Why KDE? Because (1) it’s easier to customize, and (2) more like Windows. Let me elaborate:

(1) Maybe I didn’t do things right, but the ability to configure look and feel, font sizes, widget sizes was quite awkward in Gnome. While it is possible to select a specific Theme, it’s quite difficult to fine-tune it without editing configuration files. Well, I don’t mind editing the configuration file for my mail server, because I often access my mail server through a ssh session. But for a system with the only purpuse of giving me graphical access, I’d rather have the ability to fine-tune the system quickly and efficiently within this system. On that account, KDE beats Gnome by far.

(2)Windows… I am not a big fan of Microsoft, and I think they do a bad job on the server side. But they do understand the desktop! There are few things that I miss on Windows (like multiple desktops), and I gut used to their keybindings, and am unwilling to learn something new without a good reason. So I was pleased to see that KDE supported the Windows-Key right out of the box.

Gnome apps under KDE

My biggest struggle was to get Gnome apps look right under KDE. And I am dependent on Gnome (or more acurately, GTK) apps, specifically Firefox, Gimp and Eclipse.

I tried Debian and Suse, and on both distributions the fonts were huge, and the empty space around widgets unproportionally wide, eating up all my real estate. I tried to tinker with the gtk configuration files (.gtkrc and .gtkrc-2.0), but eventually gave up (I’ll tell you why later on).

For a while, I was limping along with workarounds. I used a different Firefox Theme. It didn’t look great, but saved me real estate. I was using the Motif version of Eclipse. Again, it saved me real estate, but it looked horrible

Suse screws up Gnome

When I tried to find some advice online once more, I finally found out why I didn’t go anywhere by editing my .gtkrc files: Suse designed their own hook to make sure Gnome applications would look good under KDE – but they didn’t take users changing the widget set into account, and screwed things up. How to fix it is documented here. Essentially, you have to edit /opt/kde3/bin/startkde to allow the .gtkrc file to be picked up! It looks like an ugly hack to me, but at least it works.

Now I set my .gtkrc and .gtkrc-2.0 files to use the “Simple” theme, and things started to look much, much better! The fonts were still a little too big for my taste, but I could fix that by adding the following entry to my .gtkrc* files: gtk-font-name = "Sans 7".

Now I feel that my Linux System is truly usable on a daily basis, but fixing these things made quite a difference. I hope these notes will be useful for somebody – including myself the next time I set up a Linux box.