Out of the box, both KDE3 and Gnome look like crap. There, I said it. Default KDE still uses Everaldo’s Crystal SVG icon theme, which dates from 2001. That’s about the time I started using KDE, and I loved it at the time, but these days, icon sets tend to be a little less bright. I remember KDE being compared to Playmobil a lot at that time… The default theme, called Plastik, isn’t much better. It’s perfectly all right, and more than a little bit boring.
Gnome is even worse. The default icon theme is so completely drab it doesn’t even deserve its own name. Concerning the widget theme, I think Gnome comes with Clearlooks as the default these days. Just reread what I wrote about Plastik. If I were your general average internet troll, I’d write “yawn” here (to all you trolls out there: stop doing that. It drives me nuts).
But all that doesn’t really matter. I might as well start complaining about the default theme of one of Ubuntu’s alpha releases. Themes and icon themes are easily changed, and with sites like gnome-look and kde-look, there are enough possibilities to keep you experimenting happily for years. No, the problems start when you mix KDE/QT with Gnome/GTK applications. Ever had a Quattro Stagioni pizza? That’s how well KDE and Gnome applications go together.
Look, I don’t mind that visually, KDE and Gnome are very different. They should be. I just wish more (icon) themes were made for the both of them. QTCurve is a nice example. This theme isn’t very exciting, but at least it makes your KDE and Gnome applications look the same.
Using GTK-QT-engine is another possibility, but that only makes your gnome applications look like KDE, not the other way around. If you happen to like a particular GTK-theme, you’re out of luck.
Icon themes is a little bit easier. Gnome-look and KDE-look are filled with people who produce icon set after icon set, and many of those are ports. It didn’t take me long that the (excellent) KDE4 icon theme Oxygen has been ported to both KDE3 and Gnome. The ports don’t look exactly the same, but they’re close enough to my tastes.
Of course, I just had to notice an excellent black version of Oxygen on Gnome-look, without a counterpart at the KDE side…*sigh*.
Anyway, this is how my desktop looks now:
Yes, I have a lot of applications open and it’s a bit hard to see where one application stops and where another begins, but that’s the point. From left to right you can see Amarok (KDE), Transmission (Gnome), K3b (KDE) and Abiword (Gnome). As you can see, there’s no difference in the appearance of the menu bars. At the bottom, there are two file dialogs. They’re not exactly the same, but the buttons are. That’s all QTcurve.
As for the icons, they look the same too, apart from some minor differences and the lack of a “Desktop” icon in the KDE file dialog. I think it looks okay.
But it would be nice if more themes were made for both KDE and Gnome. There are a lot of zealots on either side of the fence, but I don’t prefer one over the other. In fact, I’m using Openbox. Most of my applications are Gnome, except K3b and Amarok (they’re just better than everything else)…and Thunar as a file manager (It doesn’t have tabs, but I just can’t live without batch renaming).
So come on, all you artists and theme-ing enthusiasts out there. Give us some cross-desktop-environment artwork.