found a site with clear minimal reading that defines the differences between the two. figured people that aren't in the know like myself could use this. original site http://www.psychocats.net/ubuntu/kdegnome
if you would like to see the images that go with this visit the site above. I don't link images from other sites unless i upload them to my own image site.
This is not, by any means a comprehensive look at the differences between KDE and Gnome, but it should give new users a small taste of the two desktop environments' different strengths and weaknesses and their philosophical approaches to usability.
The focus is particularly on Ubuntu and Kubuntu, but aspects of this comparison can apply to other Linux distributions as well.
Since this is not a comprehensive look at the differences between KDE and Gnome, you should just pick one arbitrarily based on what's presented here... or you should just try both and see which one you like better.
The screenshots of this are from Ubuntu and Kubuntu 10.04. Later versions of Ubuntu and Kubuntu may change slightly in appearance or behavior, but a lot of the general principles will likely remain the same.
When you look at the default setup of Gnome and KDE in Ubuntu, their differences are mainly cosmetic.
KDE by default (this can be changed) favors blue and grey, has one toolbar at the bottom of the screen, and has one main menu.
Gnome by default (this can also be changed) favors dark grey and purple, has two toolbars (one at the top, one at the bottom), and splits its menu into three submenus—Applications, Places, and System.
You should not select your desktop environment based on its default look. Gnome can just as easily favor blue, and KDE can be made to be orange. Both can be any color you want. Toolbars can be moved, added, deleted. The Gnome menus can be combined. New KDE menus can be added.
Both KDE and Gnome offer flexibility.
In KDE, there is a KMenu through which you access all programs. By default in Kubuntu (Ubuntu's implementation of KDE), there is a quick-navigation button that looks like a folder.
If you want to go to your Documents folder, you would go to the quick navigation button and then select Documents. Then you would click Open to open it.
In Gnome in Ubuntu's default layout (though you can change it to a one-button format if you'd like), you have separate buttons for applications, for folder navigation, and for system preferences.
To go to your Home Folder or Documents folder, you click on Places and then select the location you want to go to.
In both KDE and Gnome, you rename a file (just as you would in Windows) with the F2 key. In older versions of KDE, the rename would focus on the entire filename, including the extension. In newer versions of KDE, the renaming process focuses on only the main filename and leaves out the extension. The renaming happens in a pop-up window, which you can confirm or cancel when you're done.
KDE also defaults to a single-click instead of double-click for opening files. So if you stick with the single-click, you'll have to hold down Control while selecting the file so that you just select the file and don't open it.
In Gnome, renaming a file also focuses on the main file name, but it does so inline and not with a pop-up window.
File Browser Preferences
KDE has a reputation for having confusing menus and options. I tend to think of it as just a different approach. In the file browser preferences, for example, you see five main options and then a lot of minor options in each submenu.
In Gnome's file browser preferences, you see six main options and then a bunch of other minor options in each submenu. Even though there are more options in Gnome in this case, many Gnome advocates consider Gnome simpler and less confusing. Again, I think of it as just two different approaches and a matter of preference.
KDE has a System Settings central location for configuring system preferences. This can be accessed through the KMenu. And, despite KDE's reputation for being more Windows-like than Gnome, you can see the layout here is actually quite similar to Mac OS X's System Preferences window.
In Ubuntu's Gnome, by default, you access each preference one at a time by going to System > Preferences > and then selecting the item you want. You can cheat a bit to get something similar to KDE's System Settings by pressing Alt-F2 and then typing in gnome-control-center to get something like this.
While I do sometimes defend KDE against its reputation for being complicated, there are other times I have to admit the reputation is well-earned. Take a look at this dialogue for configuring window behavior. Each of those three options has multiple tabs with a lot of gobbledygook that could confuse the uninitiated.
And this is an example of how Gnome has earned a reputation for being simple. Some would argue too simple, but it's always a matter of preference.
In KDE, usually when you make a change, you have to click Apply or Save to get the changes to stick. This again is part of how it's earned its reputation for being more Windows-like.
In Gnome, changes usually take effect as you are choosing the new option.
Yeah, it's a random option, but it's a popular one.
Once again, I usually defend KDE, but in this case, I can't make much sense out of the configuration options for panels. It used to be so simple (in older versions of KDE) to change it so the panel was on the top instead of the bottom. It is now mysteriously called screen edge.
In Gnome, the options are pretty straightforward for modifying the panel. Of course, Gnome also has the annoying lock for individual panel applets instead of KDE's more sensible locking and unlocking of all widgets.
In KDE, if you want to exit, you click on the KMenu and select Leave and then the next option. I can't tell whether it's Kubuntu (Ubuntu's implementation of KDE) or all implementations of KDE 4, but after you decide to shutdown, you'll be asked if you want to close all the virtual terminals, too. Seems a little bit silly to me, but I guess if you use the virtual terminals a lot, it may be a good thing. If you don't even know what a virtual terminal is, this will be yet another confusing option to you.
In Gnome, the exit option recently moved from being in the System menu to being its own applet. You click it and the options come down.
Generally, KDE focuses on offering as many features as possible with as many graphical ways as possible for configuring those features. Fans of KDE highlight the functionality it has. Critics of KDE say the menus are too confusing.
Gnome, on the other hand, opts for simplicity and often hides certain configurations in order to achieve that simplicity. Fans of Gnome think the simplicity of Gnome offers a cleanliness that allows the user to get stuff done. Critics of Gnome think it just lacks certain functionality.
Once again, this comparison touches on only the surface of the differences and similarities between Gnome and KDE. As you can see, both offer more or less the same functionality. It's up to you to pick the desktop environment that works for you.
You may have glanced at this page and thought, "Well, gee, the differences look very cosmetic. I don't know which one to pick." The good news, though, is that you don't have to pick. You can have both installed together and switch back and forth whenever you feel like it.