KDE, XFCE, Gnome-Shell in 2014

Many people (and notoriously, Linus Torvald) complained about Gnome-shell, especially the early iterations. Similarly KDE 4 was a nightmare of instability and inflexibility when it came out. And XFCE has always sounded a bit too basic. the moves of Gnome and KDE were particularly shocking as the earlier iteration: Gnome 2 and KDE 3 were well appreciated, productive environments.

Gnome Shell 3.10

It took me a bit of time to get used to it, and in the early stages I went to KDE 4 for a while, only to come back to it later.


I gave it a long try especially in 2012, it has not changed much in 2014. My opinion of it fell when I tried it a very short time after months of Gnome Shell, and even more so after seeing the trouble my parents had with it, compared to Gnome 2.


On Fedora, the default XFCE is very very basic, so much that I could hardly see a difference with one from 10 years ago. On Xubuntu, it’s much much better. When I came to it from Gnome-Shell, I was surprised at how good was the “old” desktop paradigm for productivity. I also surprisingly found multiple desktops more natural to use than on Gnome Shell/KDE.
On Fedora the way to make it like Xubuntu is to install elementary icons, the whisker menu and choose the greybird/bluebird themes.

yum groups install “Xfce Desktop”
yum install xfce4-mixer.x86_64 xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin.x86_64 xfce4-cpugraph-plugin.x86_64 xfce4-mount-plugin.x86_64 xfce4-icon-theme.noarch google-droid* elementary-xfce-icon-theme.noarch xfce4-volumed.x86_64 pavucontrol.x86_64

Cinnamon, Unity, Conclusion

I gave a short try to cinnamon as well, in hopes that it was more stable than gnome shell. In short, it was not. It’s certainly less of a memory hog, but I had some strange behavior with an additional phantom panel sometimes appearing at the bottom at the screen. And overall it looks a lot less polished.

Unity is more interesting, but it’s too Ubuntu centric, I don’t like the start button equivalent (slow, badly presented, don’t care about HUD), the windows overview is not as useful as Gnome shell, the dock, something I usually like, is strangely annoying.

This is a very subjective review, my feeling is that in 2014, people should not waste their time with KDE or Cinnamon. Gnome shell could be worth a try if you don’t care so much about memory leaks and slight instability but value a distraction free desktop. Otherwise go for XFCE or Unity on (X)ubuntu.

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