What do KDE 4.2 and Windows 7 have in common?

I tried, I really did, to like KDE 4.2 I really didn't like the early versions of KDE 4. I then tried KDE 4.1. I hated it. I kept getting told by people that I just didn't get it.

OK, I thought. Maybe I didn't get it. So, I gave the last KDE 4.2 beta and release candidate another try for a month on one of my openSUSE 11.1 desktops. Historically, SUSE and KDE developers work closely with each other, so openSUSE is a great distribution for any version of KDE. Well, they may work well together, but openSUSE with KDE 4.2 doesn't work for me.

Just like Windows 7 beta, which I'm running on another PC, my fundamental problem is each desktop's fundamental interface changes. In both cases, I find that, instead of helping me to get my work done, the interfaces are actually getting in the way.

On Windows 7, it's the blasted ribbon interface. The ribbon interface isn't really new. We saw a version of it in Office 2007. And, as someone who also uses Mac OS X, I know a Microsoft rip off of Apple's Dock when I see it. But, the Dock works with the Mac desktop metaphor. On Windows 7, the ribbon just gets in my way.

Any time I spend searching for how to do something that I've been doing almost by reflex for decades is time wasted. I hate to waste time.

The same is true of KDE 4.2. What I love about KDE 3.5.x is that it gave me enormous control of both the operating system and the desktop itself. KDE 4.2 simply doesn't give me the customization power I'm used to and I want. Instead of giving me an easy access to tools, KDE 4.2 forces me to hunt them down. With both Windows 7 and KDE 4.2, I feel like I'm trying to type with boxing gloves on. Everything is simply clumsier.

No where is that more painfully clear than in Kickoff, the KDE equivalent of Windows' Start button. With Kickoff you can only show one menu level at a time. This makes navigating the menu tree a real pain-in-the-rump. Last, but not least, KDE 4.2 is still slower than KDE 3.5x.

That's not to say that KDE 4.2 doesn't have improvements over KDE 4.1. It does.

One major plus is that I can finally add icons to the desktop again. It's still a nuisance because, instead of simply placing icons on the desktop, I have to place them by using the right-click item menu. Folder View is still KDE 4's most important interface and I still dislike it. There's little Folder View can do that I hadn't done for ages with virtual desktops.

I know, of course, you can do more with Folder View than you ever could do with a virtual desktop. For example, you can set up a Folder View that contains only graphic applications and displays only graphic files. I can certainly see how that would be useful. But, what I don't see is why that functionality couldn't have just been added to KDE 3.5x.

I can say the same about other clear improvements in KDE 4.2, such as the integration of the Dolphin file manager and Ark, KDE's file archive program and the return of panel customization. Why couldn't those features have simply been added to KDE 3.5? Or, for those who absolutely love the new KDE 4 desktop metaphor, why could it have been the new desktop interface be made an option rather than a replacement for KDE 3.5?

I'm not the only one who has no love for KDE 4. As Linus 'Mr. Linux' Torvalds recently said, "I used to be a KDE user. I thought KDE 4.0 was such a disaster I switched to GNOME. I hate the fact that my right button doesn't do what I want it to do. But the whole 'break everything' model is painful for users and they can choose to use something else."

In all fairness, Torvalds hasn't tried, to the best of my knowledge, the new KDE 4.2. Still, when all is said and done, to me KDE 4.2, like the Windows 7 ribbon, is change just for the sake of change, not for the sake of making things easier for users. Personally, I'm going to stick with KDE 3.5x and start spending more time with GNOME 2.24. I think you should too.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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