Ubuntu uses the GNOME desktop environment straight out of the box, which provides a functional and fairly clean desktop with a few sexy effects from Compiz. Kubuntu uses the KDE desktop environment which has now comes with more bells and whistles than ever.
If you’re sitting there on your Ubuntu machine thinking “I fancy giving that a go” then you can. With a couple of commands and a restart, you’ll be using KDE in no time.
KDE Or GNOME?
Besides appearance (well, duh) there’s a few key differences between KDE and GNOME. If you’re using Ubuntu right now you’re running GNOME (and if you’re using Xubuntu, you’re enjoying XFCE).
Take a look around. It’s pretty easy to get it to do what you want, it doesn’t really look that much like Windows and it comes with its own set of tools and toys.
KDE on the other hand gives you considerably more say in the way your desktop looks, despite at first seeming quite Windows-like. For seasoned Microsoft glassy-eyed veterans, KDE might seem the smarter choice as it’ll provide a more familiar and tailored desktop. If you’re sick of the Windows method, you might find GNOME more refreshing.
KDE also comes with its own set of applications, most of which have unnecessary Ks all over the place, like Konqueror and Amarok. The main downside to installing both environments is the fact that you get both software packages appearing all the time, but if you decide to remove one you can remove the associated software packages too.
Regardless, installing KDE is a great way to experience Linux in a slightly different flavour. If you don’t like it, it’s easy to remove (I’ll go through that bit too).
First thing’s first, we’re going to be using the command line so open up your favourite console (if you’re in vanilla Ubuntu you can find Terminal in Applications then Accessories) and type:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports
You’ll be asked for your password, input it (it won’t be displayed) and hit enter. Now you’ll want to open up the Software Sources window in System then Administration. Click on the Updates tab and enable Unsupported updates (lucid-backports).
You can check on the repository you just added in the Other Software tab if you want. Once you’re done close the window.
Back to the command line, find Terminal and enter:
sudo apt-get update
Once the update has completed you’re going to want to download KDE with the following command:
sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop
You will be notified of the archives that are about to be downloaded, the download size and eventual size on your disk. Type “y” and hit Enter to begin the download. You’ve probably got enough time to make a coffee or go to the bathroom. When you get back, you should see the KDE installer open in the Terminal window.
Next you’ll need to choose a default display manager. As I have had no problems with GDM (and once had to recover Ubuntu via the command line thanks to KDM) I chose the former. This one’s up to you, but GDM just seems to work for me and thus comes with my recommendation.
Once you’ve made your decision, the installer will begin. You’ve probably got enough time to drink that coffee and wait until your Terminal looks like this:
You’ll need to restart your computer at this point, but you might want to disable automatic log-in first otherwise you won’t be able to choose KDE at startup. To do this in GNOME go to System, Administration then Login Screen. Enable Show the login screen for choosing who will log in and close the window.
Once you’ve restarted and reached the login screen click your username, input your password and at the bottom of the screen where it says Session choose KDE before logging in as you normally would.
You should now see KDE spring into action. If at any time you would like to switch back to GNOME, log out and choose GNOME as your Session.
So you’ve tried it and it’s not for you. Not to worry, removing KDE and restoring your pure GNOME desktop is quite possible using a single and incredibly lengthy command. Since the command is very lengthy, we have put it into a TXT document which you can download here at your convenience.
If you’re really bowled over by KDE then you can remove GNOME completely with a similarly monstrous command, again put into a handy TXT document which you can download here.
To paste into the Terminal you’ll need to hit Ctrl+Shift+V. This command will remove all KDE related packages and double-check your GNOME packages. Next time you boot up, you’ll have a pure GNOME Ubuntu again.
Having both KDE and GNOME at your disposal is useful, especially for newcomers still evaluating the OS. If you’ve got a shared computer then having both environments installed isn’t such a bad idea either. Sooner or later you’ll know which you prefer, I personally prefer GNOME with a nice dock.
Whatever you do with your Ubuntu, don’t forget to tell us about it in the comments. Do you use KDE or GNOME? Or both? Or another desktop environment? Don’t be shy!