Ubuntu vs Kubuntu 10.10

Back in June I compared Ubuntu to Kubuntu. In the end I loved Ubuntu but there were several features from Kubuntu that I just missed too much to make the switch. Now 10.10 is out I'm giving it another go.

The immediate feeling I get is that this is probably one of the biggest evolutions of Ubuntu I've ever experienced. Things are finally feeling finished. I don't feel like I'm using an open source operating system. I mean that in the best sense: It's polished, easy to use and everything just works... so far.

One problem I have in switching from Kubuntu to Ubuntu is applications. I love KDE applications and the way they all interact together. There's konqueror and dolphin with stuff like the 'fish' protocol for connecting to file systems via ssh. Kontact with it's amazing suite of email, calendar etc, Amarok - probably the best music player I've ever used if a little heavy weight. And that's the thing, KDE/Kubuntu is heavyweight, it does a lot, it has a lot of features and it's very customisable.

If I'm honest, I'll admit that customisable can be a curse. I just never know what the shortcut for anything is. I rarely use Alt+Tab or pretty much any of the 'amazing' features KDE provides... except: Klipper (a clipboard tool), Yakuake (drop down terminal) and some sort of launcher so I can just type the first few letters of a program to start it.

What would it take me to switch to Ubuntu now? Not a lot, but those few things would be deal breakers. I have to have an equivalent of Klipper, and there are several other features I have to have and some I could just about live without.

What is so great about Klipper?

I'm often surprised by people that don't know about middle button copy and paste in Linux/Ubuntu. If you're using Linux now, highlight some text and then middle click somewhere you can type such as your search box. Even if you have a two button mouse or trackpad, you probably have three button emulation - click both buttons at the same time to emulate a middle click. If you're still looking for your middle click, it's on your mouse wheel. Now this may not seem like that great a feature, but use it a few times and you'll be amazed how much quicker you can copy and paste stuff. You can even use it to copy two things such as username and password. I often use normal Ctrl+C to copy the username, and then highlight the password. Move to the form, Ctrl+V the username, and middle click the password. Nice eh?

Klipper provides clipboard history for everything you highlight. I have it bound to a shortcut that opens a menu where my mouse is showing the last 30 or so things I highlighted, I can click one, then middle click to paste it.

Last time I tried to set up the same functionality in Ubuntu I wasn't satisfied. I used Glipper which has similar functionality to to Klipper but they're not the same. I tried setting it up again and it seems almost up to scratch although Gnome seems to only allow you to create shortcuts with letters e.g. In Kubuntu I have Ctrl+Alt+\ bound to open the menu (I use dvorak) so my z key is actually ;. Not too much of a problem but of note that you can't use symbols is shortcuts, additionally it seems you have to manually type in the shortcut rather than have the system 'grab' what you press, correct me if I'm wrong!

Window resizing

When I tried Ubuntu back in June I was pleased to see that you can use middle click on the maximise button to maximise vertically (and un-maximise) and the right button for horizontal.
However Ubuntu is still missing is some modified mouse behaviour. In Kubuntu you can hold Alt + Left button to move a window, this I'm happy to say this is now in Ubuntu. Alt + Right button and you can resize. Alt + Middle button to send the window to the back. This means you don't have to go all the way to the title bar or window edges to move or resize the window.

Maximise to half screen

Yes, I have opinions about Microsoft Windows but that maximise to half the screen thing is actually pretty useful. In Kubuntu you can drag a window to the right or left edge, let go, and it's maximised to fill half the screen. Not here in Ubuntu though.

Advanced window settings

I'm pleased to see 'Always on top' if you click the title bar of a window. However, some windows I like to remove the border, or stop it appearing in the task bar (e.g. mail). With mouse modifier resizing and moving you don't need window borders and TV and videos look pretty cool with no window borders. With system tray left click maximising and minimising is quick for applications that only appear in the system tray.

Volume

In the task bar is the volume control. You can hover over it and use your mouse wheel to change volume, but it doesn't tell you what volume level, unless you click and then you can't use your scroll wheel on the tray icon!

System tray and middle click

We've got the buttons, why not use them?! Ok, so, middle click on the volume control in Kubuntu will mute it. Middle click on Amarok music player will pause it. Please, please, can we have this in Ubuntu too, it really gives the tray a slick feel.

On that note, the system tray in Kubuntu just makes a lot more sense to me. Left click opens the application and right click brings up the menu, but both buttons bring up different menus. What's with that? Plus I like to have as few applications in the task bar, and some applications just make sense to only be in the system tray such as email, music player and communication clients. There's a lot of space just not being used on that top panel.

Copy context menu

I like having the ability to use the context menu to copy to anywhere, and asking to rename a copied file of the same name seems like the right thing for me rather than just appending (copy) and not knowing what happened to it. I don't really use those features and could live with the Ubuntu way.

Applications

KDE Applications are fantastic, but if I'm honest I don't use all their features. You feel like a kid in a candy store, eating all the sweets and then feeling sick. Much better to perhaps be given a select few.
I found a great remote for my phone to connect to Amarok, I wonder if there's a decent one for some Gnome music player.
Yes, I could use KDE applications in Gnome, but then it adds the extra weight and doesn't look great. You might as well stick to KDE if you use its applications. So switching to Ubuntu would mean ditching all KDE applications.
Kaffeine, Amarok, Kontact, Kate, Kruler, Ktorrent, K3b, Ktouch are all very dear applications to me, not so much Ktouch because I can now type but it's a great typing tutor. It's going to be hard to replace them.

Social stuff etc.

There's a lot going on at the moment around social computing. Phones are closely integrated with Facebook, twitter etc. It seems Ubuntu is leaps and bounds ahead of any operating system, is that a surprise? No not really, that's the whole ethos of Ubuntu and it really works. Nice touches like the software center showing popular applications and new additions. There is of course Ubuntu One. I also like the way that if you haven't set up your twitter account or email they're there in your system tray waiting for you to set them up. I just hope more attention can be paid to the interaction with the system tray - left click to restore/minimize, middle click for stuff like mute or pause and right click for the menu, oh and anything that has a system tray entry should optionally show in the task bar.

Summary

I'm going to do some more investigation of applications and come back to add my findings. At the moment I can still see that there are features I would sorely miss from Kubuntu, it would be interesting to find some stuff I would sorely miss from Ubuntu. Perhaps my netbook will have made the move permanently, but certainly not my desktop, not yet.

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