Chapter 5. Using the GNOME and KDE Desktops

Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora Core support two desktops, GNOME and KDE. This choice is consistent with the Linux philosophy of having it your own way. But the reasons behind having multiple desktops have more to do with history and law than technology.

At one time, parts of KDE were distributed under a license that some believed required commercial users to pay a license fee. Because Red Hat wanted Red Hat Linux to be freely redistributable and usable, Red Hat included only GNOME in the Red Hat Linux distribution. Red Hat also assisted in the development of the GNOME desktop. However, the KDE license was eventually clarified. At that point, Red Hat warmed toward KDE and included it in the Red Hat Linux distribution. Many users prefer KDE to GNOME, finding it in many ways more mature than GNOME. But GNOME retains a somewhat favored status in Red Hat's eyes, as indicated by the installation program's default choice of GNOME as the desktop. If you want to install KDE, you must manually select the KDE package group.

To minimize the confusion that might otherwise result from dueling desktops, Red Hat has worked to give GNOME and KDE a more consistent look and feel. This has upset many KDE fans, who prefer KDE's native look and feel to that imposed by Red Hat. An advantage of Red Hat's decision is that most applications work properly under both GNOME and KDE. However, a disadvantage of Red Hat's decision is that KDE now includes applications that lack the distinctive look and feel that unites the KDE desktop.

I'm not much interested in justifying or attacking Red Hat's decision. The decision has been made, and the goal of this book is to describe Red Hat Enterprise Linux as it is, rather than as it might be. Therefore, this chapter describes both desktops, devoting roughly equal space to each. My personal recommendation is that you try each desktop for a while and use the one you prefer.

Some readers of earlier editions of this book complain that I favor one desktop over the other. Yes, I do have a personal favorite. However, almost all such readers have incorrectly identified my preference. And, my preference has recently changed. So, I believe that my presentation of the desktops is reasonably fair and unbiased.