Why Hasn’t KDE Plasma Taken Over the Desktop World?

Raymond Trabulsy
4 min readApr 18, 2021
Linux Mint with KDE Plasma installed

KDE is one of those DE’s I always come back to. When I first started with Linux in 2018, it was the third DE I’d tried, after GNOME and LXDE. As I continued my Linux journey, I kept coming back to it, either through Kubuntu or KDE Neon, or — more recently — as an addon for my Linux Mint install.

Now that I’ve tried just about every DE the Linux world has to offer, there is one question that keeps bugging me in the back of my mind: How hasn’t KDE completely take over the Linux world.

Power and Efficiency

There was a test done a year or two back, pitting KDE against one of the lightest DE’s on the market, XFCE. To my surprise KDE actually won out. The team behind KDE Plasma had put a lot of time into making their DE light and efficient, so much to that it overtook the Queening of Light DE’s. All the while KDE Plasma had maintain its vast array of animations and customization options.

I noticed this myself when I look my low spec Lenovo Thinkpad and installed Neon on it. I did this on a lark right after running Linux Mint XFCE and Xubuntu. Initially I thought it was all in my head — a case of something flashy and new making me think it was running better than it actually was. Kind of like when you get your car washed for the first time in a month. But after doing a little research I found I was not wrong.

KDE was indeed speed and strength all rolled into one.

Looks to Kill

This is probably the most subjective thing I’ve ever written. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but KDE looks amazing. Like really good. Right out the gate, it has a slick intro, a beautiful stock setup, and great animations and backgrounds to complete the first impression. GNOME, XFCE, and most other DE’s are ugly by comparison, or just plan ugly (in the case of LXDE and LXQT). Even my personal favorite, Cinnamon, doesn’t quite match KDE when it comes to looks.

My modified version of Cinnamon.

It comes very, very close. But KDE is still the Queen of Pretty if you ask me.

Customization Options

To go with looks, KDE can very easily change it’s looks at nearly every level of the environment.

New splash screen? sure!

Look like a Macbook? Can do.

Change the tool bar theme independent of the applications? Yep.

Want custom icons and a butt load of widgets? Of course you do.

It is almost too much customization, but that is what makes it great, and makes me wonder why more Linux operating systems don’t switch over. After all, I can make KDE look like GNOME for mainline Ubuntu in about 5 minutes.

To make GNOME any level of customizable takes the better part of 40 minutes to install all the tools, and add all the theme packs I want.

Heck, it can even operate like GNOME if you click the right buttons, but with far less memory usage. The same goes for MATE or XFCE or — wait for it — Windows.

Getting on the Bandwagon

With all it’s pros, and so very few cons, it still boggles my mind why it hasn’t become the defacto DE for everyone. It may be because I don’t actually come of a Linux background that I don’t fully understand this mystery. I used Windows and Mac for most of my life, only getting into Linux in my early thirties. So when I look at all the options out there for Linux, and all the DE options that clutter my login screen, I can’t help but feel that it is this level of choice that hinders Linux from becoming more of a mainline OS, at least in the USA, where we are very much ruled by Windows, Mac, and Android (Linux in a way, but without any of the Linux morality).

If the Linux community put its efforts behind a single DE, thus creating a more predictable user experience from machine to machine, then Linux itself could be more viable an option. After all, many hands make light the work. Putting the full force of every programmer currently working on GNOME, XFCE, and all the other DE’s behind a single DE would create a more consistent, more beautiful, and more powerful Linux for the wider market.

Though, perhaps then it would not really be Linux anymore. It would be just another option at BestBuy. Still, a guy can dream, right?