I was using Gnome, not KDE. As I said, KDE took too much getting used to.
As far as what kind and how much stuff did I have open, this was last summer and into the fall, so memories have faded, but I was trying to get my feet wet a little. I was using Firefox. I was opening files using one of the file opening utilities (don’t remember which one). I was loading new apps to try them out.
Sometimes I had to switch to one of the command-line terminals to do something related to the front end. Sometimes I did this by means of a terminal app, and sometimes I did it by means of F1-F6.
I was trying all kinds of things to try to figure out whether I could make the jump and abandon Windows completely. Believe me, the idea of switching Windows off forever was an appealing one, and still is.
I installed Ubuntu from the Ubuntu website. I burned an installation disk which got the process started, and went through a plain-vanilla install of the latest distro at that time (which was - if I recall correctly - “Oneiric Ocelot”).
Then we began to get more experienced Web development people involved, and they said “oh, you should switch to CentOS, it’s more stable, it’ll be easy to switch.”
It may in fact be more stable, but it wasn’t easy to switch (there were several “small” differences that each took a day or two to deal with).
I’m sure I can install a GUI onto CentOS, but we’ve moved all our servers to a remote colo (in another city), and I control everything through SSH and various consoles (Webmin, SWAT, and Subversion Edge, among others).
For every day stuff I still use Windows, as I said. I like it. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good, and is less “high maintenance” than Linux was for routine stuff.
Using Linux for everyday computer apps is like using a high-performance Italian sports car for tooling around town. You can do it, and it’s fun, but you pay for it in downtime, fooling around with tweaks and occasional deep dives under the covers.
You pay for using Windows too, but in money. As long as you stay within Microsoft’s “consumer” pricing model, the price/problems ratio is acceptable.
When you move to their “commercial server” price model, forget it. In fact, that’s why we moved our servers over to Linux (after buying several copies of W2K8 R2 and getting several more “development licenses” from MS, revokable at any time at their whim).
I tend to prefer KDE. Yeh, I know, you are more used to Gnome as you have already stated, but I tend to find more useable apps with KDE ties and capabilities than when I go Gnome. If I see an app that is linked to Gnome right away I know two things about it; first, that it will be 'prettier' than an equivalent KDE app, and second, that it will be a bit less 'capable' than a KDE one. Brasero as compared to K3b (cd/dvd burner apps) comes immediately to mind.
Of course, you can always try another desktop. I would stay away from the newer versions (Cinnamon, Mint) or Ubuntu types as they are not as stable as say the straight Debian-based distros provide. You can also play with Xfce, lxde, windowmaker, or even Plan9 -but these are more for those purists looking for minimal processing demands and/or disk space for the desktop than for the Office-style environments the more popular desktops provide.
I also tried the Debian Install route, with unhappy results -and was quite surprised, to say the least. Debian-based distro, easy install and off and running. Pure Debian install, fairly simple install, then lots of problems from then on -like being unable to save a file to the hard drive, for instance. Tried different desktops as well. Gnome; pretty, but missing friendly System Config, Network Config, and drive detection apps. KDE; some familiar apps but no hard-drive write. OK... why? Then tried lxde desktop. Minimal, fast, and quite ugly, with an app or two disappearing from the Menu. Weird.
Went back to Mepis.
For me, KDE is so much like Windows that I had almost zero problems navigating from the very beginning. It has a start menu like Windows, I can put launch icons in my task bar at the bottom of the screen, shortcuts on my desktop....The Dolphin file manager is a breeze to use for anyone familiar with Windows Explorer.
Give PCLinuxOS (KDE version) a try sometime. You might be surprised.