Ubuntu uses the Gnome desktop. This is a very clean, simple environment and is well suited to Linux beginners. In many respects it is much easier to use than any version of MS Windows – though its layout is a little different from Windows. For example, its application menus are at the top of the screen – similar to old-style Macintosh OS9. It also has thin task bar at the bottom specifically for toggling between open applications. Both the menubar and taskbar can be placed top bottom or side if you prefer. Its applications are generally designed using the Gnome Toolkit (GTK) – which is also open source and allows anyone to develop applications for it.
Kubuntu uses a German-designed desktop system known as KDE. This is a much more feature rich environment than Gnome. So rich that it is considered by many not to be best suited to beginners. However its look and feel is much closer to Windows XP – in fact some describe it as being like a really well-featured Windows desktop. For example It has a “K” menu which by default is in the same location as the Windoze start menu.
If you have a lot of files to manage then KDE’s Konqueror file manager-cum-browser really is the business. It also does FTP and Secure FTP which is great for remote management of websites. Don’t forget the Internet is Unix. Therefore, well designed Unix-orientated tools are wonderful thing – once you get the hang of them. Example: there is nothing in either Windows or Gnome to touch KATE – the KDE Advanced Text Editor for writing programming code, HTML, PHP etc.
In addition KDE has some really nice toys: eg: METAR weather and my favourite of the moment: an active wallpaper showing real-time shading of the planet due to earth’s rotation etc. KDE Applications are front-ended using a development toolkit known as QT (pronounced “cute“) – developed by Oslo-based company Trolltech. Trolltech develops GUIs for Google & Skype
Almost all applications designed for Gnome will Work on KDE and visa versa. I tend to cherry-pick my favourite apps from both desktop systems – something you cannot do with Windoze of course.
Should you use KDE?
If you have already successfully mastered Gnome than it probably is time to try KDE. With most modern Linuxes it is perfectly possible to install several different desktops and choose the one you want from the login screen.
- Gnome, The free desktop software project
- KDE – the K Desktop
- GarfNet’s own METAR implementation (based on PHPWeather)
- TrollTech, the compant wo developed the QT toolkit used for KDE