2018 - My Linux Desktop Manifesto - Andrew Crouthamel
27 years after the creation of Linux, I firmly believe, we are finally at a point of quality usability for the Linux desktop. “The year of the Linux Desktop” has been a joke for a long time, as the fractured FLOSS community has struggled to gain a footing on the average desktop.
There’s a reason.
The community has always prided itself in its choice. Don’t like something? Replace it. Want to change something? Fork it. Choice is great, and a free individual certainly appreciates it. But, it hinders development. Let’s be honest, there aren’t a ton of us working on the desktop. What small community has been hard at work over all of these years, has always been split. Just in desktop environments we have GNOME, KDE, XFCE, LXDE, MATE, Cinnamon, Unity, Budgie, Pantheon, Deepin, etc. And that’s not listing off all of the dead projects over the years. Same goes for the applications, we have two or three or four relatively popular applications that fill the same needs, in every area. We rebase, refactor, rewrite, rebuild, replace, rework. We duplicate efforts endlessly.
But, even with this fracturing and duplication of work, we finally have a solid base to use. I’ve been using Linux for 15+ years, all of them as a desktop. I’ve witnessed its evolution, its hardships, its victories. 2018 is the year I’ve finally witnessed the Linux Desktop “just work”. The installers are easy, the applications are mature, the desktop environments are capable and stable. Drivers auto-detect, configuration auto-define, graphics auto-adjust. Networked printers of all things, automatically detect and install. It’s all quite impressive.
We need to consolidate and focus.
We need to focus on what will attract more users. We need to focus on what will attract more developers. We need to focus on what is working well, and polish it up. Eliminate that hacked together, pseudo-functional feeling of much FLOSS software over the past 30+ years.
Not long ago I became a convert.
I used to be a huge GNOME fan. Starting out in the early years, I enjoyed the GNOME design, especially the much lauded GNOME 2.x series. One of the features of GNOME, even in the early years, was its use of designers to craft the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines. The HIG helped create a harmonious and pleasing system, one that removed much of the hacked together and clunky designs of FLOSS software. Upon the release of GNOME 3.x, the HIG was modified to drastically simplify applications. A simplification that many reviewers believe went too far, even stepping past Apple-level simplifications.
The average person wants a system that can be simple, fast, easy, and powerful when needed. They want something familiar to them. Considering Microsoft Windows still holds almost 90% market share, they want something that looks like and works like, Microsoft Windows. Like it or not, we need to support traditional Windows-style work flow to attract more people.
The best environment for these requirements is KDE Plasma.
After my third GNOME 3.x crash in a week, causing my profile to corrupt and be wiped, I had enough. I spent some time re-evaluating the Linux desktop environments, and after a few tests, I have settled on KDE Plasma. Originally reluctant, due to my bias towards it from experiences a decade old, I sit here duly impressed. Yes, there is MATE, Cinnamon, Budgie, and XFCE that offer the traditional Windows-like desktop experience. But I believe KDE Plasma surpasses those in performance, modern design enhancements, and customization. I hereby declare my time and energies toward ensuring KDE Plasma is the best Linux desktop environment. The default selection for a new user, and an obvious choice for business use. Plasma is simple and elegant, yet advanced and powerful. It’s defaults are very similar to Windows. The average person would love this desktop.
If they knew it existed.