Jack Wallen takes a look at the latest version of KDE Neon and comes away seriously impressed.
If you ask most devoted fans, Widows 7 was the best iteration of the desktop operating system. It still held true to the look and feel users had come to rely on but gave just enough modernity to pull it out of the cold, out-of-touch grip of the software Grim Reaper. That’s why, when Microsoft put the kibosh on Windows 7, the community at large was up in arms. They didn’t want to let go of what was familiar and what worked so well for them.
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I see KDE as holding the same spot for Linux users. This open-source desktop has been, for some time, the perfect marriage of old and new school design and execution. It’s got all the goodness of the past, with just enough future flavor to make it feel like it’s both familiar and modern at the same time.
It’s because of that old-school feeling that I tend to not give KDE enough love. And that’s a shame because if KDE Neon (and version 5.22.1 of KDE) has shown me anything, it’s that this desktop deserves the attention and accolades it has missed for a while.
To resolve that oversight, I thought I’d spin up a virtual machine of the latest KDE Neon release and see what was what. I’m happy to report, I was quite pleasantly surprised. With the KDE Neon distributions, users are treated to the latest version of the KDE desktop and an operating system that runs incredibly smoothly. It’s not perfect, but for anyone looking for the best introduction to Linux, this might well be the ideal choice.
Let’s find out why.
It’s all about the Application Launcher
Let’s face it, the single most important piece of the desktop puzzle is the Application Launcher. Why? Because that’s where users interact with the desktop; it’s where they launch applications, search for various objects (applications and documents), locate settings, and lock/restart/shutdown their machines. If developers and designers take the wrong path with this particular feature, the UX will dramatically suffer. In fact, it’s one of the biggest complaints you’ll hear from users new to GNOME. Getting used to the GNOME Dash is a challenge for many user types. KDE? Not even remotely. The second you log into the KDE desktop, you feel immediately at home.
And then you click the Application Launcher and the “special” really kicks in. This is hands down, the best desktop menu on the market. It really is that good. And, yes, part of that reason is because KDE feels like the modernized version of the Windows 7 Start Menu, only if it were designed to function with a level of efficiency and user-friendliness the Microsoft designers and developers couldn’t touch (Figure A).