This is a post written by someone who for the past 2 years has been using KDE Plasma on his Linux Desktop exclusively. I’ve had reason to head over to a Stock Ubuntu install recently and have some observations around some areas I think Gnome (on Ubuntu 20.10) is seriously lacking and needs work.
These are my personal opinions, you might not agree, that’s fine. If you can in a grown up manner let me know why i’m wrong, please do.. (Oh, and I don’t employ a copy editor, so this will be littered with grammar and spelling errors)
Why bother blogging this isn’t the KDE vs Gnome Argument done to death?
It sure is, however the post isn’t really about Gnome vs KDE vs anything else, i’ve got enough experience to work around everything below by either writing my own Zenity/Bash interfaces or putting up with things.
The Gnome philosophy has always been less is more and to keep the nits and bolts away from the user as much as it can and I see where this fits in. Kde has been throw everything and the kitchen sink in there and the user can work it out.
I’ve been using KDE for a long time and the recent move back to stock Ubuntu for a project i’m working on has shown me the gulf from a usability standpoint between the two desktop environments.
I’m also acutely aware my use case on VPN’s and Audio won’t be many peoples I use a lot of stuff on my home office to make lock down during covid bearable.
Where the basics are concerned Gnome and Ubuntu have access to the Network-Manager framework and this provides out of the box support for some VPN’s. Immediately obvious is the lack of Wireguard support in Gnome. I tried a few distros so its not just an Ubuntu thing.
In KDE Wireguard is supported out of the box on Ubuntu, OpsnSUSE, Neon and Fedora however the latest Gnome has no Network-Manager support in the Gui for WireGuard.
For most, this probably won’t be an issue, however its a VPN system gaining traction and supported by multiple commercial vendors.
Also something I’ve noted is out of the box, the OpenConnect installed (even with network-manager-openconnect-gnome) doesn’t support the ability to have a popup to ask which VPN profile you want to use and to enter username and password details. Using the same certs and setup as KDE in parallel on a different PC, KDE works, connects to the VPN, prompts for a profile and creds. Gnomes implementation just sits there.
KDE’s plasma does a far better job of dealing with VPN’s than Gnome out of the box in Ubuntu this was how I solved my own issues.
For me this one has always been a mess. I have plugged into my laptop a USB Headset, a Jabra Conference Mic/Speaker and an Audio connection to a set of speakers.
I found on Ubuntu that you select an output by default, out of the box it appears that I need to choose one of the above outputs and all applications will play through this device.
Out of the box all of the above mentioned KDE supporting distros I was able to use Pulseaudio and KDE’s Widgets to choose which device i play different sounds on. this lets me play streaming music on one output and a conferencing app on another and youtube videos on a 3rd output.
This isn’t impossible in Ubuntu Gnome and is done using the pulse audio and installing the PulseAudio Volume Control
However while this solves problems its not as intuitive and workable as the KDE equivalent.
Of the 5 of these items this is probably the worst. Linux is about choice and i’m sure many will point me o Gnome Look as a place to get themes for GTK3. Sure there are loads over there however the realism is most of them are just bland copies and the ones that work are not really giving the user a nice looking theme.
Compared to KDE Plasma’s ability to completely theme every aspect of the desktop, all from KDE Look there seems to me to again be a want to not theme Gnome as a desktop and this may be a choice of the development teams.. and I guess thats ok?
How is Nautilus the default file manager in Gnome still? Why has Nemo not replaced it and wiped it of the face of the planet?
Dolphin is out of the box light years ahead as a file manager than Nautilus and every time I go near Gnome the first thing I do is install Nemo as its far superior. However on Ubuntu 20.10 even that seems to be lagging behind missing lots of the useful plugins.
I like to be able to do what i need from the command line 90% of the time, however when i have a file manager It needs to be double pane, have a terminal hanging off the bottom, be able to set per directory views of files which stick and generally this isn’t possible as far as i can tell using Nautilus.
Poor show and the Gnome project needs to do something about it Nautilus is just plain nasty.
Widgets vs Extensions
So Gnome 3 Extensions are the way functionality is added to Gnome Shell? Well if they worked they would be.. Wireguard Extension? Nope, a useful working Pulseaudio extension? Forget it.
Seriously, sure there are plenty of working extensions within the website and deployment mechanism is actually well managed and pretty cool via the web page. However try and really start using them past a weather or time app and its hit and miss if you’ll get the error message pop up.
Most of what you’ll install only works from the task bar at the top of the gnome screen and they can quite often look awful.
Something the KDE project seems to have done well is define its widgets framework far better as over the last year iv’e seen fewer and fewer fails when installing Widgets on the desktop or the panel.
Should Ubuntu ditch Gnome and focus on KDE?
So when the Ubuntu project ditched Unity (mistake) they headed down a path with gnome making it look and feel like, well, Unity?? Over the years the look and feel hasn’t really changed a lot as the Gnome project plods along at the speed of continental drift and adhering to what i’d consider a backwards design philosophy. Less is not more, less is a mess of tools, shims and fixes trying to do the basics..
In the meantime KDE has shed a lot of weight making it a very memory friendly DE The Plasma framework has put a lot of effort into making a constant experience and above all. as a DE it offers the best of both worlds.. If Less is more is your thing, that’s the out of the box until you peel back the options and menus and find you can customise the distro to make it look, so and provide you a workflow that will do anything you want.
I’d put forward that instead of Kubuntu being an “alternative” it should be the premier desktop environment for Ubuntu and GUbuntu should get its self together and start working for the user.