Quick Look at KDE 4.2-SVN

[ Thursday, 16 October 2008, riklaunim ]

As the work on KDE 4.2 turns out to be on quite an advanced stage, I’ve decided to test the current development version. For the purpose of this test I used the Archlinux distribution, that features the KDE 4.2-SVN packages repository. It is just enough to add appropriate entries into pacman.conf at the top of the default repositories, and there we can go on installing kde-svn. Read my impressions below.


KDE4.2 is the next step in evolution of the new KDE branch. Comparing to KDE 4.1.2, it makes a ‘new version’ impression, and the applications are starting up a little bit faster. The bug that prevented usage of Ctrl+C/V shortcuts for copying in Konqueror while the ‘internet’ tab was present, has been fixed. Also the automatic numbering of screenshots within ksnapshot (4.1.2 used to forget the last snapshot name) has been fixed, too.

kde42 aplikacje
Screenshot 1: KDE 4.2-SVN running applications.

Konqueror behaves similarly to the one shipped with KDE3, tough its components have been re-built. The file and folder browsing is now the KPart of Dolphin‘s responsibility, the default file manager of KDE4. Dolphin’s interface is easy to use and reminds of Thunar, XFCE’s counterpart. The Dolphin’s programmers goal was to give the users a much simpler application than Konqueror is, which according to them, is best for “power users”. Konqueror has in fact become much more of a web browser – upon launch, the “home” icon brings the default home page, instead of the home folder. Only on the file manager tabs the home folder icon appears.
There is much attention turned towards KHTML and KJS web rendering engines. Comparing to KDE3′s Konqueror, it is remarkable, that the pages loaded with JavaScript do work better (e.g. the slideshare.net or IBM DeveloperWorks do not stutter any more). For now the new functionalities planned to be included in KDE4.2 list e.g. the SVG support in KHTML (ported from WebKit). The works on optimizing KJS or KHTML extensions haven’t started yet. Dolphin’s features that are finished so far are e.g. the tooltips. The improvement of zooming in and out of the elements list using a simple slider is currently a Work In Progress. Konqueror awaits the new tabbing support using Akonadi.

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Screenshot 2: Dolphin with miniatures/file preview enabled

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Screenshot 3: And the above disabled.

kde42 konqueror
Screenshot 4: The file manager tab in Konqueror.

Ark works and has no problems managing the archives. What differs it between KDE3 version, is the completely new UI. Works on its improvement are on their way too. The goals are e.g. support for drag-and-drop between Ark and Dolphin, improvements to password-protected archives support, and servicing [menu serwisowe ?] options menu. These are currently work-in-progress.

kde42 ark
Screenshot 5 : Ark’s new UI.

Okular is a new application for viewing files lile PDF, CHM, DJVU or graphics. It substitutes KDE3′s Kpdf. KDE4.2 goals list only the movie and their annotation support. The .snp and .emf support and general annotation improvements are still on Okular’s ToDo list.

kde42 okular
Screenshot 6: Okular displaying a CHM file.

KGet received from KDE4 a few changes to the UI and better desktop integration thanks to the plasmoids (three of them available currently in KDE4.2-SVN). The download manager’s behavior didn’t change, but its capabilities were enlarged. The currently worked-on tasks list i.e. multi-source download, mms:// protocol support. The ToDo list includes the MLDonkey plugin.

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Screenshot 7: Standard file download list view.

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Screenshot 8: The new detailed download view.

The kdemultimedia department works currently on a more-or-less default movie player – the Dragon Player. All assigned goals are being worked on (i.e. Xine independence, adding the file manager, showing audio file properties and so on). As of Juka, its goals still remain on a ToDo list – i.e. dropping the Qt/KDE3 libraries dependencies.

kde42 juk
Screenshot 9: Juk playing OGG files.

The Desktop

Plasma has most goals listed for inclusion in KDE4.2, followed closely by KWin. Currently Plasma behaves somewhat unstable and can crash while managing the plasmoids. With the default “plasmoid” desktop setting, we can add the plasmoids, but the files/icons are not supported, KDE3′s style. A plasmoid displaying the pointed-to folder contents has been added instead. Other than this, the default plasmoids aren’t too eyecatching. Some have problems sizing the individual components, or don’t work correctly (e.g. the KGet plasmoids).

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Screenshot 9: Folder view and Kickoff4 as a plasmoid.

kde42 menu2
Screenshot 10: searching applications by name doesn’t always yield expected results.

The plasmoids can also be added to panels, that way extending their functionality compared to KDE3′s Kicker. For example, if we cannot decide which KDE menu style we like more, we can add the old-styled plasmoid and have them both.

kde42 panel
Screenshot 11: Panel configuration is quite a powerful tool.

The desktop can also be switched into a “show directory” mode, to receive the similar to KDE3′s desktop functionality of displaying and placing files and shortcuts there. In return we cannot add plasmoids there any more.

kde42 dolphin1
Screenshot 12: KDE4.2 allows to place files on the desktop “the usual way”.

As it can be seen, the KDE4 development is running at full throttle. KDE4.2 will include much enhanced functionality and versatility than KDE 4.1, but still a lot of work has to be done in many areas, especially when it comes to the stability of the applications.

If you asked me “is it worth it to switch to KDE 4?” I’d say, that it is worth waiting for the 4.2.0 or even until its patched versions emerge (like 4.2.1) depending on mainline stability. KDE 4.1.2 doesn’t offer that much versatility to satisfy different users expectations. To make things worse for it, in spite of the second patch level release, there are still some persistent bugs emerging.

Translated-by: el es

About the Author

Piotr Maliński

Programmer, journalist. Creator of the CMS, Linux and PHP libraries. Arch Linux/Gentoo user. Creator of a GNU/Linux distribution based on Gentoo: Plusiaczek Live CD.

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