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KDE: It’s time for a fork

OK, I’ve now tried KDE 4.1. I’d been assured that it would be better than KDE 4.0x. It is. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I still find KDE 4.1 to be inferior to KDE 3.5x.

KDE’s developers believe that KDE 4.1 “can fully replace KDE 3 for end users.” I don’t see it.

There are some fundamental changes for the better. Qt4, the cross-platform application framework, which underlies KDE 4 takes up less memory and should result in faster performance. I haven’t seen the promised performance benefits, but then KDE 4.1 is still in beta, whatever ‘beta’ means. So, in this setting—Kubuntu 8.04 and openSUSE 11 on Intel dual-core systems with two gigabytes of RAM—I’ll let KDE 4.1’s poor performance go by without additional comment.

My real problems with KDE 4.1 is far more fundamental. The developers believe that they have a better way of handling the desktop. For them, I’m sure they do. For users, this user anyway, the new desktop fails at a desktop’s main job: enabling the user to get their work done as easily as possible.

Take, for example, that in the new Dolphin file manager, the developers claim, and I quote, “Selecting files is made easier by a small + button in the top left corner that selects the file, rather than opens it. This change makes using the file-manager in single-click mode much easier and prevent accidentally opening files, while being intuitive and easy to use.”

OK, so what part of using a small + button to select a file sounds easy to you? The rationale for creating Dolphin in the first place was to make a file manager that was easier than the powerful but complex Konqueror. This small addition of a button strikes me as a perfect example of making something more complex than it needs to be. This is especially annoying since the idea was to reduce complexity, not add to it.

I could go on, but I’m not going to bother. KDE 4.1 is full of visual improvements that dont’ improve anything. You can see KDE 4’s Plasma interface for yourself. Maybe it will work for you. It certainly doesn’t work for me.

KDE 4 developers, lead by Aaron Seigo, wanted to make a radical change to the desktop. They have. However, in so doing, I don’t think that they have made that classic engineering mistake of making something that’s great for them, but not for users.

Seigo assures me that he can explain what KDE developers are doing to me. I’m sure he sincerely believes that. Unfortunately, in so doing, he’s making my point for me. Desktops shouldn’t need explanations They should just let you do your work. KDE 4.1 gets in the way of my doing work.

Is it because I’m an old foggie? Maybe.

But, I doubt it. I pick up new desktops and interfaces all the time. Switching from one system to another is second-nature to me. KDE 4.1 has taken KDE down a path I don’t want to follow. So, I have a suggestion. Fork KDE.

This is open source. All forking a project really requires is that developers and end-users decide that another path is a better path. So it is that I’m suggesting that if some developers decided that they could build a better KDE by revisiting KDE 3.5’s vision of the desktop, they’d find many users more than willing to give it a try.

For starters, rebuilding KDE 3.5 with the latest version of Qt should result in a faster, more effective KDE 3.x—KDE Classic?–even without any new features or other features backported from KDE 4.1, that already sounds like a compelling desktop to me. What you think folks? Is KDE Classic worth a try?


  1. Pingback: La lotta tra il nuovo ed il vecchio KDE at Linux e dintorni

  2. @swbobcat
    I think that in final 4.1 you will find a “launch option” for the fileview container to block it fullscreen without the possibility to shrunk it to an icon.
    From kde 4.0 to Kde 4.1 … a lot of costumization options/menus have appeared … and 4.1 is not ready yet … and I believe that the svn evolution I’m seein wil continue until the end of July.

    I have an Acer Aspire 1520 … a 5 years old AMD64 laptop … is that old enough?
    I see a big difference of speed for kde when I use the “packaged” version for suse … or the svn vesion on my gentoo. The svn version i much faster than kde3.5.9 … and it has still a lot of Debug code inside. The precompiled Suse version is “strange” … it seems that effects are on even if they are disabled … so, it’s not as fast as the svn on gentoo.

  3. I’m with sjvn on this. KDE 4.x seems to focus on the ‘look’ rather than how users get their work done. I would prefer that applications would remember their settings next time I open them. Things like window size and position, what the headings were for columns, their spacing, etc. Even more fundamentally, if I have selected ‘detailed’ view in Dolphin, and have taken the time to set it up how I like files to be shown, I don’t appreciate all of that being wiped and replaced by the default ‘icon’ view Every time I open the application. Having to set that up repeatedly is just getting in the way of getting my work done.

    I would prefer all this to be remembered automatically (as it is in Windows); but at least I can set it to be so in KDE 3.5.x, and get on with my work. KDE 4.x, at the moment, just gets in the way. It has a long way to go before it becomes anywhere near as useful as its predecessor, which is really a shame, as there is a great repository of extremely useful codebase potentially about to go to waste.

    In pursuing ‘simplicity’ and going mainly for looks, it seems that KDE developers are trying to create a KDE for GNOME users. My comments here are precisely why I avoid GNOME. It will also be why I will avoid a ‘GNOME-ised’ KDE.

  4. @geoff_f
    I really would like to see 1 wishlist bug opened every 1000 complaints … that is the point.

  5. Pingback: Desktop: Heftige Auseinandersetzungen um KDE4 - Linux Hilfe Forum

  6. @sjvn:
    The thing I like very much about KDE (espacially as sorely afflicted ex-Windows-User) is choice: you have the choice to stay with KDE3 which is already a great desktop and wait till KDE f.e. 4.4 or to switch now. You have the choice to use konqueror or dolphin, since both will be developed further, you have the Choice to use one mouse-click or two (when you have problems to find a plus ;-)).
    So what is your problem? Windows-user waited 5 years for some crap like Vista – and they even don’t have KDE3.

    You’re telling aseigo, that this is nothing personal. As neutral watcher I have a very different impression. The way you’re talking about KDE4 sounds like you’re talking about an ex-girlfriend who has left you. 😉

    I mean, your ranting about the + button: I’m a doubleclick-mouse kde-user, but even I are considering to switch to one-click for the first time. (Well, I have the choice.) I have my file-buttons always as small as possible, but even I have no problem the push the +. What are you? A tremble 70 years old man?

    @asiego: I came here to this site over a (german-written) artikel about this ranting here ( In the thread there, where 20+ people discussed KDE4 everybody except for one person likes KDE4. Everybody understands, that it is work in progress, but that it is amazing work in progress (this has been explained often enough), that its absolutely worth to wait.

  7. Pingback: KDE 4.1 / misc. | cost

  8. > I pick up new desktops and interfaces all the
    > time.

    really? so, what new desktops and ‘interfaces”
    (whatever that is, without regard to desktops)
    are those? i’m only familiar with those that
    have been in existence for quite a long time,
    such as KDE and GNOME and CDE and XFCE,
    and so on. or maybe you’re talking about new
    “releases” of those desktops (?).

    > Switching from one system to another is
    > second-nature to me. KDE 4.1 has taken KDE
    > down a path I don’t want to follow.

    an easy solution – run KDE 3.x and quit ranting
    about KDE 4.x until it’s prime time. if KDE 4.x
    bothers you so much, have you provided any
    feedback through the proper channels? or are
    you simply voicing your feedback through your
    blog? (yawn).

    > So, I have a suggestion. Fork KDE.

    that’s laughable, to say the least. you should not
    “call the shots”, or at the very least, “make a
    suggestion”, unless you understand the underpinnings, which you admittedly don’t.

    you used to speak in a more positive tone, even
    when you had “negative feedback”, but you’ve
    become a ranter without providing positive points
    concerning a better direction.

    warm regards, mjt, author, “Inside Linux”.

  9. Pingback: Fork KDE? What the fork? « Celettu’s Weblog

  10. Pingback: Lantern Torch » Blog Archive » What's all the fuss with KDE 4?

  11. I think that a fork would have been truly nice:)

    I thougt kde4 was 2 be somthing intresting at first but when it was realesed and they stated that not all themes and styles and function in kicker and kde3.5 kwin is not to be ported to kde4 and when distros start dissing kde3 for somthing shine and uggly -yay uggly! kde4 is uggly at the moment atleast.

    and start think of changing theway you use the desktop and forching it on peaople is stupid, giving alternatives is fine be me but when dissing what works is simply insane.

    not that ether native linux style or win styl is the best but the hybryd is the smothest.

    i can think to start use kde4 desaktop whn plasma suports domino style, and window deckoration dekorator, and multiline taskbars (i have 3 vertical levels off the activytybar and 20windows + and no gruping)

    and singelklick is stupid and demands that you have full controll and are not tired and so on and so on..

    And why have a dilog whit someone that has a fixed mindset? nah beter starting a momvment of disident against it to force tham to change thaier minds and provide a fork.

  12. I can’t be the only one who isn’t clear on this.

    What exactly is a fork? Is it taking the KDE 3 paradigm and continuting to build and expamd on it, or can it mean simply keeping KDE3 alive with bugfixes and security updates into perpetuity? Is there any reason why the second option wouldn’t be viable?

    The KDE establishment is terrified of a fork because it will thin the developer resources, and they warn that such a thing would be impractical and unlikely to secceed, and they’re probably right.

    But I feel pretty certain that I’d rather not switch. I have special needs. My desktop isn’t KDE, it’s fluxbox used to manage mostly KDE applications, with Konqueror and Kpager at the center of everything I’ve run KDE 4.1 for several hours now, and I know that I can live with KDE4, but I’d rather continue with KDE3. There’s no doubt about that, I already have my own Desktop paradigm, that I created myself from what was provided by others, and I couldn’t be happier. The world doesn’t revolve around me. of course, but maybe other people also have special needs. So a need for KDE 3 may exist.

    But do we need to move KDE 3 forward? As long as KDE3 stays secure, I don’t really see much need for new development. Indeed, people who want to resist change yet continue to change KDE3 seem kind of unreasonable to me. But this is not my area of of expertise. So can someone tell me if bugfixes and security updates, and nothing more, might be a low maintenance solution for KDE3?

    Does that count as a fork? A little basic talk about what a fork is might be helpful.

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