GNOME vs. KDE: The Final Smackdown

Two Linux desktops step into the ring. But in the end, there can be only one...

Ken: Hello ladies and gentleman, and welcome to the Linux Magazine Arena in beautiful downtown San Francisco! We’re here for tonight’s main event; GNOME vs. KDE; The Final Smackdown! I’d also like to welcome my co-commentator for tonight’s battle royale;Red Debuntu Volkersworth.

Red: Thanks, Ken. The energy in this place is truly amazing! These two industry giants intend to settle the score once and for all, and only one can hold the title of Universal Linux Window Manager. Judging by the sound of the crowd, I’d say the two are about to enter the ring. Who’s the favorite in tonight’s challenge?

Ken: Vegas odds have it as an even match going into the fight, although there’s been some talk that KDE’s 4th incarnation might give it the punching power to finally take GNOME out once and for all.

Red: Well, we’ll see. GNOME’s newest entry isn’t too shabby either, Ken. But let’s face it; This battle for desktop dominance has been raging for 10 years now. This is going to be one brutal brawl.

Ken: Yes, I think everyone is waiting to find out if either of them will walk away from this thing intact. So let’s go to the ring.

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, and fanboys of all nations! Welcome to tonight’s main event; The Linux Desktop Final Smackdown! In the corner to my right, wearing blue, and weighing in at just under 300 megabytes… The Kollosus… The Konquistidor… The Konqueror… KDE! And in the far corner, wearing a foot symbol… Weighing in at 310 megabytes… The pride of the GNU Project… The Gnerminator… The Gnihilator… GNOME!


Ken: And there’s the bell. Man! These guys are wasting no time! GNOME charges into the center of the ring and stings KDE with a volley of jabs touting its latest version improvements in 2.2.6 as more advanced than those in KDE’s 4.2.2.

Red: GNOME definitely has a lot of firepower here, Ken. Look at how it’s using its Comprehensive Disc Burning software Brasero, its simpler file sharing via WebDAV, HTTP and Bluetooth, its media player improvements, and its integrated volume control with PulseAudio to really stick it to KDE.

Ken: Absolutely. Maybe this won’t be the fight everyone was expecting after all. GNOME is clearly in a groove now, with this powerful and surprising opening gambit. KDE seems a little off balance and has yet to respond. I almost feel sorry for KDE in the wake
of –

Red: GNOME is down!!!

Ken: What just happened?!?

Red: KDE pointed out that GNOME, at its current version, 2.2.6, is still in version 2.x after almost seven years! Oh! What a stunning blow and realization for the GNOME desktop and user community!

Ken: The referee’s count has reached five, six …

Red: This won’t end that quickly, Ken, GNOME is climbing back to its feet…

Ken: You’re right Red, that knockdown definitely surprised GNOME a bit, but it’s jumping right back into the fray! GNOME is back up and punching wildly with news of its support for multiple monitors, fingerprint authentication and its improved Epiphany web browser!

Red: Yes, and look at that! A viscious one-two punch combination from GNOME comparing Nautilus, it’s all-business file manager, to KDE’s bloated and less stable Dolphin file manager.

Ken: Dolphin? What the heck happened to Konqueror; The do everything file manager?

Red: In a major letdown to users, the KDE team decided to replace Konqueror with Dolphin; in an attempt to use something less bloated than Konqueror.

Ken: That’s like trading butter for that yellow-colored movie popcorn grease. Lots of fat and no taste.

Red: I’d have to agree. But look! KDE is using its new found version 4 speed improvements to stay just out of GNOME’s reach!

Ken: And the blows from KDE’s new Plasma desktop interface and Oxygen artwork are really starting to wear on GNOME’s tired 2.0 interface design, Red.

Red: Clearly… And there’s the bell ending round one!

Ken: Unbelievable! The Ref has to pull these two apart! Red, have you ever seen an opener like this?

Red: …Not since Python put the squeeze on C# a few years ago at that developer conference over in San Jose…


Ken: Wow, that was an exciting first round! Let’s go to the scorecard.

Red: At the end of Round One, we have GNOME scoring with those version to version improvements, while KDE’s improvements were mostly bugfixes and not real enhancements. That said, the first knockdown goes to KDE with that notification of GNOME’s version stagnation.

Ken: I’m not sure what that has to do with anything. What difference does the version number make?

Red: As far as functionality goes, nothing. But the GNOME look hasn’t changed since the introduction of version 2.0 back in 2002, while KDE has undergone major transformations with each successive major version step. The point clearly goes to KDE.

Ken: Yes, I can see where you’re coming from. On the other hand, I have the default file manager decision belonging to GNOME because of Nautilus. Changing KDE’s default file manager to Dolphin was a major mistake.

Red: I had it scored that way as well. And the final point for KDE this round is the look, feel and speed of its new Plasma shell interface. Its quick startup and snappy responsiveness feel much lighter than GNOME’s.

Ken: OK! So at the end of Round One, my scorecard has the contenders dead even with two points each. Thanks Red, and now let’s head back to the ring for Round Two.

Version Improvements
File Manager
Desktop Interface


Comments on "GNOME vs. KDE: The Final Smackdown"


I have no other words to qualify the article other than rubish. Sorry. It’s full of misconceptions and it’s misleading.

1. KDE’s month actualizations, such as KDE 4.2.x, are intended to be bugfixes ONLY. So, don’t compare release cycles this way.
2. Konqueror has not been discontinued. Dolphin has been introduced as the default file manager, but Konqueror is still there, with no feature lost. Making it the default file manager it’s very simple. Btw, I don’t see people complainig that much about this.
3. OpenOffice is totaly unrelated to GNOME. So you can’t compare KDE vs GNOME using OOo and KOffice. Gnome has a project called GnomeOffice (Abiword, Evince, Evolution…). That’s what should be used to compare to Koffice.
4. Calling Qt4 unstable and unexperienced… wow! quite an akward statement. Qt4 permits to write fairly complex programs in les that 100 lines; with GTK+, well, some simple thing can become painfull to implement. IMO, Qt4 has more advantages than GTK+.
5. KDE4 is at least as customizable as GNOME. And, btw, in GNOME there’s no way to customize anything (via GUI) because that’s the point of GNOME.


What a dissapointing article!

mgl.branco is dead on about the release cycles…. not to mention putting a higher number on something doesn’t mean it’s more advanced.

One of the things I use Gnome for is Evolution. My employer uses exchange and with the even of MAPI… there is only one choice for all of my colaborative email and calendaring needs (albeit bloated and slow).

While the new release of KDE is definitely much more customizable and far nicer to look at there is a much bigger learning curve – which may hinder newcomers.

If I could have KDE’s looks and customization, GNOME’s functionality, and XFCE’s speed and ease of use… Then I’d be one happy camper!


Quark! Who has time for this?


Does nobody get it? Is the function of satire truly dead? Has no one out there read Jonathan Swift? Can the battling hordes of fanboys truly not see when they are being mocked? Who cares: KDE or Gnome – it’s all PP. That’s right folks PP, Personal Preference!

Personally, I found the article delightful – free the world from meaningless argument. Satire forever!



Thanks for getting it.


I could not agree more with sbesch! I think the other posters missed the point. eh Fanboys, have a beer, a coke, a glass of water, whatever makes you tick and relax! Knome or Gde who really cares ? Would you rather have a close-source, no choice OS there is already one, but the name evades me :)


Both mgl.branco and sbesch have good points. I’ll take Judge Lintor Usvalds’ approach and call it a tie.

I often switch between KDE and Gnome just to relieve the boredom. The fact is that most KDE apps work fine in Gnome and vice versa. I very much enjoy having the choice and the enormous configurability of GNU/Linux desktop environments in general.

And let’s not forget xfce, that venerable resuscitator of dead PCs! It’s light, simple, and highly functional. Beat that, MS or Apple!


My goodness, what a tedious article. 1% useful information, and 99% superfluous fluff.


Hilarious! Thanks for an entertaining and lively satire of the Desktop Wars, Ken!


But while the two behemoths slug it out and get muscle-bound and slow around the corner comes the lean and speedy LXDE with it’s truly freedesktop compliant openbox foundation and streaks ahead. And everybody suddenly realises that it wasn’t a fight after all.
XFCE just sits there laughing and hands out free cups of choice like it always has and Fluxbox takes a sip while wondering why some people think there will one day be only one type of desktop.
Enlightenment is too busy looking good and chatting up the girls to even notice there was a fight.


This was a GREAT satire, matching only the best! I’m so happy that you have decided to drag one humorous idea for three pages. Seriously! Also, very innovative — avoiding any further attempts on humour or pun throughout the whole thing. Reminds me of a friend who used to tell jokes with a perfectly straight face, and always missed the punch line, too. Oh, how we used to laugh at him!

I read the article just after watching Bob the Builder with my three year old son, and I can really attest: you guys are almost funnier!

Better luck next time.



I often switch between KDE and Gnome just to relieve the boredom.

Let me get this straight… your idea of making your life more interesting is switching back and forth between GNOME and KDE?

Yep, that sort of sums it up.



Good article. I’m still laughing.
This is one of the best things I’ve read on here or anywhere. Keep it coming.


Thanks you for the article comparing KDE and Gnome. Being a KDE 3.5 user it was good to hear a bit more about Gnome. KDE 4 still has some kinks to work out before I upgrade but I expect they will come. I was also disappointed that Konqueror was set aside as the default file manager in favor of Dolphin. I don’t care if it’s more bloated, it is an excellent file manager and I quickly change the default back to Konqueror on every install I do.
In the end KDE needs Gnome and Gnome needs KDE. If one desktop manager disappeared the “winmer” would soon fall into complacency (like Microsoft) leading to stagnation. A little competition is a good thing and if there be passionate users then that just means that they will be working all the harder to keep their favorite lean and mean.


Terribly written, very disappointing style.


Please don’t waste your readers time like this or consider them to be idiots!


Very funny indeed. I wish more articles were written this way. As long as they are factually correct, I don’t see anything wrong with this style of writing. Makes one actually enjoy reading technical articles which can often be very boring to read.


Have to agree, this article was a nice read. Seconds up .. final round!


Really nice article I saw the draw coming, or some fanboys may throw chairs to linux-mag.. thanks


I was a naysayer at first… but then I read the first blow about release numbers and spat coffee on my monitor. Thanks for the wake up ;)

(Long live FVWM! — even if I use Gnome now ;)


Ken, you’re a better writer than this. Four pages to hand us a list of a dozen features from each release, without a shred of actual useful information! I’m sure you thought it was entertaining and funny, but I doubt more than 20% of your readers will agree.

This is a perfect example of the main problem with webzines: It doesn’t cost anything to publish an article, so the editors start letting all sorts of crap through their filter.

Every writer has bad days, so I don’t blame Ken. It was a joke that didn’t go over. But, editors, do your bloody jobs before Linux Magazine is just another collection of blog posts!!!


I knew they would tie up at end. In my pretty much useless opinion, it seems Gnome is less flaky than KDE–so I use it for office apps. and virtually all surfing.

On the other hand, I consider KDE the better multimedia wizard (although, as pointed out in the article, Gnome works hard to knock off KDE from that lofty throne that most assume KDE deserves): I use KDE for the living room and bedroom.

I like Konqueror–I considered it a surprisingly good web browser in its own right (my Gnome machine was down for quite a while). I use some KDE multimedia apps on Gnome (Noatun). On the other hand, Gnome’s system settings are easier to find, and Evolution is a great email/syncing program that I install on all machines….

I bet very few system administrators see much need to install KDE; I could live well, and perhaps more securely, solely with Gnome….


excellent article !!

I will remember this information much easier than a feature matrix and monotone technical monolog !

More Please!



I should be bored to death to find this funny (OK, not a boxing fan, just a stinkin’ european pacifist). As someone else pointed out, there are quite a few “factually incorrect” things too. On a lighter note, if KOffice would give me a way more usable/extensible KFormula, who needs MS Office? But sadly, it’s not halfway to MS Equation Editor (not that it can do a lot). Give me an EASY way to typeset in tex (kind of what Lyx tried and failed) and I’m a believer, no matter what the eye candy or libraries you use to paint dots on the screen.


Hi all,

Thanks for your comments. I had fun writing this one and it’s meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek and playful. Not the same boring stuff it could be but something more creative. As far as being factually accurate, most of the information comes right from the KDE and GNOME websites themselves as you can see from the links provided. I didn’t make it up. I just put my spin on each feature for the match up.

For those of you who enjoyed it, I’m glad. For those who didn’t, do you just not like the style (boxing match) or the fact that it’s a draw? I use both GNOME and KDE. I love and hate them both. If you want to know the truth, I think XFCE and LXDE have a lot to offer and I enjoy using them a great deal too.

Anyway, it is meant to be entertaining and enlightening and I hope you feel entertained and enlightened by it.


This article is a perfect example why I’m a faithful subscriber to Linux Journal magazine, and not Linux Magazine. At least when LJ does silly things, they can get their facts straight, instead of claiming that OOo is somehow part of GNOME when it’s not.


Good bit of clean fun. What does it matter if one is better than another – no one is really cares. We have a Linux file server here at work for backups but it took a lot of persuasion of management to put it in – they wanted Windows. When I try to get people here to use the free Open Office they say, “what’s that ?”. They would prefer to spend £300 on Microsoft Office – yes, it’s crazy I know – but people are human, i.e. nuts. The problem is that most business people are just too busy making money to bother with this stuff. The desktop side of things is only going to be is a high tech toy except for the server side where Linux rules as far as I can see.

Sorry if this has upset any of you but at some point you have to live in the real world.


Just like to point out that I was a KDE/Suse fan in the good old days but now I’m a Gnome/Ubuntu fan – it just works.


Hey Ken,

What great fun! Laughed ’til the tears came, and then some more. Feeling kinda’ sad for the fanboys, though: they’ll never get satisfaction. Hey, wait a minute, isn’t there a song for that?


Jungleboy ? I thought that was me ?
Jeff the Kayak junkie perhaps…………

I dun like nunna them thar commie desktops.
Gimme summa that thar capitali$$$tic Winderz and God Bles Amurka!…stan

Sorry. Well… what I just wrote was almost as idiotic as what Ken wrote.
OK not quite.


Oh, it’s worse than that:
6: GNOME existed for one reason and one reason only: KDE wasn’t open source because it was based on Qt which at the time had it’s own proprietary licensing model… this then changed to a dual licensing GPL and proprietary (but the same codebase was in both). Recently it changed to LGPL but was still considered “not open source” because the community could not really contribute to the project. instead, the software was solely developed by trolltech. Now this two has become a non-issue as Qt as of version 4.5 has started taking in code from the community through git… just like the linux kernel. it is 100% free software (except for it’s very very expensive and completely worthless proprietary license that you can buy). GNOME no longer has a real reason for existence anymore because the original purpose for it’s creation, i.e. lack of an open source desktop environment, does not exist anymore… GNOME is obsolete.
7: Gnome looks ugly. it’s not modern by any sense of the word, the only reason for it’s widespread uptake is ubuntu… and when I show those same users kubuntu 09.04 with kde4, they say, “how’d you get that on your computer?!” it’s no time before they’re commanding “sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop” and ditching gnome for good. My friend who helps me with all my computer stuff even and is a die-hard gnome fan for whatever reason, is thinking of switching to kde because of how nice it looks. the looks thing should have been a much more major blow than it was and actually probably more akin to the office blow given to kde.
8: GTK+ is obsolete for the same above reasons as GNOME and it’s obsoleted by Qt which like GTk+ is a fully open source library and is actually better documented and constructed.
In a truly fair comparison where a winner is allowed to emerge, not just taking cheap shots from the other to make it even, KDE 4 wins hands down.


My computer illiterate girlfriend uses KDE4 with ease… never asks me how to do anything because it’s easy enough for her to figure out on her own, and she loves it.


Fun article. Both desktops do have plenty to offer, and both, even now, still need some work. Appreciate the blend of humor and the attempt to point out the reality that neither of them is perfect for everything, but both of them do offer some excellent features.

To be honest with you, I use different environments depending on my mood and my needs. I’ve been spending a lot of time between fvwm-crystal and XFCE this week in fact, but I’ve given the KDE 4.2.2 environment plenty of air time in the past month too.

There is room for alternatives, that is for sure.


The article has its ups and downs – but it was informative to those, like myself, who don’t dwell on comparing apps, using what’s available on the system-at-hand.

That being said, some comparisons are indeed worthless, such as version numbers. If it had any meaning, one could easily spin the reverse tact: Gnome is so good it doesn’t need constant refurbishment . . . but ver no. is a dumb point. So were some others.

On MSWindows systems I load SeaMonkey. I’m not so much interested in fluff. I want control of my privacy and security . . . but bells, whistles, and eye-candy are, in fact, just that.

How much of the arguments presented are just defense of their own favorite toys? How easy it is to get along without them! Stability? Gt vs GTK+ ? Which browswer crashes more (did I just provoke another frivolous yet ferocious fan fight?).

Throwing out the irrelevant, Gnome seemed to come out a bit ahead – but I don’t care mcuh. Adapt.

Stop complaining about free donuts just because they have holes in them!

Even were they to learn and improve from one anothers weakness and strengths, wouldn’t you want them both to prosper?


More fuel for the fire:
In an Interview with NetworkWorld Linus said " I used to be a KDE user. I thought KDE 4.0 was such a disaster [that] I switched to GNOME… I realise the reason for the 4.0 release, but I think they did it badly. They did so may changes it was a half-baked release. It may turn out to be the right decision in the end and I will re-try KDE, but I suspect I'm not the only person they lost. "


Using RPM is restricted while battling
(Just like pokemon battles XD)


I am not certain where you are getting your info, but good topic.
I needs to spend some time learning more or working out more.
Thank you for great info I was in search of this info for my mission.


thank you for share!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>