I use Gnome, not KDE.

(Pause for flame war.)

However, there are a handful of apps that are designed for KDE that I prefer over the Gnome apps. But that presents one or two minor problems that can be easily fixed.

First a bit of background: Both KDE and Gnome are desktop environments, meaning, they are libraries and applications that serve as a kind of super-shell for using your Linux computer. Each has a file manager, each has a paradigm for how desktop icons and toolbars work, and so on and so forth. Beyond this basic stuff that one may reasonably think of as being part of your “system” (together with all the guts that that constitute Linux), there are additional applications such as graphics image manipulation, and so on.

If you use ONLY one or the other of these two desktops, you may end up installing the software libraries that facilitate that desktop. But if you want to run one or more applications from the other system, then when you install that application using a package manager, the libraries for that other system needed to run that application get installed as well.

This bothers some people. It bothers the people who can’t stand using disk space. Often, these are the same people who prefer

sed ‘s/blip/blop/g’ somefile.txt


cat somefile.txt | sed ‘s/blip/blop/g’

not because of glitches in cat, but because it uses two processes when one process will use the job. Well, I just went to the grocery store, and I used both feet, where clearly I could have hopped there and back on one foot. And, I’m using Okular (from KDE) as my PDF reader because I like it better than the Gnome PDF reader and thus KDE and Gnome libraries co-inhabit my hard drive.

Anyway, there is an additional difficulty in doing this: KDE apps (like Okular) look like KDE apps. Ick. And, things like font size in menus and so on do not pick up the settings I’ve already implemented for my Gnome desktop. This makes KDE apps both ugly and nonfunctional for me.

In the past, I’ve often had bot KDE and Gnome installed on the same computer, just for fun. This meant that the KDE settings utility was generally available for me to make the KDE apps look … normal. (I.e., look more like Gnome apps, and to have my font size settings, etc.). But with KDE 4.0, mixing the systems is actually a bit problematic (shame on KDE for making this so) and it does not work the way it used to.

But there is a way to fix that. From a terminal in gnome, one can install (apt-get) the KDE base package that has no apps but does include system settings utilities that will then show up somewhere on your Gnome menu (maybe under “system tools” in the app menu, or under “system -> preferences” … you’ll have to look around).

This is the command line you’ll want to use, if you are using a reasonably up to day (i.e, 9.04 or later) Ubuntu distribution:

sudo apt-get install kdebase-workspace

At some point you may be asked which default windows server you will want to us (pick the one that starts with “g” for “Gnome” and not the one that starts with “k” for “KDE”) and a whole bunch of crap will be installed on your computer. But good crap. You’ll be walking with two legs.

Then, go to the settings utility and fix up your KDE stuff to look good. At present, the only KDE app I’m really using is Okular for PDF files, but you might like to play around with some of the other KDE apps and utilities.

Good luck. Naturally, I take no responsibility for how badly you mess up your system by following my advice. And remember, Linux is not for everyone.


  1. #1 John
    May 9, 2010

    <3 Okular. (I use GNOME as well, but with Kile and Okular, it's enough to consider switching.)

  2. #2 Cain
    May 9, 2010

    “ But that presents one or two minor problems that can be easily fixed”

    I agree, just Install Windows 7 like a civilized human being.

  3. #3 Abel
    May 9, 2010


    Surely you jest.

  4. #4 Jared
    May 9, 2010

    I only have XP, Vista, and 7 installed on here because some of the programs we use at work don’t play nice with Linux… We’re in the process of migrating over to all open source software, which means we can start running Ubuntu based distros.

    As far as Okular is concerned, why don’t you like Evince?

  5. #5 Alan B
    May 9, 2010

    I think a more valid analogy, for your sed/cat example, would be that using sed and cat together is like using crutches when you have two perfectly healthy legs. sed provides the entirety of the functionality that cat is being used for in your example.

    Just saying.

  6. #6 Benjamin Geiger
    May 9, 2010

    I use Snow Leopard for my primary OS at home, and 7 for my primary OS at work (they’re too cheap to buy us Macs, and the admins have a hate-on for them, even though they love their iDevices).

    I used to be a Linux junkie, but I’ve found that MacOS has the creamy Unix center I wanted, but with fewer issues on the UI side. But there are still times when Linux is the ideal choice (for example, when I’m doing Rails development; Macs excel at Rails stuff, but Rails on Windows is pain).

    And that’s when VMware is truly made of win. I have multiple XP VMs for work stuff, a 7 VM for personal .NET development, and a couple of Ubuntu (don’t laugh, it was quick) VMs for stuff like Rails development. They’re all portable between my Mac at home (VMware Fusion) and my 7 box at work (VMware Player).

    Just don’t mention Vista in my presence. Just… don’t, or I’ll shove a WinME install disc into one of your orifices.

  7. #7 Benjamin Geiger
    May 9, 2010

    Alan B:

    I’m of the opinion that programmer time is more expensive than computer time; if using cat along with sed makes the result easier to read (for instance, if there’s something else in the pipeline), then it’s worth it.

  8. #8 Alan B
    May 9, 2010


    Sure, I’m just saying that calling the first example a crippled version of the second is misleading. More accurately, the second is a redundant version of the first. I have no particular preference for either, I just like to argue about semantics.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    May 9, 2010

    Jared: s far as Okular is concerned, why don’t you like Evince?

    I like evince a lot. Quick, robust, etc. But I have been doing a lot of work with PFD’s lately and I like the drag/grab and more intelligent zooming of Okular. Okular more often opens a PDF file at a scale that I can see the first time.

    Okular takes longer to load and is feature-bloated. Buy right now I’m liking the features. I’ll probably switch back when I’m doing less intensive work with the files.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    May 9, 2010

    Alan B: You are one of those people, aren’t you…

    There are probably better analogies than the sed/cat example, but what I did NOT need is a better use for the sed/cat analogy. Because I wasn’t talking about sed/cat, I was talking about KDE/Gnome.

    But now, you’ve gone ahead and provided an analogy to my analogy, which represents considerable excess processing time!!!

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    May 9, 2010

    Oh, alan, I wasn’t saying one was crippled. That’s just what other people often tell me.

    I thinks starting out a stream where there are piped filters with cat is very uncrippled, especially, as noted by B.G., when there are multiple filters/processes in a pipe.

    What somebody should do is write a new utility that does what cat does but without the esoteric things that could go wrong (but never do) that people complain about.

    I recommend calling it ‘spew’

    It shouldn’t be hard to do. Just takes a file and sends its contents to standard output.

  12. #12 Marion Delgado
    May 10, 2010

    I always assumed if you could come close to no KDE at all in a Gnome setup, and weren’t loading any KDE libs at startup, you wouldn’t have any KDE crap in memory, and have more memory left over, speedier apps, and be using less processing power.

    Maybe it was confirmation bias, but when I had to use KDE stuff it really seemed to slow my entire Linuxes down and I always assumed it was hybridization at fault.

    Gnome and KDE have the same license (even the window manager core) now, right? Just have different windowing systems.

    So in theory, you could figure out ways to truly hybridize them, one reduced library set, and it wouldn’t get you in legal or probably ethical hot water. There’s been steady convergence of all Unixes, so it might happen as a subset of that.

    Also, I compile a lot. I hate having multiple paths for things that are named the same but show up entirely differently when you ldd them.

  13. #13 uqbar
    May 10, 2010

    You may be interested in trying FoxIt Reader for Linux for looking at PDF files. I’ve just started trying it out, but it looks pretty good.


  14. #14 Greg Laden
    May 10, 2010

    Well,what is the story with that? How much KDE library is loaded in memory and stuck there forever as a raw value and percentage of other stuff? Is there a way to make it go away?

    This is not windows. this is fixable.

    Yes, I do see a world in which KDE and Gnome can live together and share libraries.

    I’ll check out foxit.

  15. #15 Marion Delgado
    May 10, 2010

    Unfortunately, Greg, while that’s my impression and certainly influenced how I did things, I never benchmarked, and the times prstat, etc. showed extra activity i never controlled for all the variables, etc. It’s more like the plural of anecdote is not data, even when I’m acting like it is. But I always was too busy to do a proper job of investigating it, so I used my impressions as a rough rule of thumb.

    On 2nd pass I’m very optimistic that the current convergence will continue. 5 years ago Solaris, e.g., and Linux were different across the board. Now it’s the norm to be able to use most *BSD and Linux apps on a Solaris install, and that’s not even Open Solaris. Support for Linux-developed software on OS X gets better every iteration (as long as you account for around a 6 month lag time for the bulk of software to have the new glitches created by the update fixed by the developer community).

    The licensing issues (and they were perfectly valid) that caused the KDE/Gnome split are over. If they both hang around probably some superior windowing system will come along that both will target.

  16. #16 Torq
    May 10, 2010

    If they both hang around probably some superior windowing system will come along that both will target.

    Someone should try reopening development on FFresco. Given trends in GPU performance, it’s an apporach that makes more sense with each passing year.

  17. #17 LightningRose
    May 10, 2010

    Marion Delgado @#12,

    I think it’s your confirmational bias at work. SFAIK, the KDE libs (under Gnome) are not loaded into memory until one starts a KDE application. And unless you’re running a very small system (ie less than 512 MB of RAM*), you’ll never notice the loss of memory.

    The KDE and GTK+ libraries already hybridize into the lower level X windows library, but no one in their right mind wants to program directly in X. The KDE libs are written in C++ and GTK+ is written in C, and there is no reason I can see why they should ever be merged.

    *) The last time I ran a hybrid KDE/Gnome system in 512 MB of RAM was v8.04 – newer versions may require more RAM to maintain library transparency.

  18. #18 Benjamin Geiger
    May 10, 2010

    I don’t generally give my Linux VMs more than 512MB RAM unless they absolutely need it. That way, I can run more of them simultaneously. CPU speed isn’t generally the bottleneck for VMs; RAM is.

    Windows VMs, however, get at least 1GB to start with. (Considering my host machine has 4GB, that’s pretty damn significant.) I rarely, if ever, run more than one Windows VM at a time.

  19. #19 Yaniv
    January 6, 2012

    Are you aware of the fact that you are suggesting here to install a 245M package to be able to change menu font size in okular? Surly there must be some other way? (I am running linux in a 6G partition on a 16G android tablet. I care about disk space because I need to).

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2012

    I have a really big hard drive, and it has nothing better to do.

  21. #21 joe
    July 3, 2012

    I use gnome, but i like calligra over libreoffice 😀