Learning KDE things from Windows

It's funny how learning things about one platform can teach you about another. Despite all the differences, there are still lots of little similarities that carry over from one to another. In a way, it's kind of comforting.

Take today, for example. I was having a slow day at work, so to control the bordom, I downloaded some old episodes of Scott Hanselman's podcast, Hanselminutes. The episode in question was on the top ten Windows tools/features you didn't know you had. The first tip (#10) was that you can still use the keyboard in the middle of a drag-and-drop operation. So, for example, you can still alt+Tab, use a VirtuaWin hotkey to switch desktop, and just generall do a bunch of stuff I never thought to do with drag-and-drop. It just struck me as both very handy and so obvious I can't believe I never thought of it.

So, naturally, the first thing I did was try it out. Unsurprisingly, it worked and was very cool. And just as naturally, the second thing I did was fire up Kubuntu Edgy in VMware to see if it worked in KDE. And guess what - it does! Not that I should be surprised - there's no reason I know of why it wouldn't work in KDE. It's just that when you go back and forth between Linux and Windows, you get used to the idea that everything is always different. This was one of those "freebies" you discover every now and then that makes you feel nice.

prompt.pngIn fact, the relative closeness of KDE to Windows is what attracted me to it in the first place. I started off with the Unices back when GNOME and KDE were in the 1.x releases and - let's face it - they both sucked. Thus I was an old-school AfterStep user for several years and then migrated to ROX and Sawfish. But while ROX was nice, and I really bought into the idea of how it worked, the user experience was just too different from Windows. After a while, going back and forth started to feel jarring. I just had to bring the two closer together. And since there's not much you can do about the interface for Windows, it was obvious that the Linux side would have to change.

I really appreciate it when KDE and other Linux desktop projects make things more Windows-like. Windows might get some things wrong, but there is also a lot that it gets right. Real respect for the user is fixing the geniune problems with the interface he's accustomed to, not making things different for the sake of being different or for some abstract design principles. I think Tog said it best in discussing the differences between Windows and Macs:

Consistency is a funny thing. The most important area of consistency is the area most people don't even think about; which is why it is the most important area. What am I talking about? Shortcut keys. Button ordering. And all those other little things users learned way-back-when, soon absorbed into habit, and never considered again. The way a lot of these work is backwards in Windows. No, let me correct that. It was backwards in Windows, until Windows hit a 90% market share. Now, it is backwards in Macintosh.

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