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Perhaps this is the wrong forum to ask this question in, if so please direct me to the correct one.
While I've used everything from DEC Mainframes, to PDA's, most of my time in the last several years has been spent in Windows. Currently I've been spending most of my time with Windows2000. Turning off most of the eye candy gives me something I can tolerate. I've seen XP's interface and have to ask myself who let the preschoolers in the design room.
In the past I've run RedHat 5.1 - 8, slackware 8-9, and I even gave the latest SUSE a spin. After some initial problems with the Beta Debian installer I'm the proud owner of a bouncing baby Sarge (2.6) install.
Previously I've limited myself to just the command line, just a windows manager, or XFCE. The computer I had to run GNU/Linux on was just not powerful enough to handle Gnome or KDE. Recently that's changed. The Athlon XP 2500+ w/ 512 MB ram and an ATI All-In-Wonder 7500 AGP card mean that both KDE and Gnome run fairly snappy. I think I'ld like to get settled into a desktop, but both are (to my sorry eyes) *ugly*. Yes, I know the Windows interface won't win any beauty pageants either.
When I ran KDE it looked like some of those WinXP designers snuck in during recess. Bright/Loud/PreSchool inspired colors. The "K" task bar was at least an inch thick. To be fair, the last time I saw an Apple OSX desktop it too looked like it was designed by the same group of preschoolers.
So I thought I would give Gnome a spin. It's default was like a breath of fresh air, subdued, polished. Unfortunately every icon on the desktop looks like it's 2 inches square. Perhaps it's the fact that I have a 17" monitor running at 1024x768. But come one people, is everyone but me running at 1280x1024?
Yes, I realize that it's possible to "theme" or otherwise change the appearance of both desktops. Exactly how is escaping me at the moment.
Given that I am running Debian GNU/Linux on an Athlon XP 2500+, have 512 MB of ram, and an ATI All-in-Wonder 7500 graphics card with a 17" monitor.
Also at the moment I have to live in both the Windows and Linux worlds, so that apps should be comparable, the desktops don't have to necessarily look or act like each other (in fact I'ld prefer it if it DIDN'T look or act like Windows) So we're talking FireFox, ThunderBird, OpenOffice, GIMP 2.0. as apps for starters.
I like my icons/task bars small, my colors muted, and my desktop uncluttered.
Can anyone point me in a direction I should go? Which is considered the "default" or "standard" desktop for Debian? Which will be most compatible with my choice of applications? Which works better lean, subdued, and uncluttered?
While I could probably "theme" or otherwise adjust either desktop to be more to my taste, which would be a "natural" direction for it, and which would be like "putting pontoons on a Volkswagen and calling it a boat"?
Any help, direction, or suggestions would be appreciated.
You mentioned that "every icon on the desktop looks like it's 2 inches square." I use Slackware instead of Debian but do use Gnome and was able to change the size of the icons on my computer. I right-clicked on an icon and then seleced "stretch" and then left-clicked on the icon and reduced the size. I did that for each icon that was on my desktop until each one was reduced to a more appropritate size. That would probably also work for Debian. You also might want to make sure that you really are running at the 1024x768 that you mentioned and not 800x600. At 800x600 I got really huge icons.I use a 19 inch monitor and 1600x1200 resolution. Occasionally, I use CNTRL-ALT-+ to drop down to a lower resolution. When browsing with Mozilla Firefox I also occasinally use CTRL+ or CTRL- to adjust the size of the text. As a middle aged person with less flexible middle aged eyes, that is how I get by with running such a high resolution.
On my computer I also changed the background of the desktop to some wallpaper that I prefer. I found some wallpaper that I like on the Internet and downloaded it. Then I right-clicked on the desktop, selected "change desktop background, right-clicked on one of the examples of wallpaper and then click "add wallpaper" and then located the wallpapaper that I downloaded and selected it. If it wasn't already the 1600x1200 size that I use I then had to select "scaled" to make it fit.
There are many other things that also can be configured to your preferences. Personally, I prefer to make the launcher pannels be as small as possible. I say that partly becuase even with a 19 inch monitor at 1600x1200, I believe that the desktop real estate is precious and is not to be wasted. Using smaller launcher pannels means less wasted space on the screen. To change that I right-clicked on the lower launcher pannel, selected properties, and reduced the size to 24 pixels. I did the same thing for my upper launcher pannel as well. Later on I right-clicked each launcher pannel and added several more icons and launchers for various programs and utilities. Those are just a few of my preferences. You might disagree with my tastes. I am not sure about some of your other questions about what is "standard" or "best" for Debian. I have never used Debian.