Using KDE/What is KDE

KDE (K Desktop Environment) is a free desktop environment and development platform built with Trolltech's Qt toolkit. It runs on most Unix and Unix-like systems, such as Linux, BSD and Solaris. There are also ports to Mac OS X using its X11 layer and Microsoft Windows using Cygwin. A port to native Microsoft Windows using a new-from-scratch Qt toolkit is being discussed. It is developed in conjunction with KDevelop, a software development suite, and KOffice, a suite of office software.

The "K" originally stood for "Kool" ("C" as in "cool" was already given away to the Common Desktop Environment), but was changed soon after to stand simply for "K", which is "The first letter before 'L' (which stands for Linux) in the Latin alphabet."

Desktop Environment: What? Edit

Computers are made by humans to make it easier to deal with information. Think of spreadsheets in accounting and word processors in writing lovely letters. While computers can easily store gigantic amounts of information and search and analyse it extremely fast, it is difficult to represent such information in a human usable method.

Here the desktop metaphor enters. One should think of your monitor as one's office desk. It has a telephone to call other people, paper stack with your correspondence, desk drawers with your files and a garbage can for your junk. You interact with each of these objects on your desk with physical means. You pick up a piece of paper, call the number of the top, crumple it up and drop it in the garbage or file it in the file cabinet.

To interact with your computer you usually have a monitor, a mouse and a keyboard. This is very different from the real desk where you just use your hands to pick up a document. On a computer you can’t work in this way. Here you have to move the mouse so that the corresponding mouse cursor on your monitor is hovering above a little picture that represents your document. Now you need to push the buttons on the mouse without moving its screen cursor to interact with your document.

Desktop environments are the interfaces that make such interaction of your hands through a mouse/keyboard as logical and easy as possible and display the results of your actions on the screen in a manner so that you quickly and easily understand the consequences of your actions. KDE is a desktop environment that aims to be the best graphical interface between humans and the information they have stored in computer systems. It aims to not only provide the framework but also the applications. The framework draws on the screen, accepts user input, the applications apply such input to modify the information, and passes the results back to the framework where they are displayed. Difficulties that are common in this method is that it takes time for a computer to do its work, so it might take some time before your actions reveal this time, called latency. Latency is the time between input and its corresponding output. The longer this time, the less pleasing the user experience is for the user.

A second oft-sited concern of users is that buttons with the same functions are located in varying locations in the interface. KDE attempts to limit this by providing standards for the makers of the applications so that consistent interfaces are presented to the user. Consistency is nice but consistent mysteries don’t help you! KDE tries to be clear in what the results will be of possible actions. It does so by providing pictures on buttons (icons) that represent the results of activating such buttons. However, some people don’t quickly understand icons, so straightforward text is sometimes better. KDE allows both and gives people the option of customizing their interface to their information so that they can work as effectively as possible.

And that is the goal of KDE: giving humans the most effective interface for humans to work with their information on computers.