Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The KDE 4.1 desktop GUI for Linux is here

A major upgrade for the KDE desktop, the new 4.XX series was supposed to be a major improvement. However, when the 4.0 release happened earlier this year, it was still a bit... raw? It was a major change from the old KDE 3.5 desktop, and it still needed some polishing. Many promises were made that the 4.1 release would fix many problems and add more features. So now that it's here, how does it compare?

Here's two early reviews, the first from Jeremy LaCroix at Linux.com:

KDE 4.1 rocks the desktop
KDE 4.1 was finally released to the public today. After all the controversy since the release of KDE 4.0, I'm happy to announce that KDE 4.1 simply rocks.

KDE 4.1 packages are available for Kubuntu and several other popular distributions. If there are no prebuilt binaries yet for your distro of choice, you can compile the software from the available source packages. A live CD image is also available should you wish to try the new desktop without altering your existing installation.

The introduction of KDE 4 marked the introduction of the new Plasma desktop, which provides not only the panel that you interact with, but also widgets (or "plasmoids") that extended the desktop further. In KDE 4.1, one of the most welcome changes to Plasma is the return of multiple and resizable panels from KDE 3. Now you can configure your panels by clicking on the Plasma icon (by default it's on the right edge of the panel), which brings up a series of sliders for adjusting the panel's height and position. Also within this configuration control is the return of a way to reposition panel contents by simply grabbing objects with your mouse and pulling them to where you'd like them.[...]

It's a short review that gives you a rundown of the major features, and a few minor shortcomings. It concludes very favorably.

I bit more detailed review is availible from Bruce Byfield at the Datamation website:

KDE 4.1 Review: The Rocky Road of the New KDE
With its 4.1 release, KDE is taking few chances. While the 4.0 release's announcement emphasized excitement and significance, the tone of the announcement for 4.1 is more subdued. This time, the announcement talks about maturing technologies and underlying improvements, and the only claim is that the 4.1 desktop "can replace the KDE 3 shell for most casual users."

The change of tone seems a direct result of the numerous complaints about KDE 4.0, which somehow reached end-users' hands despite warnings that it was a development release. However, whether the 4.1 release will silence the complaints depends very much on individual users' tolerance for change, their willingness to customize, and the degree to which the available programs fit their needs. Only after these considerations, I suspect, will users get around to exploring everything that is new in 4.1, much less to appreciating it. [...]

Read the whole thing for more details and screenshots too. It also concludes favorably. It would seem that the KDE 4.1 desktop is ready for the majority of users. Great! I'm looking forward to trying it out.

UPDATE 08-01-08:

For contrast, here is a not-so-favorable review, from DeviceGuru.com:

KDE 4.1.0 disappoints
Learning that KDE 4.1.0 had been released by the KDE Community, I hastened to download and install this latest, greatest Linux desktop on the Ubuntu-powered Black Tower. Put generously, the results were highly disappointing!

While much more finished than version 4.0, this initial version 4.1 release of KDE still has gaping holes in both its basic functionality and its user friendliness. On the other hand, the new desktop sports radical new features and enhancements compared to the current KDE 3.5.x, so it’s not surprising that finalizing it is taking longer than had been hoped. [...]

You can follow the link for the details. The specifics mentioned may not bother some people, you'll have to decide for yourself. Me, I'm still going to try in on my next Ubuntu install. Even if it turns out to be less than I hope for, it's still a work in progress, and will likely only get better as time goes on.

Related Links:

How to Install KDE 4.1 on Ubuntu 8.04
- Step-by-step tutorial with screenshots!

Something to Really Bake Your Noodle
The impact of what the Plasma (and the KDE team in general) are trying to accomplish with the new 4.XX series.

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