE is doing fine and it's only going to get better!

I'm switching to Chakra

I'm switching to Chakra shortly so I can use KDE instead of Gnome.

KDE is the one and only for me (still)..

I love KDE. It's THE DE for me, ever since SUSE 6.0 back in 1999. I tried Gnome a few times over the years, just out of curiosity, but that did not make it for me.
KDE is not all that shiny though. What are the developers thinking to inplement that awful Akonadi 'thing', that horrible serverconcept that only stashes mail in two different places in the local folder and makes Kontact crash and all funny if it does not. Never got the new Kontact to work properly. I have now KDE 4.7.4 and I am reluctant to upgrade to 4.8.0, because I am still working on Kontact, taken from KDE 4.6.5, as that version just does what I want it to do. But, as KDE 4.6.5 and Kontact will slowly die out, I am afraid to drop Kontact altogether and move over to Thunderbird, as that just does what I want it to do. Or will the KDE developers come to their senses and drop that overbearing Akonadi or bring in a switch to turn it off?
KDE is great and certaintly the no. 1 DE for me, but Akonadi and Kontact are now two turds in an overall tasty pie.

KDE everytime for me

I've never liked gnome and never trusted Canonical from the start. Have tried ubuntu and found it ugly and slow. Also tried gnome several times on opensuse but not for me.

Completely fed up seeing articles in more general computer magazines covering linux and they always seem to be about ubuntu. To be honest LF has been far too guilty of this too. And the tacky unity approach was just the final straw - Canonical no thank you.

KDE is not second class, Ubuntu is second class distro

Ubuntu is melting away. Power users just don't use ubuntu, while KDE is usefull for many power users.

GNOME SUCKS ASS aka GSA their new attachment extension in 3.6

Gnome SUCKS ASS I <3 KDE 4

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