K Desktop Environment
I am an avid technophile. I currently have an iMac with Mac OS X and Mac OS 9.1 and an HP Pavilion PC running Win98 and Red Hat Linux 7.1. However, as much as people refer to Linux as a hackers’ OS, the K Desktop Environment brings an altogether refreshing and — dare I say it? friendly interface to any Linux distribution, something so simple that even my mother prefers KDE to the Mac.
While at first glance this environment appears very similar to the various Windows GUI’s, there is a lot more here than meets the eye. Unlike Windows KDE puts power in the hands of users instead of making potentially incorrect assumptions. Many areas, such as the the Panel (Taskbar in Winspeak) can be used in the same way as their Microsoft counterparts but do in fact offer a lot more options. For example, like the Windows taskbar the panel can be set to hide automatically but it can also be hidden temporarily using the left- or right-hand arrows. Just like the Windows version it allocates space for links to applications and documents but it also allows you to change between four different desktop spaces (if you are in need of more screen space), lock your screen, power off your computer and add functional modules called applets.
The desktop and the look and feel of the environment can be used in ways familiar to Windows users but they can also be extended and tweaked to an extent unknown in any proprietary software. And while the environment may at times be very similar in appearance and function to Windows it is not built on a legacy codebase so the interface runs more smoothly and uses system resources more efficiently.
In some areas KDE simply surpasses anything available commercially. For example, the open nature of Linux and many Linux utilities allows a lot of configuration for different programs to be done from a consolidated Control Center (known in the Windows world as Control Panel). This means you can install the drivers for a network adapter, set up your bootloader, configure your browser, add modules to your kernel, etc., all from one graphical window.
Another advantage of running on an open source OS with largely open source applications is the ability to include applications like KOffice, a suite of programs that (successfully) imitate the Microsoft Office suite, all bundled with KDE and all free. These applications duplicate all of MS Office’s capabilities such as spreadsheets, presentations, word processed documents, and databases as well as adding a few new ones for good measure. The same concept is true for KDevelop an IDE for programming graphical and console applications that could successfully compete with MS Visual C++.
Overall Windows and KDE would perhaps be neck and neck in the race for GUI superiority were it not for KDE’s inherently more stable, more efficient Linux foundation. Anything Windows can do KDE can do better.