Data Management

KDEs big mistake

With the birth of KDE 4 came a shuffling of some key applications that has caused some serious grumbling among the Linux community. But this shuffling goes well beyond the old-school Linux fans and can affect new users as well. See what Jack Wallen has to say about what the KDE team has done.

In the migration from 3.x to 4.x, the KDE developers decided to make a rather bold move: replace KDE's file browsing function with Dolphin. Now before I get into this rant, I want to say that Dolphin isn't horrible, it's just that Konqueror was probably one of the finest file managers available -- on any platform. That being said...

The KDE developers decided that Konqueror was best served as a stand-alone Web browser and they wanted to focus their efforts as such. Okay, I understand the desire to have the best possible Web browser available. But Linux already has that in Firefox. So why bother? Why not keep Konqueror as the KDE file manager that just happens to also function as a browser. That, to me, makes much more sense than the route the developers have chosen.

After a long, long time using Linux I have to say that I can probably count on my fingers the total hours I have used Konqueror as a Web browser. It's not much. There's a reason for that: Konqueror has never been an outstanding browser. Sure it's a good alternative, but it's not a game changer as a browser as it is as a file manager.

Now I realize that most people don't give file managers much of a second look. But when you've actually used a tool that stands out among its peers you quickly realize when something is special. Konqueror as a file manager is just that. As a file manager Konqueror has features no other file manager offers. It can connect via ssh, it can be viewed in multiple modes, it is more flexible than any other manager.

Another issue the developers see is that Konqueror is really a "Power Users" application whereas Dolphin will be more of a beginner's file manager. I get that. But why not just have two profiles for Konqueror? You can offer a menu option for Power User and Regular User mode. That way you save precious resources to focus on fixing what is still broken in KDE 4. And shouldn't that be what it's all about? Instead of taking the Microsoft approach (where you just add more features to hide the fact that older features are still broken), actually focus on fixing known issues and bugs. That's the Linux modus operandi which is what surprises me with this decision.

I realize that the KDE developers are keeping the Konqueror file management functionality intact. And I realize that it's possible to reconfigure KDE so that Konqueror is the default file manager. But those people new to linux are going to assume Dolphin is the only file manager and Konqueror the main browser. To me this is a mistake, as much as I admire the KDE team for sticking to their guns with Konqueror as the KDE browser. But new users need familiarity and the Firefox/Konqueror combination gives them that.

So I would ask the KDE developers to rethink this decision. It's not just my grumbling, but also a vast majority of users on the Ubuntu, Mandriva, and Fedora mailing lists. The Linux faithful are speaking. Are the people making the decisions listening? In this case, I certainly hope so.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

31 comments
The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I recently downloaded Mandriva '09, and for the most part (so far) I like it. However I seem to have some issues with Dolphin, even trying to copy/paste or drag/drop items onto my desktop. WTF is up with that? It seems that the desktop is only for 'widgets' and sh!t, and you need to go through many steps to copy things there with Dolphin. Ok, so maybe I am one of a few who actually have sh!t on their desktop anymore, but losing this function really s*cks. I think I am going to have to remove this POS and make kde the dominant one, if I cant, hell, I'll go back to PCLOS

P.O.e
P.O.e

Fact is Konquerer is an universal tool, not best in all but an usefull tool. It wasn't the best webbrowser, it wasn't the best filemanager, ist wasn't... the best but it was the MOST USEFULL TOOL in KDE for allday use. When you needed a very good webbrowser you took firefox, a filemanager you took mc, .... Dolphin is not the tool i see as replacement of konquerer. It is too limited for that.

jfreedle2
jfreedle2

I would never use Firefox on any platform, and as far as fixing flaws in Linux, that will never happen. They don't want to fix anything.

keess2
keess2

I'm using different Debian based versions on different machines and I'd to say that I prefer Konqueror as file browser. I use smb:// sftp:// and other network shares mixed. The split view as well the filesize view is awesome. Kees

draciron
draciron

Personally I use Krusader for file management. I never like the Windows imitation file managers and I love having multiple tabs like Krusader does it. You can force Konquerer into that mode but it's iffy. Konquerer's mime type handling is poorly done and the default apps are rarely what I want to use, changing them a serious pain as well as the default single click behavior makes doing file management a real pain in my opinion using Konquerer. I've tried Dolphin and thought even less of it. As for the web Firefox of course. Though there have been a few times when Firefox was broken that I needed a quick alternate and was glad Konquerer was installed. It's sometimes months before I install Opera or another web browser as I have so few problems with Firefox but when I do it's really nice to have Dillo or Konquerer around to to get to the web to get the Firefox problem fixed. The biggest KDE problem I see is making it simple to customize things like Mime type. I've been using KDE for several years now and something as simple as the default browser for KDE is a real mystery for me. For the distro that's easily set in Firefox but for KDE that's totally different. Another gripe of mine is I use Linux not windows so I have hundreds of file extensions for text files that tell me what kind of file. .pol for political related, .poe for poems, .lyr for song lyrics and so on. If I named everything .txt I'd never find anything LOL. I have literally over a million files on my machine. Hundreds of thousands of them files I've generated over the 20 years I've been computing. I want to handle everything by default as a txt file because %90 of the time it is. If the header doesn't identify it as something else lets handle it as a text file. I can understand with windoze it's failure to allow you to organize like you would want but under Gnome or KDE same story, imitation windoze when it comes to mime handling.

dahhboo
dahhboo

... so what did you say was missing again???

tracy anne
tracy anne

Dolphin is a useless piece of puss. It lacks decent functionality, it's basically crippleware. The problem with KDE 4 and Konqueror is that Konqueror is also crippleware, it shares the Dolphin components, so that it's basically Dolphin in a Konqueror overcoat. In addition, KDE4 isn't all that new user friendly, the novice type users I've given KDE4 (on Mandriva 2009.0) to have begged me to roll them back to Mandriva 2008.1 with it's KDE 3.5.x desktop and Konqueror as the filemanager.

linux for me
linux for me

I prefer Gnome. I find KDE to be too clumsy. It seems to want to be a Windows copy and I use linux to get away from windows. I'll keep Gnome for now.

eclypse
eclypse

KDE's big mistake was trying to be like Vista instead of making Vista (or any other OS/window manager) try to be like KDE. Dolphin is okay, but I could have done without it. The only real "effect" that I've ever used was transparency - I like to have my Pine (now Alpine) window running in a transparent Eterm. Since the last Eterm I tried didn't work in KDE 4 (well, it just wasn't transparent), I have been forced to use Konsole which is okay, but it doesn't appear to be able to start with no borders - very annoying. The basic point of all that is that I don't use most of the GUI effects - even on my machine that has a pretty decent video card (7900-GT). Most of the effects seem to break pretty consistently (I have to CTRL-ALT-F12 every night or my machine is locked up in the morning). Never had to do this with KDE 3.x and Fedora 8 and before. Fedora 9 was probably the worst distro I've ever seen - bad enough that I switched from that to OpenSUSE 11 just because it seems like theirs is currently the least of the evils with the new Xorg junk and KDE 4. That is probably another thing - it's hard to tell where the problem is - Xorg or KDE. Basically on my slower machine, any KDE3 apps (like Quanta+) will pretty much kill performance enough that KDE knows it sucks and disables plasma automagically. Seems to mostly happen when I switch to different desktops via the pager. At this point, I'm not sure what to do. I hate to go backward and run older software, but at least I spent much less time working on my workstation and actually working. I keep telling myself that it will get better with time (which KDE 4.1.x is much better than KDE 4.0.x). I just hope that time is fairly short. I'm probably going to start testing other Window managers or different distros to see if I can find a happy medium. Perhaps I can find something with good features and the least amount of bloat possible. Not holding my breath tho... =/

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

And on those occasions where I feel the need for a graphical file manager under a KDE desktop, I'm ok with using Konqueror. Horses for courses and all that. Linux is about option, usability about how easy they are to turn on and off. Setting someone up by default with an a$$hole mix like FF for everything is f'ing dumb.

Jaqui
Jaqui

they are poor tools in comparison to the command line tools. mc is a better file manager than any gui tool. and firefox? the WORST browser of them all. bloated crap is all it is, with NO configuration options. [ forcing a user to browse to about:config is the STUPIDEST way to edit the config that should be in the PREFERENCES menu ] I looked at Dolphin, as long as it's a part of KDE, I'll not install KDE. GNOME is out of the running, the Macos look is ugly and completely counter intuitive. [ not to mention GNOME's requirement for mono and the .net framework now. ] E17 is just as bad as GNOME and KDE for bloated effects, making E17 a non option. I'll stick with my LFS builds and avoid the pre-built distros BECAUSE they insist on REQUIRING bloatware.

nejode
nejode

I agree with you totally, Konqueror is the best file manager I've worked with... it's the true "all-in-one" machine... it cuts, drills, welds, magnifies, makes coffee and takes the dogs out... and all very well done!!

puelocesar
puelocesar

Forgot to say, this thing is missing a option, Firefox web, Dolphin files, and dump the damn konqueror away

puelocesar
puelocesar

First of all, Dolphin has many features that Konqueror didn't have, like view as groups, quick select, column view, etc Secondly, you can use Konqueror as file manager if you want, so there's no need to force a bloated file manager for everyone if a powerful and simple one can do the job And the worst part, this poll of yours is totally broken! And favoring your point of view! I voted on this thing for Dolphin as file management, and this option still has 0%! From 15 votes, even if no one else voted on this, this option would have 6,66% if I still know how to do math Each day this TechRepublic disapoints me more..

pgit
pgit

You didn't end up with the desktop folder in the middle of the screen? That's the traditional "desktop" with KDE 4. The space around it is for "plasmoids" and "widgets." The folder in the middle is where you can drag files to, add launchers etc. You can make it larger, too. There's also a way to make the whole thing the "folder view" but I've not looked into it yet. Of course if you downloaded the gnome live CD you're on your own...

jlwallen
jlwallen

i was writing this as well as an article on putting KDE on Windows and I believe I got them mixed up. Dolphin on Windows offers the ssh connection option but it does not work. the regular Dolphin (on Linux) does work with ssh.

pgit
pgit

KDE 4 in general is a big leap. I understand the promise, but as buggy and incomplete as it is it'll probably be 4.3.X before I switch. I do NOT like the GUI, and the direction it's taking the user functionally. I'm on 3.5.9 indefinitely. KDE 4 has a long way to go yet... I love konqueror. I use the split left/right view day in, day out. Rescuing files off a dead windows machine and pushing them over to a samba or ftp share... I noticed dolphin has a split view, and it actually seemed to start up (at least) more intuitively. We shall see...

drankinatty
drankinatty

I match the software to my hardware. IceWM on machines that struggle with bloatware, KDE on those that don't notice the additional code. On those that can't handle either, runlevel 3 works just fine.

MGP2
MGP2

Tell us how you really feel. ]:)

drankinatty
drankinatty

All, In a number of ways, the KDE4 retrofit can be characterized as "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" I agree with the authors premise 100%. In other words, "Why dumb down KDE and follow the trend of gnome and vista under the guise of making it easier to use?" Yes, by all means, work to accommodate new users, but don't pour excessive amounts of your development time, talent, and energy in that pursuit when it is direly needed in the area of just getting KDE4 functionally on par with KDE3. KDE4 development effort should have remained focused in that regard and no effort should have been diverted to a second dumbed down file manager until the core of KDE4 was functionally equivalent to KDE3. When that milestone is reached (hopefully in the next 18 months), then it is time to divert energy to preparing the icing to put on the finished cake...

stock
stock

I agree, partly, that Firefox is probably the best web-browser. I also agree with most of the 'reactors' here, that Konqueror is a lame file-manager. It's just KDE's version of the damn Windows Explorer, really. Having 'grown up' on the Amiga, with all of the really awsome stuff that machine could do with 512K of RAM and an 8MHz CPU, I like my file-managers to be twin-panelled. Although I do realize that the Dolphin manager can be switched into twin-panel mode, and i also realize that the days of efficient, well written software are long since over, it'd still like to take this opportunity to tell everyone who wants to know: Use 'mc' in a terminal, if you want a really good file-manager! And if you're CLI-intolerant, as so many are these days, use Krusader as a reasonable alternative. It beats Dolphin and Konqueror hands-down on any day of the week.

allencar
allencar

I agree; the poll should have a Firefox web, Dolphin files option to be fair. However I fail to see the problem? The option is there to make Konqueror the default file manager and same applies to whatever flavour of web browser you prefer. And that is the wonderful thing about open source - if it is needed it will be created and if it isn't then I guess you'll just have to do it yourself, the options are all there. So go forth and Konqueror... or Dolphin.. or whatever you want, just don't expect to get what you want if aren't prepared to put a bit of work in yourself.

curt
curt

Konqueror in KDE4 is nothing like the one in KDE3+. Guess this is to force the user to use Dolphin. I don't care for dolphin, it's hidden nepomukserver and strigi search engine, putting MY files into an unknown database. For who's purpose? Not mine. It's all about freedom! Freedom for the developers to do as they please, and ignore the users.

Dave.Windsor
Dave.Windsor

As one of those who uses Linux (Fedora, Red Hat and SUSE) in a primarily Windows-centric company, I find that Konqueror (or any KDE app) is useless for browsing outside of our Intranet because it can't authenticate properly with the Microsoft Web proxy server, which uses my Active Directory credentials. KDE is my preferred desktop and Konqueror is my preferred file manager, but it's a non-starter for me as a browser. FireFox works fine with the proxy server.

ttlanhil
ttlanhil

edit: Oops, this was supposed to be its own comment, not a followup... Please make believe :) I suppose I should start out saying that I'm a power user; I use the command line for file management (the one exception is when the tie-in in konqueror works so nicely, like drag'n'drop to FTP some files). So dolphin is pretty much irrelevant to me. But saying konqueror is a poor web browser? That's not really fair. Konqueror (or more specifically KHTML, which AFAIK was forked as the basis of webkit) is pretty good at standards compliance, performance is pretty good (in my experience. Though the fastest browser is always gonna be something like lynx or links), and it's more stable than firefox has been for me (though to be fair, I mostly use firefox for peculiar web pages that are broken in strange and wonderful ways. FF is a bit more tolerant of the MS design tools/approach). Konqueror had spell-checking in textareas and the like long before firefox brought out the feature (as I recall, there was some excitement about FF doing that a while ago), as one example of the developments other browsers copied. There's great integration with other applications (mostly other KDE apps, but if you're a bit of a coder you can tie stuff together yourself, shell scripts with dcop can be simple and powerful) as well as all of the ioslaves (ssh:, smb:, whatever else you want to use). It makes it easy to set up custom search providers. I can type into my address bar "wp:pineapples" and I get the wikipedia page on pineapples. There are dozens included by default, and adding more (e.g. for a search on the wiki for a game or office project or whatever) is easy. And, while it's completely subjective and prone to differences in configuration, konqueror has always had, to me, the nicest GUI (yes, I realise I could probably configure FF to look nicer. No, I don't want to know how to mess around with a heap of settings to make one app I don't have reason to use often less ugly). I haven't played with the new IE or Safari, though, so it's possible they're more user friendly. Give me Konqueror for web browsing, and konsole/midnightcommander for file management and most editing, and I'm happy (cue lame emacs v vi war now that a file editor (mcedit) has been brought up)

pgit
pgit

I believe if you want ssh working with windows (as in "at all") copSSH is the way to go.

pgit
pgit

krusader is where it's at. If it's a file system, you'll get there. It has a terminal emulator that negates any benefit to mc in my book. Plus bookmarking ftp servers,apache doc root etc is a real time saver. For the quick in and out I prefer file runnier over mc as well. These old eyes don't see the gray on blue, and whatever font that is mc uses. FR is a friendlier 'scheme' but otherwise is just about identical to mc. BTW konqueror can do twin view and beyond. For instance you could have three panes going, split left-right once, then the right side split up-down. The only limit to how you can use konqueror is how much real estate you've got on your screen.

jlwallen
jlwallen

i use the command line for most everything. my problem with what they are doing is for new users who will not realize how much power they can have for file management with konqueror. on top of that giving them konqueror as the default web browser takes them away from the familiar. and when they have to try to install plugins for konqueror they are going to wind up going back to microsoft. at least Firefox has managed to make installing plugins much easier than it used to be.

jlwallen
jlwallen

no luck. i'll give copssh a go.

ttlanhil
ttlanhil

I've played with a number of plugins, mostly on FF, but really... How many of them do I use? Not many. There are viewers, for stuff like flash (like, omigosh, I have a 64bit OS, I'm mad!... In other words, it don't work as well as it should, no matter which browser), though not PDF, since the builtin stuff works fine there, there's adblock, there's other stuff... But it's a long time since I went to install an addon/plugin myself. What I need is already provided or installed via package management (using debian, so there's a lot available, in other distros it's probably different). Personally, I'm a fan of basic/advanced views/option sets, so I'd be in favour of just different konqueror profiles instead of a new app, but I haven't followed enough of the issue to know if there's some good reasons. As for familiarity, well, FF on windows machines I've seen and the FF on my box look quite different. They act the same, of course, but for basic web browsing, all browsers work reasonably similarly (when they work right). Both have the "bookmarks" menu, both have the address bar in the same place, both have a search bar, both have tabs and the main pane... I suspect, to your average basic user, that's nearly all of what you need. I don't see giving up the integration being worth being slightly closer in appearance to what's already known... For better or worse, KDE's interface is designed to be reasonably familiar to Windows users already

lastchip
lastchip

But admit, it's OK for file management. In fact, completely ignorant of this blog post, I wrote this recently for my local LUG: http://wiki.soslug.org/wiki/kubuntu_810_intrepid_ibex_a_short_review I have to say though, I quite like Dophin. From a new users perspective, it's easy to use and pretty intuative. But the whole point with Firefox is, users can come from Windows using Firefox and they will be at home immediately. And this is no small issue. It's the difference between them persisting with Linux or not.

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