Exploring Desktop Environments — 6

Attempting to mix-and-match components of LXQt, KDE, and TDE has been somewhat throwing the spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Not much sticks, sometimes there was a mess, but there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

LXQt seems to get along fine with KDE and TDE. LXQt works well and is snappy, but there is notable effort to create a full environment beyond the base desktop.

Mixing TDE and KDE did not do as well.

Mixing TDE with anything does not do well without sweat equity. This was an early observation — that TDE seems designed with little focus toward coexisting with other desktop environments (DEs). TDE seems mostly designed to exist by itself. One annoyance is how the two GTK theme engines affect other DEs and software. The proverbial elephant in the room is installing TDE in /opt purgatory, which introduces challenges with environment variables.

TDE could be used here in the house network as the sole DE. Other DEs all could be removed to avoid conflicts and leave a single intact environment. Not yet tested but TDE can be compiled and installed to /usr to avoid /opt purgatory as long as very little from KDE is installed. These approaches seem drastic and inflexible.

Paper cuts are one thing but usability is another. Of concern is using a text editor with support for word count, sorting, and inline spelling checks. The TDE versions of Kate and KWrite lack these features. Some work-arounds were tested but are clunky. These writing features are available in the KDE versions.

Running KDE Kate and KWrite inside TDE is doable, but usability quirks arise such as losing icon themes. That might sound esoteric, but a text editor is used here throughout much of the day. This cosmetic issue can be resolved by expanding the XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP environment variable to XDG_CURRENT_DESKTOP=TDE:KDE, but then some non KDE Qt software such Clementine and SMPlayer fail to launch. Launching KDE Kate or KWrite within TDE can be resolved with trickery such as script wrappers, *.desktop files, and keyboard shortcuts. The TDE versions are fine text editors with fewer features than the KDE versions, but getting those untested work-arounds functional is necessary to use TDE on a daily basis.

A similar challenge is the $PATH environment variable. Because of the way TDE is relegated to /opt purgatory, on launch the starttde shell script configures $PATH to place /opt/trinity/bin before /usr/bin. Likewise with XDG environment variables. Outside of that environment TDE software is unavailable without typing full paths because normally none of the respective environment variable are configured. This can be resolved in /etc/profile.d by reversing the order of the respective environment variables. This allows running TDE versions of software outside the full environment. Yet this approach tends to get messy because of common binary file names between TDE and KDE and causing clutter in the KDE panel and various context menus.

The original Konqueror is one of the best file managers ever and is improved in TDE. The KDE Dolphin file manager is more than adequate, provides sane sorting, and supports expandable tree view in the file pane. There are related minor paper cuts with both TDE Konqueror and KDE Dolphin, but this journey to break away from GTK is much about which collection of paper cuts to accept and tolerate. The pet peeves with mouse wheel cycling, tooltips, and mouseover popups do not exist in TDE. TDE Konqueror can be configured to preload and create a wonderfully snappy system, but currently lacks the sorting order of Dolphin.

One hopeful light at the end of the tunnel is cherry-picking TDE packages. This is comforting with respect to PIM software. There is no way to run KDE PIM software without the infestation and breakage caused by Akonadi. A short test indicates the tdepim package can be installed without needing a full Trinity environment. The KDE KAlarm tool was updated in version 22.08 to function without Akonadi, but that version is unavailable in the version of KDE provided with Slackware 15.0. Until the patched version of KDE is available, using TDE PIM tools opens the door to using the KAlarm as well as KMail to replace Sylpheed.

Time was invested to discover what could nominally pass as a base KDE install. That includes text editors (Kate and KWrite), terminal emulator (Konsole), and other essentials. Out of 367 KDE packages in the stock Slackware 15.0 repository, more than 200 hundred packages are needed to create a usable base KDE system. Removing all vestiges of Akonadi is straightforward as long as all dependent packages are removed. Removing Baloo is not as simple because Dolphin, Gwenview, and Elisa are compiled with dependencies. This is not a serious paper cut because unlike Akonadi, Baloo is easily disabled. Regardless, KDE is a huge clump of packages with tightly woven dependencies. Accept the whole ball of wax or recompile from scratch.

KDE development moves at a fast pace and some of the paper cuts found in this long journey have been addressed in subsequent releases. The 5.27 release is tagged as a long-term support (LTS) release. Hopefully more paper cuts and bugs will find remedy. Testing has been ongoing with 5.27 in a Slackware Current virtual machine (VM). The challenge with using 5.27 is having to use Slackware Current for daily production, waiting for the next official Slackware release, or attempting to compile the newer KDE packages into Slackware 15.0.

One way or another, using KDE 5 requires updating systems from Slackware 14.2 to 15.0. This has been ongoing in the house network, one system at a time. That has gone well and with each system KDE gets tweaked a little more.

TDE development moves more like a snail. Many bugs and paper cuts likely never will be resolved.

Considerable time was invested to become comfortable with both KDE and TDE. Both are usable despite paper cuts. For now both will be used.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Migrate

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