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GNOME vs. KDE: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 18, 2023
GNOME and KDE are both desktop environments for Linux, with GNOME emphasizing simplicity and usability, while KDE focuses on configurability and a wide feature set.

Key Differences

GNOME and KDE are among the most popular desktop environments in the Linux ecosystem. While both serve the purpose of providing an intuitive and functional user interface, their philosophies and approaches differ significantly.
GNOME prioritizes simplicity and a clean interface. Its design is streamlined, offering a straightforward user experience that's easy for newcomers to grasp. Conversely, KDE, known as the KDE Plasma Desktop, boasts extensive customization options, allowing users to tailor their experience down to minute details.
In terms of aesthetics, GNOME often employs a minimalist design, focusing on essential functionalities to avoid clutter. KDE, on the other hand, offers a plethora of widgets, themes, and visual effects, catering to those who appreciate a rich visual experience.
Performance can also be a distinguishing factor. While GNOME's design decisions sometimes lead to a slightly heavier resource footprint, KDE, despite its vast feature set, is often praised for its efficient use of system resources.
Both GNOME and KDE have rich histories in the open-source community. Their ongoing development is backed by strong communities and organizations, ensuring they remain at the forefront of the Linux desktop environment scene.

Comparison Chart

Design Philosophy

Simplicity and clarity
Extensive customization and features


Rich with widgets and visual effects


Limited, but streamlined
Highly customizable

Resource Usage

Sometimes heavier
Efficient despite feature set

Development Backing

GNOME Project
KDE community and KDE e.V.

GNOME and KDE Definitions


Known for its straightforward and minimalistic design.
GNOME offers a no-frills user experience.


Primarily uses the Qt toolkit for its applications.
KDE's applications benefit from the power of Qt.


Developed by the GNOME Project.
The GNOME Project recently released a major update.


Developed by the KDE community.
The KDE community is active and regularly releases updates.


Primarily uses the GTK toolkit for its applications.
GNOME's apps have a consistent look thanks to GTK.


Features a wide array of widgets and themes.
KDE's visual appeal is unmatched due to its extensive theming options.


Popular among distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora.
Fedora's default setup features the GNOME desktop.


Popular among distributions like Kubuntu and openSUSE.
I installed Kubuntu to experience KDE at its best.


A Linux desktop environment emphasizing simplicity.
I prefer GNOME for its clean interface.


A highly customizable Linux desktop environment.
With KDE, I can tweak every part of my desktop.


One of a fabled race of dwarflike creatures who live underground and guard treasure hoards.


In the occult philosophy of Paracelsus, a being that has earth as its element.


What is GNOME?

GNOME is a free and open-source desktop environment for Unix-like operating systems.

When was GNOME first released?

GNOME was first released in 1999.

What does GNOME stand for?

GNOME stands for GNU Network Object Model Environment.

Which operating systems use GNOME?

GNOME is primarily used in Linux distributions, like Fedora and Ubuntu.

What is the default file manager in GNOME?

The default file manager is Nautilus.

Is GNOME customizable?

Yes, GNOME is highly customizable with extensions, themes, and other tools.

Who maintains GNOME?

GNOME is maintained by the GNOME Project, which consists of volunteers and contributors.

How does GNOME compare to other desktop environments?

GNOME is known for its simplicity, usability, and integration. It differs in design philosophy and user experience from other desktops.

Is KDE customizable?

Yes,KDE is highly customizable with widgets, themes, and other tools.

How does KDE compare to GNOME?

While both are feature-rich, KDE is often seen as more customizable and offers a different set of default applications than GNOME.

Is KDE free?

Yes, KDE is free software, mostly licensed under the GPL and LGPL.

What is the default file manager in KDE?

The default file manager is Dolphin.

What is the primary programming language of GNOME?

GNOME is mainly written in C.

Is GNOME free?

Yes, GNOME is free software licensed under the GPL.

When was KDE first released?

KDE was first released in 1996.

Which operating systems use KDE?

KDE is primarily used in various Linux distributions, like Kubuntu and openSUSE.

What is the primary programming language of KDE?

KDE is primarily written in C++.

Who maintains KDE?

KDE is maintained by an international community of developers and enthusiasts under the KDE project.

What is KDE?

KDE stands for K Desktop Environment. It's an open-source desktop environment and software compilation for Unix-like systems.

What does KDE Plasma refer to?

KDE Plasma is the desktop environment produced by KDE, succeeding KDE 3.x.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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