The wow factor

Wow, by Robyn Gallagher (CC-by)

Wow, by Robyn Gallagher (CC-by)

How do we get more people interested in KDE software? We can talk about it being Free (and free), point out that it does everything that the proprietary competition can do (if that’s true) but there is always a cost in changing software: you have to learn new stuff. Therefore our biggest openings are when the alternatives suck and so people are looking for change or when our stuff just leaves the competition for dead. The latter one is about the wow factor – something in our software that makes the casual observer sit up and take notice and think “I want that”.

The wow factor could be visual, but it needn’t be. Here are a few things that have prompted people who see me using KDE software to ask what the application is:

  • KWin – the desktop effects are really pretty slick now (this one works best on people who don’t use Macs)
  • Konqueror shortcuts – I use the gg shortcut for Google and have set up ‘go’ as the shortcut for Google I’m Feeling lucky (it’s shorter and, to me, more intuitive than ggl). Several people seeing me use ‘go bbc news’ (or whatever) have been pretty much dumbfounded – “you mean you can just tell it where to go without knowing the address?”
  • Kopete – “You’ve got all your chat accounts in one app?”
  • Amarok – the Wikipedia integration, mainly
  • Okular – people love that presentation progress indicator
  • KRandR – people are suprised I can just plug a projector in and activate it with a couple of clicks
  • Digikam – it’s just so cool all round, but the Facebook upload plugin is a particular winner
  • KRunner – it looks fairly funky and people are impressed by the speed of launching applications (most menu launchers suck)
  • Marble – fairly cool anyway, but fire up the OpenStreetMap view and people want it
  • Kile – simple things like code completion and syntax highlighting impress people trying to use Notepad for LaTeX
  • Gwenview – it’s just so shiny, particularly in full-screen mode

Several items in that list surprise me a little, because they’re things I take for granted (Konqueror’s web shortcuts for example) and I’m sure several of them would leave a lot of people cold. So which can we push when promoting KDE software, which can we demonstrate at events and what others can we add to the list?

I’ve started a page to track these on the wiki, so please add your own or comment below.

20 Responses to “The wow factor”

  • Jonas says:

    I upgraded to KDE 4.4 just the other day, but I’ve already noticed jealousy when it comes to the window-grouping (tabbing) feature especially when it comes to Okular and I can certainly see why: it’s a lot more convenient having one window with ten tabs rather than 10 windows to just view/review a lot of different documents.

  • Jack says:

    Basicly I just use it. Anyone who sees it and have the slightest interest in IT gets drawn to it. Last week an artistic soul restricted by Vista showed a interest and it was easy to convert the person.

    First one was change of language – we did a try in Vista (Fail), and I changed it on my PC. Pretty basic – but for a Vista Home user it was a good start.

    Then – DigiKam, Krita, Karbon, Kdenlive +++: All the apps he missed in Vista. Sold.

    Finally – the guy is a guitarplayer: Ardour. Amarok. All the lyrics, wiki, photos +++.

    The guy is a permanent Linuxuser. I’m sure of it. He got everything he needs – and absolutely love Amarok.

    It’s really no need to promote it – it promotes itself πŸ˜‰

    Did I mention desktop agility. Running KDE SC 4.4 Beta 1 on Arch. Blistering fast.

  • I dunno, isn’t plasma conspicuously missing there? πŸ˜› The fully malleable desktop (system tray, task manager and kickoff can be put anywhere you want and not just on panels, or removed altogether, for eg) that morphs itself according to what you’re doing (activities) is something that I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else. Some of the plasmoids we have can do some pretty cool stuff too.

  • Matt Parry says:

    Hi Stuart, I’ve Just added K3b, KMyMoney and Kaffine to your list – hope this is ok.

  • Cypher says:

    I’m not too sure about your criteria…

    Konqueror shortcuts: well, firefox can do that without even typing the go keyword. Juste type what you want to reach in the address bar and there you go. Si I really doubt this feature would be a wow factor, ’cause people already use an easier version in FF. And regarding the HTML rendering of Konqueror… it’s pretty much a yuk factor, I would never use this app to promote KDE.

    Kopete: the wow factor is there in principle. But one you start using it, you quickly discover that it’s totally painful to manage your contacts, groups, and so on… and you quickly want your one-proptocol-only application back. I know no one around me who still uses Kopete.

    KRandR: I’m not too sure they can be surprised by that, as it’s feasible on windows, in an easier way, through a keyboard shortcut. And most of the time, RanR does not produce the expected result because of some buggy driver, and your machine just crashes in front of all those important people attending your meeting.

    Kile: come on, LaTeX for mr John Doe ? Even if they wanted to, they would use LyX instead…

    I’ll stop there regarding my comments but what I mean is that all those things you call wow factors are not for normal non-geeky users. They just want their systems to work as expected, and more, they want to be able to make mistakes and the systems should guess what they meant in first place. They will never wow for complicated applications or geeky features…

  • Dave Lyon says:

    Great thoughts Stuart, inspired me to jot down some more at

    I have to admit- occasionally there are comments on looks, but the thing that makes people sit up and take notice is when I have a tool that can do something they can’t. I think we can all live with some shortcomings related to style even if we’re not happy about it. But get people jealous for a feature they have to have and they’ll come along, sooner or later.

    @Matt- thanks for the contributions- definitely great apps. But I think Stuart intended the talking points to be things about the apps that are remarkable and different. They are alternatives, but why are they better?

  • Steve says:

    Some applications will not have the ‘wow’ factor until the feature parity with their KDE 3.x versions.

    For example: Kopete seems like a nice idea, until you try to use it at work through the proxy. Then you find you can’t use it at all.

    Kaffeine is now very nice, but the DVB part is still missing features that the KDE 3.x version had, such as interval recording or channel grouping. I also really miss deinterlacing!

    The general state of the current KDE is very good; the desktop does already have a fair amount of ‘wow’ factor. I’m hoping for a little more polish around the edges!


  • moltonel says:

    Can’t reach the wiki at the moment, so here goes a list of all the WOWs I heard while using KDE SC :
    * kompare (makes me wonder what they are using)
    * kcachegrind (pretty unique app AFAIK)
    * dolphin (breadcrumbs, animations, previews)
    * web shortcuts (firefox may be simpler but it just does google; I use wp, php, imdb, and a homebrew one a lot)
    * wallpapers (even hidden behind a fullscreen transparent Konsole) – maybe I should show off the fractal wallpaper
    * login screen (wowed a militant mac user)

  • Reinhold says:

    KDE 3.x used to have a HUGE WOW factor in its printing capabilities (including booklets, posters, etc.). Unfortunately, all this is gone now in KDE 4, where printing is basically useless (e.g. no booklet printing possible any more; I haven’t managed to print out A4 slides in 2×2 (i.e. 4-up) in landscape format so far; etc.).

  • Andre says:

    Cypher: I think you slightly misunderstood the meaning of “Wow-factor”. It’s not about unique features, it’s about features that impress a user on first sight. Of course it’s superficial, but the truth is that people _are_ superficial when it comes to the first opinion.

    “Konqueror shortcuts: well, firefox can do that without even typing the go keyword.”

    Yes, but people don’t know about it. People will also wow if you demonstrate it with firefox, but that’s not what this post is about.

    “Kopete: the wow factor is there in principle. But one you start using it, you quickly discover that it’s totally painful to manage your contacts,”

    Again, this is not what the post is about. The wow factor is there if you show it configured. Works on windows as well, with miranda or something comparable.

    “KRandR: I’m not too sure they can be surprised by that, as it’s feasible on windows, in an easier way, through a keyboard shortcut.”

    This is simply not true. On windows you often have to search the advanced display settings, the proprietary driver “control center”, choose between display clone or desktop extension (in different places), and settings of refresh rate and resolution are badly accessible on windows. This is not to say that the situation on linux is good or even better, though.

  • Cypher says:

    Alright, I see your point. Maybe I am too used to features, and surrounded by people in the same situation. But from what you describe, I see nothing that can make me (or any of my friends/colleagues) go wow.

    I need to test that with newcomers… but I expect the “yeah, and what?…” or “I don’t need that…” Could I possibly be too negative ? Probably…

  • Stu says:

    @ everyone – thanks for the comments and suggestions

    @ Jason – yeah, the Plasma Desktop customisation is a nice point, I’ll add something about that later

    @ Cypher – ok, I didn’t add Konqueror shortcuts to the wiki page because I don’t think it’s an impressive feature for that many people (although several people have comment on it to me. And yes, Firefox has something similar (you can set up the same behaviour in Konqueror as ad default search engine) although Konqui’s is more powerful – you can add things like wikipedia and imdb too. But I think this one has a limited audience.
    I use Kopete – it works rather well for me – but again, there are other apps like Pidgin with similar abilities, it depends on the audience
    KRandR – well, I gave a presentation on Monday, the guy before me turned up with a Mac, couldn’t get it to talk to the projector, then he tried the Windows laptop that lives in the seminar room, much pressing of random buttons later we got that working. When I gave mine I right-clicked the KRandR icon and activated the projector display – he was impressed, but this is hardware dependent – luckily I have intel graphics so generally everything works perfectly
    Kile – no, of course that’s not for general consumption (I didn’t add that to the wiki page for that reason) but I work all day with scientists and they are impressed by it. LyX is also very nice of course
    Thanks for the feedback though – I want a list that is generally applicable and we at least agree on some of the things that people have been impressed by but shouldn’t be in the wiki list (Konq and Kile)

    @ Dave Lyon – Exactly (I’ll add a general point below re criteria) but your post about the CD burner on Mac hits the spot – it’s all about the little things that catch attention, they don’t even have to be useful

    @ moltonel, thanks – I’ll try and get some of those added

    @ Andre – Yep, my experience too on many of those.

  • Stu says:

    =General Comments=

    The main point of this (for me) is that we sometimes get people posting to kde-promo saying that they’re giving talk or something about KDE software and asking for pointers. Well, it’s best for people to talk about their own experience and the features/apps they are passionate about, but I’d like the wiki page to be something we can point people to for ideas of potential topics.

    Therefore, we need short, punchy, impressive demonstrable features. Saying “look, our app can do all the stuff your Windows app can do” is not enough – if it’s only equal, why switch? (if you don’t care about free software – yet). We need (I think) things that grab the attention of people and make them want to try and app out. So I’m looking really for “cool feature x from application y” rather than “application x is as good as proprietary application y”. Dave Lyon mentioned that in his post too. So K3B is a very cool app, but what one feature does it have that makes it better than Nero? Also, ideally these will be apps built on KDE Platform 4.

    Anyway, the whole point of the wiki is that we can make a big list and then refine it, so please go ahead and keep posting suggestions there, or here.

    There are a few comments above about deficiencies in apps from SC 4 compared to KDE 3. Ok, they’re valid points (I guess, proxy isn’t an issue for me, but I would like better printing). However, that’s a bit off topic, I don’t have the skills t do anything about them and I doubt mentioning them here is going to get them seen to any quicker – as with everything we do, it depends on someone stepping up and writing the code.

  • Tommi.S says:

    KDE distributions really should consire including digiKam as one of their default apps like they use Amarok and Kopete. And it would be awesome if konqueror would be the default browser as well and not the firefox. I just understand the reason for that because konqueror is just so slow to start loading pages on my computer. It can take 5-10 seconds until it starts actually connecting to server. The rendering is correct and javascript speed are just fine and does not be worse than firefox (more or less equal). It just can not stand that typing address takes “lifetime” to being processed. Something wrong on konqueror process/threads management. It is just so awesome browser that if it could be fixed it would be “a must” for default sets.

  • DanaKil says:

    One feature I just love in KDE is KWin, not especially its desktop effects but its ability to set specific settings per windows. So when you use several virtual desktops (something that Windows users don’t have), you can force your text editor (Kate!) to always open on the third desktop, Amarok could be launched at start on the seconds one, etc.

    It’s a shame that those powerful features are a little bit hidden and the related GUI is far to be easy for a novice

  • Jan Peter says:

    What? No Yakuake? It should be installed default on distros using KDE. πŸ˜€

    KDE4 themes sold me to KDE. It really soothing my eyes and making my desktop uncluttered.

    I must admit that KDE4 really left behind when in Internet apps. I still use Firefox and Pidgin. But, one thing that shines:

    – KMail: Mails threaded and sorted based on the most recent emails.
    – Choqok: Microblogging made easy. πŸ˜›

  • SVG Crazy says:

    The ability to rip audio CD’s by using audiocd:/ . Now, with the new device manager plasmoid, it is even easier because an option to open Audio CD with dolphin appears. Then it is just a matter to choose what file format you want, drag and drop… and be happy πŸ™‚

  • Chris Blauvelt says:

    If you’re driving in the UK, your picture would say MOM.

    • Stu says:

      @ Chris: true, but then there’d be a weird yellow dashed line down the middle of the road and the American spelling of “Mum” so I’d probably conclude I was actually in the US, switch to driving on the wrong side of the road and realise it does in fact say “Wow”. Then I’d wonder why it said “Wow” on the road too πŸ˜‰

  • Cyberwan says:

    Some things I really love in Dolphin :
    – Cutting the screen in two navigable screens, which makes copying or moving files really easier.
    – The popup menu which appears when dropping files, and allows me to choose what I want to do with them. On Window$, I never know if my files are going to be copied or moved, and it usually makes me angry πŸ™‚
    – The configurable places shortcuts, which update when removable devices are plugged in. All I need right under my cursor !
    Thanks to the Dolphin team to make my everyday life so better !