KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (2024)

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (1)

When it comes to Linux, the desktop environment is a big deal.

A desktop environment makes up the graphical user interface (GUI) and a set of applications you get on your Linux distribution.

You can go through our article explaining what a desktop environment is.

Linux Jargon Buster: What is Desktop Environment in Linux?One of the most commonly used term in desktop Linux world is Desktop Environment (DE). If you are new to Linux, you should understand this frequently used term. What is Desktop Environment in Linux? A desktop environment is the bundle of components that provide you common graphical user i…It's FOSSAbhishek Prakash

Choosing a good desktop environment can help you improve productivity, workflow, ease of use, and overall experience.

And, among the best desktop environments, KDE Plasma and GNOME are particularly popular. Here, I plan to highlight the key differences to help you decide.

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KDE is the entire community of people working on various projects under its umbrella. And, the desktop environment is Plasma. Here, we compare the Plasma desktop with GNOME. However, for simplicity, we tend to use “KDE” instead of “Plasma”.

The User Interface: Functionality vs Look

The user interface generally involves the type of layout, icons, theme, widgets, and other components of a GUI.

The Plasma desktop aims to provide a traditional desktop layout comfortable for most Windows users.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (4)

Don’t let that fool you, though—it is simple to look at but focused on more functionalities.

In fact, Windows has taken inspiration from KDE for some of its UI improvements, like the ability to adjust the volume by scrolling the volume icon in the taskbar.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (5)

And, KDE is known for its consistent look and feel, even with numerous improvements over the years.

GNOME, on the other hand, provides a unique desktop experience. GNOME should suit you well if you want a different and modern user interface design.

The icons/theme/wallpapers may look better regarding modern standards. There’s a take on preferences, but GNOME looks more attractive, in my opinion.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (6)

However, adjusting the workflow could take a while if you are already comfortable with the traditional Windows-like layout.

There’s no start/app/menu button here; you have to click on the Activity Overview to access your workspaces (or virtual desktops) and access the app menu from the same place.

To some, it might look cleaner without a taskbar, but it is up to your preferences.

Note that the UI may not be as functional and rich as KDE. For instance, the widgets in the system tray offer way more options than you get with the applets on GNOME.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (7)

So, in terms of UI, KDE vs GNOME does not have a clear winner but depends on your requirements for functionality or a modern look.

App Ecosystem

With KDE, you get access to countless utilities.

You will probably be overwhelmed with the applications available for KDE by KDE.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (8)

In addition to that, the entire KDE community is super busy adding new applications and tools to the arsenal.

Many of them stand out among the available applications like Krita, Kdenlive, Kate Editor, and more.

GNOME also features numerous applications by default. While it could be a sufficient list for most users, it falls short on the catalog compared to KDE.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (9)

I do not find myself using many apps by GNOME.

And, it is worth noting that the KDE applications that come with the desktop environment get faster improvements when compared to GNOME’s default applications.

It is just a personal observation, considering the development updates by KDE when compared to GNOME applications. However, this can change with time.

What’s Best for Customization?

KDE is the superior choice if you want to tinker and take control of the user experience.

Don’t take my word for it; you can follow our KDE customization guide to know the available options.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (10)

Not just the ability to customize, but you get a lot of control out-of-the-box for changing the theme, color, workspace effects, window management, and more without the need for any particular application/extension.

For some, the availability of options may not make a difference if you want to stick to the stock experience, no matter what.

As for GNOME, you do not get a lot of out-of-the-box controls. Instead, you will have to rely on GNOME Tweaks or extensions to make some changes. But, yes, you can customize the experience to a good extent.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (11)

Also, note that GNOME 42 was not available as a stable release at the time of writing this. So, you can expect a system-wide dark mode implementation and some improvements in look/feel.

Of course, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, considering both offer different GUI elements and layouts. However, KDE gets the pick for users who want more control and customization options.

GNOME is suitable for users who do not want many options. If you like what GNOME offers and are willing to customize the experience with extra effort, you can also do that.

Extra Abilities: KDE vs GNOME

As mentioned earlier, GNOME offers extensions to add more functionality to your current configuration.

You can head to GNOME’s shell extension website to explore options, or take a look at our list of the best gnome extensions.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (12)

GNOME extensions make it easy to do a bunch of stuff, like automating what workspace an app launches using the auto-move window switcher.

There are all kinds of extensions to improve your workflow and make things easy.

However, the extensions depend on the GNOME shell version. Moreover, due to radical changes from one version to another, GNOME extensions could stop working with future releases.

On the other hand, KDE offers a bag full of add-ons, widgets, and application add-ons as well.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (13)

Unlike GNOME’s inconvenient way of adding extensions from a browser (using another browser extension), you can directly access KDE’s add-ons using the Discover software center.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (14)

So, it becomes a seamless experience to add extra functionality or a theme without following a separate set of steps.

Not to forget, tools like KDE Connect offer extra abilities, letting you connect your phone with your PC.

Overall, you can extend functionalities on both, but if you want more options, KDE takes the edge.

Accessibility Options

While KDE does a fantastic job on several aspects, the available abilities to enhance the accessibility of the desktop are extremely limited (like the absence of a screen reader out of the box).

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (15)

It is a possibility that the developers are testing the screen reader functionality with the Orca Screen Reader app, hearing/visual aids for the desktop, but with KDE Plasma 5.24, it’s not useful enough.

As one of our readers pointed out, KDE can’t talk before or after installation. So, it’s a not an option for them.

However, GNOME does a better job with the availability of a screen reader, visual alerts, screen keyboard, sound keys, click assist, and more options.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (16)

So, if a user relies on accessibility options to use the desktop, GNOME should be the pick.

Is KDE Faster than GNOME?

It is important to have a desktop environment that works efficiently with available system resources. This is incredibly significant if you want to multitask and do not have an extreme configuration to back it up.

KDE is generally considered faster than most other desktop environments because it is light on resources.

However, to give you a reference, I created two VMs (Fedora 35 and KDE Neon User Edition) to provide some idea before you proceed to try.

Both the VM setups shared a similar resource configuration with two cores allocated and 8 GB memory, and here’s what we have:

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (17)

The resource usage is a screenshot with nothing running in the background, right after turning on the VM.

In contrast, KDE-powered distro KDE Neon proved to consume less than 1 GB of RAM without the spectacle, screenshot app running in the background.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (18)

Even with the screenshot app running, it consumes fewer resources out of the box.

If that doesn’t convince you, there have been numerous reports in the past like Jason’s that have mentioned KDE as the lighter desktop environment over XFCE as well.

Available Distributions: GNOME vs KDE

Most of the popular offerings feature GNOME as the default (or the only) desktop environment. Fedora, Ubuntu, and Pop!_OS are popular examples.

You should find numerous distributions with separate GNOME editions.

As for KDE, you can try exploring our list of KDE-based distros, or seek options like Kubuntu. You may not find KDE as the default choice for most mainstream distros, but you should find a KDE variant for almost everything.

So, What Should You Pick to Define Your Desktop Experience?

The choice of desktop environment gives you the desktop experience you want.

If you want simplicity, performance, and numerous options/tools, KDE should be an evergreen choice.

GNOME can be a fantastic addition if you want a modern/cleaner look and do not mind the different layout (or user experience).

While GNOME may not be able to give you the same amount of control, you can still do many things with it. Pop!_OS gives you an example of having GNOME as the desktop environment and adding extensions/functionality on top of it to make it a polished desktop distribution.

So, you must evaluate what’s more important to your user experience.

My take: I’d pick GNOME over KDE for a unique/polished desktop experience.

What would you pick? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

KDE Plasma vs. Xfce: Comparing Lean and Mean Desktop Environments for Linux UsersKDE Plasma and Xfce are two popular desktop environment options for lightweight Linux distributions. While Xfce is still favored more for some of the best lightweight Linux distributions, KDE Plasma is not a resource-heavy desktop either. To help you pick a suitable desktop environment, we…It's FOSSAnkush Das

Frequently Asked Questions: If You’re Still Confused to Make a Choice

You might have some questions after reading the comparison, so I’d like to address some of the potential ones:

1. Why is KDE not Popular?

KDE is arguably the second-most popular desktop environment after GNOME. However, it isn’t the default choice for mainstream distros and popular options like Ubuntu, Pop!_OS, Fedora; hence, you get to see GNOME around you.

2. Is GNOME more stable than KDE?

Both the desktop environments have been built by a skilled team of developers, with regular fixes and improvements.

GNOME has had multiple radical changes so far. So, in that way, KDE can be considered a more consistent and stable experience.

3. Is KDE Faster than GNOME?

While we have already tried to address that in our article, it should be noted that the performance depends on what you do and the available system resources.

For some users, the least resource consumption can be a big win. And, for some, with more available resources, the differences fade away.

4. Is KDE Better than GNOME?

KDE features more applications, customization options, and extra functionalities. However, it can be overwhelming for users who do not want access to any such options.

If a user prefers a clean user experience providing a modern look, GNOME can be a better pick.

Ultimately, it’s all about your preferences, not the advantages of a desktop environment.

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? (2024)

FAQs

KDE vs GNOME: What's the Ultimate Linux Desktop Choice? ›

The choice of desktop environment gives you the desktop experience you want. If you want simplicity, performance, and numerous options/tools, KDE should be an evergreen choice. GNOME can be a fantastic addition if you want a modern/cleaner look and do not mind the different layout (or user experience).

Which one is better, GNOME or KDE? ›

In the end, the choice is yours: use KDE if you require an infinite amount of customization possibilities, or try GNOME if you prefer a lightweight, intuitive operating system right out of the box.

Which Linux desktop environment is the best? ›

The best Linux desktops of 2024 in full:
  1. Budgie. Best Linux desktop that's highly customizable. ...
  2. Deepin DE. Best Linux desktop that's aesthetically pleasing. ...
  3. Enlightenment. Best Linux desktop that's lightweight and beautiful. ...
  4. LXQt. Best Linux desktop with a simple aesthetic. ...
  5. Pantheon. Best Linux desktop for migrating macOS users.
May 20, 2024

Which is better GNOME or KDE reddit? ›

GNOME does have a more simplistic look, but I find KDE to be more user-friendly in terms of GUI configuration. It really comes down to personal preference and what works best for each individual. It depends entirely what you are using it for.

Why is KDE the best? ›

Consistency. With standardized menu layouts, toolbars, dialogs and behaviors KDE applications tend to be very consistent. This makes KDE an easy to learn, friendly and usable solution that appeals to many users.

Which is better KDE or XFCE? ›

In conclusion , if you have a high - end system and prioritize advanced features and customization , KDE may be the better option for you . However , if you have a lower - end system and prioritize speed and efficiency , XFCE would be the recommended choice .

Why is GNOME desktop so popular? ›

The main goals of GNOME are to be simple, clean, elegant, consistent and open to be modified by third-party extensions. This seems very appealing, especially considering that on Linux the user experience is usually confusing and inconsistent — sometimes too bloated.

What are the pros and cons of GNOME desktop environment? ›

Pros and cons of GNOME:

GNOME's minimalist design and ease of use make it an excellent choice for beginners and those who prefer a clean and simple interface. However, some users may find GNOME's lack of customization options, compatibility issues, and resource-intensive nature to be a disadvantage.

Does Linux Mint use GNOME or KDE? ›

Linux Mint
Linux Mint 21 "Vanessa" (Cinnamon Edition)
Kernel typeMonolithic (Linux)
UserlandGNU
Default user interface1.0: KDE 2.0-12: GNOME 13-18.3: Cinnamon / MATE / KDE SC 4 / Xfce 19-present: Cinnamon / MATE / Xfce
LicenseMainly GPL and other free software licenses, minor additions of proprietary software
13 more rows

Can I switch between GNOME and KDE? ›

At the bottom left of the login screen you should see 'Desktop Session: yada yada yada'. Click this and change it to 'Plasma (Wayland)' then login. And now you're done!

What is the most stable GNOME? ›

If you mean immutability of the package base, then it is definitely Debian. This distribution mainly contains updates related to security. If you are interested in stability in the sense that the system is reliable and does not break, then I would check Fedora, Ubuntu and OpenSUSE Tumbleweed.

What is the drawback of KDE? ›

KDE can be computationally intensive, especially for large datasets, requiring more processing power and time compared to histograms. This can be a limitation when dealing with real-time or interactive applications.

Which is lighter, KDE or GNOME? ›

It's worth it to try KDE Plasma rather than GNOME. It's lighter and faster than GNOME by a fair margin, and it's far more customizable. GNOME is great for your OS X convert who isn't used to anything being customizable, but KDE is an utter delight for everyone else.

Does KDE use more RAM? ›

Have been dabbing with KDE Neon Plasma 6 and RAM usage has increased significantly from previous iteration. It uses at least 5Gs instead of previous 3.5 with CPU usage floating about 20-30 range. Think this is what it was for previous ed.

Which KDE version is best? ›

Being maintained by a prominent KDE developer, KDE neon is the recommended distro for trying out the latest Plasma releases. The User Edition of KDE neon is what you want to download right now if you want to use the latest KDE Plasma 6 desktop environment on your personal computer.

What is the most stable KDE? ›

Stable & conservative distros:
  • Kubuntu LTS.
  • Mageia.
  • Debian (need to pick KDE in the installer)
  • Slackware (not for beginners)
Oct 29, 2023

Which display manager is best for GNOME? ›

GDM, or the GNOME display manager is specifically made for the GNOME desktop environment. Like XDM, it's both visually appealing and offers a log-in experience filled with features. The display manager also supports theming, letting us customize the login screen based on our preference.

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