The gap that has threatened to split the Linux community appears to be closing. Though the GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) Foundation and the KDE (K Desktop Environment) League and their respective user interfaces for Linux remain competitors, recent developments put them closer together regarding user support and interoperability.
The new GNOME 1.4 desktop environment offers a number of advances for the average user and includes better support and interoperability with KDE.
For instance, GNOME 1.4 offers different options for beginner, intermediate or advanced users, who would choose an option upon running the new version for the first time, said Maciej Stachowiak, a director on the GNOME board.
"Everything has been kept a lot simpler, and unnecessary details have been kept out of the user interface," Stachowiak said. "Interoperability is a high priority for both projects, and were working on a number of joint initiatives, like a common window manager spec. Were also working on having a common system for file types and program mappings. We want applications to run well on both GNOME and KDE."
In addition, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. have committed to making the next version of GNOME—Version 2.0—the default desktop environment for Solaris and HP/UX, respectively, Stachowiak said.
But not all users are convinced that the distributions are becoming easier to use. Kevin Redden, an IT specialist based in Vanceburg, Ky., who is moving his desktop systems from Windows to Linux, welcomed the changes, as he had previously battled to install both GNOME and its KDE rival.
"If the open-source community wants to drive usage of GNOME and KDE, they had better do something to make it easier to install," Redden said.
While GNOME was "chunky" in a lot of places, it had some compelling features, including a file manager that was vastly superior to KDE, Redden said. Hopefully, some day Linux will find itself on more desktops, "but right now, I wouldnt recommend it to anyone whos totally a Windows user," he said.
Stachowiak said one of the key features of the 1.4 release is the Nautilus file manager, which replaced the older GMC GNOME file manager. Nautilus allows users to manage files, browse the Web and access Web-based services through a customizable interface.