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The latest in the 4.x series of the KDE Software Compilation is due to be released in early August 2010. With the first beta of this release recently unleashed, I thought I’d download the openSuse packages and see what 4.5′s got in store for us.

So What’s New?

The Beta 1 release announcement lists only 4 major new features, which seems a little underwhelming. These are:

  • A reworked notifications area;
  • Window tiling;
  • Webkit in konqueror;
  • Stability improvements.

One of the big upgrades that was scheduled for KDE SC 4.5 was porting the PIM (ie. kmail, korganizer, kaddressbook) applications to the Akonadi framework. Unfortunately, that process won’t be completed in time for 4.5.0, and will be delayed until 4.5.1. This is a little disappointing given that Akonadi has been full of promise for quite some time, with no real user visible outcomes. It would have been nice to see what Akonadi will bring to the party. However, it’s better to wait until all the kinks are ironed out. But unfortunately, it leaves the KDE 4.5 feature cupboard a little bare.

That being said, there are a whole bunch of little improvements that I’ll talk about later on in this article.

Reworked Notifications

The notification area and system tray have been reworked to work with a new D-BUS protocol created by KDE and adopted by Canonical in Ubuntu 10.04. This means that notifications should be consistent regardless of which toolkit an application that uses the notification area was written in.

The notification area also has a new look. This is best demonstrated by a video:

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube link to HD version 

Window Tiling

This is a feature a lot of people have been asking for. I have never really used a tiled window arrangement. I suspect that this would be good for people with large monitors, who work on multiple applications at once – for example developers, journalists or technical writers. However, on my 13 inch laptop screen, there’s just not enough screen real estate for tiling to be practical. It’s difficult to say whether this is a good or bad implementation of window tiling. Given I’ve never really played with window tiling, I’ll leave such an analysis to the those users who are tiling junkies.

Webkit in Konqueror

This I couldn’t test, as I couldn’t get the webkit plugin to load in konqueror. This may be a bug in the openSuse packages I used. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon and I can test this feature. I think this feature will be welcomed by many, as the khtml rendering engine seems to be falling behind webkit and renders a lot of sites funny.

It’s the Little Things

There are a number of smaller changes that add some nice polish to KDE including:

  • A new blur effect for semi-transparent pop-ups:
  • Previews of window decorations in the choosing list.
  • Context menus for tabs in Konsole – a much needed feature.
  • Complete rewrite of KInfoCentre.
  • New Activity Manager UI – I’m still struggling as to how to use desktop activities despite this being one of the primary metaphors for the desktop interface. The use cases for this feature need to be explained better to the masses.
  • New UI feature in the Desktop Grid Kwin effect that allows you to add and remove desktops on the fly:embedded by Embedded Video

    YouTube link to HD version 

Conclusion

The deferral of the Akonadi port for the PIM applications has left the 4.5 release of the KDE SC a little bit lacking in the new features department. However, there are a few nice little improvements that add polish and stability and I’ll be looking forward to the 4.5.1 release to finally see what Akonadi can finally bring to the party.

50 Comments
  1. Damn. KDE is really starting to look interesting and very good looking. It appears it will soon lure me away from GNOME, which is honestly starting to look old and boring.

  2. They are delaying ’till 4.5.1 not 4.6? that’s odd… to do a feature release in the middle…

  3. btw webkit in konqueror will be the most important thing they’ve done imo. It will make konqueror relevant again.

  4. KDE4 is impressive, huge, many different technologies are in it. But its buggy. I use it, past-present-future, I dont do gnomes!

    But with it your Linux desktop is not deterministic anymore.. but hey it is not as bad as with windows!

  5. No, the KDE interface is still poor, basic stuff like proportions, lines, colors, spacing, transparency, they dont seem to know how to make look good. Take the battery widget above as example .. geez, nearly every detail shows how not to do it.

    • if you know so well, dude, go for it yourself instead of complaining like a child.

  6. the notification system is bloody awful..:(
    It’s utterly distracting, too many things pop up, flash, slide in-out, etc. They block the view of whatever was underneath them, the only way for them to go away is to either wait or try to quickly find the ‘X’.
    I thought that “reworked notifications” would solve this (imho) problems, but instead it got worse, flashier, more distracting.

    • I agree.

      This “notification area” thing they are trying to pull of, is a bag of pain. I doubt any experienced UI-designer ever approved it.

      Please, Kde-guys; Keep It Simple S…

      You have a great GUI-framework for the job, but Less is more. All these weird features are just to much. :(

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  8. But is it any more stable?

    My only problem with KDE4 is that it has a habit of blowing up more frequently than I’d like (read: ever). Say what you like about GNOME (and I do) but in recent years it has at its core become rock solid. Gone are the days when nautilus would lock up, the desktop would become unresponsive or the WM would mysteriously recycle! Not that I use gnome, of course; I use E16, which is extremely stable. It’s so stable that I have come to expect all WMs to never, ever crash.

    Contrast KDE4, where I keep seeing subsystems become unresponsive, or outright crash. Maybe it’s the Debian compilation of it, maybe it’s me doing funny things but it happens.

    Features are nice-to-have but *stability* is the only true virtue of a WM and DE. Let the apps crash if they must, let nothing bring down the environment.

  9. From a designer and user experience perspective, its the ugliest most horrendous attempt at a UI. Its very predictably ugly too. KDE has always seemed to be the number 1 in garish desktop environments out there. It tries to be Windows, but it wants to be something else but ends up trying to look like Windows. I notice the folks who work on KDE don’t have a philosophy or vision either. They copy and paste from OS X and Windows to get some footing but end up doing a bad job at implementing fit and finish. The over use of semi transparency, no clean lines, no clean presentation, lacks contrast and blatant over Aero Wannbeness of this shows this attempt at UI design is nothing but a lost cause. Please people, if you want to know what a professional graphical user interface looks like, install Windows 7. If you want something half decent, take a look at Mac OS X. But this is just confusingly ugly. When KDE started on the path to 4.0 I saw disaster and this is looking like the sequel.

    • Well, you’ve read this article and have obviously used KDE4. However, instead of getting involved, as you seem to think you know about design and user experience, you focus on the negatives instead. I personally love it. Yes, it’s got its annoyances but those are getting ironed out with every release. It’s streets ahead of GNOME and much better than OS/X (and I have a mac as well). But therein lays the problem. It’s my opinion. You’re welcome to yours too but, please, instead of criticizing the many, many people who put a lifetime of effort into making KDE what it is, either get on with using windows 7 or channel your frustrations into actively getting involved to make it better. I doubt you will though.

    • I shouldn’t feed the troll, but you are terribly misinformed. First of all, KDE4 was designed before Windows Vista – before Aero, that is, and looks nothing like Windows XP, so it can’t be claimed to be a copy of Windows. Saying it looks anything like MacOS X, however, is just silly. It looks and behaves nothing like it.

      What you have to understand about KDE is that it DOESN’T try to be the other desktops. That’s exactly what you’re missing. So you’re thinking “they’re doing it wrong”, when really, they’re doing it differently. KDE most definitely DO have a philosophy. It’s a very different one to OS X, Windows, Gnome, Xfce and all the tiling WM’s: the philosophy is to be and have everything. All the options, all the features, all the software. All of it is to be KDE. That’s why KDE3.5 was so good – it succeeded.

      But now it looks outdated. They took a leap. They decided to start from scratch and get to the same point, but with a more modern look. Personally, I don’t think they’ve got there yet. It’s too buggy and the features are currently incomplete. Hopefully they’ll get there eventually, but I’m not sure if I’d move over anyway.

      So, in summary, I don’t much like KDE4, but you’re still completely wrong.

      • That is, move over from wmii for me and Gnome for everyone I advise about Linux (including my parents, who love it!).

  10. KDE is getting fancy and better, which is a good thing, isn’t it? But I won’t move away from my GNOME yet until KDE4 is more stable. But I have to say that I love Window Tiling feature, GNOME3 should have this feature by default.

  11. Akonadi is the one part of kde 4.4.3 that gives me problems. As it is now it usually takes two tries to get kmail started – Akonadi complains about something and kmail kills itself. Some more work in making Akonadi more error tolerant would be a VERY good idea – its the most frustrating piece of KDE from my perspective.
    Ed
    PS. I’ve been using KDE for close to ten years now…

    • The review laments that Akonadi is not used more ! On the contrary, this is a very sane decision. Akonadi is used by the address book manager, and bugs have been found. It is better to solve first the issues with Akonadi that are already annoying users. Critical like “I can’t read my email anymore”. See for example #583735 in Ubuntu:

      When kmail starts, it launches the address book manager who launches Akonadi. But since Akonadi startup is too slow, the address book manager times out and pops an error dialog box. Kmail fails to start.

      I say thank you to KDE for NOT pushing more Akonadi to us this time !

    • I had that problem with Akonadi too, but I misconfigured something causing the problems.

      Does your addressbook show up in kmail? If it doesn’t look in the KDE wiki for the solution, solving all problems.

  12. @Andre Da Costa: you’re joking, right?

  13. I use konqueror in KDE 4.4.4 with webkit and KHTML. At first I used webkit as default engine but there are too many websites that don’t work properly with it so I switched back to KHTML. Only for ebay webkit is a *must*. So I have to always switch between the two engines. Would be nice if in KDE 4.5 they would add the option to always use a specific engine for specific websites, e.g. webkit for ebay, KHTML for facebook. Comparable to the use of java, javascript, plugins, cookies…

  14. Activities. I don’t get them either. What is the point? Why even add another layer of complexity to the whole situation? Why not just make these activities a separate desktop? Activities seems like multiple desktops for graphical widgets but with a lot more hassle.

  15. Oh, and that stinking cashew icon in the corner. I want it gone. I know there is a widget to remove it but that means I have to install yet another widget to give functionality where functionality should already exist.

  16. Plain ugly. I won’t switch from KDE 3.5 any time soon that’s sure.
    G.

  17. I have been using Kubuntu for most of its life time. It is my main system. The KDE 3 to KDE 4 change was way to early. It really pissed me off but after many upgrades (10.04), it is starting to work well. I sure wish I could use different wall paper on each cube side desktop!

    With 10.04 I almost never have a crash and many of the little paper cuts are getting cleaned up. This is just what I expected to happen but really Kubuntu should have waited a year. I would bet after another year it will really take off, especially as Gnome is about to take the same pill as it goes from 2 to 3.

    On yet anther front, Lubuntu really flies! Now if they could just get the keyboard switcher to work!

    • Anyone using kubuntu should try opensuse. I’ve use a number of distros over the 10 odd years of using Linux, including kubuntu over the last 3. I was pretty happy with it, apart from a few minor niggles, but nothing I couldn’t fix. Then after reading a number of articles saying opensuse was the best mainstream
      implementation of KDE 4.x, I gave it a go, and there was a world of difference in speed and stability between opensuse and kubuntu. On kubuntu, everything felt a little bit cobbled together. On opensuse everything feels rock solid and fast. As an example, I run a VMware virtual machine for windows at work. On kubuntu, this would become unusably slow after a day, requiring a reboot. Furthermore I would get constant crashes in unity mode. On opensuse, no such issues. The vm is considerably faster, remains so for days and unity mode is rock solid.

      Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t.

      • I wonder why? What would cause Kubuntu’s KDE to be worse than others? Seems pretty strange.

        • Not so strange: nowadays the choice of the DE has to be well planned by distro-makers. Kubuntu is not more than a standard Ubuntu stripped down of gnome and with kde in it. But kde (like gnome on the other hand) has a lot of integration with the distro. Opensuse, like other distro (I’m a developer myself of a small italian distro kde based) is totally build to be used with kde. I actually use kde4.4 both at home and at work since is announce and I can count the crash of it on the fingers of one hand

      • I had the very same experience and opnion, switching from Kubuntu to OpenSuse, and it’s a fact, OpenSuse is more fast, stable and solid. I’ve had enough about Kubuntu bugs and all sort of inconsistencies.

        Off course OpenSuse is not perfect at all but IMHO is the best KDE distro currently.

  18. I’ve been running kde pretty much exclusively – tried Gnome but wasn’t for me and occasionally drop into fvwm for work with Ardour and DAW stuff (less processes running in OS). But otherwise, KDE and I’m running ~x86 on Gentoo, which means there may be some packages not fully vetted by gentoo team – more cutting edge stuff.

    Moral of story – when people complain about the instability of KDE, I’m not seeing it. Rock solid – no crashes since maybe 4.1 or 4.2 – don’t remember the last one. I don’t doubt others are having issues – but not me. And this is usually running graphics programs – gimp, digikam, and other stuff like media players, and I run Windows XP in VirtualBox for photoshop and adobe DNGconverter.

  19. I have been running KDE on the KUbuntu platform since 3.5. I now run KDE 4.4. I have to say that running on the latest production release is quite pleasant. I have Windows 7 running inside Virtualbox, but other than the times I need to remote in to work I don’t use it. 4.4 is extremely stable with multiple downloads, Amarok, Open Office docs, VLC, and several other apps running concurrently. With the Emerald theme manager and Compiz cube active it visually blows away anything M$ related. I’m having difficulty with other postings mentioning “stability” issues. I have experienced none of these problems. My PC runs almost 24/7 while sometimes entering sleep mode due to inactivity. It may not be ‘perfect’ for some people, but I really do appreciate what the KDE developers have done. Providing a strong alternative to the “evil empire” and doing it through dedication and selfless effort for free.

    • You and I aren’t the only user who have NO reliability/stability issues with Kubuntu, many other don’t either.

      Of course there are those who do, or claim to have issues. I tend to think they are very small group and mostly have issues with odd applications.

      Is KDE perfect? Not at all, and nothing is perfect. That is why it is still being enhanced and improved in all aspects.

      Is it reliable/robust enough for daily use? No doubt about it because it is the only DE I use on all my 5 systems.

      I don’t know when all those trolls are going to stop bashing KDE 4.x, but it is about time for them to realize that KDE 4.x is already widely accepted and used. Stop wasting your time bashing it, no one is listening. You are becoming irrelevant annoyers.

      If you don’t like it, don’t use it and move on. All your complains are not going to make any difference because others are pretty happy with it and enjoy using it.

  20. I am KDE :)

    Yes, basically i use KDE exclusively. I find the newer releases good but KDE (or KDE SC) now should start looking at business oriented needs of a typical desktop. As of now, it is good to do general browsing, social networking etc. What KDE now needs is:
    1. Good integration with Microsoft networks and tools — which are still the default at workplaces. Kontact, in particular.
    2. Kopete should become friendlier with protocols used within office networks such as SIPE or Microsoft OCS/LCS.
    3. Certificate management. This is pathetic under KDE, as of now. Kleopatra could not see any certificate stored on my smart card or smart key.
    4. KOffice, although highly improved, lags miles behind OO.o in terms of MS Office format compatibility.

    Sadly (IMO), for all of the above, GTK based apps are highly mature (and consequently soon becoming de-facto in work envs). Firefox, Pidgin etc blend seamlessly into Microsoft enviroments.

    So, yeah, I am still KDE (GNOME raises my BP, cholestrol etc for various reasons) and I use KDE daily at work. However, I have to run several GTK-based apps just to get my work done.

    If KDE/Qt tools attain parity with GTK-ones for my office apps, I can finally attain KDE nirvana, so to say :)

  21. Been using KDE 4.4 for most of this year already. Love it. It is infinitely configurable. If you don’t like it out of the box, change it!

    I love having multiple activities on each desktop – probably the best feature. You can make each desktop have a different theme and look!

  22. Looks just like windows! whats the deal with linux developers not breaking the winblows design mold.

    • I believe you are suffering from Windows overload.

      There is nothing in KDE that looks like windows other than having the task bar at the bottom with KDE/Start icon on far left.

  23. Looks just like windows! Why!?

  24. Your website theme is even better than KDE! :-)

    KDE is still lacking effective space utilization. The icons are still bigger out of proportion text occupies lot of space, it could really be a lot better. But its working in that direction, that is commendable.

  25. the kde 4.4 on sidux has good defaults and doesn’t crash my laptop. Give it a try if you like deb derived distros. One design issue, the vista-like glass blur looks cool but a simple transparency is more useful as you can still look what’s in the background and catches your attention.

  26. hahaha! Seems as if Kde already has the features that Gnome-shell will bring… and does a better job of it at the same time

  27. Hi, I’m very interested in Linux but Im a Super Newbie and I’m having trouble deciding on the right distribution for me (Havent you heard this a million times?) anyway here is my problem, I need a distribution that can switch between reading and writing in English and Japanese (Japanese Language Support) with out restarting the operating system.

    • I like Ubuntu and Kubuntu. I think any operating system should be able to switch between any supported languages without rebooting.

      Many people recommend using openSUSE for it’s implementation of KDE, but I find it uncomfortable.

  28. KDE is getting awesome with every release. It is already the best desktop environment out there.

  29. I used kde from the beginning. I loved it. KDE 3 was absolutely amazing. But since a few months, I just couldn’t take it any more, and stopped using KDE.

    Developers should recognize that KDE 4 is a train wreck. Throw it away, get KDE 3.5, and continue from there.

  30. The deferral of Akonadi makes perfect sense. A (very) generous assessment of it, right now, would be: “flaky”.

    Currently, any serious Kontact user will be constantly struggling with what’s already been done to the address book. Try adding a contact then immediately using it (without restarting Akonadi & Kontact!) from within Kmail. Try creating a distribution list. And if you do figure out how to do that, try using it from Kmail.

    If Akonadi “infects” further parts of Kontact, it will render the whole product unusable.

    Note. I’ve been a 100% KDE user for over five years – and continue to struggle on!!!

  31. You guys haven’t been using KDE enough should refrain from commenting … if you have an opinion better to express that as a question than to whine without end.

    I’ve been at KDE since the 1.x days. I use Slackware …
    KDE has come a long way and the reason KDE is … is because of its feature rich oodles and oodles of configurability.

    While Gnome does have Gtk+ behind it … its up to the user to decide if they like KDE or Gnome.

    So KDE brings out features that KDE Users will like and love. If you don’t dig KDE you can always reconfigure it or switch to Gnome.

    Please don’t complain. Just Do It .

    • Sadly, the KDE team managed to alienate a big percentage of their user-base with the release of KDE 4. This was not because it was different, but because it DIDN’T WORK! It’s not surprising that there is, now, a certain amount of negativity (“whining”!).

      I, for one, was not “whining”. I am pleased to see that the KDE team are prepared to make the difficult (and mature) decision to defer the release of something that isn’t 100% working.

  32. Que lindo!, me encanta
    i like it, i dont know how others complaint, if u dont like it dont use it, because some people like me like it. im a new user and i never use 3.5 but there are some distros that still use 3.5 use them, or use what ever enviroment u like.
    but for me looks great.
    enlightment and kde are the best looking enviroment of linux, but kde is more friendly, even the bar menu in enlightment i found too little, not good for people with vision problems. so keep the good work, and there many linux enviroment to chose so is easy to chose, so for me there no reason to complaint.

  33. I really like KDE too. I have no idea why people are complaining about it because in my opinion it is by far the best. It does what I need it to do, it looks good while doing it and since it is open-source I can mess with it and compile it on whatever I want (If it’s not pre-packaged for the distro I’m using). It’s nice and clean, plus you get all those wicked desktop effects lol. All in all I think KDE is great!

  34. I’m on Archlinux with KDE 4.4.4. Now with Xorg-server 1.8.1 and latest Nvidia drivers I’m seeing some issues with a few youtube videos (funny those work when imbedded) anyhow, KDE runs much faster, stable and boots quicker with latest xorg server, now more WMs can scrap HAL. ;)

  35. Gnome has become solid over the last few years. I have stayed with Gnome for this reason. I loved KDE and still do but the youtube demonstrations are not promising.

    I think the problem with KDE “on top of the hood” is that it feels very rough. Like someone already pointed out, many of the UI elements ( for example the notification area ) feel, dare I say it, amateurish. I know this has also a lot to do with distro support. Archlinux and like distro’s look great. Kubuntu I hate. The new notification area seems like a glorified log viewer.

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