When comparing KDE Plasma Desktop vs Gnome 3, the Slant community recommends KDE Plasma Desktop for most people. In the question“What are the best Linux desktop environments?” KDE Plasma Desktop is ranked 3rd while Gnome 3 is ranked 7th. The most important reason people chose KDE Plasma Desktop is:
There are many customization options and possibilities to tweak the desktop, including widgets.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Highly customizable
There are many customization options and possibilities to tweak the desktop, including widgets.
Pro Looks beautiful
The design of the three built-in desktop themes; Air, Breeze, and Oxygen, are very beautiful to some.
Pro Adheres to standards
Standards adherence allows for interoperability and shared technology for X Window System desktops, with similar Wayland support being worked on. Applications not written with Plasma in mind work very well in Plasma as a result. The development team has also been instrumental in standard creation and adoption such as NETWM, X11 clipboard, icon themes, mimetype handling, application menu standardization, system tray protocols and notifications and more.
Pro Has a file manager that provides a good balance between power and simplicity
The included file manager provides several icon, list and detail views to choose from along with features such as tabs, bookmarks, tagging, previews and metadata, network file access, bluetooth file transfers to/from devices and excellent removable storage integration while remaining fast and easy to use.
Pro KDE is an evolution on the classic desktop model
KDE is a great evolution on the classic Win95/XFCE approach. It's moving in innovative directions while respecting the classic metaphors.
Pro Keyboard friendly
Nearly all actions can be driven with keyboard commands. Window management, including effects such as desktop overviews, can be triggered with a keyboard control (or mouse gesture) and some even support filtering results (such as windows shown) by typing. The KRunner tool (default keybinding: Alt+F2 or Alt+Space) provides searching local files, online sources, unit conversions, math and more all from a keyboard driven interface.
Pro Many coherent applications
What make plasma so nice is the galaxy of apps, sharing same look and feel, configuration and behaviour. This helps with making for a uniform looking desktop.
Pro Comes with a suite of powerful applications
Plasma Desktop generally comes packaged with a full set of applications to get users started, including a file manager (Dolphin), advanced file manager and browser (Konqueror), image and document viewers (Gwenview, Okular), the Calligra office suite, CD and DVD authoring (K3b), and dozens more. The desktop can be installed and used without these applications, but they add significant value for many people.
Pro Enjoyable to use
Thanks to looking awesome, and being customizable and flexible.
Pro Multi-device "Convergence"
Plasma Desktop provides seamless "zero config" integration of your Android device with your laptop and desktop machines via KDE Connect. Phone calls, SMS messages, cross-device copy and paste, media remote control, cursor control and more are supported.
The technology that Plasma Desktop is built on, simply called "Plasma", also provides interfaces for phones, tablets, netbooks, and media centers in addition to the desktop. These additional interfaces use the same underlying frameworks and therefore work well together and have a unified feel to them. They also support a common set of applications across them which adapt to the input methods and screen sizes.
Pro Fast and efficient
Looks great! Dolphin file manager is without a doubt the best fully functional and easy to use and multitask with.
Pro Integrated advanced search
Plasma Desktop comes with an integration search system that makes it easy to find local files, emails, contacts, events and more. The file manager supports tagging and rating files as well as full-content searching and the KRunner command window and the Milou desktop widget makes searching for files, emails, applications and other content by name, subject, category, tag, fulltext, etc. very simple. It does this with essentially no noticeable interference with day-to-day usage of the computer, thanks to the scheduling built into the backend system (Baloo).
Pro Very customizable
One of the best aspects of KDE is that it gives you Lego-like tools called widgets. You can combine the widgets in the way that better fits you and get a Mac OS desktop layout, a Gnome 3 desktop layout, a mobile device desktop layout or a completely new desktop layout that works for you.
Pro Activities what multiple desktops needed
You can really separate work ambient from personal ambient.
Pro Great for developers
Provides its own IDE for C++, Qt, HTML and through workspaces allows better organisation of work.
Pro Not based on GTK
A lot of users don't really like GTK's style and way of doing things.
Pro Separate LTS version
KDE has an LTS version for people expecting stability.
Pro Low system resources consumption
Not as lightweight as XFCE, but pretty close (like +100MB in real use).
Pro Integration with mobile devices
KDE Connect allows integration of the computer and mobile devices on the same Wi-Fi network.
Pro Touchscreen support
Works good with touch devices and allows customization of gestures for them.
Has a lot of good features preinstalled (Android integration with KDEConnect, etc.), and comes with lots of improvements and new features with new releases.
Pro Clean UI
Every aspect of GNOME 3 has been crafted to fit together as a harmonious whole, so that it offers a consistent and integrated experience.
Pro Simple and easy to use
GNOME 3 has been designed to make it simple and easy to use. Press a button to view your open windows, launch applications or check if you have new messages.
Pro Powerful search
A powerful search feature lets you access all your work from one place.
Pro Does not get in the way
GNOME 3 lets you do the things you want without getting in the way. It won't bother you or badger you with demands, and it has been designed to help you comfortably deal with notifications.
Pro Keyboard friendly
It's (mostly) usable without touching a mouse, so you can keep your hands on the keyboard.
Shortcuts can be defined in the gnome setting.
There are even more shortcuts available when using the gesetting or dconf tool, e.g. switch to desktop 5 to 9.
Pro Highly customisable
Gnome Extensions offers an easy way to extend the built-in functionality.
Pro Great for high dpi displays
Adjustable scaling factor makes it great for high-resolution laptops and far away TVs.
Pro Very productive
With a clean layout and well-thought keyboard shortcuts, Gnome 3 is simply the best for people looking to be productive with their computer.
Pro Easy theming
Changing the look (and feel) of Gnome Shell is easy, shell theme, icon, windows and graphical elements (gtk) individually for each user.
Mostly it's installing some packages or unpacking some archive to a themes folder and using selecting the new theme in e.g. gnome-tweak-tool.
There are a lot of really good themes on DeviantArt.
Pro Adheres to standards
Allowing for interoperability and shared technology for X Window System desktops.
Pro Online account management
GNOME 3 integrates with your online accounts, so that all your data can be accessed from the same place.
Pro Wayland support
Gnome is the first desktop environment that uses Wayland as default instead of X server. X server is only optional currently.
Pro Great task manager
The GNOME Task Manager is great, showing all open processes with every needed detail. For each process you can see the amount of memory and processing power that it's using, along with the process priority.
Pro Touchscreen friendly
It works well with any touchscreen-enabled system, including newer laptops, even to the point of including a well-designed on-screen keyboard.
Pro Gnome-Tweak-Tool is great
Gnome may seem bland out of the box but, the Gnome-Tweak-Tool is awesome.
The Gnome-Tweak-Tool allows for easy desktop tweaks and other control functionality, and that these features can be activated with just a click.
Pro It just works
You don't ever "need" tweaks. Unless your device is too outdated, it just works out of the box. Touchscreen, 4k TV, anything just works.
Pro Integrates with most Google Services
You can use your calendar, drive, contacts and most of Google services with Online Account option. You can show your Google Calendar events on the Gnome's default calendar app, Nautilus (Default file manager of GNOME) almost fully integrated with Google Drive and even you can read your PDF's with Evince (the default built-in PDF reader in GNOME).
Pro All the major players in the Linux ecosystem have finally collated on Gnome
Red Hat default = Gnome
Fedora default = Gnome
Debian default = Gnome
Ubuntu default = Gnome
Opensuse default = Gnome
This doesn't mean the others go away, it just means there is a colossal community and industry backing behind Gnome.
The point whether or not it being technically the best option is now off table and irrelevant. It is now the de facto standard. Like it or not.
Pro High resultion screens, multi monitor, content creation
If you depend on high resultion screens, multi monitor, or content creation programs you want Gnome.
Con Stability problems
Under certain conditions, most of KDE's components can be highly sensitive to race conditions, which leads to KDE applications frequently crashing, and, on rare occasion, kdeinit itself locking up.
Con No easy way to backup & restore all settings
Most crashes cause loss of settings - panels vanish, all favorites and launchers missing, icons lost, wallpaper back to default, theme changes, activities present but not active, etc.
The configuration is held in a multitude of places, the changes are applied automatically even after a crash, all without a tool or clear way to recover.
Con HiDPI support is spotty
The log in screen as well as some other components of the OS do not scale properly under HIDPI. Some things in the log in screen will be displayed too small, such as the mouse pointer. It can also be difficult to get full scaling to work properly in the DE itself with things such as icons, text and window borders.
Con Certain releases are frighteningly unstable while offering a myriad of desktop effects of questionable value
Con Difficult to turn off some transparency
Some of the transparency settings for Plasma can only be removed by changing away from the standard theme altogether. A bit disappointing as so many other things are configurable to the deepest detail and transparency in the wrong place can make reading menu entries for example difficult at times.
Con Perceived clunkyness and slowness
Emphasis on perceived. It's a myth from the days when SSDs, gigabytes of ram and cpus above 1GHz and more than one core were a fantasy. On anything semi modern (i5 2500k, 8 gb memory and 256 gb ssd is total overkill and that's a 5 year old system) it's as fast as anything.
Con Held back by dedication to emulating Windows
One of KDE's pros is that it works similarly to 90's-era desktop environments such as Windows. However this holds it back from being able to present something that works intuitively for people who aren't familiar with how computers back in the 90's worked.
Con Swollen look out of the box
In default theme elements are extremely large, which makes screen feel smaller than it really is. Some of the things are not easy to fix - even compact main menu still has awful huge paddings and header font size in calendar is ugly.
Con Too complex
Shows too many options at once often time, making it more complex than simplistic.
Con Not for production
May be extremely buggy and there are unnecesary configurations which takes away time to do actual work.
Con Kirigami is buggy
The newer QML based interface is too much tied to the breeze style. So if you use another style(like Qt's default Fusion) you will have a mixed desktop interface of fusion and breeze. It also fails at certain points to set the correct color in a widget so if you use a dark theme you will often face dark text on dark background issues.
Con Compiz integration destroyed
The KDE developers seem to pride themselves on destroying previously working features with each release. Plasma 5 is terrible because Activities and Virtual Desktops are completely separate now. VD's in Plasma 5 can't even have separate wallpapers let alone widgets. Activities don't integrate with Compiz and KDE well at all (no cube, different keyboard commands). Using Activities and Virtual Desktops together gets confusing real fast. Combined with the fact the developers have no interest in fixing this at all KDE users are just running away to new desktops that are borrowing old perfectly good KDE code.
Con Add-on installation can be tricky.
Adding themes and widgets can be tricky.
Con Issues with printing
Qt5 apps are unable to access all advanced printing options, which is a huge drawback because you will have to install GTK apps to get full printing functions.
Con Shell-style ≠ widget-style
The Plasma-shell is unable the use the current Qt style for its interface thus making it hard to get a consistent user interface.
Con Difficult to use on virtual machines on version 5
KWin compositing is restricted to xrender on virtual machines which makes the default booting process difficult as 3D graphics needs to be turned off from the VM itself.
Con Breeze theme is ugly
Breeze theme gives some wow effect at first with all it's transparencies etc. But when you get used, you start to notice lackluster icons and oversimplified look of ui elements - there is just nothing to look at and it looks lazy
Con Not resource efficient
There are many bloatware along the basic installation, thus uses lot of system resources for eye candidness.
Con Extension system is weakly integrated into the environment
Backward compatibility is not guaranteed and extensions seems like second class citizens in the GNOME environment.
Con Continuous customization and extension issues
They need to sort out their continuous customization and extension issues, which are why many people still prefer KDE or other Desktop environments.
Con Heavy on RAM
It is the DE that needs the biggest amount of RAM.
Con Limited customization
To modify anything beyond the wallpaper requires third-party software.
GNOME 3 desktop environment is kinda slow on some Linux distributions
Con Some settings are not where the user would expect it
E.g. it is not possible to change the keyboard auto-repeat delay or rate from the usual All Setting > Keyboard like, for example, in Unity.
Many settings are considered "tweaks" and require installing a separate utility to adjust.
Further still, some settings are buried in a dconf database.
Con Longtime support is hard since every few years GNOME changes its own standards
Everytime something is complete GNOME breaks itself:
Icon naming changes almost every 3 years : once gtk icons were named stock_edit then gtk-edit then edit-edit and currently edit-edit-symbolic
- App icons change also every few years currently they get renamed to an android like scheme eg: org.gnome.Photos.svg instead of gnome-photos.svg however this breaks all common standards esp. since filenames on linux are case sensitive.
GNOMEShell extension also break on almost every release.
Currently Gtk3 has been stabilized however they are already working on GTK4 and 5 so in the worst case your desktop will need to run and support 4 GTK-toolkits at the same time.
Con Tightly coupled to its window manager
If you're looking to run an alternative window manager, like XMonad, you're pretty much out of luck.
Con Some GUI controls are much larger than on other desktops
This is wasting screen space on non-HiDPI monitors.
Con Hefty (lots of dependencies)
Gnome 3 in the current state is heavily weighed down by having a lot of functions as requirements, rather than options. You MUST have their email client, calendar, and more installed as the environment relies on them directly for basic functionality. Which is absurd as most other DEs don't require a specific calendar program just to tell you what day it is.
Con Icon scalability and sorting
The icons in the "apps view" area don't have any additional sizes, the current ones are much too large to be effective for the screen space they use. Also, there is no native way to sort them in Gnome, only a very limited extension. Which means you're pretty much always better off using the search bar if you can.
Con Native Gnome dock isn't scalable
The native Gnome dock isn't scalable, which means if you want to change its size you have to download a customized theme for the shell and hope it has the appearance you want. Honestly again just like the icon issue it wastes way too much of the screen on high resolution monitors.
Con Poor 'drag and drop into application' capability
Difficult to drag and drop a file into an open application.
Con Depends on systemd
Some people don't like systemd but it is part of most modern distros anyway.
Con Extensions can break whole Gnome desktop
Gnome extensions have a lot of freedom to customize the desktop, and it means, that extensions can break your desktop leaving you unable to yous your computer. Also extensions can significantly slow down whole desktop.
Con Gnome search indexer (tracker) consumes your CPU even on battery
If you have large home directory with lots of file, Gnome search indexer Tracker tries to index all the files and it takes forever to complete. During indexing, it uses all you CPU and if you are on battery it will drain you battery instantly.
Con Rather insane method of wallpaper slideshows
Most DEs and WMs allow the user to simply point to a directory, and use pictures from there. Gnome 3 requires the rather asinine idea of building an XML file to accomplish the same thing.
Con Shell-Style ≠ Widget-Style
The GNOME-shell is unable the use the current GTK style for its interface thus making it hard to get a consistent user interface
Con Full screen start menu
This may be fine if your screen is really small, but on modern fullhd desktop it looks ugly and distracting. In addition to very ineffective display of items on screen - much more could be placed on one screen if there were less empty space around and between icons
Arrogant and incompetent developers, not easy to customize and what can be customized is thru flaky extensions. Should be orphaned and left for dead
Con Default alt-tab behaviour is cute but extremely annoying for fast keyboard users
Con Non-intuitive use paradigm
It doesn't feature an always-on dock and fixed amount of usable desktops, doesn't support tray icons for background programs. The main interaction with running programs bases on clicking and dragging (to a desktop) preview thumbnails.
Con Inconsistent desktop
As of GNOME3, some applications have ClientSideDecorations while other use normal Titlebars, this also affects usablity since both Decorations do different things if you left, right, or double click it. Same goes for Menubars. Some Apps follow the GlobalMenu in the GNOMEShell while others don't.