Exploring Desktop Environments — 7

In the quest to fine tune KDE and TDE, trying to avoid and subdue certain paper cuts became exhausting. KDE and TDE were tested extensively with local expectations and work flows. That does not mean the desktop environments (DEs) are awful software. What is wanted here in the house network is not what other people might want. Using computers for more than 40 years tends to create lots of memory muscle and long developed habits. The DEs are reasonable choices for many people. There is plenty of room for everybody to choose what they want, which sardonically includes folks who think GTK is improving rather than devolving. Fair enough.

KDE paper cuts include the following:

  • Mouse wheel cycling and too many tooltips and mouseover popup disruptions. TDE has none.
  • A hard-coded panel menu. Parts of the TDE menu are hard-coded too but the TDE menu is more flexible to configure.
  • The Power/Session submenu is hard-coded and can’t be modified without hacking code.
  • KDE has no option to configure the panel menu popup delay. The menu is instantly responsive, which is not palatable with unsteady hands. TDE has this option. Even GTK has that option.
  • The GTK theme engine creates gtkrc file pollution.
  • Dolphin does not support a persistent tab bar.
  • The Dolphin root warning banner is childish.
  • The similar kdesu warnings with Kate and KWrite are childish too.
  • In Kate and KWrite, selecting text highlights other instances of the text and is distracting.
  • The Kate and KWrite Find dialog string does not remain active across documents, requiring continual retyping or trying to use the dialog history.
  • Unlike other DEs, notification popups can be closed only by clicking in a tiny close button rather than anywhere in the popup.
  • KDE apps sometimes contain flat icons, probably caused by incomplete icon theme packages.
  • Disappearing panels are unsettling and waste time troubleshooting, but for now are being blamed on excessive testing.
  • Unlike TDE, KDE config files are not stored in an organized manner. Restoring from mishaps like disappearing panels is not as easy as restoring a single directory from backups.
  • Akonadi and Baloo do not exist in TDE — and likely never will. KDE PIM developers really need to embrace the example of the KAlarm developers and support Akonadi as an optional plugin.

TDE paper cuts include the following:

  • TDE seems destined to forever live in /opt purgatory, which causes too many hoops to jump through in a system hosting additional desktop environments.
  • Despite claims otherwise, TDE is not XDG compliant.
  • Both GTK theme engines are broken and cause havoc in other desktop environments along with other weird behavior.
  • Within TDE, the GTK theme engines cause vte3 based terminal windows to shrink in an almost comical but useless way.
  • The GTK theme engines create gtkrc file pollution.
  • Despite being fast and agile, Konqueror currently lacks sorting files in detailed list or tree view and is not as helpful as KDE Dolphin.
  • Konqueror supports inline renaming but requires manually refreshing the pane to resort files.
  • In Konqueror, file selection highlighting does not follow keyboard cursor movement.
  • Running Konqueror in file manager mode as root is broken.
  • Konqueror is both a file manager and a document viewer. The default design is selecting almost any file results in embedded viewing rather than launching a desired tool.
  • There is no open online forum for routine discussions. Everything is done through mailing lists. The mailing lists are not buzzing with activity.
  • The tdesu command needs attention.
  • Kate and KWrite lack sorting, word count, and inline spell check features.
  • Some packages are broken, such as kdbusnotification and kbookreader.
  • TDE does not use the local mimeapps.list file.
  • TDE has a package to use the TDE file picker with GTK software but does not support the XDG portal front-end service.
  • The TDE Control Center Device Manager is unusable.
  • Some user .config/autostart files are ignored.
  • Handbook documentation is out of date and sometimes incorrect.

This does not mean either DE will be taken out behind the barn and shot. Both have something to offer in a mixed environment.

Massaging both DEs is ongoing although TDE is pushing patience levels. Whereas the initial KDE paper cut list was longer than expected, the list has remained more or less static. Conversely, the initial TDE paper cut list seemed less irritating but keeps growing like the Blob.

For now the preference is using KDE as the primary desktop environment with TDE as an alternate and special uses. Down the road will be a careful selection of TDE software such as PIM apps to coexist with KDE and thereafter limited use of TDE. Much like Gru’s first unofficial date with Lucy, KDE has turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable while TDE less so.

KDE 5.27.x brings improvements to the 5.22 packages offered in Slackware 15.0, but requires waiting until the next Slackware release or attempting to compile the packages. Fortunately, that does not prevent using KDE. The water cooler conversations are that Slackware 15.1 might be released sooner rather than later.

On a lighter note, KDE games are more pleasant because they are scalable. TDE is super fast. While probably not useful, TDE can be compiled and run on single core systems.

One way or another GTK software in the house network is being whittled away. Firefox and Thunderbird will remain for a while. Falkon is being tested as a secondary web browser. TDE KMail will replace Sylpheed. Either KDE or TDE KAlarm will replace Thunderbird Lightning. Meld has no convenient replacement and the GTK2 version is far less painful than the GTK3 version. If only Kompare had direct inline editing and bidirectional synchronization. Kompare is unlikely ever to be fixed considering the original bug report is 20 years old. KDiff3 is not a fun user experience.

Most of the testing and evaluation is done. The remaining journey is updating to Slackware 15.0, finding solutions and work-arounds for the paper cuts and bugs, and deciding the final path to break away from GTK.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Migrate

Next: LibreOffice Help

Previous: Editing System Files