KDE 4: My Desktop Just Got Cooler

Tuesday, I decided to make the plunge and try out KDE 4.0.0 One word: amazing. So ever is my quick and unscientific review of KDE 4.0.0

KDE 4 is a very sexy looking desktop. The panel is darker, the default wallpapers classier and artwork much more modern. The icon and widget theme Oxygen and the effects make the desktop stunningly pretty. The Oxygen window decorations don’t add much. I ended up switching to the Plastik. Also the artwork for the new KDE 4 games is simply beautiful.

Naturally artwork is a very subjective thing, but it does help with the user experience. If a user wants to look at a program, then he/she might want to work and experiment with it too. So far I am impressed by the Oxygen art team’s progress.


Older KDE 3 applications also work well. So the new KDE libraries are as stable as the KDE developers claim them to be. Unfortunately not all the KDE 4 programs are stable. I encountered a number of crashes with the new Plasma-able version of superkaramba. Other KDE 4 applications can seem a bit unstable at times too. Also interoperability between KDE 3 and KDE 4 applications is a bit weak too. The most stable apps so far the one related to systemsettings and the KDE games.

Again, since KDE 4.0.0. is a release directed towards developers and early adopters, I am not going to complain about this. I am sure other windows managers were less stable after such a massive API change. Things should get better with the next release of KDE 4. Probably by the time Kubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron will be out, most of these bugs will be out of the way. Remember KDE 4.0.0 is just the first version in KDE 4’s lifecycle.

One thing I love and hate about KDE is the tight integration between KDE apps. As of KDE 4.0.0 many of the integration pieces are missing. I will not harp upon my two favourite KDE applications, amarok & kontact (part of KDE-PIM). In both cases, the developers are not ready to get the code in place to deal with the new APIs, and the new features they want to add. A straight port to the new kdelibs is one thing. A new release worthy of the KDE 4 title is another.

However some necessary parts of the KDE integrated experience are not there. Example: the Regional/Language settings work… barely. Also the new kickoff menu does not always find new non-KDE programs, something the old menu did. (That might be more of a Kubuntu/Ubuntu integration issue though). Plasma whose ultimate goal is to integrate the desktop, kicker and applets with the rest of the system, has a long way to go.

…And Everything Else!
To finish off this off-the-cuff review, I want to point a few other things I noticed.

The new kickoff menu takes some getting used to. At first I frowned upon the limited space this new menu system takes up. After a few uses, it grew on me. The Favorites and Computer parts let you quickly get to a favourite application or location. The Recently Used keeps track of your recent documents and applications used. Everything is nicely compartmentalized. The regular applications menu is the part that takes use to the most. Displaying only one menu at a time gives a lot more information about each application. Only problem is when there a large number of applications in a submenu. If the KDE developers come up with a natural way of categorizing applications and keep the maximum depth of submenus to 2 then its all good. Also please, please make it possible to scroll between menus without all that clicking.

The new okular document viewer is awesome. With all the backends in place, it really does become the universal text document viewer. Excellent work. Also KDE 4.0.0 sports a new revision of the gwenview image viewing program. A few more plugins to do slight photo-editing would be nice. But I guess thats what digikam is for. Dolphin also got an update in KDE 4.0.0. Dolphin’s breadcrumb file displayer is now easily editable to let you navigate the file system path. I found this very useful to enter hidden directories without displaying all the . files.

The new konqueror is now an actually usable web browser. Kopete for KDE 4 is nice, but I miss having easy one-click access to my accounts. Now I have to click twice to do the same thing because of the whole profiles thing. KGet also shows promise to be more useful than it once was, with bittorrent integration.

Wrapping up, KDE 4.0.0 brings a lot to the table. Its a sexy-looking desktop with a lot of potential. Once all of the KDE applications get fully ported, and the few nuisances straightened out, KDE 4 will be the most fun free desktop out there. For now KDE 4.0.0 just made my desktop look and feel a lot cooler.