My Thoughts on KDE 4.1

For the past few days I have been using KDE 4.1 exclusively. In fact, I uninstalled most of my KDE 3.5 applications because I wanted to get a real feel for what KDE 4.1 can do. Now, even the KDE development team would agree that it is not 100% complete. By that I mean it does not have every feature from KDE 3.5, but it certainly seems pretty darn close. In terms of fancy screens shots the KDE team has done a nice job of this so I point you here to see some of the magic.

The Good

First, I will talk about what I really like about KDE 4.1. The new look and feel on KDE is certainly a welcome improvement. Lots of various things have animations such as selecting things in the new KMenu and changing between settings in different dialogs. These transitions provide not only some nice eye candy for onlookers, but serve to show the user that they are changing contexts. I think this is very important especially for new users to help ease them into the environment. Also, KDE 4.1 supports some compositing features, but I was not able to test those due to issues with my graphics card/X. It does seem to suppose an alternate rendering scheme which seems use the CPU, but my processor is not fast enough to make it run smoothly.

Also, a lot of my favorite KDE apps have been ported. Specially, Akregator, Kpdf (now called Okular), Kwallet, and many more. Akregator and Okular have a nice new appearance, and it is good to see them with a new look.

Screenshot of Okular

Screenshot of Okular

Just as before KDE has a helpful System Settings feature which allows you to change quite a few useful settings and configure all or most of the things KDE 3.5 used to allow for. Thankfully, KDE has switched away from artsd, which I could never get to work, and with the new Phonon backend it can use any number of audio backends such as xine or gstreammer.

From my limited interaction with dolphin, the file manager,  I like what I see. It is intuitive to use and has a number of different views for you to use when trying to get through your files. It also has another interesting feature that I noticed. It lets you tag and leaves comments about your files and folders. In fact, you can even rate them. This ties in with the “Nepomuk Semantic Desktop” which, if enabled, allows you to search your file system based on the tags and whatnot that you assign to your files. I must admit that I do most of my file management with a terminal still, but I think that feature has definite advantages if you like the graphical approach. For instance, say you have lots of photos in different folders. You could tag them and have a much easier way to locate them 2 or 3 years down the road.

I don’t really use konqueror, but it is still alive and well. I can’t say much more than that because I haven’t used it enough to have an opinion either way 🙂 .

The Not So Good

On the other side of things, if you require every last feature from KDE 3.5 than KDE 4.1 is not for you because they haven’t all been implemented yet. For instance, it does not support setting the background on a dual screen setup such that it spans both screens. A little work with GIMP “fixed” that problem for me by splitting the picture in half and setting each screen to each half, but that is a bit impractical.

Also, for whatever reason, the compositing effects were not working so well and enabling them was a bit of a pain. I’m not sure whether to pin this on KDE or whole ATI graphics drivers issue when it comes to X.

The plasmids, the new KDE widgets,  are a really cool idea, but some of it is a bit frustrating. As an example, I accidentally deleted the main bar with KMenu/Pager/etc, and it took me about 30 minutes to an hour to get everything back in working order. I think these minor bugs and annoyances will be worked out in future releases, but it was disappointing just the same.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I am extremely happy with KDE 4.1. I have been looking forward to KDE 4 and 4.1 does anything but disappoint. In fact, I’m switching over to use it as my primary desktop environment on both my laptop and desktop machines. KDE 4.1 is not for everyone though, specifically those who are waiting for every last feature of KDE 3.5. Some things in KDE 4.1 take a little getting used to and some have complained about this. I don’t mind however, because ultimately I like what the KDE team has done, and sometimes I think people get very stuck in their ways and don’t want to move away from “the way it used to be”. KDE 4.1 doesn’t completely redfine desktop environments, but it sure does give them a fresh new look 🙂 . KDE 4.1 levaes me eagerly awaiting KDE 4.2!

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