Recently during the lunch at work, we have discussed the operating systems. You know, the usual Windows vs. Linux vs. Mac stuff. The discussion wasn’t very interesting, because no one opted for Windows. 🙂 So, lacking an opponent, we moved to some Linux related issues.
KDE, XFCE, GNOME
During the discussion I realized how I do not give any damn to the graphical desktop environment that I use. I use KDE at home (I had to check if this is really KDE, because I wasn’t sure…) and XFCE at work. The reason I use KDE is very simple – this was the first desktop I used, so I stick with it, and that is probably why I use KUbuntu rather than Ubuntu. The reason I use XFCE at work is because the Kubuntu version available at the moment had some issues with VPN connections, and one of my team mates told me that his XFCE did this with one click. So I switched. And you know what? I haven’t noticed any difference (besides the aforementioned VPN connection). So I asked myself how this is possible, and how come I’m not affected by the quasi-religious wars between KDE, GNOME and others?
When I started to think what features I use and care about, there are only few that came to my mind. First of all I run all apps by using ALT + F2 (on my old Kubuntu) or “Windows” keys (on XFCE). Then I type “kons” and hit enter, which runs the konsole. After this I use the same key to type “fire” or “oper” or “calc” or “write” to run Firefox, Opera, OpenOffice Calc or Writer. I never use the Start Menu.
My KDE has also this super cool feature that the same “window” which I open with ALT + F2 can also work as calculator. Which is pretty useful.
I have also realized, that I do not give even the slightest damn about where the close button (X) is located – in the top right corner of the window or in the left one. I remember there was a long flame war about this, since some version of Ubuntu broke some unspoken rule (“You shall have your close button here, and never there, or the fire will consume your dark soul.”). As long as ALT + F4 works, I do not need to click it.
Ah, a nice settings panel for dual monitors is also very handy.
One more thing is that, I never got convinced to used any file manager (Konqueror, Nautilus or whatever they are called) and always install Krusader (which is quite close to Total Commander – the best app for Windows ever written). Twin panels kicks ass of one window. Period.
The rest does not matter to me. I do not care about any fancy settings, windows animations, cool screen savers. I do not care about plasma beauties. I switch all such things off if they bother me, or let them be if they don’t. I do not even use different workspaces/desktops – two monitors are good enough for me. I ignore the possibility to change the location or width of the task bar, and ignore the plethora of options it comes bundled with.
Doesn’t Really Matter
So, all in all, I think I use only a small subset of what graphical desktop managers provide. Is it because I’m only a dev, who cares only about his IDE and konsole? Or maybe this is because more and more application run using the operating system provided by web browsers, so the graphical desktop managers are not that important anymore?
I even ask myself what would happen, if I had to use something as ugly as Windows 3.1… And I come to the conclusion, that I wouldn’t care that much. But this might be not true – probably I feel better looking at the nice icons of current KDE/Gnome/Unity and having smooth animations when a window is opened, but I just do not realize how they influence my user experience.