10 Things I Love About KDE

Oh, man, a top ten list. Am I already scraping the bottom of the barrel? Don’t worry, friends. I have several articles on the back burner, but various endeavors are preventing me from completing them. So let’s just run through my favorite desktop environment ever. In no particular order, here are ten things I love about KDE.

Also I guess I should include this disclaimer as well: This list includes applications that run under KDE, so I’m including them here. So, KDE things and KDE apps. Don’t worry. I won’t mention Amarok unless I absolutely have to; everyone already knows it’s the quintessential music player.

1. KIOSlaves

KIOSlaves are heaven in an address bar. Need to access your filesystem? Go right ahead. Need to access your external USB stick? Type in ‘media:/’, and (assuming you’ve set up HAL correctly), you’re good to go. Need to access the man page for bash? Type in ‘man:/bash’, and there you are, nicely formatted and ready to read. Need to access your account on another server? Take your pick: ‘ftp:/’, ‘sftp:/’, ‘samba:/’, it’s all there. Combine this with the ability to access these file systems anywhere, from Konqueror to a random Save As dialog box, and you have an almost transparent, extensible power to get where you need, when you need to. It’s brilliant.

2. Krusader

For those of you even vaguely younger than me, weaned on ‘My Computer’ for years, you have no idea what an ‘orthodox’ file manager is. Quick history lesson: back when mouses were laughable newfangled toys, real men (and women) moved, deleted, copied, and managed their files in DOS, using programs like Norton Commander, which provided dual-pane access to your file system. Krusader brings this idea up to date with a vengeance: menus with customizable functions mean that even if this all powerful file manager doesn’t do what you want, adding your own functionality is a couple mouse clicks away. I can think of no other graphical program that allows me to explore an archive and extract some of its contents to a directory of my choosing by literally using three keys.

3. YaKuake

It’s a common joke that window managers are simply for keeping track of your terminal windows. Har har. Here’s an idea. Not using your terminal? Stuff it into the ceiling. Need it? Press F12 and it descends onto your desktop like a high school projector screen, customized exactly how you want it, and ready for your input. A tabbed console, transparency-ready terminal that’s literally named after one of the first shooters to feature such an interface, Yakuake will allow you to use the power of the console when you need to, and shove it aside when you need to.

4. Respect

KControl is the behemetoh control panel behind KDE, and when a setting is applied in it, all KDE-based apps quickly fall in line. Prefer single-clicking to double-clicking? Fine, it’ll work in Konqueror, Amarok, and Kopete the same exact way. Like your menus up at the top of the screen like Mac OS X? Perfect! All your programs will dutifully provide their menu so KDE can lovingly place it where it belongs. This wonderful ability to mix-and-match your preferences and know they’ll work everywhere else is huge, and a frequently overlooked effect of having a comprehensive set of apps that obey and understand each other.

5. KMyMoney

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m not the best at keeping track of my money and finances. But KMyMoney is, so I don’t have to worry about it! Add your bank and the accounts under it, another account for the cash in your wallet, and start filling your ledgers with transactions, withdrawals, and ATM service charges to get an explicit and intricate overview of your financial life. As far as I can tell, it also appears to be able to handle certain online transactions, since it asks for your account numbers, but I haven’t explored that area (and that data isn’t mandatory). An oh yeah, an introduction to economics on its home page. Don’t you just love the free software community?

6. KDevelop

’nuff said, almost. One of the most comprehensive, full-fledged IDEs on the entire planet and don’t you forget it. All the goodies programmers love and use to increase their effectiveness, right alongside comprehensive documentation. If you can name a programming language, KDevelop will plop the word ‘Support’ after it and add it to their features list.

7. The Simple Things

Sometimes, it’s the little things that matter. If I want new eye-candy for my desktop, there’s a button in KControl that will literally download new wallpapers for me and allow me to check them out. If I have four virtual desktops and I want a different wallpaper on each one, I’m allowed to do that. Hell, I’m allowed to run programs as my background. It’s all okay with KDE. If I don’t want my CD-ROM to show up on my desktop when I insert a new disc, it’s a check box away. Chances are if you want to do it, KDE will let you do it, and even make it easier on you.

8. It’s About Choice Too

Need to make a few notes to yourself in plain English? Use KEdit. It’s a simple notepad. Need to write a shell script or edit a webpage? Use Kate. It’s a programmer’s editor, with line numbers, syntax highlighting, and plugs to make and the terminal. Why should you be either limited or overburdened? You get to choose what’s right not only for you, but for what you’re doing.

9. You Don’t Get Functionality Like This Just Anywhere, You Know

Microsoft Office comes with a word-processor, a spreadsheet editor, a database editor, and a slide show editor. KOffice comes with a word-processor, a spreadsheet editor, a database editor, a slide show editor, a flow-chart editor, a vector graphics program, a bitmap graphics program, a mathematical formula editor (that instantly exports to LaTeX), a project management program, and two programs I don’t entirely even understand the function of. And it’s all integrated with the rest of KDE. Drooling yet?

10. Outlook Killer? Okay!

All this and I haven’t even touched on one of the programs I use the most frequently: Kontact and its protege application, KMail. Keep track of your e-mail addresses, contacts, make small notes to yourself, mark scheduled dates on a calendar, read your RSS feeds, track items on your to-do list, write in a personal journal, and check the weather. And, of course, it’s integrated with everything else. Find a contact, look up their screen name, and in a second Kopete will be ready for you to send a message to them. It just makes sense like that.

Well, that’s a fairly exhaustive list. Coming up with it I happened upon quite a few things in my mind that I don’t like about KDE, but they were small and piddling things. Perhaps I shall list them too. But if this list doesn’t convince you to give KDE a shot, nothing will.



  1. Gary Frankenbery
    Posted July 7, 2006 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Don’t forget K3B–a better burner I’ve never seen on any platform. Can burn all types of CD’s and DVD’s. I just burned a 4.8 GB iso file which required a Double Layer DVD. As expected, a perfect burn (by the way, those DL DVD’s are expensive).

  2. Posted July 7, 2006 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Lets also not forget about Kopete (the only decent client for the MSN, period), and amaroK. I know people who have switched to Linux just so they can use amaroK.

  3. Jai
    Posted July 7, 2006 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I don’t like KDE, it is a little too big, oppressive, and slow. Not only that, but the underlining QT toolkit is not free software, it’s license is restricts the freedoms of it’s users.

    It also seem that they (KDE) are competing with other open source projects like OpenOffice.org, with Koffice, and The Gimp, with Krita. Even Gnome has recognized that there is too much competition within open source. Miguel de Icaza (one of Gnome’s founders, and one of the creators of Gnumeric) has stated that we should support OpenOffice.org because it has more potential.

    I love free software and open source, because of that KDE cannot be my primary desktop manager. I need something that is completely GPL’d.

    I liked your article though, and I thought it was well written.

  4. Posted July 7, 2006 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Jai –

    Competition leads to choice. That’s all I can really say about that.

    Yes, KDE is big, but I have no idea what you mean by oppressive. I personally feel the myriad options and customizations that KDE provides me to be a breath of fresh air compared to over window managers.

    “the underlining QT toolkit is not free software, it’s license is restricts the freedoms of it’s users.”

    Straight from KDE’s website:
    Qt is Free Software, and it is compatible with all major Free Software licenses. Qt is licensed under the GNU GPL.

    So, no, it’s licenses isn’t restricts the freedoms of it’s users. And if you need something that’s completely GPL’d, KDE is perfect for you.

  5. Greg
    Posted July 8, 2006 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    amarok is the greatest music player ever created

  6. Posted July 8, 2006 at 5:37 am | Permalink


    GNOME all the way. KDE is for people who should have stuck with Windows.

  7. Posted July 8, 2006 at 3:10 pm | Permalink


    Thank you for your insightful, cogent, and above all non-strawman-infested appraisal of KDE.

  8. bruchio
    Posted July 8, 2006 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    While I prefer Gnome myself, I do like quite a few KDE apps, like Ksysmon, amaroK, and the like. I use NetBSD as a desktop OS, and there are people that have problems with that opinion too…*sigh* The only real things that made me go either way are /the little things/. KDE has KIOSlaves, Gnome has gnome-vfs. KDE has kopete, Gnome has Gaim. Eclipse. Gnucash. LibGnome. Evolution. Gnome (generally speaking) is just more portable across archetectures and platforms and usable on older hardware (although on older hardware, I don’t even bother with GUIs).

    In my opinion, having set up a few machines with the usability that home users expect, KDE is for the power users, GNOME is for the people who use the commandline and/or want a clean, simple environment. It all boils down to what you do with the computer on a day-to-day basis.

  9. Jai
    Posted July 9, 2006 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Part of QT is actually GPL’d but QT 2.0 is under the Q Public License (significantly more restricting than the GPL). They even have a separate version that is proprietary that you have to pay for.

    Oppressive I admit is a little too extreme, but I would prefer a little less added software.

  10. Odysseus
    Posted July 9, 2006 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    In line with point 4, Respect, there’s two initial reasons I switched from Gnome to KDE 2:
    File Dialog
    Print Dialog
    The same in every application, and still years ahead of what Gtk/Gnome thinks passes for usable.

    And for Jai, stop your trolling, KDE 3 series uses QT 3 series with is GPL on Linux, and KDE 4 will use Qt 4 which is GPL everywhere. Compare that to Gtk which is only LGPL and Qt/KDE are actually MORE free than Gtk/Gnome, just ask RMS…


  11. Posted October 10, 2006 at 10:07 pm | Permalink


  12. Posted November 4, 2006 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Buon luogo, congratulazioni, il mio amico!

  13. Posted June 22, 2007 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Just to add to the Qt open source debate:

    “Part of QT is actually GPL’d but QT 2.0 is under the Q Public License”

    KDE 3 doesn’t use Qt 2 so this doesn’t matter. And its not just “part of Qt”, all of Qt is available under the GPL. This is restrictive in that it forces developers to license their code (cf. KDE) under the GPL as well. Compare this to GTK which is licensed under the LGPL and so can be used to develop proprietary code; less restrictive for developers, but what about for users?

    And there’s one other feature of KDE which hasn’t been mentioned yet: KParts, KDE’s component system. Its KParts which allows Konqueror to act as a sort of meta-application meaning that you can view many different files with it. This is especially handy when people include links to, e.g., PDFs for MS Word documents in web pages.

  14. Posted July 31, 2007 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Hola mardena!

  15. Posted April 9, 2008 at 4:18 pm | Permalink


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