If you’ve tried Windows 11, you may have noticed that Microsoft strives to bring the Windows desktop experience on par with modern Mac and Linux desktop environments. But in some areas, the latest version from Microsoft is incomparable.
We take a close look at the Windows 11 desktop experience in its current state and compare it to the Linux desktop environment KDE plasma .
What is KDE Plasma?
KDE Plasma is a desktop environment that provides a graphical user interface for several different Linux operating systems . It is built and maintained by the KDE community , a group that develops a wide variety of free and open source products for all types of users, whether they use your PC for work or play, or both.
We tested for this article KDE neon and Garuda KDE Dr460nized . Neon comes with plasma set to a standard “vanilla” image intended for wide appeal. In contrast, Garuda offers a highly customized output of Plasma with a modern, dark, and progressive look. These two editions give you an impression of the possibilities that Plasma offers in terms of customization.
The default look and feel of KDE Neon actually looks very similar to the Windows 11 environment. Below is a comparison of the split screen of the Start screen in KDE Neon and Windows 11.
You’ll find that the color scheme, textures, and layout of the login screen are all pretty similar. As soon as you log in, the desktop itself continues the parallel experience.
However, it is forgivable. As you keep up with design trends, it is inevitable that you will make decisions that are similar to those of others. Despite the fact that KDE Plasma and Windows 11 seem to be reading from the same book, Plasma seems to do better in some ways.
What does Plasma have that Windows 11 doesn’t?
As you may have seen online, Linux and Windows users can spend all day arguing about which is better. However, there are some areas where the Plasma desktop experience is better.
Uniform system tray icons
Windows has a long history of (usually) well-coordinated icons, and system icons for Windows 11 look great on the system tray. But when it comes to third-party apps, even popular apps that Microsoft is promoting on your Start menu, the Microsoft desktop leaves a lot to be desired.
This is what it looks like when you add Slack and Spotify to the system tray, next to the system tray’s file explorer, the default browser Edge, and the Microsoft Store.
The tiny app logos are squeezed into ugly boxes that clash with the rounded edge style that the rest of the Windows 11 user interface displays.
Now let’s look at the same apps in the KDE Neon taskbar, with Firefox replacing Edge as neon’s default browser.
While the icons aren’t entirely uniform and some edges are a bit grainy, there are some improvements in scaling and consistency.
Now, take a look at the same collection of apps in the Garuda Dr460nized home window that defaults to the BeautyLine System-wide symbolic theme.
Garuda using the plasma desktop environment lets you immerse yourself in an attractive and consistent user space. You get the impression of a well-structured system on which you can rest your digital trust. Different symbol styles give the impression of a disordered structure.
No standard app gadgets
Under Windows11 Microsoft Edge is not just the browser installed during setup, it is the browser that opens all desktop links by default, and changing the default is not an easy process. Naturally, Edge could very well be the only browser you need or want. If so, Windows 11 is ideal for you.
Linux plasma desktops, on the other hand, give you the freedom to make this decision yourself and the flexibility to stick to your decision. One or the other browser is almost always installed by default, but it can be easily removed and changing the default settings is easy.
It works right away
I know what you’re thinking: “Windows also works out of the box!” Well, that only applies in certain situations. If you buy a Windows PC or Windows license and sign in to a Microsoft account (if you’re using the Home edition), it works right away.
Yes, you can download and install Windows Home Edition for free. It will start and can be used for many tasks (provided you can sign in to a Microsoft account). Without a verified installation, however, your functionality is limited. Simple aspects like changing the wallpaper are disabled until you activate your device with a license.
As with most Linux experiences, Plasma has no such limitations or caveats. You don’t have to sign in to any service, you don’t need a license key and you don’t have to be activated. You simply create your first local account during installation and Plasma and its functions are completely open to you.
Windows11 vs. KDE Plasma
Overall, Windows 11 is a solid operating system. However, to make it even better, we hope Microsoft will take its cue from KDE Plasma. If they already share a login screen and color scheme, why not coordinate the icons too and allow users to easily use their preferred browser?
Would you like to try KDE Plasma yourself? We recommend KDE neon (User edition). You can download the ISO, burn it to a flash drive, and boot live on Windows or Mac.
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