When comparing XMonad vs KDE, the Slant community recommends XMonad for most people. In the question“What are the best window managers for Linux?” XMonad is ranked 3rd while KDE is ranked 27th. The most important reason people chose XMonad is:
XMonad is written, configured, and fully extensible in Haskell. This means that users aren't limited to a small set of pre-programmed layouts and actions: anything can be programmed into the configuration. It's simple to modify basic settings, and the example config has lots of comments to get you started. Haskell keeps this code clean, concise, and readable, and its type system keeps you safe from any serious mistakes. This makes it fast and light, even on very small and slow systems.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Fully extensible with Haskell
XMonad is written, configured, and fully extensible in Haskell. This means that users aren't limited to a small set of pre-programmed layouts and actions: anything can be programmed into the configuration.
It's simple to modify basic settings, and the example config has lots of comments to get you started. Haskell keeps this code clean, concise, and readable, and its type system keeps you safe from any serious mistakes. This makes it fast and light, even on very small and slow systems.
Pro Efficient to use
XMonad is a very minimal and efficient window manager, especially if the user is familiar with Haskell.
Pro Very stable
Use of Haskell, in conjunction with smart programming practices, guarantees a crash-free experience.
Pro Handles multiple monitors well
XMonad can handle multi-monitor setups by default.
Pro Absolutely minimal
The entire window manager is extremely small, and includes nothing beyond basic window manipulation and tiling. Out of the box, there are no window decorations, status bar nor icon dock; just clean lines and efficiency.
Pro Highly configurable
If you enjoy programming, you can even add features to XMonad to make it your perfect desktop environment, and the Contrib modules give you most of what you need to do exactly that.
Pro Edit configuration and reload on-the-fly
Configuration is compiled into the WM, and it can be changed/updated on-the-fly, without requiring a full reload.
Pro Great availability of libraries
The use of Haskell as an extension language means that popular pieces of functionality are easily shared and widely available as Haskell Libraries. Many default layouts, and tools for quickly and easily building your own, are available through XMonad-contrib, and highly re-usable configurations are commonly shared through blog articles and the Xmonad Wiki. The documentation in XMonad-contrib is very clear and easy to read.
Pro Xinerama support
XMonad has full support for Xinerama: windows can be tiled and managed across multiple physical screens.
Pro Dynamic Tiling
XMonad uses dynamic tiling which means that it automatically handles arranging your windows into various layouts which the user can cycle through.
Pro Intuitive model which separates "screens" and "workspaces"
XMonad separates screens and workspaces. A screen "projects" a workspace. You can put a window to a specific screen, regardless of which workspace is currently projected onto that screen. This is more intuitive than other WMs e.g. i3, which only has the notion of workspace but not "screen" and requires you to remember workspace numbering. It is especially beneficial for multi-monitor setups.
Pro Highly customisable
There are many customization options and possibilities to tweak the desktop, including widgets.
Pro Open source
Pro Looks beautiful
The design of the three built-in desktop themes; Air, Breeze, and Oxygen, are very beautiful to some.
Pro Has a file manager that provides a good balance between power and simplicity
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 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 KDE is an evolution on the classic desktop model
KDE 4 is a great evolution on the classic Win95/Gnome/XFCE approach. It's moving in innovative directions while respecting the classic metaphors.
Pro Active development
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 Integrated components
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 Bunch of coherent applications
What make plasma so nice is the galaxy of apps, sharing same look and feel, configuration and behaviour.
Pro The search with the Windows Key is as awesome
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 The session manager works perfectly
This is a much better session manager compared to solutions from other Linux desktop environments.
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.
Con Steep learning curve for uninitiated users
Like a lot of tiling window managers, the learning curve for XMonad is quite steep.
Con Requires a lot of Haskell dependencies
XMonad depends on GHC (the Glasgow Haskell Compiler) which can take up about 700 MB or disk space.
Con Requires knowledge of Haskell for configuration
Understanding of Haskell is required in order to configure XMonad.
Con Perceived clunkyness and slowness
Compared to other options, KDE is still perceived slow. Especially, the desktop takes a few seconds to login.
Mouse pointer can feel sluggish, or laggy, on older systems
Con KDE is awesome but it is overcomplicated for newbies for sure
Way too many options for newbies to digest before the learning curve is over.
Con HiDPI support is spotty
The log in screen as well as some other components of the OS do not scale properly under HIDPI. Everything in the log in screen will be displayed too small, as well as some areas of the OS.
Con Interfaces are inconsistent and ugly in 4.x
While parts of KDE in 4.x can be very good looking, a common opinion is that the style is too hobbled together with inconsistent icons and styles clashing with each other.
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 Poorly named app menu with too many apps starting with "K"
This is better in KDE Neon with minimalist apps, which indeed in itself points out the problem.