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.
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:
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:
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.