Updated: April 16, 2011
You know I'm considering ditching Gnome for good, especially after sampling the latest version, Gnome 3. While the Fallback Mode offers some solace, it's a far cry from the fully usable desktop that I want and need. It's also a manifestation of a disturbing trend of equating power computing with the touch-screen nonsense of inferior mobile computing, but more about later.
I'm looking at all kinds of alternatives. The most prominent one is KDE4, which has turned great with version 4.6. Featured in Pardus 2011 and openSUSE 11.4, it's a streamlined, well-packaged environment that can almost turn a Gnome head around, back to the glory days when KDE reigned supreme. But there's another project you may want to test, and it's called Trinity KDE.
I've never heard of Trinity until I spotted my Gnome 3 review on Linux Today. Going through the comments, one of the readers recommended this interface as a replacement for contemporary desktops, most notably Unity and Gnome 3 and possibly KDE4, too. Intrigued, I headed over to the official site, browsed through the screenshots gallery and eventually downloaded the Kubuntu Maverick live image.
Trinity KDE test drive
Trinity is all you liked in KDE3 - and didn't like, too. It's as simple and elegant and yet as clunky and complex as older releases of KDE, with just a bit more visual polish. Konqueror is there, mastering your desktop as a file manager slash browser via one-click dominance, Wireless networking takes five or six steps to configure, a far cry from what you get in KDE4, and to think how I bitched about the KDE4 network setup!
The native theme is a little ugly, I must say. Going through the system settings, you can easily pimp it to more reasonable levels. And when I say easily, I mean the old KDE way, which is not easy at all, with just about every options exposed to the user. Quite overwhelming, overall.
Icons could also benefit from some beautification. However, unlike KDE4, which offers themes from within the desktop, you must go about the Intertubes on your own, hunting for desirable content.
Eventually, you'll get what you want, but your journey will be long and arduous.
Comparison to KDE4
I used to not like KDE4 until version 4.6. It felt bland. The fonts were tiny and windows decorations always kind of blurry, like a dirty beer glass. It suffered from numerous crashes and bad integration. But magically, one clear day in early 2011, it changed.
Now, you get posh desktop effects built in, right out of the box. There's less clutter, fewer options, fewer nags, possibilities and confusions. The desktop looks dignified and expensive and you can recommend it to your peers with pride and prejudice.
I did try installing Trinity KDE in Ubuntu. The process failed when the installation thingie asked to uninstall sudo, which Ubuntu clearly refused to do. Hence, I was unable to test this environment from within an installed system.
While testing from live CD is the best choice, what about people who want to have this thing installed? The first impression is everything. What more, even if they try really hard, they might never get to run Trinity.
Trinity KDE is mostly nostalgia. While KDE3 had its merits, with the latest version of KDE4, it's really hard to argue against the technological and ergonomic advancement introduced into the desktop environment.
KDE3 has always had a very complex system setup. You really needed to be patient to get it organized well. Even so, you had separate system settings, desktop settings and KDE settings, all of which overlapped, clashed and complemented one another, at the same time. KDE Light was an improvement, but it still suffered from too many options and mouse clicks.
Now, KDE4 started with its plasmoids and desktop widget thingies, which still make no sense to me, but if you ignore them and look into the menus, you'll see a much more intuitive and simplified interface. With fewer bugs and problems and even more polish, the sixth sub-revision of KDE4 really shines and offers a powerful alternative to both Windows and Gnome.
Trinity KDE is nice and fun, but it's obsolete in pure usability terms. If I had to choose between Trinity and Gnome 3 or Unity, then yes, by all means, Trinity wins. However, KDE4 is still a preferable choice overall.
Thus my hunt for the perfect desktop continues. And by perfect, I mean a simple, solid baseline that you can work with and not worry about hypes or complete overhauls every four days.