Years ago, the main Linux projects, KDE and GNOME started. Today, they are growing steadily along with the rest of Linux. Linux is growing fast (in development and user amounts), but can it keep up ease of use for the majority of people who know little to nothing about computers?
Personally, I have been with Linux and computers so long that large issues for most people are minute or non-existent issues for me. I haven’t really looked into the topic of ease-of-use for a very long time. Hey, I’m using Gentoo, I don’t care about “easy,” I just want to make it look, run, and perform well, while having fun tweaking, fixing things, and helping the community. Since I have not followed GNOME much, this will be mostly about KDE.
Kicking off with window grouping (when you have many windows open, it groups similar ones). In Windows XP, right-click on the taskbar, click properties, and uncheck window grouping. Simple enough, yet I know quite a few people who can’t even do that. In KDE, you have choice. You can always group, sometimes group, or never group. It is obtained in a similar fashion by right-clicking the taskbar, clicking taskbar properties, and choosing the approporiate option.
At KDE’s first boot (under the username you logged in with), you go through a simple wizard, much like the Windows one, but has more choices and options, such as which style to use, what effects to use, etc. It adequately explains about the styles and you can even preview them and choose one to your liking. With effects, it’s really simple if you don’t have the time or knowlege to choose what you want, as it will automatically adjust based on your system’s specifications, which Windows also incorporates. Both window managers (we are considering the Windows interface a window manager) will ask you about what language and country you wish to use, though KDE has more options, as Microsoft expects you to buy the correct version for your language (not saying that it is impossible to change the language afterwords). For example, KDE will have options for all of the continents (that is, if you have the localization package installed or it came by default), while for me, Windows has only North America.
When arranging icons on your desktop, Windows can be confusing. I have never figured out how it works. I set it to snap to grid, auto arrange, and arrange by name, but I still have “DarkSpace” on the bottom of the first row, then things like “FarCry” and “Mozilla Firefox” on the second row, and then on the third row, “Doom 3 Demo.” In other words, it will not arrange correctly. It’s just plain confusing even to experienced users. KDE, on the other hand, is easy to use in the area, easily arranging icons either vertically or horizontally and sorting by name, size, or other.
Theming in Windows is extremely easy. Simply open up your desktop properties, change to the appearence tab, and change your style. It is customizable, but only to a certain extent. As of now, there are not many Windows themes out that do not require third-party applications. KDE is fairly easy as well, but more thorough. Opening the desktop properties, and changing multiple aspects of the theme. You can enable/disable most options and/or edit most of the schematics as well.
KDE wins hands-down in the area of multiple desktops. That is, where you can select a window and set it to another “desktop,” where you then click on a button in the taskbar to pull it up again (change “desktops”), which also minimizes the current windows in the current “desktop.” You can easily customize almost any features about it that you want. I won’t spend all day on this point, as you cannot even compare the two, as Windows does not have it by default. For Windows, you will need a third-party application.
Installing programs in Windows, generally, is much easier than in Linux. It all depends on your distribution. If you have Gentoo, it is relatively easy, when it works, that is. A simple emerge x. Same goes for Debian. Then you get into what people call the “newbie” distributions. Mandrake, Fedora, and SuSE just to name a few. They use mostly RPMs, which are fairly easy as well, but some Mandrake RPMs are not SuSE compatiable and such. In Windows, most programs have graphical installers, whereas generally, only programs like Firefox or OpenOffice.org in Linux do. One would guess that the reason for this is that most distributions come with almost all of the packages you will ever need on their installer CD. No need, really. Most programs will be straight-up with you, asking you where to install it and giving you a range of options. There really isn’t too much competition in this area. Hands-down Windows, that is, until Linux developers begin to write more installers.
For users who have more than a minimum amount of knowledge in computers, both control centers are great tools, but for those who have minimum knowledge, they can both become frustrating. Windows has its new menu system in XP, which is nice, but it is still hard to find things. It’s so simplistic that it is not simple at all, if that makes any sense. KDE has nearly the same problem.
Linux has progressed greatly in the years since its beginning, but so has Windows. There is a constant battle for the desktop. Microsoft plans to release its new operating system, Longhorn, in the coming years, but by then, KDE will have QT4 released along with a whole new version. KDE 3.4 has great improvements as well. Is Linux (or should I say KDE) friendly enough? Almost. Is Windows friendly enough? Yes. Should the average user need to learn a little bit more about computers? Yes, but this is debatable (you may find that Linux users will say mostly yes, while Windows users will shout a resounding no).