Ubuntu vs Kubuntu 10.04

Recently I've been having huge urges to switch from Kubuntu to Ubuntu, the main reasons are:

- I'm tired of configuring
- Gnome is lighter weight and therefore feels faster and smoother
- I just want things configured nicely for me and everything to be integrated

Coming from KDE I'm a huge fan of KDE integration and especially applications such as Kontact and Amarok. There are several ways KDE has subtle but very powerful desktop features such as middle button copy and paste together with Klipper, moving of maximized windows, snapping window moving and resizing with Alt (or Meta) + Right click. Some of these features do exist in Gnome but usually not as good as in KDE.

I will be talking about features that I love in KDE and their equivalent in Gnome and how satisfied I am with the result. I will be amending this as I find ways of doing things in Gnome and I welcome other people's comments or solutions.

Alt (Meta) + Mouse for window moving and sizing

Gnome allows you to change between Alt and Meta together with mouse drag to move a window. KDE allows you to use right click to resize a window and you can also resize and move a maximized window in KDE, this is a setting that needs to be turned on. There is an equivalent in Gnome but for some reason you have to drag the window down quite a way before it actually moves, and you can't initiate it by dragging sideways which means dragging maximized windows from one screen to another is a bit unintuitive.

Resizing using the window border is a pain in Gnome, the area to grab is a single pixel whereas it's about 10 pixels in KDE, this coupled with no Meta + Right click makes window resizing in Gnome a terrible experience, at least it's not as bad as a Mac with only bottom right corner resizing!

Half screen maximising

The KDE 4.2 introduced the maximise across half the screen when you drag a window to the side, the same feature that appears in Windows 7. This is a great feature for widescreen monitors but I have yet to find it in Gnome.

Window placement

Gnome appears to remember where your windows were when you last opened them which can be annoying if a web browser link opens in a new window on another monitor, KDE you can set to open on the same screen your mouse is on and will intelligently guess where you want the window e.g. where there are no windows or windows that are stacked towards the back.

Middle button send window to back

Pleased to see this is in both.

Middle button copy and paste

This is a joy in KDE. In Gnome there is some sort of similar functionality but you need to install additional packages and even then it's not up to scratch. In KDE you can select text multiple times and then use a keyboard shortcut to bring up your clipboard at your mouse location or just press middle button to paste the last highlighted text. This is great for copying a username with the usual Ctrl + C for copy and then the middle button copy paste to copy the password.

Middle and right mouse button maximising

This is a feature I expected to be missing in Gnome. One day I was thinking wouldn't it be nice to maximise a window vertically or horizontally with a Ctrl + Maximise, or Alt + Maximise, then I found out it's simpler than that: Middle click maximise for vertical maximisation and right click for horizontal maximisation. Very pleased this is in Ubuntu.

System tray volume control

Thankfully I've now found that you can use your mousewheel to change volume however this doesn't work if you click on the icon first so you don't know what value you're changing the volume to, in KDE a little popup shows what value your volume is. It's not a show stopper, but I'm sure we all have our favorite volume levels. And Mac lovers, you'll find this feature is not available at all.

Taskbars (Panels)

I use a dual monitor setup and the Gnome panel system seems fine for a single monitor, however in KDE I could add a panel on any monitor and have windows grouped by monitor in the taskbar. Gnome seems to fall short here but it could be the difference between a base Ubuntu vs Kubuntu install or how my multiple monitors are set up.


In KDE you can change toolbar icon size and choose to display icons, icons and text, or just text. You do however have to do this for every application and I haven't found a global setting for this in KDE not that I have looked that hard. I haven't found the ability to change this in Gnome.
I have since found a setting: Appearance settings > Other > Toolbar Style, however it doesn't appear to work for me (probably a result of installing Ubuntu on Kubuntu)

Copy to/Move to

Both KDE and Gnome have 'Copy to' and 'Move to' in their context menu (right click) when browsing files. In KDE you can actually browse your entire file system from the context menu and it will remember recent locations so you can very quickly copy/move subsequent files to the same location. In Gnome this is severely limited to Home, Desktop and Other pane. I can see that you can achieve a similar result by opening a new pane, browsing to your destination and then copying/moving to 'Other pane' although why wouldn't you just drag and drop?

With the usual drag and drop copy, if you are copying a file to a location where a file of that name exists Gnome gives you the options Cance, Skip and Replace, there is no, rename.

KDE applications in Gnome and vice versa

Gnome applications in KDE generally look horrible. The other way round is not so bad however this could be that all the themes for KDE applications are installed.

Native/Default applications

There are several applications that run best in Gnome or KDE. This means that ideally switching from KDE to Gnome you should also switch applications.

Email/Calendar etc - Kontact vs Evolution

Music - Amarok vs Rythmbox

Ripping and burning discs - K3b vs Brasero

Videos - Kaffeine and Dragon vs ?

Third party and desktop agnostic applications

There are several applications that are very popular but not aimed at a specific desktop environment.


Works like a dream in KDE with the good old volume control with mouse scroll on the task bar. Amarok will also play and scrobble to last.fm. Last.fm in Gnome is basically the same except you can use window settings to remove it from the task bar (see below)


Same as Last.fm


Having a quick look at GIMP in Ubuntu I see that other windows such as the toolbox and layers maximize and minimize together and if one is covered then it will also raise when any of the others gain focus.

Superuser applications/widgets

Since KDE appeals to users that like the ability to customise their desktop it's natural that there are more applications available for KDE that won't appeal to the average user. Examples of these are kcolorpicker and kruler. Kruler does work in Gnome but you can't resize it the way you can in KDE with Meta+Right click.

Window settings

KDE has the ability to customise many aspects of a window. You can turn off the window border, remove it from the taskbar, lock the position and size. Some features are more useful but I personally like to remove my email client from the taskbar because I can access it from the system tray, the same thing with my chat client, for that matter I think there are a lot of applications that should be allowed to be minimised to the system tray when the close button is clicked, typically anything that runs in the background but you don't need open all the time e.g. Mail, chat/irc, music, torrents and any other widgets/applets or small applications that don't warrant the space task bar entry.

Warm and Fuzzy feeling

This is a bit vague, but it's an explanation of stuff that's intangible.
KDE feels cold, a bit clunky but there have been several occasions when I wished KDE had a feature (such as the maximisation feature above), only to find out that it actually does!
Gnome feels a lot faster and smoother than KDE. The window style feels more relaxing on the eye if a bit too cartoonish.

In the end...

I gave Ubuntu a really good go for two weeks but I just had to switch back to Kubuntu. For the average user Ubuntu really is better, it's nicer to use and a bit more polished but the features I've grown to love about KDE just aren't there. At some point I may give a fresh install of Ubuntu a go but I doubt if it will ever be at a point where I would unquestionably choose Ubuntu over Kubuntu.

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