GNOME, KDE Aim at Windows

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2004-09-24 Print this article Print

The latest revisions strengthen the case for Linux as a viable alternative to Windows on mainstream corporate desktops.

KDE and GNOME, the open-source software projects that together form the face of most Linux installations, have undergone revisions that boost their usability and enterprise readiness—advances that build the case for Linux as a viable alternative to Windows on mainstream corporate desktops.

Some of the biggest changes in KDE 3.3 and GNOME 2.8 lie in the projects respective e-mail and collaboration clients, Kontact and Evolution. Both applications are well-integrated into their desktop environments and cover a full range of groupware functionality, but eWEEK Labs found Evolution to be more refined and pleasant to use.

Check out the eWEEK Labs Executive Summaries for KDE 3.3 and GNOME 2.8.
We tested both desktop environments on systems running Fedora Core 2. We compiled and installed GNOME 2.8 using Garnome, a script that automates the lengthy process of downloading and compiling the GNOME source code in the proper order. The Garnome Project Web site has been overhauled and now contains much better documentation than before.

We tested KDE 3.3, released last month, using precompiled binary packages downloaded from Red Hats development repository. We also tested with Konstruct, a download-and-compile script that works the same way for KDE that Garnome does for GNOME.

You can use Garnome or Konstruct to install these desktop environments on any of the systems they support (both run on all Linux distributions, as well as Solaris and most other Unixes). But the best way to obtain KDE or GNOME is through your Linux distributor.

Click here to read ExtremeTechs preview of the Ubuntu Linux distribution. GNOME 2.8, released earlier this month, marks the long-awaited Version 2.0 release of the Evolution groupware client, which for the first time ships as an integrated part of the desktop environment.

Evolution 2.0s new spam-filtering capabilities are impressive. The application connects to SpamAssassin in the background and, during tests, let us move messages to a junk folder for verification.

Evolution 2.0 also let us teach SpamAssassin to better classify e-mail by manually marking messages as spam or ham (valid mail).

The IETF recently pulled the plug on the MARID anti-spam group. Click here for the full story. Evolutions support for Novell Inc.s GroupWise groupware server and for Microsoft Corp.s Exchange Server 2000 and Exchange Server 2003 distinguishes it from competing Linux e-mail products, including Mozillas Thunderbird 0.8 and KDEs Kontact. Now that Novell has released its Exchange plug-in under the GPL (GNU General Public License), we hope to see Exchange compatibility spread to Thunderbird and Kontact.

Kontact, KDE 3.3s answer to Evolution, is a groupware application that combines the e-mail, contact and scheduling applications from KDE into a single client. Weve panned Kontact in the past for its lack of interface polish, and while the latest version is slicker-looking, various quirks remain.

For one thing, when we were using the down-arrow key, Kontact insisted on scrolling downward through the current message in the preview pane, rather than through messages in its message-list pane.

We also had trouble with Kontacts spam filtering, which, as with Evolution, can connect to SpamAssassin to automatically classify mail as spam as well as train SpamAssassin to better detect spam. In our tests, the wizard with which we created spam-handling filters allowed us to select a folder on our IMAP server as the site to dump unwanted messages, but the filter seemed to work only with local folders.

Another thing that annoyed us about KDEs mail handling was the way it dealt with HTML messages. By default, every HTML message appears in source view, with a security warning and a link to render the HTML for viewing. We could opt instead to have all HTML messages render by default, but wed prefer that Kontact provide the option of rendering the message in a "sanitized" form—one that doesnt fetch remote images or objects. Evolution and Thunderbird work this way by default.

Kopete, the instant messaging client that ships with KDE, is another application that disappointed us in the past for the roughness of its interface, but the version included with KDE 3.3 is much-improved.

We particularly appreciated the option of having Kopete render our chats to mimic other IM clients, such as the Gaim client.

We also liked the tie-in between KDEs Konqueror file manager and Kopete, which let us initiate file transfers to online IM buddies through Konquerors right-click context menu.

Next Page: A remote desktop sharing feature in GNOME.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. Jason's coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at

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