Since Ubuntu changed to Unity and Gnome 3 took over everything, I found myself without a nice DE to use. Gnome 2 was perfect for me, I could customize it the way I wanted it to feel (I still use it at work, but there we’re forced to use some “ancient” 10.04 LTS Ubuntu), so that I can keep my productivity and use the most of screen sizes. It was a powerful, standard and lightweight solution.
Gnome 3 changed everything, now I can’t use my screen the way I want to. That irremovable top panel, the shell itself, the HOTKEYS changed and no way around these things was provided! It was not supposed to get out-of-the-way and help you, but force you to relearn how to work (for me, in a bad oriented way) with no variety… after all, “you can’t know what’s best for you”.
Unity suffers from the same thing. People define what they think a newcomer would think to be easy to use and apply all over the system. It IS OK to do it, BUT LET EXPERIENCED users CUSTOMIZE the experience! I can’t stress that enough.
And so, a crusade for the new best Desktop Environment was started, and I’ve tried almost anything that calls itself a Linux DE. My rules were simple:
- Must be able to leave all vertical space free to windows (no top/bottom panels);
- Must not feel bloated (be it with excessive animations or effects);
- Must handle two monitors decently;
- Must be able to create hotkeys.
- Must not differ that much from the basic window and support icon clicking (I share my home desktop, so it must function without “magic”);
- Have compositing (Optional);
Unity and Gnome shell were out because of the vertical space and the bloat feeling. I also could not edit many hotkeys for them to work the way I’m more productive. Awesome and Fluxbox variants are just too far from what people are used to, so no to them. XFCE and LXDE are OK, but they feel weird and incomplete. XFCE does not seem to help you at all when customizing. The more you modify, the more unstable it gets. Cynnamon is Gnome 3 placing the top bar on the bottom. Enlightenment seems to have learned nothing, feels like I’m using the old 6.10 version again. If they’re aiming “vintage”, they should have placed a desktop cube and fire animations by default.
MATE, that would be the best candidate, is just too unstable and incompatible with updated Gnome apps. It’s not ready yet, but I’ll definitely keep an eye on it.
I didn’t look back at KDE after the 4.0 fiasco. At that time, it was too unstable for it to be released, BUT, for my relief, it was already at 4.10, and now it’s TOO WONDERFUL! 😀 Everything, EVERYTHING WORKS AS EXPECTED and can be customized! I love it! Of course I had to learn new places to create the things I wanted to, but that would also happen with the other DEs. As a plus, it has features I would need to use other applications to have working in the past.
Needless to say, after that many DE installs my Ubuntu could be considered trash. Preferences were thrown and thrown again on the garbage, a thousand alternative utilities were installed, a terminal application for each DE, the login screen showed alternatives no longer installed. Add that to my root partition being mounted as read-only because of ReiserFS tree corruption (I didn’t even know it could happen, I thought it was just perfect) and you can see me reinstalling the whole system, not only the root system, but all HOME stuff too (preference screwups, anyone?), with Kubuntu 12.10. This time it’s mature enough, EXT4 as the file system.
I’m now posting from it, and was pretty fast to install AND customize. Around 4 hours to have it all working (games and development stuff all ready-to-use). KDE is still good as it was before (it was the main preference after Gnome 2), but nowadays it’s also what Gnome left behind.