[ Wednesday, 25 April 2007, riklaunim ]
A few days ago first KDE4 CD images presenting the current development version of KDE4 have been published in the Internet (as a custom openSUSE Live-CD). Nobody should expect that this version is close to the final product. As the SVN code being intensively and continuously developed, no wonder it’s neither stable, usable nor it contains all the features planned for the final release due in late 2007. This review should be then treated as a pure experiment, “a glance” at the current status of KDE4 development.
Development code in action
The boot-up process of the Live-CD was amazingly smooth and this was the last thing that worked . My first problem was with… logging into KDE. The environment seemed start up normally, but it hang up on the „Starting panel” screen. The visual effect of this was the lack of the clock applet and the applications docked in the kicker. Overall, not all programs can be even started and those which can, do not work in a stable manner crashing a lot. What is more, it’s hard to guess which application is which since many icons are missing. The system itself also behaved strangely. For instance, it would not allow me to mount any partitions, each time claiming that the particular partition or disk is already mounted or busy.
In KDE4 the default file manage is Dolphin which is kind of “Konqueror for human beings”. It’s also available on the testing Live-CD and works pretty fine. I personally do not think it’s usable since it lacks the tabs which I certainly need to work effectively with many folders and files. But for that, there is the new reworked Konqueror, which… in the current status of KDE4 development doesn’t work as it should and lacks a few important element. If you love Konqueror, you should skip image 2 which presents the new interface for browsing through the folder tree. If you — by chance give it a glace — please don’t panic! In QT4 a few widgets used for displaying files and folders have been joined together, and this widget depending on the current configuration, displays the content either as a tree or as icons. In this version only the tree mode was available.
In KDE 3 Kpdf was used for viewing and working on (copying the text or images) PDF files. In the version of KDE4 from the Live-CD no program was capable of handling PDF files. Neither Okular nor Ligature (which was the default app launched when I double-clicked on a PDF file in Dolphin) could display a PDF file. The information I got is a window informing that the program does not support this file format.
KOffice is also preparing for the new release. Just as in case of KDE4 the work is advanced but far from complete. Some noticeable changes have been implemented in the user interface. For instance, KWord has gained a new Krita-like tabs. In other apps like Kspread I haven’t noticed many changes (maybe except the availability of flake objects. KOffice 2.0 is more about the backend tasks and I just hope that the key 2.0 goals like reasonable compatibility with OpenDocument Format and better support (but also please do not forget about support for MS Office formats!) will be achieved.
In the “Road to KDE” series of articles we heard a lot about vector graphics integration into the new KDE. Not all applications support this new approach, but those that do implement SVG both look and feel refreshing. A good example is the Kmahjongg game where the vector graphics helps the application to scale nicely. You can observe it on the screenshots below.
As a dedicated and quite advanced KDE user I hope that the KDE4 will be a marvelous product. Basing on the current development version I would like to share some of my wishes.
- First of all I wish Okular and Ligature learned how to manipulate the PDF files. To me it’s pretty essential since I often use Kpdf for selecting and copying different parts of PDF files (including columns, tables or graphics) and it’s the only Linux viewer that actually does this right (yes, I’ve tried evince, no luck).
- Konqueror –here I just hope that a “normal view” will be available with icons and all, allowing me to use it as a file manager as I’m used to.
- I do not care much about the graphic effects and other “user interface improvements” since I like what I have in KDE3, so there is no reason to modify things that work. I just have one remark to the new icons. To me, they are way to detailed which makes them unreadable in some cases. In general — I don;t like them and really prefer the purity of Tango, especially as far as small icons are concerned.
The LiveCD edition of KDE4 clearly shows that a significant amount of work has been dedicated to the project already. There is however a lot to be finished before the new version of KDE will shine. I think that the stability and quality of the SVN version is not a big deal — all development code is unstable and lacks features. KDE4 promises to be a modern and functional environment with a huge collection of remarkable apps, well integrated with each other, starting with a the office suite, though file management, multimedia and even programmer tools. Great achievements, however, require time.