Those KDE Bugs are Features

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2004-10-11 Print this article Print

While members of the open-source community are generally supportive of software diversity, flame skirmishes sometimes erupt between devotees of competing projects.

While members of the open-source community are generally supportive of software diversity, flame skirmishes sometimes erupt between devotees of competing projects.

When users of the rival GNOME and KDE desktop environments square off on the message boards, the debate tends to center on configurability: What constitutes too much (or too little) choice, and how should these options be presented to users?

In a Sept. 24 review of KDE 3.3 and GNOME 2.8, I ran up against a few of these issues in the KMail messaging component of KDEs Kontact groupware client.

I wrote that Id like to see KMail provide the option of rendering HTML mail automatically but without fetching images or other objects from the Internet. By default in KMail, each HTML message, even if its only a few lines of text, appears as unrendered HTML, with a link to click to that will turn it into something readable.

A few readers pointed out that KMail would work the way I wanted if I chose "Prefer HTML to plain text" in the applications setup dialog.

On one hand, its nice to have the extra option. After all, who knows what as-yet-undiscovered security exploits might lurk in the markup of the spam and worm messages that fill our mailboxes?

On the other hand, the option is presented somewhat confusingly—I dont prefer HTML messages. Maybe it would be better to label the option as "markup versus rendered HTML." The help manual for KMail does a better job explaining things, but who reads documentation, anyway?

Thats a joke, at least sort of, and it brings me to another KMail misunderstanding I had that a few readers pointed out. In my review, I complained that KMail wouldnt let me arrow down through the message list, instead only scrolling through the message in KMails preview pane.

Ive been informed that this, too, is not a bug but a feature—youre supposed to left-right arrow to move through the message list. If you go spelunking diligently enough through KMails configuration menus, maybe you can find an option to switch this behavior back.

I got a chuckle out of a post about this mix-up that I read on the message board of KDEs news site—the writer complained that we wouldnt have this confusion if users would bother to read the little "Did You Know?" tip-of-the-day windows that pop up every time you launch a KDE application. I think he was serious, too.

For me—and, I suspect, for many other KDE users as well—the first time that one of those tip windows pops up is also the last, after I exercise my power of choice to tell the annoying thing never to come back.

Im all for options, but at least as important (and probably more) are smart default settings that take peoples expectations into account.

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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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