I’ve mentioned a couple of times that, at least in my opinion, KDE is losing out to GNOME because there simply aren’t as many Qt applications as GTK ones. Competition breeds quality, and as a result, I find Qt applications in general to be inferior.
Of course, I can’t just say that and not back it up. In fact, I’m not even sure if I’m right! Because I’m using KDE 4.2 at the moment, I thought this would be an ideal time to really test some Qt and GTK applications extensively. In all cases, I tried to use Qt applications first, and only installed the GTK alternative if it either showed bugs, crashed, or simply irritated me to the point of madness after several days.
This should be the first in a series of articles comparing different kind of applications. In this post I’ll cover chat clients: Kopete, Kmess, and two GTK alternatives, Pidgin and Emesene.
Kopete has been KDE’s default chat client since I started using Linux. At that time GNOME felt alien, but even then I used Pidgin. I simply didn’t like Kopete. Its configuration felt clunky, cluttered and unnatractive…and it still does. That’s because it hasn’t changed since forever, even during the switch from KDE3 to KDE4. It still looks and feels like it did 8 years ago, as you can see from the screenshot on the official homepage…which is till the KDE3 version. The latest News item is dated August 2008, which tells you a lot about the stagnation of the development of this application. It does support video chat, and of course it lets you connect to and chat on all major chat protocols, so I decided that this time I’d try and use it for a week.
Unfortunately, it only lasted a day, because every time I start the program it complains about the MSN password. It’s actually correct, and works when I enter it again…until I shut down Kopete. At that point, I decided that it simply wasn’t good enough, and installed something else.
Kmess seems like a better alternative. It has a beta version for KDE4 and like Emesene, it only supports MSN chat, but it has more features, like showing and saving MSN winks, choosing how to open links, and of course it integrates better in KDE4, especially when it comes to notifications. I like it a lot, but the layout is, ironically, a bit of a mess. I’ve noticed this in other KDE4 applications too, where icons overlap text until you widen the window. In any case, with the windows stretched out everything looks fine. It did manage to crash the KDE4′s notification applet, and not all the winks showed perfectly, but I’d recommend it over Kopete.
is GNOME’s default chat client (*), and like Kopete, this is a golden oldie. Unfortunately, and also like Kopete, not much happened with it since quite some time. In fact, it’s safe to say that since the upgrade to version 2, when Gaim changed its name to Pidgin, all the changes have been minor. Pidgin still does not support saving moving icons, it still doesn’t offer voice chat, and like Kopete, its configuration is a bit all over the place. Settings can be changed in Account Settings, in Settings, and in Plugins. It’s a bit chaotic, but it works just fine and it looks a whole lot better than Kopete does. Unlike Emesene, it does open links, and you can configure how it does that too (in which browser, and new window or new tab?).
It has been less than stable for me though, at least outside of GNOME. I’ve suffered one crash in KDE4, but on my Windows laptop from work it crashes at least once a week.
Emesene is what I’ve been using in GNOME and Openbox the last couple of months. Most of the times, I’m only using the MSN protocol anyway, and Emesene takes everything that’s good about MSN (simple layout, easily configured), makes it even better (I just love the slick look of those icons), and wraps it in a fast, lightweight chat client. Even my girlfriend loves it, because it feels so familiar, and you can save and use custom icons It doesn’t support video chat, but since this is an application claiming to be fast and lightweight, I don’t mind.
This is my chat application of choice, and to me it looks better in KDE4 than even KDE applications do.
A clear win for GTK and Emesene here, because of its simplicity, speed and looks. KMess is a close second though, and even in beta looks like a better, easier chat client than the dinosaur Kopete.
Next: Browsers (Konqueror, Firefox, Arora, and probably some stuff about Midori, Epiphany and Opera)
(*) Edit: As has been pointed out by mtz in the comments, Pidgin is not the default chat client in Gnome, Empathy is. It’s actually developing fast, and probably will be included as default in GNOME distributions in future releases, but I didn’t include it here because I have no experience with it.
In any case, I was wrong. My apologies.