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Linux Mint KDE 12 Review: Your Perfect Desktop

KDE is fast becoming the favorite of GNU/Linux users. At least that’s what I have been witnessing in my circle. I can’t say about others but I am currently running Gnome Shell 3 and KDE on my main machines. While Gnome Shell is on a development highway and we can see the improvements with each release, KDE has fully matured and offers a modern experience along with complete control and customization. Gnome Shell is slowly but steadily maturing, the huge number of extensions shows how hard working is the Gnome community.

Why KDE?
Why am I suddenly trying KDE after being a Gnome user? While Gnome Shell is quite stable from UI point of view, Unity is going through a heavy development. These UI changes broke the statues quo and threw the users out of their comfort zones. It took away what users were used to or were using to enhance their own productivity. This led users to try alternatives. That brought me to KDE. That’s the beauty of the Free Software world – there is some thing for everyone.

Having used KDE I found myself hooked to Gnome Shell 3 and KDE. I found KDE to be the perfect Desktop for those who are looking for the good, old and tested UI, similar to Gnome 2.x.

It is also is a very attractive alternative for Windows users who want the security, stability and easy of use without having to learn everything about a new UI.

However, don’t underestimate KDE because of the familiar UI. When you try KDE don’t get the impression that it is based on old technologies; it’s not. On the contrary KDE very modern and offers different UIs for Desktop, netbooks and tablets so a user doesn’t have to make compromises when it comes to taking advantage of the device he/she is using.

I personally believe that every GNU/Linux user must try KDE once, just to see how much power can be packed with ease of use. And, chances are that if you give KDE an try and keep it on your system for at last one week, you will never go back.

KDE on Linux Mint
You get a perfect combo when you run KDE on top of Linux Mint. Linux Mint while offers the stability of Debian along with a huge repository of applications, it also brings to you the enhancements made by the Ubuntu team. The remaining rough edges are then polished by the Linux Mint team.

I downloaded the latest version of Linux Mint KDE which came with KDE 4.7. KDE users are aware that the latest version of KDE is 4.8 which was released only a few days ago so there was no time for the Linux Mint team to package it with the upcoming version. Since I wanted to keep the latest version of KDE I upgraded Linux Mint 12 to KDE 4.8. All you need to do to upgrade is run these commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Once the upgrade is finished, just reboot your system.

Linux Mint KDE

[You don't have to upgrade necessarily. I did it because I wanted to use the latest KDE applications.]

The Installation
The installation of Linux Mint as as easy as taking a walk in a park. If you are familiar with the Linux Mint installation process (which is extremely easy) you won’t find any problem. If you have any questions about installing Linux Mint you can refer to the Muktware or Linux Mint manuals.

Look and

Look & Feel
KDE 4.8 is extremely polished and will beat any OS whether it be Apple’s Mac or Microsoft’s Windows (I don’t want that comparison though). However, I never understood why Gnome apps look ugly in KDE running on Ubuntu-based systems. Gnome apps looks perfectly fine in my openSUSE running KDE. Can anyone explain?

Customization

Customization is the area where KDE beats every other DE, even if I do find myself comfortable with Gnome Shell which now has a lot of extensions, there is no match for KDE.

Panels
You can very easily pin apps to your bottom panel. Just drag and drop and they are there. You can move the bottom panel around  – bottom, top, right or left. If one panel is not enough, you can always add another (and another) panel just by right clicking on the desktop and adding the panel. You can also increase or decrease the size of the panel according to your screen.

Widgets
You can also add cool widgets to your desktop (such as alarm) with just one click. I have Facebook, weather and clock widgets on my desktop. So, I am using every space on my desktop without getting locked out of any customization.

3D Effects
KDE comes with plenty of 3D effects, especially the most popular 3D cube effect when you switch workspaces. If you are missing the good 3D effects on your desktop, KDE will bring the excitement back.

Theme & Icons
You can very easily change and install new themes for your desktop. You can choose themes from within the Workspace Appearance option. You can also download themes from other sources and easily install them from the settings tab.

Multi-monitor Set-up
KDE is a blessing for multi-monitor set-ups. On my multi-monitor set-up I can have different sets of panels (with different apps pinned to them) on each monitor. I can also have a different set of widgets for each monitor. If that’s not enough then this will surely excite you – you can have different wallpapers for each monitor which means each monitor will have a personality/mood of it own. What it means is you can customize one monitor for work (pin all productive suite, browser apps) and customize the other one for entertainment by pinning apps and widgets for music and movies.


Krunner: Dash which doesn’t come in your way
Krunner is one of those jewels of KDE’s crown which allows a user to access files, bookmarks, locations, applications, commands and much more. Unlike Ubuntu’s Dash, it doesn’t come between you and your current work and does its job silently.

Krunner Tricks

  • Krunner can do couple of more useful tricks such as calculation without having to open the calculator.
  • You can search Google from krunner. Type gg:<search item>
  • Unit Converter. You can easily convert units from the krunner just use this pattern <1miles in kilometers>
  • You can also open a website from the krunnuer, just enter the URL of the site

Linux Mint Search
Linux Mint 12 KDE comes with DuckDuckGo as the default search engine. It is a neat search engine which doesn’t track you. (You don’t have to worry if you are using Google,  you can very easily disable tracking on Google).

One thing you need to keep in mind is that DuckDuckGo appears to be a bit ‘sensitive’ to the keywords. Searching certain keywords may not result in desired results. I think there is some scope for Duckduckgo.

Using Duckduckgo by default doesn’t mean you are locked into Duckduckgo. You can very easily change the search engine to Google. Just keep in mind that Linux Mint team has a deal with Duckduckgo for revenue generation. So, if you are changing the search engine to Google do consider donating to the Linux Mint project so that the team can work on developing one of the greatest GNU/Linux based distributions.

Apps, Apps And Apps
Linux Mint KDE comes with a lot of useful apps pre-installed. It comes with Thunderbird, Firefox, LibreOffice, VLC and many such useful applications. So, you won’t have to install anything if you have downloaded the DVD edition of Linux Mint KDE.

Linux Mint KDE comes with its own version of software center which makes it extremely easy to search and install applications. Since it is based on Ubuntu you can add PPAs to the system and install packages not available in the main repositories.

Stability
I have been using Linux Mint KDE since RC and it has not misbehaved much. KDE is often accused of being buggy but I never had to quit any misbehaving application. I never lost any unsaved data. I installed the final release of Linux Mint KDE yesterday and then upgraded to KDE 4.8. I have been running it for more than 24 hours without any reboot so I can vouch for its stability.

Conclusion:
Linux Mint team has done a commendable job with Cinnamon project where they are trying to help those users who are not comfortable with Unity. It’s great to see a project putting its users above everything else. Despite being a small team, Linux Mint successfully delivered Gnome+ Cinnamon and has now released a great KDE edition.

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With Linux Mint KDE you get the best of both worlds. What more can one ask for. Go ahead and give Linux Mint KDE a try, trust me you won’t go back.

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Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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