Originally Published: Thursday, 27 July 2000 Author: Matt Michie
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Meta-theming

KDE recently announced support for GNOME pixmap widget themes. This will allow KDE users to take advantage of the wide variety of GTK themes. Does this portend a new level of co-operation between the two desktop factions, and what are the eventual effects of this development?

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KDE recently announced support for GNOME pixmap widget themes. This will allow KDE users to take advantage of the wide variety of GTK themes. Does this portend a new level of co-operation between the two desktop factions, and what are the eventual effects of this development?

Although KDE has had a head-start on the GNOME desktop for some time, GNOME was the first to really incorporate the idea of many different themes. Through QT, KDE only had support to change the look from a Motif to a Windows 95 style, while GTK developed theme engines and pixmap themes.

Artists around the world began to GIMP up new looks for GTK and disseminate them widely through sites like gtk.themes.org.

After GTK themes soared in popularity, KDE for the first time, played catch up and designed their own theme engine. KDE used a separate theme format, which was further hampered because it was only supported in the non-stable branch of KDE. Red Hat by default came with GNOME, Enlightenment, and dozens of themes to choose from. GNOME become the easiest to theme desktop.

Slowly, KDE and GNOME have agreed to some standards, including drag and drop. We can expect to see further co-operation and agreement between the two projects.

Interestingly, with this announcement, one of the complaints about mixing and matching programs from both desktops can be solved. However, there is a parallel with OS/2. OS/2 was an advanced operating system from IBM that in many ways was ahead of its time.

One of the selling points of OS/2 was being "a better Windows than Windows". It had complete compatibility with Windows 3.1. Unfortunately for OS/2, this meant that companies didn't bother with a native OS/2 port. Among other major problems, this was a reason that Windows 95 eventually killed off OS/2.

One is struck by the similarity in KDE's announcement which states, "we are pleased to announce that KDE now supports pixmap GTK themes. However, while GTK themes are displayed faster and more efficiently than even native GTK itself, we do not recommend using this format for creating new themes. Theme developers should prefer KDE2's native widget theming which yields superior results both in terms of quality and speed." So KDE is a better GTK than GTK?

Eventually, theme creaters will use the format which allows the greatest number of users to load their theme. If KDE continues to have excellent GTK support and GTK continues to have no KDE support, most themers will go with GTK.

While this is disastrous in the commercial world, it actually isn't much of an issue in an open sourced world. Here, programmers can easily add support and fix bugs in the format. Even if GTK themes become the de facto standard, KDE should not be harmed. Linux needs KDE and GNOME to be as inter-operable as possible.

Matt Michie lives in New Mexico. He maintains a web site at http://daimyo.org.




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