Why this dedicated KDE Plasma user keeps going back to Gnome

The Linux desktop has so much to offer. There are so many choices. Still, it’s almost impossible to have your cake and eat it too.

I started off as a Gnome user – whether I was using Debian, Fedora or Ubuntu. I switched to Plasma when Unity happened and have been a KDE Plasma user ever since.

As much as I love Plasma, my reliance on email, calendar and contacts is increasing for work. There is almost no scope for any error and Plasma doesn’t have the kind of integration you would want among those three applications.

Also, with more and more of my work moving to the cloud or online services, I find I don’t really need too much customization. All I need is some of the core components.

That’s what led me to give Gnome another try.

Eat, pray, love for a geek: Email, contacts, calendar

I love that I can log into my personal and work email accounts from Online Accounts and then pick and choose the services from each account that I want to integrate with the desktop. I enabled email, for example, for my personal account while disabling calendar and contacts for it. When setting up my work account I configured it to integrate email, calendar and contacts. Bingo.

It works flawlessly.

Google Drive, the stepchild

For whatever reason, Google doesn't offer a Google Drive client to Linux users. But Gnome developers took it upon themselves to bring Google Drive to Gnome users by adding a feature in Gnome where Files can mount Google Drive as remote storage.


Gnome on a tablet

Recently I toyed with the idea of running a full fledged desktop OS on a tablet. Gnome did an excellent job at offering a touch interface that can be used on desktops as well as touch based devices.

Where Gnome falls short

Despite everything that I love about Gnome, there are some deal breaking issues that keep it from becoming my main DE, and why I keep going back to Plasma. (Fortunately, Arch allows me to install many desktop environments (DEs) on the same install.)

What I dislike the most about Gnome is its file manager "Files". It's even worse than Apple’s Finder. As a file manager, Files doesn’t allow me to do many important things.

One of the things that I consider essential in a file manager is the ability to batch rename files, something that Apple's Finder, Windows' Explorer and KDE's Dolphin all allow me to do. But not Gnome's Finder.

Here's why it's a deal breaker. I was at SCaLE, covering the event and taking hundreds of photos. On Mac OS X it was very easy for me to select the ten pictures that I took of booths and rename them as “scale_day_1_booth.” I then renamed other set of images as “scale_day_1_mark_keynote”. And so on. This sort of naming convention makes it very easy for me to find images years after the event. But to apply my naming convention using Gnome, I'd have to rename each of the 700 pictures I took at the event individually.

Another deal-breaker issue is search. On  Mac OS X I can run search on network drives and find stories that have certain terms in them. I can’t do that on Gnome, as far as I know. It can be done in Dolphin but it only supports MIME type, which means files should have some extensions such as .txt and so on.


Overall, I like Gnome 3.18, but the more I use it, the more quirks I discover. Which makes me consider switching back to Plasma.

But then I'm reminded of Gnome's email, calendar, contact integration and access to Google Drive.

No matter which direction I go, I gain some and I lose some.

The beauty of the GNU/Linux world is that there are so many choices. Instead of saying I am switching from Plasma to Gnome, it’s more like saying "yesterday I wore a white shirt and today I am in the mood for green." There is no contest here. I can swing between Plasma and Gnome and also dip my toes into Pantheon, MATE and Cinnamon. They are all great technologies.

At the same time, what should have been the beauty of desktop Linux has also become its curse. There is something great in one DE but missing in the other, and as a result you end up with an experience that is less satisfactory than what you can get on a proprietary OS like Mac OS X.

As much as I hate to compare,  when I am on a Mac OS X system I get the ability to batch rename files, I can index network drives and run local searches to find files based on content, and I get one of the best integrations of email, calendar, contacts.

All of this, and much more, already exists in the Linux world. The problem is that it’s scattered across different projects and it's quite frustrating to try to get it all in a single desktop environment.

I wish the various Linux desktop teams would work together so the best features of all desktops are available to users, giving us a less fragmented experience.

I believe it can be done. My question is how do we do it.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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