Stephan Binner has released a new version of his KDE Four Live CD. This version uses a recent SVN snapshot and works quite well.
While I had some trouble testing the newest KDE 4 Beta release on my test machine, the KDE Four LiveCD works surprisingly well. According to Stephan the version used on this LiveCD is KDE 4 Beta 3 plus a set of recent patches.
The desktop looks nice – this is of course mostly due to the very beautiful wallpaper:
The bottom shows the new panel, the new menu button and one type of the new clock. Plasma at work.
The menu is a KDE 4 port of OpenSuse’s new KDE menu and therefore comes with several tabs: Favorites, Applications, My Computer, Recently Used and Leave. While I’m not if I will grow used to this it definitely can help new users. It also supports search for application names or search for meta names (like “Browser”).
The task bar is still very basic and does not support anything like right click or further configuration yet. But the rest of Plasma can be started easy: wenn the mouse hovers over the tool area at the upper right a small applet gives the possibility to start the Plasma widget browser. KDE 4.0 will ship with an entire set of prepared Plasma widgets, and several of them are allready included in the current SVN snapshot.
Here you see the typical analog clock, an image dia show (the green area), the dictionary, a battery applet, a hardware monitor and an rss feed. While none of them is really new they just show that there are already many working and usable Plasma widgets.
However, this is Beta and therefore has still some bugs. The menu is infact a window and acts as one: it has its own window title bar with close button, is shown in the window task bar and does not disappear just because you click somewhere else.
Also, the button at the upper right is not shown properly on my 1280×800 system:
The system tools are also in quite a good shape. Probably best known due to its Nepomuk integration is Doplhin
Notable is also Konsole which saw a lot of improvements. One of my favorites is the ability to easily and user friendly search the current output:
Also, the configuration dialog was improved. Especially if the user wants to change the defined colours the Konsole window shows live previews. Additionally, if some fancy graphics are not supported it is stated.
Another important tool is Konqueror, KDE’s web browser. The interface looks less clutered and it works without crashing (as it did during several Alpha and Beta releases).
Also, the configuration dialog was cleaned up and improved:
The good news is that Konqueror works flawlessly with WordPress (which is not the case with KDE 3.5.7, I hope KDE 3.5.8 has the fix integrated). The bad news is that there are still some other bugs: the buttons are screwed up, and the input line for example in Google looks too small and generally weird:
Speaking about Konqueror reminds me that I haven’t heard anything about WebKit and KDE recently. I wonder if the cooperation between both has improved somehow, or if there will be a working kpart for WebKit (there once was one developed, but more as a technical demo).
Another KDE system application is kwrite, an editor. Compared to it’s KDE 3 version an outstanding improvement is the search tool similar to Konsole’s.
Btw., the search tool is one of the biggest wishes in KDE bugzilla. All developers should think about integrating it instead of the old, dumb search dialog.
With Kwrite at my hadn I also checked the new shortcut dialog. The idea is that you can alter the shortcut in a field which opens as soon as you click at it. That is more intuitive than the old way.
It looks nicer than the old one, however the blue ribbon must go around the entire dialog because it looks broken otherwise! But a nice improvement nevertheless.
Systemsettings, the replacement for the old kcontrol interface, was also freshed up and now looks good:
As you can see in next example, many of the embedded system configuration parts have an extra headline to introduce themselves. This additional explanation is again just the tiny bit of userfriendliness which can be necessary to convince the user of KDE.
KDE is an ecosystem providing a desktop environment experience. Therefore it comes along with a wealth of prepared and tightly integrated applications.
And out of these applications there are two areas where KDE really stands out: Education and Games. With KDE 4 both areas will show what they are capable of – and at the same time what KDE 4 is capable of.
For example, most of the applications now use SVG. This allows the apps to easily adopt new themes. Check for example the Mahjong game with the themes “Traditional”, “Imperial” and “Alphabet”.
Such things are possible with most of the other games. Here are some impressions:
The educational applications are most often represented with Marble (which unfortunately crashed for me), Kalzium which I already covered elsewhere and Parley, the “new” vocabulary tester:
There are many others, and the only reason why I don’t upload screenshots here is that I’m running out of space here on wordpress.com. So make sure you test them when you have your look at KDE 4!
Other KDE packages include the graphics set. I would’ve loved to test Gwenview because that program is just a nice and well working image viewer – however, it crashed for me. FOrtunately I already had a look at it some weeks ago.
Another application which I checked for the first time was Okular, KDE’s new viewer for everything.
The screenshot shows a PDF file and some of the new features Okular now provides: a text marker (therefore parts of the text is highlighted yellow), a marking pen (the green line) and a stamp tool (I have no idea what that is for).
If you search for an adjective to describe KDE, one of your first choices might be “rich”. Rich in applications, rich in features. And this wealth makes it almmost impossible to generate screenshots for all pieces of KDE 4.0 and beyond. Therefore I appologize for all the missing pieces (the PIM suite, several EDU apps, the multimedia and network parts, etc.) but I will try to have a look at them in the next screenshot tour.
Some more bugs discovered
The current version is a Beta version, and therefore comes along with some bugs. I already mentioned some above, here are some more:
One of the probably most disturbung bugs I found was that the shortcut Ctrl+Del does not delete the word next right to the cursor but indeed kills the next window I click at with my mouse. I am used to get such a “killer” cursor by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Esc, not Ctrl+Del . However, I’m not really sure if that is a configuration done by the OpenSuse folks or by the KDE 4 team. But whoever is responsible for it, please change it because that is just stupid.
Also, it seems that Pos1 brings me to the first line of the entire text instead of the first char of the line. Very disturbing indeed…
Besides, the save dialog has a couple of issues: when I hover over existing images I can see a little preview in the left upper corner although there should be no preview at all:
Also, when I click save I expect the file name line to be activated by default so that I can immediately start typing without first clicking on it. But in this KDE 4 version I first had to click at the file name line every time.
Another thing which I find odd is that my system is detected as not capable of fancy graphics. But I have a Radeon 9600 which has free 3D drivers. All the other fancy stuff (Compiz, Beryl and so on) works pretty well.
A last word about Bugs and the Beta state: there was much discussion if KDE is already in Beta state or not.
The problem here is that Beta is not a fixed term – while some projects only call software Beta when there are no crashes and no visible bugs anymore, other projects start using the term Beta earlier. As an example, flickr changed the entire interface together with the background technology during the Beta process…
However, several people mentioned huge performance problems. Although several other people couldn’t verify that at all the KDE team should have a close look at such reports. KDE will, in the end, run on millions of different computers, and the KDE team should be very careful if there are some performance bugs hidden somewhere due to some odd reasons (like the fact that my perfectly 3D capable card wasn’t detected as such).
As a result I must say that I’m very impressed. There is still a lot of stuff missing and some bugs and missing features will have to wait for KDE 4.1, unfortunately. Nevertheless the current snapshot shows that KDE 4.0 is shaping up nicely and will lay out the foundations for impressive future releases.