Dolphin - Simple by default, powerful when needed

10 reasons why Ubuntu should use KDE Plasma instead of GNOME

This is not a GNOME vs Plasma comparison, this specifically for Ubuntu and its users, considering the innovative vision they had till now. Just very personal thoughs ordered by importance for Ubuntu success in my opinion.

1. Windows-like experience by default

The most important reason for me is that the new Ubuntu user generally was a Windows user. Plasma by default has a Windows-like look and feel: panel at the bottom with an icon to open a menu and search/launch applications and files, a task manager and a system tray. I installed Plasma to many Windows users during the years and they found it more intuitive than Ubuntu Unity and probably than GNOME 3. In fact I tried GNOME 3 many times but it took a while before I was able to understand the GNOME’s vision for workflow. It’s very interesting and innovative, but it’s imposed by default and you will learn how to use it well only if you want to do so or if you are a very experinced user of other particular UI. The Windows user that try Linux just want a working environment. I saw that Windows users that tried Plasma were satisfied from the first moment, start working and after a while (days, weeks) they customized their UI and explore new workflows, probably when they have free time and aren’t stressed by work.

2. Unity-like experience with one click

Who like Unity experience can easily get it from a fresh Plasma installation by using a Look&Feel package. There is already a package for that on KDE Store. Eventually, the Ubuntu installer could provide a choice at the end of the process asking which experience the user prefer (Windows-like/Plasma-default, Unity-like, Mac OS-like etc).

3. Simple by default, powerful when needed

KDE software, including Plasma and KDE Applications, is generally very simple and intuitive by default, but provides advanced features that user can easily discover with its own curiosity. Instead GNOME has a precise vision about minimalism, that means very elegant product but often also missing very important features for productivity.

4. Plasma Mobile

KDE is developing its alternative to Android with many tech things in common with Ubuntu Touch. Ubuntu enthusiasts’ experience with Qt and QML could be used in Plasma Mobile world. At the moment Ubuntu Touch apps can run in Plasma Mobile.

5. Convergence is the future

The original idea about convergence of UIs born in KDE. Canonical developed it with Ubuntu Touch and now Plasma Mobile and Kirigami are continuing that vision. Convergence is pursued also by Google and Microsoft and in the future it will be a very common feature. Smartphones becoming desktop PCs when plugged to keyboard, mouse and monitor, tablet becoming laptop, files and configurations shared across different form-factor devices are here. Plasma and Kirigami takes advantage of the best technologies for this purpose like Qt/QML and Wayland.

6. Kirigami apps that run everywhere

Let’s be honest: Plasma Mobile and others will not be real alternatives to Android in the short term. But being in the mobile world, on Android or iOS, is very important for every software manufacturer and in fact KDE litterally did a revolution with KDE Connect that improve the desktop experience with Android. But think also to apps like Nextcloud, both available on Linux desktop and Android that sync our files. To provide a better Plasma and KDE software experience we need this kind of companion apps on Android and iOS. Kirigami is here to provide a cross-platform UI framework for Linux Desktop, Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS and Plasma Mobile.

7. Qt is not a Linux-thing only

Though Gtk could be a good product, its focus is on Linux desktop and it’s developed mostly for GNOME’s vision. KDE software uses Qt instead, that is one of the best products in the industry and it’s available on Windows, Mac OS, Android and iOS. While many developers prefer Gtk for their Linux apps, if the purpose is promoting FOSS we should open to other platforms and as I said, especially on Android and iOS because we currently don’t have a mobile alternative platform.

8. KDE Neon and its innovations

KDE Neon provides a new way to join development by providing a complete set of builds, including directly from git-stable and git-unstable repositories. Also, using Docker images of KDE Neon users are able to quickly test new features providing feedbacks or to hunt bugs. I find very useful to try a daily build to check if a bug was fixed before I report it.

9. Integration with KDE Store

KDE software, including Plasma and Applications, can download very different types of addons from KDE Store without visiting any Web page, directly from applications: Plasma widgets, Plasma themes, Freedesktop icons, Service Menus for Dolphins, skins for Yakuake and many many others. We all see the success of Google Play Store and Apple’s one, the KDE Store and OpenDesktop in general is a step forward hosting addons. KDE integrations for them is continously improving: also Plasma Discover, the KDE’s software center, can manage addons from the KDE Store.

10. Breeze

Very personal thought: Breeze theme looks more modern and it’s adopted also in non-KDE products, for example Breeze icons are now used in Libreoffice.

Comments (Markdown supported):

  1. rlsalgueiro

    Hi I want my desktop like image for point 3(Simple by default, powerful when needed), can you tell me your configuration????

    1. Name what you can’t reproduce and I will guide you

      1. rlsalgueiro

        I just want (Close,restore,minimize) buttons in top panel, no title bars for windows, name of application selected with global menu, and dolphin configuration.
        I use latte dock for all my configuration without plasma panels right now, as you can see here https://twitter.com/rlsalgueiro/status/851186215231606785/photo/1,
        and my dolphin configuration is thanks to elav(https://www.systeminside.net/)

        1. Buttons & name+icon of current application:
          the plasmoid is Active Window Controls, you can download from Plasma’s download new plasmoid dialog. I have two Active Window Controls running but with different config. The first one is the Dolphin’s icon + title you see before the global menu. The second one is the close/maximize/minimize at the right.

          Hide title bar:
          I hide the title bar for KDE apps (because those can be drag from any empty point) from options of Breeze win decoration (search Window decoration in Krunner). In the tab “Window-Specific Overrides” add the rule to hide title bar for the applications you want.
          Alternatively you can hide the entire decoration with KWin rules in System Settings.

  2. I agree with the points you raise in your article. I wrote something about it in my blog in Spanish, and I consider that GNOME Shell is not the best option for Canonical objectives. Budgie right now is a better choice, and Plasma obviously for several reasons:

    1- It has LTS version, which is fundamental for any company that wants stability in its desks.
    2- It is customizable as you say in the article.
    3- GNOME Shell is little customizable, you need extensions to make it more or less usable. Extensions that break with each release of a new version.

    There are other reasons, but it is not my goal to speak badly about GNOME, which I consider a great desk for some things.

    Now, Plasma could be an excellent alternative if the developers could polish some details, such as:

    1- The Global Menu does not work with GTK applications, even some Qt applications either, I assume Qt4. The Global Menu Behavior itself is sometimes erratic, though I suspect a number of bugs have been reported.

    2- Making use of panels to simulate the appearance of Unity is fine, but not quite satisfactory. The panels get the focus according to what is touched with the mouse, and are placed on top of each other. If there were always the option of putting a panel on top of the others, you could get better results by trying to mimic the appearance of Unity.

    For the rest, I think Plasma is right now the best desktop for business use, and although it has some bugs, they are not that annoying in many cases.

    1. I mostly agree with you. I know there are some things to be polished, but that’s because of the big amount of features that KDE software has. GNOME 3 is very minimal, so of course it’s more difficult to break.

  3. sidhdjka

    I think so aswell.
    Perhaps since GNOME is the default DE in Fedora, Canonical thinks that changing their default DE to GNOME would mean less work.
    But I think even if KDE is sometimes buggy, it has more potential, since it is based in QT, and has a lot of great Applikations like Krita, Kdenlive, Dolphin… , that get better everyday (more stabile, more features, polished UI’s).
    In the end, i think its like you said, more people would be satisfied with an Ubuntu, when it just looks like the OS they are used to. And its a lot more easy to realise this on a KDE Desktop than on a GNOME one.

    1. Michael Parisi

      I just can’t agree with you more. The bugs can be fixed, the minimalist approach forces people to do it the developers way rather then the way the user wants. I prefer KDE. Servers that don’t need these features can install it without a visual os.

  4. rlsalgueiro

    Hi, Sorry for my previous comment, great article I think you can post the link as a comment in Mark Shuttleworth blog,
    By the way, I want my desktop like image for point 3(Simple by default, powerful when needed), can you tell me your configuration????

  5. maverick

    Me likes this post…
    A LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

    1. Thank you 🙂

  6. Foo

    Main issue with KDE is that it’s mostly unmaintained nowadays, sadly.

    1. What? Plasma has also a LTS release (5.8) that other DE don’t have. Plasma doesn’t depend on specific technology like systemd but try to support everything, that means a lot to maintain. About KDE Apps, some of them don’t receive improvements in terms of feature for while, but most of them are maintained and receive bug fixes.

      KDE or Plasma as unmaintained software really surprise me.

      1. Fabs

        But that’s the issue. No systemd integration means no nice logging, no fast boot, no stable hibernate, no stable shutdown and no good integration like CPU limiting for baloo for example.

        On the design point of view the kde is also on a bad way. You’re trying to make the window look consistent but instead you adobt client side decorations, you try to make it look like and keep SSD.

        Then there is this KIO bullshit. So while you could use great features like webdav and ballots arch in dolphin, you can’t use them in inkscape.

        Sorry to say that but Plasma is a nogo because you still have to fight with the technology. Gnome just works and you can start to make it your Gnome Gnome The Start.

        1. I don’t understand here: Plasma/Kwin uses SSD and GNOME does CSD.

        2. Also, how Inkscape can’t using KIO is a KDE’s fault? Inkscape still uses Gtk2, this should be enough to understand how GNOME develops its toolkit.

    2. Maverick

      Unmaintained?!?!? What the ?!?!?!? Seriously!?!?!?

      I’ve heard a lot of weird things these days, but this one beats them all!!!

      As Alex mention, there are a few Apps that do fit this description. But not the DE “per se”!
      Plasma and KDE Frameworks are a very well maintained DE and Framework!!!

      It would be good to see this level of work in a lot of other non-KDE projects.

      If you said there were a few features that were removed from plasma that would be good to see cameback (tabbed windows, for example) and a few apps that would be good to see more “action” (I’m looking at you Calligra!!!) i would agree (however, acknowledging that the community does not present more because they really can’t – there are only 24h/day, you know… maybe a few extra hands could help 😉

      But this does not cover the DE. That is a well oiled machine!!! Plasma as never been so Modern, Stable, Feature Full or Customizable.

      you should follow KDE more closely 🙂

      1. Tabbed windows will be back, there were commits for that purpose

        1. maverick

          Wait… First let me go get some glass of water so I can eat my own words… “I should follow KDE EVEN more closely”

          Now: Great news. I was not aware of that. (Still, there are other features that were removed that I miss)

  7. Alessander

    What about the experience of upgrading KDE-based systems?
    Kubuntu was my sole operating system for almost 10 years. Now, I bought a computer with Ubuntu and it is ok for me. I miss the look and versatility of KDE, but I really dislike the disruptive updates between major KDE versions.

    1. Do you mean KDE4 -> KF5 + Plasma 5?

      1. Alessander

        Not only KDE 4 -> KF 5 + Plasma 5, but also KDE 3 -> KDE 4.

        Kubuntu 8.04 was the last version to use KDE 3, and for this reason it was not an LTS release. It seems that, due to the many bugs in upgrading Kubuntu 8.04 to 8.10, the developers decided to not provide the possibility to upgrade Kubuntu 8.04 to 10.04 LTS. I really dislike doing clean installs, and I had upgraded Kubuntu 7.04 -> 7.10 -> 8.04 with no big issues. However, it was not possible to update:
        (i) from Kubuntu 8.04 (KDE 3.5, should be LTS, but wasn’t due to the big changes in KDE) to 10.04 LTS (KDE 4.4.2); and also
        (ii) from Kubuntu 14.04 LTS (KDE SC 4.13.0) to 16.04 LTS (KDE Plasma 5.5).

        In [1], one can see that “Because Kubuntu 8.04 was not an LTS release and has passed its end of life, direct upgrades to Kubuntu 10.04 LTS from Kubuntu 8.04 are not supported. Please follow the directions for upgrading Kubuntu 8.04 to 9.10 first, then follow the directions above for upgrades from Kubuntu 9.10.”

        I could not find the official upgrade instructions from 8.04 to 9.10. However, concerning 8.04 -> 8.10, one can see in [2] that “Though upgrading Hardy to Intrepid is supported, the automatic process has been disabled in Kubuntu as this would completely remove KDE 3 from the user’s system. There is no way to undo this upgrade.”

        Also, in [3] one can see: “Warning: 14.04 LTS to 16.04 LTS upgrade is currently problematic and should not be attempted by the average user. Please install a fresh copy of 16.04.1 instead.”

        please do not suggest me a rolling distro. I think it is quite important to provide means to upgrade between LTS releases.

        [1] https://help.ubuntu.com/community/LucidUpgrades#Network_Upgrade_for_Kubuntu_Desktops
        [2] https://wiki.kubuntu.org/Kubuntu/KDE3-KDE4Migration
        [3] http://www.kubuntu.org/news/kubuntu-16-04-lts-release-anouncement/

        1. But you are talking of ages ago…

          1. Paolo

            Of course he is talking of ages ago, because he wrote “I really dislike the disruptive updates between major KDE versions” and there are no major kde versions every year! However he is right: there were disruptive updates between major KDE versions and probably there will be again! Fortunately it happens not too often 😉

          2. Alessander

            My point is: whenever the version of KDE (Plasma, whatever) increases its major number, Kubuntu provides a poor upgrading experience, if any. Even for LTS releases.

    2. CaptainUSA

      I never understood why KDE support Ubuntu that hard. KDE Neon might be a good distribution (like almost any other using Plasma LTS, thanks to plasma devs), but I think it should live outside KDE.org.

      1. KDE has no preferences for distros, everyone that wants to ship KDE software is welcome.
        KDE Neon is a KDE project to ship KDE software with a new paradigm, it doesn’t affect the relationship between KDE and distros. You can use KDE Neon as a Linux distro, but its focus is on KDE software.

  8. Kham

    KDE generally looks awesome and functionality wise it also is, unfortunately it’s quite buggy and slow. Some have also suggested that KDE needs a total rewrite to solve this. There are also some areas that are a bit alien to a new user, that was way worse in earlier editions of KDE and it’s getting better but there still are a few issues. You may be right that KDE would be a better match than GNOME, but KDE ain’t perfect either. I wish it was, but it ain’t yet.
    And one more thing, if you check Mark Shuttleworth’s latest post on Google plus you’ll see that did personally try to get something going with KDE, but the ideas were resoundingly rejected.

    1. For me Plasma is very solid, but every software has bugs. Plasma as Ubuntu default means a lot of testing and bug fixing. And let’s be honest: Plasma 5.9 is really more stable than Unity when it appeared for the first time on Ubuntu.

      Mark was not able to provide good reasons, so he criticized KDE developers. He said KDE refused the convergence idea while it born in KDE instead, Canonical just developed it quickly but in a DE with very few features. While KDE had to rewrite all its software in Qt5.
      And Mark don’t like KDE developers because they criticised technical choices like Mir. Mark seems still resentful for that.

      1. “KDE developers because they criticised technical choices” – techinical choices that now, a few years later, he discovered that KDE was right all along.

    2. Maverick

      Sorry to say that nothing is perfect. Perfection does not exist. Only the race to get it.

      What distro are you using?! I’m on openSUSE and i don’t see slowness (i’m on a dualcore with 4Gb of ram). The slow argument, i believe, is just that “ghost” that doesn’t go away. As to the bugs, every software has them… i don’t see plasma being that much buggier than the others (and it has an amazing amount of extra features that others don’t)

      1. saar

        Still, no body like to realize he/she were wrong.

    3. hendrix

      Plasma5 atleast in my computer is snappier than Gnome 3 or Unity and I rarely confort bugs any more. So it’s not slow and buggy for all. It’s not perfect but I doubt I’ll ever see a perfect DE. About Mark’s post. There’s always two sides and better to listen both before making judgements.

  9. John

    Hi,

    Just wanted to say: great post!

    1. Thank you! 🙂

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  11. Yogesh Marwaha

    I have global menus on qt4 applications (well, at least on Amarok).
    I have appmenu-qt4 (available, at least, on arch linux) installed (don’t know if it is still required or an obsolete dependency left after updates).

  12. dmerit

    Isn’t KDE / Plasma moving / innovating too fast? (maybe by the user, not used to seeing so many modifications / improvements to the Plasma DE)
    Why not Xfce, prettied up with some compositor and a side dock.
    Personally Xfce seems more rock bottom solid than any KDE / Plasma environment I have tried.

    KDE Connect can be put on any Distro and since you are including libraries, why not some other minimal user friendly stuff from KDE if you like.
    Why load the CPU / Memory with unnecessary overhead, especially with Gnome 3, for instance.
    I have seen Windows move faster than Ubuntu derived distros on the same machine, especially older 32 and 64 bit.
    Just my thoughts.

    1. Agree that XFCE would be a better choice for Ubuntu than Unity and GNOME 3.

      1. Bob

        XFCE can’t even do HiDPI, and I believe it’s even still on gtk2. It would be an awful choice. There’s no innovation in XFCE. It’s the Windows 95 of Linux desktops and switching the so-called “premier” Linux distro to it would set it back 20 years.

        1. You are right, I don’t use XFCE, I don’t know it well. I was just talking about its UI/UX.

  13. Clint

    I use Gnome3 with several extensions and customisations on Debian Testing. For the typical Ubuntu desktop user coming from Windows or Mac, KDE is certainly better than Gnome or Unity. I will be recommending Kubuntu to new Linux users.

  14. tracerkenny

    ^^^All of this, in my humble opinion, is called circlejerking.

  15. Jay

    Any thoughts on Lumina DE? Agree with XFCE is better choice than gnome for Ubuntu.

  16. AlpNek

    Seeing that Unity had Qt roots (as I believe I have read), it was a logical choice for Ubuntu devs to pick up another Qt-based desktop and KDE just happens to be best of that lot!

    Strange why they would choose a minimal desktop which they will spend time extending rather than something which has so much and can be tweaked easily.

    All other historical objections against KDE/Qt seems to have been dead for a long time.

  17. Jasem

    Thank you for making such a great post! I think on you eloquently spoke on the behalf of many Linux users today!

    1. Thank you 🙂

  18. jacky

    we have kde neon, so goodbye ubuntu, and goodbye kubuntu too

    1. KDE Neon as default on hardware manufacturers like System76 would be awesome 🙂

  19. Nikola

    Convergence again? Mobile Again?

    Microsoft fails, Mozilla fails, Canonical fails.

    1. It depends on what you mean by “fails”. Linux desktop are 1%, would you say distros failed?
      The purpose is having a Free Software and privacy-oriented ecosystem that include mobile. Of course Android apps support is an important part for adoption, but in any case nobody is hoping to compete with Android and iOS on mass market.

      1. Nikola

        So just because?

        Because Linux desktops are used even with a 1% market share. This project is probably not going even to be released.

      2. KKilobyte

        Kirigami is going to fail because it doesn’t make access to the KDE platform any easier for external developers, and doesn’t improve interoperability with external, existing framework and languages.

        Does it answer any long-standing issue that developers had? Isn’t it actually the job of a toolkit like Qt to ensure seamless portability between platforms it supports?

        And if “nobody is hoping to compete with Android or iOS”, then why Plasma Mobile at all? Unless I’m mistaken, it cannot run atop Android or iOS, and it also cannot run (or even allow easy porting) of apps designed for those systems. In what way is that supposed to help convergence, or make the environment on my desktop in any way better?

        Both Plasma Mobile and Kirigami completely ignore the de-facto standards already established on mobile platforms. Both are going to be dead-ends. That’s ten years too late, with too little industry collaboration, with too few human and financial resources invested. At best, it will create a niche market that’s going to fall into oblivion and be dropped at the next major version of KDE/Qt.

  20. skierpage

    “At the moment Ubuntu Touch apps can run in Plasma Mobile”

    ?! Wow!! I’ve wondered about the overlap between Plasma and Qt-ubuntu-components ever since Canonical announced Ubuntu phone. What a shame the two projects didn’t share more. I hope Plasma and Plasma Mobile pick up some developers from this sad end to Unity 8.

  21. Sergey

    Just accidentaly saw your post in news on Phoronix, I tried ubuntu in way like this: xubuntu(xfce4)->ubuntu mate (1.18 recent release)->lubuntu (lxde)->lxqt session->kubuntu (plasma 5.9.4 dunno about KDE apps version).

    Previously I used up to sit on gnome, xfce4, mate, deepin, lxde, lxqt, unity and possible something which I wouldn’t remember for now on vary Linux Distributions.

    And I probably mostly like lxde and xfce4 experience and KDE on ubuntu (not OpenSUSE).
    Deepin = I have lags on mine gma3150 D510 But its evolving and fixing usability bugs and its good for all of its users.
    Gnome/Unity = has few tweeks to disable animations but lags a lot and its far from real many ways of doing things as you write in your post its gnome like workflow which is kind of tricky to users migrating from windows.
    Unity 8 was nice anyway…dunno why they drop it I think its Fedora GNOME thing and they tired to maintain it in their effort.
    Mate/Gnome2 (its already ported to gtk3 since 1.18) = I use old gnome 2 once on OpenSUSE 12.X
    and its nice but if compare to xfce or lxde I like them more but boring cause I used them too much ;D But these guys are doing great work anyway.
    xfce4 = is light and higly customizable
    lxde = is most lightweight to me and I like it too.
    lxqt = is lacks of “run” in menu but in other cases its fine but not so ready for lubuntu session and its in active development…

    Well I tired of them and found KDE4 little bit buggy, hardly to package by many thoughts from maintainers in mainstream distibutions but since KDE5 is on ubuntu and its probably patched and stable I decided to give it a try and you know I have 0 crashes since yesterday even Kubuntu sddm settings preset working fine and I get rid of lightdm which way I tired a little ;D

    Why I installed KDE write now, just because I am tired of using minimalistic DE’s Thats it and its nicely working but on my GA-D510UD 10yo machine is somehow works slower than xfce or lxde, a littlebit decrease and more 500Mb in memory overhead but I don’t care since I have 2Gigs of RAM write now and its not CPU intensive. I used up KDE on OpenSUSE and there is much more slowly running on these machine rather then on Debian or Ubuntu. I don’t thing you have more optimizations for me since I’ve already running 17.04 beta2 with latest mesa+intel and so on but gma3150 is really not gaming VGA on D510 its just second gen of Intel Atoms CPU.

    Well at least its still usable under these 10yo hardware, thank you for your hard work.

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  24. JG

    Hi!
    About the difference between GNOME and KDE: the GNOME DE is much less intuitive, less practical, less logical and drives away people who need a DE for everyday work with files, documents, apps, etc. KDE is much better for working.
    Gnome likes wasting space and creating difficulties in using Linux. It sure does not make a linux for human beings. It’s as if GNOME understands innovation as synonymous of “making things become more complicate”, it’s as for them innovate means create square wheels. E.g., in GNOME you can’t even create/add ícons/files/folders on the Desktop (HUD)! Unbelievable! It is a total absurdity that makes us wonder if the brain of those who thought on this “prohibition” works under the influence of some strange substance. Working in GNOME is like trying to have lunch at a table without being able to put the plate and cutlery on the table!

    An Ubuntu Cinnamon would be an excellent option. But I understand that the size of communities and the numbers of developers have their role in the choice.

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  27. Andrew Wigglesworth

    There’s not much chance of Ubuntu switching to KDE Plasma rather than using Gnome.

    Why? Because Ubuntu has always used Gnome, this is what their developers etc. know and have always developed in. Since it depends upon that community, it won’t change for obvious reasons.

    Always used Gnome? What about Unity?

    Well, this is the point that yourself in the article and everyone else on this thread has missed. Unity replaced Gnome Shell but Ubuntu still used Gnome.

    1. I think you misunderstood the point of the article 😉 I know what you said, everyone knows it (sorry) but it’s still interesting to discuss “why a distro like Ubuntu should choose Plasma”.

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