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There are a number differences between Gnome and KDE - I think the best solution would be to try both of them and see for yourself which one you feel more comfortable with. That's what most linux users have done. You can install a few desktop environments and just choose which one to log in.
I believe these are the main desktops available in distributions.
Main? Enlightenment is not one of the most-used desktops. That doesn't mean its not good though.
What are the main differences between each desktop application? If you have a preference, can you share why?
No. I'm not being difficult, I actually don't know the answer. What I can tell you is that every so often I get a bit irate with kde and try Gnome for a month or so. I always start off by thinking '...actually, it isn't that bad you know...' and end up by thinking 'no, this actually irritates me even more than anything else that I can think of, I'm going to change back to something that I enjoy using'.
I don't know why I find gnome initially acceptable but after a short while I can't stand it anymore.
Anyway, my preference is kde 3.5.x, then e17, then kde 4.x, then xfce (then windowmaker, fluxbox, et al) and then Gnome, although it is also true that kde 4.x is only that far up the list because I don't expect to put up with it as it is for long (...can kde 4.3 be that far off...that's got to be closer to being finished and bug-free hasn't it?). But it depends...
on lower-powered hardware, that list gets close to reversing (apart from gnome, of course) because fluxbox, windowmaker make better use of the hardware, particularly when ram is limited
part of the reason that like kde is that i like the applets and mini-applications included with kde (konqueror, k3b, akregator...) and if you are going to run kde applets, you migh as well run them under kde. If you don't like these then YMMV.
Also, can the "mac like" AVM be used in any of these, or is it limited to one or the other?
Maybe that is an item on which I can be definitive: if it looks too much like a Mac, I will definitely find it irritating. Again YMMV.
It is not necessary to make a definite choice between any of the window managers: having more of these installed allows you to switch between them at choice. Graphical login usually have a drop-down menu with the available window managers, making it easy to try 'em all.
Nothing prevents you to use KDE applications if you run Gnome, or Gnome application if you run KDE as the window manager. The choice of the default Window Manager is most often done by the installer and many users do not change that, unless there is a specific need for something else.
Fluxbox, XFCE and WindowMaker are preferred on older PC's with limited resources. These are still able to run Gnome and KDE application, provided that the relevant libraries are installed.
install a few ad try them out . MY likes are Gnome but i also like kde apps ( not so much the desktop ) .Qt apps do run a bit faster than gtk ones( gnome) .I login with KDM to Gnome .
E17 is nice ( fast too) ,but it dose take some work to set up . your average windows user won't be able to just "point and click " to get e17 to work ( some of that may have changed - it has been 1.5 years since i last looked at E17 )