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This is the third in a series of posts about the pre-releases of KDE SC 4.5. This one is about the first release candidate. In the previous posts about beta 1 and beta 2 I went over the new features in 4.5 – few as they are. I also pointed out that one of the focuses of this release is stability. Obviously RC 1 adds no new features, so what is there to talk about? Well, there’s more stability – since beta 2 was released, 1233 bugs have been reported and 1165 have been closed – pretty impressive.

Despite there being no new features in the RC, there is one new feature that overlooked in my previous posts. The new configuration dialog for the oxygen style. In KDE SC 4.4, this was hidden. When you set the oxygen style in the appearance configuration module, there were a few configuration options, but possibly not enough for the die-hard KDE users who like to configure every aspect of their desktop to within an inch of its life. So in this release of KDE SC, you have the ability to tweak a whole bunch of aspect of the oxygen style:

So what are these other "hidden" features referred to in the post title? – apart of course for the oxygen settings dialog. Well, they’re the features that the KDE SC 4.x series have been built on, but seem to have no, or very little visibility in KDE SC 4.x. I’m talking about the semantic desktop, the social desktop and desktop activities. The release notes promise:

A special focus of this release cycle is the stability of the software delivered with KDE SC 4.5. While there are many exciting new features, developers have spent considerable amounts of time finishing off features and polishing those that haven’t come to full bloom yet.

Desktop activities promised, in the early 4.x days, to revolutionise the workflow of KDE users. It would allow different desktops for different purposes. I understood that it would be context sensitive and task specific. It would understand what you were doing and provide you with the tools to do it. This sounded exciting. But where is this feature? How do you get it going? Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of discoverability for this feature. KDE SC 4.5 does include a new dialog for creating and changing activities, which looks a lot like the new widget dialog:

However, this dialog doesn’t give any hints as to what activities are, and how they fit into the desktop metaphor. When you add an activity, you can choose between various types, but all this seems to do is add some pre-configured plasma widgets. I’m just not sure what this really adds to the desktop workflow. It would be fantastic if the KDE SC developers could provide some clear use cases for desktop activities, so that the users could see it in action, and see how it might assist their workflow.

Another promised feature for earlier KDE SC 4.x releases was the "social desktop". This was supposed to provide users with the tools to connect to social networks. Again, the discoverability of this "feature" is minimal. It seems that this feature consists mostly of the microblogging plasmoid and the social community and social news plasmoids. However, the latter two seem to be very developer focussed and the microblogging plasmoid only allows limited twitter and identi.ca functionality. Where is the access to facebook, flickr, digg and the myriad of other social networks? I notice that social networking has been built into the latest Ubuntu desktop with gwibber. With such fantastic frameworks such as nepomuk, akonadi and plasma, it would be great to see KDE pull all of these together to create a truly social desktop experience.

Hopefully with the porting of the KDE PIM suite of applications to akonadi in 4.5.1, all of the necessary frameworks for delivering on the KDE SC 4.x promise, will be in place. But I don’t think that 4.5 will deliver the full bloom referred to in the release notes. Hopefully the stabilisation of KDE SC 4.5 will lay the foundation for things to bloom fully in 4.6.

  1. You can assign applications to activities by calling up the window menu (Alt-F3 or right click on window title) and selecting to which activity you want to associate the window to.

  2. Maybe the activities are hidden because there are not ready for everyone. If somebody wants to use them now, he can do it.
    But there are some features missing like restoring windows states, which will come with KDE SC 4.6. And when it’s ready it will be more visible.

  3. The activities are ready for everyone with 4.5 RC1. What’s not ready for everyone, and I’m talking about the biggest feature BY FAR in the 4.5 cycle (not revealed until this very day), is the complete rewrite of KDE PIM under Akonadi. This is still rough and the Beta 1 of the new KDE PIM suite left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, but this is going to be the FIRST desktop that receives mails the way you dream it of (in any other OS: turn it on, and start Mail to check mail; in the new KDE 4.5, turn it on and once you get mail the system not only alerts you in the background, but downloads the mail, indexes it, and you can later check it out and tag it).

    We’ll see the first KMail major release since KDE 3.0. We’ll see the first implementation of a note-taking system with notes searchable across all the desktop, with Plasma apps aware of the notes and displaying them.

    4.7 will unleash Silk, and Silk is the same thing, but for every social network out there. You get instant Facebook updates, can search your online life, and can relate files in your filesystem to specific posts in your social networks. The strain of development after development hasn’t ended with 4.5, it’s going on.

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