KDE 4: some reasons for design decisions

some reasons for design decisions
The first KDE 4 release will come along with several major changes compared to KDE 3.x. While explanations for these changes have been posted at several places before there is a central list missing which explains the reasons to normal users. This post lists some hot topics and tries to shed some light on the reasons behind certain decisions..

KDE 4 will be a large step away from KDE 3 in several regards. I already posted a short list of programs and services which will be replaced by something new. However, that list didn’t say much about the reasons behind these decisions. But with the ever closer coming release date of KDE 4.0 and new and easy ways of testing the newest builds many people in the last days asked questions at different places and occasions and wondered why beloved KDE 3 technologies will not appear in KDE 4 anymore, or why certain services have been exchanged against something new. Even a friend of mine a normal users who do not follow the development of KDE 4 closely, raised some concerns. Last but not least there are active discussions going on at the KDE planet about this topic atm. This post sheds some light on the reasons behind some of the design decisions for the user point of view.

arts vs Phonon

That one is easy, and therefore it is good for a start: aRts, the KDE 3 soundserver was powerful, but simply unmaintained. Despite its superior technology when it was introduced for the first time it was out-dated when KDE 4 development started – video support was for example missing, to begin with. So arts would have required a major rewrite in almost every regard with many new features to add to get into a future-ready shape. And there was no one really willing to do that. At the same time other very capable and promising multimedia frameworks were available (Xine, Mplayer) or in heavy development and almost available (Gstreamer).

Also, having a fixed dependency on arts only hurt KDE 3 to the end of its life time very much. The KDE developers felt like that this should never happen again. So it was decided that the best would be to write a wrapper. And someone stepped up and did exactly this. Phonon was born.

The question is of course if it turned out to be the right thing. Time will tell, but the fact that Trolltech already decided to include Phonon in Qt 4.4 in some bits is very promising.

kcontrol vs systemsettings

That one is not that easy at all: kcontrol will be replaced by systemsettings, and several people don’t like the new systemsettings. Having said that, these people should have a second look at the moduls themselves: systemsettings just loads the modules of kcontrol. So the frontend which offers the modules is different, while the modules stay the same (but are of course also improved for KDE 4). The reason behind this move has to do with development power and also wishes from the users: systemsettings was introduced with Kubuntu for their modified KDE version. Many users indeed liked it since – for them – it was more polished, usable and easier to understand. kcontrol, on the other hand, didn’t have a maintainer.

Of course, long time KDE users had mixed feelings – people like me, who never really got the hang with kcontrol like systemsettings, others are more used to kcontrol. But in the end the mass of the users of the system tool will be users. Normal users, not power users or developers. And after all I’ve read about both configuration tools it looks like that most normal users don’t really care since the functionality is basically the same and the modules are the same. So, they don’t really care, plus there is no maintainer for one of two solutions, leaves us with the other solution.


This one is tricky: Oxygen is most visible by the used iconset and the theme, and the above mentioned friend mentioned that he didn’t like the new theme. In contrast, I prefer to have a very bright, almost milky theme and I don’t need much contrast (what for anyway?). But we are both power users, and we do know that switching to another theme is done in just a few seconds. And the new theme engine is very powerful! But for the average user it has to be pretty – and for these people a milky theme with not too much contrast seems to be equivalent to the term “good design”. Additionally, some of the top KDE designers have a similar feeling and also wanted to test there abilities in that field (I guess). So the decision was there. And why not? Every power user shouldn’t bother with any theme or icon dislikes because he/she also knows kde-look.org.

So the only thing which has to be made sure is that KDE 4.0 comes along with a set of different icon sets and themes to please more than just one user base. Or maybe just with GetHotNewStuff buttons.

And as a personal note, because I was asked this quite often: the big icons inside Dolphin which can be seen on several screenshots are there because it looks better on a screenshot. Of course I would never use such big icons, and of course Dolphin does not force such big icons, and of course it is not part of the look of KDE 4 to have big icons!

Kicker vs Plasma

KDE 4’s panel is a hot topic which was also discussed between several KDE developers the last days. The problem is that the current Plasma replacement for kicker is not on pair with kicker feature wise. So why was kicker dropped and something new created instead of just improving kicker?
The reason is that kicker was already broken years ago: the code was hardly readable, and new introduced features often introduced bugs and problems at other places. Also, kicker was as flexible as a mountain: several projects which aimed at adding a cool new feature to kicker in the end copied the code base and started to rework it on their own – they forked kicker. And that would not have been necessary when kicker would have a better design for such improvements. But kicker was created for KDE 2.0 (!), at a time when no one would have thought that some years later applets would be embedded in the panel as well as in the desktop. Or that there are indeed several ways to provide panel functions and not just the 90s like static attempt (think of MacOS like approaches, etc.).
In contrast, KDE 4 will have a long life cycle, and therefore all code must be maintainable for a long time – and for other developers.

So the options were to either totally rework kicker from the basic design through the entire code base up to the applet part to check if parts can be shared with Superkaramba. Or a replacement could have been provided. But, and that is important: there was no way to simply keep kicker, because it was not in a maintainable state for KDE 4.
The decision was as usual done by the people who provide the code: people decided to merge the desktop with the panel and provide everything from one point. That was quite a bold decision, and a lesson to learn: while Plasma makes great improvements every day, it was and probably still is one of the most criticized features of KDE 4. There are still some bits missing until it is ready for release.

From a user point of view it will be something new to get used to – some features of KDE 3’s kicker will most certainly be missing. Of course, all the basic panel stuff will be there, but it will still be an entirely new panel. Nothing more, nothing less. You must get used to it, and it will take time – at least a bit time, even a Plasma panel is still a panel. However, one of the advantages of the new technology is that it was designed to be much more flexible than the old one. So in the long term you can expect various of customization feature coming up. And even if there will be new ideas to implement the basic panel functions these will not require you to replace the current panel but will (well, hopefully) simply build upon it – unlike KDE 3’s kicker replacements. So even revolutionary new ideas might integrate into the original system without much work.

And in case you worry about the current design: it is not final. Plasma is themable and it is not yet said how the final version will look like. Maybe it will even be significant different from the current design to distinguish itself from the Beta/RC design.

KMenu vs Kickoff

Another source of hot emotions: The problem here is that KDE 3’s classical menu (90s style) will be replaced by a Kickoff port which was originally developed by OpenSuse/Novell and used in recent OpenSuse distributions. People who are used to the classical menu style either by older Windows releases or by KDE 3’s menu will be at least confused when they first use Kickoff. Many of them got annoyed since it does not behave like other menus.

So, why the change at all? Again, one part of the answer is the code base of the old solution: it was, according to the developers, ugly. Additionally, Novell spent quite some money and time on the question how a menu actually should look like usability wise. They checked back with users (like, real people, not computer people😉 ) and tried to figure out what actually is usable. Most people like the classical menu because they are used to – that has nothing to do how well this type of menu is actually suitable to the task. And usability wise it is totally nuts to navigate such menus with a mouse! (Do I have to add that I don’t use menus at all as long as I can avoid it? Long live Alt+F2!) So they started developing Kickoff – with average or new users in their mind.

In the end the situation was that usability wise Kickoff was a strong improvement to the old menu. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with that personally, because that has nothing to do with the figures gathered in a scientific test. Also, there was developer power there to port Kickoff. And they did.
Originally, there was even another menu planed, but that was delayed.

So the situation is quite nice for new users. It sucks a bit for power users, but for them Plasma will maybe save the day: with Plasma it should be fairly easy to replace the menu by another one. Indeed, there is already another menu/application launcher in development, Lancelot. Also, it was mentioned that it should not be too difficult to implement an old-style menu, for the people who love the stone age (90s) but want to distinguish themselves from apes (command line or Alt+F2).

Konqueror and Dolphin (“and”, not “vs”)

Dolphin will be KDE 4’s new file manager. And many people raised concerns about that. Especially the power users fear that Konqueror might get neglected now, which would be horrible. And I agree, btw., that such a thing would be horrible: Konqueror is the swiss army knife for everything file management related. It is *the* tool for power users.

So, first of all, why was Dolphin introduced at all? The first reason is that Dolphin, formally a third party development, got quite some attention and was very popular especially when KDE 4 development started. The second reason, and the developers realized it when Dolphin became that popular, is that many users just want to have a simple file manager and not a swiss army knife for file management. Also, there was a chance to improve Konqueror’s file management by inviting Dolphin’s developers: Konqueror will use Dolphin’s file management engine to manage files. This will improve Konqueror’s abilities in this regard – and will make sure that Konqueror will not fall behind (that is the mighty technology of KDE🙂 ).

Of course it is not bad to keep an eye on Konqueror’s development to make sure that no one forgets it due to the excitement for Dolphin. But recent news show that there Konqueror is polished and equipped with new features.

Closing thoughts

This list covers the most important topics. There are of course more things which are occasionally discussed, but this list is a good first start I guess. Also, the list is already quite long😉
I do however want to add that most of the information here are the impression I got from reading blogs, commit digests, comments, etc. Remember, I’m not a KDE developer. So if I forgot an important reason or mixed something up, please leave a comment and I will alter the text here. Also, some of the reasons depend on interpretation and personal point of view of the developers, so some people might disagree with the point of view and the reasons offered here. In such cases you are also welcomed to highlight your point of view in the comment section.

114 thoughts on “KDE 4: some reasons for design decisions”

  1. I think the problem is that ppl except KDE 4.0 to be more usefull and more powerfull, stable and faster than KDE 3.5.

    For me 4.0 is not as usable as 3.5 too, but i think 4.0 has a great potential to really be better than 3.x.
    ATM i think the only problem is Plasma Panel.Desktop is awesome, superkaramba never could beat the current state of plasma.but the panel is still not customizable and full-featured, which i completely understand: This is the begining, and things are really shaping up fast.

    and another problem is that changing is hard.accepting changes, even if they are better, is hard.i think this is by the human nature.

    And I think that a ‘Release Team’ is really better than a ‘Release Dude’.
    nothing goes wrong with KDE Development and this critisism is/was excepted.

  2. I’m so excited and I can’t wait to get my hands on KDE 4!

    Thanks for the very well written article.

  3. “But recent news show that there Konqueror is polished and equipped with new features.”

    Unfortunately, due to the fact that it embeds Dolphin now, it also loses features – for example, the much-loved and very space-efficient “Show previews on hover” functionality has now disappeared, and there’s no way of knowing if it will return.

  4. @Anon: “Unfortunately, due to the fact that it embeds Dolphin now, it also loses features …”

    We’ll try to fix such regressions for KDE 4.1, as the goal is definitely that Konqueror should not have less functionality than before just because of the Dolphin kpart. It would be great if you could submit a bug-report, so that you also get informed when we fixed this issue. Thanks a lot!


  5. Dolphin will be the new lightweight filemanager and konqueror will stay as power user tool for everything…

    Now I wonder what average Joe Sixpack will use for his daily Browsing needs? Firefox?

    Its looks to me as if a browser is missing in KDE 4 – at least one for non power users. Or am I missing something?

  6. You forgot to comment on Kprinter vs. Qprinter. The regression in features is going to be a nasty surprise for a lot of people. I hope Kubuntu will keep offering KDE 3.5 at least until printing in KDE 4.X is at least as good as it is right now (perhaps in KDE 4.1 but more likely even later since printing is typically so neglected…)

  7. @1052: “You forgot to comment on Kprinter vs. Qprinter. ”
    No, there was no Kprinter vs. Qprinter.the problem was that the code was unreadable and there was no time to fix it.nobody wanted to use feature-less Qprinter but there was no other way for 4.0.
    Kprinter will be back for 4.1 and kubuntu will ship kde 4.1 from 8.10 (and not 8.04)

  8. About KControl: KControl had been kept up to date in SVN until fairly recently, so it shouldn’t be too hard for a motivated developer to resurrect it. (They will probably have to fix a few crashers though, KControl stability wasn’t a priority because it was scheduled to be removed.)

    About Oxygen: If you don’t like the Oxygen widget theme, nobody is forcing you to use it! There’s several other widget styles available: Plastik has been ported, a port of Bluecurve is available (Quarticurve), there’s others too. Any Qt 4 style can be used.

  9. > Kprinter will be back for 4.1 and kubuntu will ship kde 4.1 from 8.10 (and not 8.04)

    Uh, will 4.1 be ready for 8.10? I thought the 4.1 cycle was expected to take a year. I’m interested in that because the Fedora 10 release will also happen in that timeframe.

    Meanwhile we’re about to include KDE 4.0 in what will become Fedora 9 (scheduled for 2008-04-29, might slip to 2008-05).

  10. Hey, what about Raptor? You mentioned only Kickoff and Lancelot, but not the menu that was actually planned to be included in KDE 4.0 – Raptor.

  11. “This will improve Konqueror’s abilities in this regard – and will make sure that Konqueror will not fall behind (that is the mighty technology of KDE🙂 ).”

    I just feel it already happend. _I_ just can stand that Dolphin way to show files. Space between two files is too big, even grid size is smallest. It really need fourth option from ‘small’ to ‘very small’ what allows current space what konqueror has.

    Actually that space should be dynamic so when icon size goes smaller, space go smaller too between files. Now if i have normal icons 32×32, i have about 1.5x bigger space in dolphin than konqueror when having ‘small’ grid size. It really needs smaller space. To get smaller space, i need to grow icon size to 72×72 and then those takes too much space.

  12. I don’t use the KDE browser because either
    –it has an unfamiliar user agent (its more important that it works than that it ‘represents’)
    –it doesn’t do AJAX. I love my awesome gmail, sorry.

    I make a habit of setting my user agent to whatever I need to to get the job done. Sometimes it’s IE, sometimes it’s Googlebot/2.1.

  13. “In the end the situation was that usability wise Kickoff was a strong improvement to the old menu. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with that personally, because that has nothing to do with the figures gathered in a scientific test.”

    Whoever came up with that “usability test”, is either a complete idiot or choose complete idiots as testers. I can prove that the old menu is more usable with simple math.

    Kmenu needs 2 Klicks for every action (one for opening the menu, one for selecting an action)

    Kickoff needs 2 + X Klicks (X depends on how many submenus you need to enter) + every time you enter a submenu, you lose sight of the menu above, so when entering the wrong submenu, you get punished twice. You need one Klick (on a really thin button) to get back + you’re eyes need to readjust to the now changed menu structure.

    I for one am looking forward to Lancelot.

  14. Thanks for your summary post (although thanks to the Commit digest and other articles on KDE developement I knew most of it already😉.

    I have tried KDE 4 and I must say that I really like the new polished UI of applications and the new beathtaking icons. I bet some people will complain KDE 4 got to Gnomish :p although I think it is a new cool combination of ease of use and configurability…

    However I personally have some mixed feeling on element contrast in the default Oxygen theme. For example the window title bar is essentially a label for its content. So IMHO for good usability at several open windows the title bar must be recognized quickly. Why not using something similar to the scroll bar style for the active window? (and a somewhat darker grey line below the title bar on background windows). Especially given the fact that the title bar is used for moving around the window which has some similarity to scrolling.

    As well I’d separate the menu bar with a darker grey line from the icon bar/other parts of the window.

    If I am writing this here at the wrong place please direct me somewhere else…😉

  15. Oscar: your opinion is biased by the “change factor”. Kmenu needs from 2 to N clicks for every action.
    – click on the K button
    – N clicks to reach Nth level items

    Kickoff needs from 1 to N clicks:
    – hover the mouse on the K icon
    – click the most used application/first level item in the “all programs” tab
    – N clicks to reach Nth level items

  16. Good post.

    One thing you missed with Oxygen is that they also changed the naming of icons to match the freedesktop.org spec. That should mean it’s easy to use other icon themes, and even use oxygen in gnome.

    Also, it should be noted that a major reason for KControl and KMenu not being available is that no-one volunteered to port them. So, if there are any developers with time on their hands that prefer those two options, please port them. I know that many would appreciate it.

  17. Regarding usability: don’t people realize that newbies are ephemeral entities? After a few weeks they graduate to intermediate status, and many continue on to the lofty ranks of “experienced user”. The horrible 90s was the era when newbies outnumbered old hands, simply because the market was expanding so fast. That is no longer the case (actually, it never was in the *nix world). So why are we focusing usability efforts almost exclusively on the newbie?

    New users and experienced users will do things differently!

    I loved the Mac OSX interface the first time I used it. But a couple of weeks later I started feely hemmed in by usability constraints. The pretty eye candy did nothing to alleviate this. I am glad that KDE4 will have “third party” solutions for experienced users. But I do not look forward to having to hunt them down, or waste time looking for undocumented or hidden settings.

  18. 1052, you’re right, I forgot that one. Unfortunately, the main reason behind that move is simply that there was not enough power to port it to KDE 4.0 and that we will have to wait for KDE 4.1 as others already pointed out.

    Kevin Kofler, that’s exactly what I think about Oxygen-complaining people as well. It’s so easy to change that, the people should simply do that if they don’t like the new theme.

    About Raptor: I had Raptor on my mind when I wrote “there was even another menu planed” – and it is just not ready yet.

    ethana2, gmail works quite well if you set the user agent to Firefox. Having said that, I would welcome a new browser for KDE based on for example WebKit.

    Oscar, usability in menus is not limited to the amount of clicks. More important is the fact that you are actually able to click things. In this regard things like space for each menu entry and such stuff are important. But, the Novell’s analysis are online, just go through them to find out how they reached the conclusion of the new menu style.

    arnomane: If you want to suggest improvements, the IRC or the KDE bugzilla is the best place. I cannot guarantee that the developers read the comment section.

    soap, thx for pointing out the naming spec, I didn’t had that in my mind. About the missing volunteers, I thought that I was clear enough on that…

    David Johnson, afaik the team behind the new menu also checked back that it works well for power users who *get*used* to it. Unfortunately, that takes maybe a week, and as long as these users don’t understand at all what the new menu is about they will not even test it. The new menu is supposed to be better in almost every regard (well, that is not that difficult given a 90s style menu). As I said, the best is to go over the analysis Novell made regarding the menu.

  19. The biggest benefit of KDE4, in my opinion, is the seperation of Konqueror’s browser and file manager. Personally, I think Konqueror is a superior browser to Mozilla Firefox – my reasons for not using it are more of problems with kwin than Konqueror itself. Quite simply, I resize my file manager all the time but I keep my browser full screen.

    Kwin’s “advanced window settings” liked to mesh the two, opening my file manager full screen or relegating konqueror depending on what size I forced.

    It wasn’t until using Kubuntu Gutsy that I realized how lovely this seperation was. Unfortunately, Kubuntu sucked so horribly bad it lasted a good 4 hours on my system.

  20. Vide, you are simply wrong. In Kmenu you don’t need to click back and forth like in Kickoff.

    I suggest you a simple test. Install both menus on your system. Use each menu to read out loud all the applications installed on it. Come back and post your experience.

    Oscar: you forgot about scrolling in kickoff🙂

    Liquidat: I have never seen any *argument* on *how* is kickoff more usable than Kmenu. Only tests done with people who don’t use computers! Heck, is it so difficult to understand that the people you should ask about usability are those who actually use computers every day??? If you were a car manufacturer and wanted to improve the driver’s experience, would you ask for ideas to taxi drivers or to people without a driving license???

    The space used by the menu is a problem when you don’t have enough space on the screen (an iPhone, for example), but having unused space in the screen when that space could be used to give you a better experience is stupid. Nobody cares about looking at the wallpaper while navigating the menu in search of an app (and if someone cares, he/she should go to a doctor ASAP!).

    That said, the other arguments about code ugliness are fine. I understand that. Just say: Hey, we’re dropping Kmenu because code was not maintainable. We admit Kickoff sucks usability wise, but we have no better option for now. And everyone would accept it happily!

  21. Vide: In the KDE 3 menu, you don’t have to click to get to the next level, you can click once, hold the click and drag around with the mouse to navigate. So you can reach any area of the menu, and even open/close them, with one click!

  22. > Only tests done with people who don’t use computers

    it was tested on people who use computers. office workers, home users, artists, hackers, etc.

    > dropping Kmenu because code was not maintainable

    that was kicker. a menu is pretty trivial to make.

    btw: liquidat, awesome post. i loved it. fair, balanced; it wasn’t fanboyish and it was realistic.

  23. Will dolphin have a disk-usage view the way konqueror has? I’ve never seen any reason to use a file manager for actually moving files around, but konq’s usage view is so much nicer than repeatedly doing du -sh * to try to figure out where all my disk has gone…

  24. I think KDE4.0 is gonna be terrible!
    Only 10x better than KDE3 and others…..
    But KDE4.1 is gonna be soooooo sweet…
    Nice post liq…

  25. Thanks for the overview/review.

    Please go into more detail and add a review of more features. Don’t worry about lenght, if people don’t like reading, they’ll just stop half-way through the article and read the rest later.

    I don’t have time to go through all the forums and read through all the rants, so your “current state of affairs” summary helps a lot in getting a snapshot of current development and/or controversies.

    As for KDE 4.0, I have my hopes set high, really high. As much as I like KDE 3.5.x I think KDE has to improve greatly (not just evolutionary) to really get newbies over to the Linux side. It needs to stop being a step behind the other GUI’s (Windows, OSX) and actually innovate beyond those programs. Part of the criticism of Windows Vista is that there aren’t that many changes from Windows XP (other than visual changes, for the sake of changing them) to really warrant calling it a new version.

    KDE 4.0 should have even more drastic changes to the “desktop paradigm” to really stand out. The challenge is to make these changes useful and desireable. Since it’s of the people by the people, for the people. That shouldn’t be too hard…

    As long as Plasma plays well with Compiz fusion and emerald, I welcome the change.

  26. Oscar… it’s people like you who drive me up a wall.

    Whoever came up with that “usability test”, is either a complete idiot or choose complete idiots as testers.

    You are seriously saying Novell, whose business *is* Linux, would do a half assed study on the most basic GUI utility?

    I can prove that the old menu is more usable with simple math.

    Yeah, because we all know how well math describes humans. Sigh.

    Kmenu needs 2 Klicks for every action (one for opening the menu, one for selecting an action)

    And lots of curses when I hover the wrong bunch of pixels and get thrown back to level 1.
    And some painstakingly learned aiming to throw the mouse horizontally within a 300×15 rectangle.
    etc etc…

    Kickoff needs 2 + X Klicks (X depends on how many submenus you need to enter)

    BZZZT! Wrong.
    Throw your mouse to the bottom left, and the menu opens. No click here.
    Click one of the favorites (that’s what you’ll be doing about 90% of the time).
    How many was that again? That’s right. 1 click. Presto.
    But oh, you scream, I want to run KFloppy, and that one is certainly not in my faves. No problems here, you type “floppy” in the search bar and off you go.

    + every time you enter a submenu, you lose sight of the menu above

    Remind me why I need to look at the menu above when I’ve requested the menu below?

    You need one Klick (on a really thin button) to get back

    Throw your mouse to the left, and click. FFS. How hard was that.

    you’re eyes need to readjust to the now changed menu structure.

    Oh boo hoo. When you open Konqueror your eyes need to adjust to the new window you’re seeing…

    disclaimer, Kickoff user since SUSE 10.2, and loving it. It’s ugly as shit but boy is it useful.

  27. Luis, “Use each menu to read out loud all the applications installed on it” is not really the targeted use case. Nor it should be.😉

    That said, the other arguments about code ugliness are fine. I understand that. Just say: Hey, we’re dropping Kmenu because code was not maintainable. We admit Kickoff sucks usability wise, but we have no better option for now. And everyone would accept it happily!

    That would be wrong though. We actually believe Kickoff is the best that we have usability wise, and if someone resurrected KMenu, it would merely be relegated to a part of the optional migration path (similarly to the dirlisting plasmoid planned to provide a kdesktop analogue).

    tsuraan, you mean that colourful File Size view mode? Not for 4.0 but it’s a good idea certainly.

    liquidat, a preview feature would be nice. I screwed up the blockquotes above.

  28. What I don’t like about dolphin is that damn “.dolphinview” in every folder I view with it. I haven’t tried turning it off, call me lazy or call me stubborn, but a file manager should not have that behaviour….

    I switched to ROX-filer for stuff like that because I never got the “correct way” of using konqueror. In my opinion, it’s bloated where others call it feature-rich. Again, probably because I am lazy and just want stuff to work without me putting to much effort in it.

    This post makes me happy about using KDE as my primary desktop, as it shows me what will change and it also explains what I have to change about myself to stay a happy camper🙂

    Thank you!

  29. For me as a loooongtime Gnome user (and a happy one!) KDE4 is itching in the fingers, having to be tried😉
    One thing which I really like about the KDE community is its courage to make rather big changes to its tools. Even if that might lead to taking a wrong turn now and then, I believe that in the longterm the extra experience will pay out.

  30. Max, I would love to do more detailed reviews, but at the moment my time is quite limited due to real life. Additionally, my current working machine is not the most powerfull one which makes it hard to make reviews with the help of a virtual machine:/
    About the drastic changes of the desktop paradigm: I think Plasma will enable others to publish *and*
    integrate their ideas of a new desktop paradigm quite easily. It’s one of the long term benefits I expect from Plasma.

    Stefan Monov, unfortunately WordPress.com doesn’t provide a preview function yet, but I’ve taken the liberty to correct the blockquote on your comment🙂

    Thomas: nice to see you around😉

  31. Stefan,

    I think the problem is we have different view on what a menu should be for.

    A menu is something you should use as least as possible. Why? Because a system usually has 50+ applications installed and it’s bad to have to browse through them each time you need to open an application. Most users use 3-8 apps on a regular basis, and the rest only from time to time.

    For those 3-8 most used, you should NEVER open a menu. Those apps should have an icon in the panel already. That’s why in Kmenu it’s almost always disabled the “Most used apps” feature that you claim as a strong point in Kickoff.

    The “use both menus to read out loud all the apps installed” is a PERFECT example of what you should use a menu for. To BROWSE fast through ALL the apps installed in the system and find one that you might not even knew you had there (because you hardly use). And any person who uses a computer is smart enough to move the mouse through it without a problem (I’m a good example of a clumsy person and I can do it!).

    No, I don’t want to type to search for an app. That’s why we have a menu in the first place, thanks. Besides, I might not even know the name. Or I might not even know what I’m looking for. I might just browse the menu to see if I find something new that might help me in some way. Menus should not be used all the time, that’s they key point. But when you need them, they should do their job well. Their job is BROWSE through ALL the apps. Kickoff fails miserably at that.

  32. One of our friends at GoldenApples used Fedora with the KDE environment but it was too buggy. We support GNU/Linux and it’s various distributions and hope in the future it will have a farther reach than it’s current limits. Best of luck.

  33. “Konqueror will use Dolphin’s file management engine to manage files” just sounds like dependency hell Mk IV. Dolphin is IME simply horrible to use — everyone has their own “most missed” features, mine being multiple split views (to sort out files from the quasi-random messes that are my USB drive and digital camera into multiple, hopefully more logical directories) and the file-size view (to see which files are eating my HDD).

    In 3.5.x-based distros that have included Dolphin, sorting out the mess that it creates is quite easy: ALT-F2, kdesu konsole , password , apt-get remove dolphin , Y . If that will break Konqueror in 4.x, as I understand this article to be saying, then KDE4 is ultimately broken. The fix is really quite simple: the common file-management engine must be a separate package from the front ends to allow for user removal of undesired front ends (or, on a more optimistic note, to simplify coding of alternative front ends).

  34. James A. Dowden: It might sound like dependency hell, but it isn’t. It’s KDE technology through and through. Did you ever face a dependency hell between Amarok and the fact that it embeds the web browser part of Konqueror?
    And no, you will not be able to remove Dolphin’s core out of KDE just like you are not able to remove for example Konqueror’s core. You’ve misunderstood the article.

  35. Regarding Dolphin. This was included with the 7.10 release of Kubuntu. I did not know it was even there until I attempted to do some simple file management. After some confusion and thoughts of “What the hell is wrong with the file manager???” I realized it was this new file manager called “Dolphin”.
    I immediately tried starting Konqueror via command line and was happy to see it still there. The next thing I did was look in Adept for something called “Dolphin”……and remove it….permanently.
    Its horribly crippled, looks kludged together, and at this point should not have priority over Konqueror.
    Maybe, after it has had a chance to grow a bit and become more polished, you could make it a more visible choice for file management, but at this time, stick with Konqueror. Its much better. Dolphin is alpha quality software.

  36. Hearing of Konqueror being drop as default file manager first piss me off but after using Dolphin I understanded that a simple file manager is needed. The point is what should be done with Konqueror. For me it’s clear: shape it into a web browser by right, moving to webkit, improving bookmarks administration and video content display (a real working kaffeine, or else, integration).

  37. Hearing that konqueror would be drop as default manager piss me off at first but after having using Dolphin for a time now I understand that a “simple” file manager was needed. I think this is applicable to all the complaints heard here so far. Oh, I think Kickoff is amazing!, I ‘dore it.

    The point is that I now think that Konqueror should be given especial attention and make of it the best web browser, if it is not already. WIth firefox becoming more and more an alien in a KDE environment, Konqueror can solve the frustration for users that like me are getting disgusted. By example, Why do I have to use Nautilus to explore files using Firefox if I’m under KDE?. So, make Konqueror use webkit, really integrate kaffeine or alike (not the actual poor state of it) to reproduce video content and audio, and improve bookmarks admin and I’ll drop Firefox forever!.

    And, talking of video, for audio we have the supreme Amarok- one app for anything in audio; what about video?. Kaffeine could take the role that amarok has. Video podcast or youtube… integrated search would rock!!.

  38. @Monzo: “What I don’t like about dolphin is that damn “.dolphinview” in every folder I view with it.”

    The KDE3 version of Dolphin stored a hidden .dolphinview file in each directory where the view mode has been changed. Aaron J. Seigo has fixed this, so like in Konqueror the standard .directory file is used instead. Additionally it is configurable whether Dolphin should remember the view properties at all; this means no .directory files if this feature is turned off (-> same behavior as Konqueror).

  39. “But in the end the mass of the users of the system tool will be users. Normal users, not power users or developers.”

    So the control panel is being redesigned for the benefit of the people who will be using those controls the least — as part of an overall design intended to appeal to people who have never used a computer before, an audience which these days is largely comprised of children, who can adapt to pretty much any interface.


  40. Certainly, i was kind of freak out when i heard all the changes that were going on in this next release… but, reading this post i calm down a bit (and have tried to get along with the news apps).

    Thanks for this post🙂

  41. Stefan Monov, you must be a developer of Kickoff or the one who setup that “usability test” because only a mother could love that ugly face. Sorry, it is slow bulky and cumbersum.

  42. I really hope the old widgets, or something that looks nice(IMO) will be ported. i like keramik widgets and plastik window borders. i really dont like the kde4 default.

  43. kickoff – i know some people who disliked SuSe very much only because of kickoff. For myself I use TastyMenu, coz it allows me to easily navigate thru menu. Hope there would be a port of tastymenu for kde4, or some other alternatives to kickoff. Same with systemsettings

    Dolphin & Konqueror – sounds great for me, I like to have a browser for web and filemanager for filemanagment. i’ve been using dolphin since first time i’ve heard about it

    kicker😦 – i have almost 20 widgets on my kicker, which I need to be visible at every moment, I dont have any widgets on my desktop coz I see it only once a day – after login and before launching first app. Hope plasma will allow me to do so

    oxygen – widgets look very nice, but color theme needs to be more contrast, hope there would be some easy ways to modify some colors to make it more contrast. Icons also look very nice but lots of them look like white spot, for small sized icons its a big problem – small non-white elements are hardly disinguished and all icons look the same

    PS kde4 rocks, but i will stay on kde3, untill I’ll be able to make kde4 ui at least as usable for me as kde3 is

  44. A long time Linux fan, I have always KDE, initially a CDE clone, I would guess.
    In my view, one of the mo0st important idea in the open source movement, is that if the mechanisms of the wheel are open, then everyone with the proper skills, can enhance it from where it is, rather than reinvent it.

    KDE is a good framework, clean,and pleasant, build on another good and open source framework (Qt), and as I was hoping, a long time ago, it has attracted many users to build on top of it, and move forward in the direction of what Linux was missing: a consistent graphic user’s interface with the right tools to fix it, enhance and develop further from.

    Im am sure that KD4 will shine.
    My hope is that the developers resist to hype, and focus on an always simple and consistent user’s interface, with all the fanciness mostly hidden.

    The best user’s interfaces ever invented:
    * The telephone (given the time).
    * The FAX machine
    * The (french) Minitel (the world’s first wide network, before the internet), that my father at 80 years old could use aand happrehend.
    *The Google interface, the original (before they went crazy) Skype interface.

    The worst user’s interface ever invented?
    Possibly the typewriter?
    Certainly many DVD recorders…
    Many mobile phone… Too many company to list!
    The user’s initially feel just completely stupid.

    So to the KDE developer or advisers, please continue to keed the interface simple, and if possible simplify it as often as you can.
    If most tasks can be done without reading a book (or long help files), then you will continue the success of KDE.

    Andre Jay

  45. lpbbear, regarding your judgement of the state of Dolphin: please check back with a current version (aka the version included in KDE 4.0).

    Miguel Branco, it looks like Konqueror will stay to be a tool for power users. The things you’ve mentioned about webkit and konqueror becoming such a web browser: to me it looks like KDE would benefit from having a “Dolphin like” browser-only program.

    Forrest, with “appeal to people who have never used a computer before” you clearly mis-interprete my words. I was referring to the difference between power users and average users. This has nothing to do with people who have no computer knowledge at all.

    AndreJay, that were two funny lists of user interfaces. Never thought about the parts in that regard, but you might be right about many points🙂

  46. Kickoff’s Favorites tab with Search rocks but its Applications tab is disastrous! Why go back to the primitive age of the 80’s with click-and-click-and-click Next and Back and squeeze everything into a small dialog if the technology for a superior hover-over menu tree has been available since the 90’s?

    Introducing new and efficient features does not justify replacing an advanced solution with a primitive one.

  47. In my opinion, KDE 4.0 has gone so far toward simplicity that it neglects the concerns of power users. KDE 3.5.x was suitable for both power users and new users alike.

    I use a heavily customized KDE 3.5.6 and could not be happier with the functionality, options, and control that it gives me. I understand why the development team is making most of the changes and also know the importance of attracting more new users to Linux and KDE.

    I have a question that other power users may want to ask.

    Is there a way through whatever means to keep ALL of my existing KDE 3.5.6 config files and binaries when upgrading (I’m on Kubuntu 7.04) to a more recent version, and if so how would I make sure that KDE 4.0 wouldn’t overwrite my configuration files?

  48. _michael: No, there will be no way. Maybe some applications and tools will feature basic configuration import functions, but that’s not fixed yet. And even if there would be such basic support it would not help you much since you use a heavily customized system.

    It is the same for me: I use a heavily customized system and I do wonder if I will be able to bring KDE 4.0 into a similar state. I think that the new panel will make most problems in that regard.

  49. goldenapples: I’m not sure whether this is supposed to be a flame against Fedora, KDE or both, but please be aware that vague statements like “XYZ is buggy” will always be seen as flames and/or whines, they are NOT helpful. If you can name a specific bug, it can be fixed, if you can’t, then sorry, we aren’t clairvoyants, there’s no way we can fix a bug we don’t know anything about.

  50. Luis: I DO use kickoff menu with Kubuntu and I found myself using again a menu and not only alt+f2 as I was used before. So, IME, one point for kickoff

  51. ” The (french) Minitel (the world’s first wide network, before the internet)”


    Internet != World Wide Web. While Minitel was introduced in 1982 (commendable), the Internet has been around longer. The term was first used in 1974 ( http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc675 ), though its existence as ARPANET/DARPANET goes back even further.

  52. The real problem with kickoff (and why most people complain about it) is very simple: kickoff makes a real task out of trying to hunt-down and find installed programs (makes it more difficult than it ought to be).

    I wonder how many people actually have read the Novell ‘study’? I also have to ask all the people who simply regurgitate “professional study performed by ‘big business’ and cost real money, hence it _must_ arrive at %100 absolute truth”, what kind of drugs are you on and care to share with others😉

    Of course people will get used to it – you can stuff a person in a 2×2 metre room and I suppose that eventually they will ‘get used to it’. I don’t think that makes it right or correct, now does it?

    I believe the poster who asked the question “who would you ask how to drive: a taxi driver or someone with no license?” hit the nail right on the head, on so many levels. If you have to teach a person how to do something, you may as well teach them the best/correct way to do it. Keeping in mind that people have different needs and not everyone’s brain works in the same manner, does not change the fact that a bad design decision is still a bad design decision…

    The real problem in all such paradigm is that all that is being done is shifting the problem out of view.

    The problem is needing to access the user’s chosen [preferred] programs out of a larger lot of programs. Kickoff merely moves the ‘launchpad’ (user’s chosen programs) out-of-view and tucked into… yet another menu! It mimicks Windows XP/Vista StartMenu (with a few bonuses): the user can add their preferred program launchers to a single off-screen location, which you have to access separately from the Desktop itself.

    There is a second problem as well: both presenting and allowing the user to find/search through the large number (pool) of installed programs for their chosen [preferred] programs. This is the area where Kickoff fails miserably – there is no doubt about it. It is both extremely cumbersome to navigate and requires far too much time. To say the actual use of Kickoff in this way is a very slow process would be a grave exaggeration!

    I don’t find it amusing how Apple’s paradigm is represented as annoying by a poster, but somehow Microsoft’s (or is that IBM’s ;)) is never even mentioned.

    Basically KDE has always offered as default the Microsoft (uh, IBM) panel with huge text-nested menus. However it has also offered the ability to bypass these by adding the “pop-out” menus directly onto the panel itself (very much like CDE, however more annoyingly in 2.x and later – 1.x was the best for this IMO).

    Now KDE is moving to even a more ‘Microsoftish’ design… because of one company and one study?

    The actual solution to these problems is (as usual) far simpler, and perhaps it is the “human factor” that is once again interfering with creative thought – derailing the evolutionary process.

    If you objectively examine Apple’s paradigm you will see that it is already halfway to the solution: it offers both the place and the easy access for all the user’s chosen [preferred] programs right on the Desktop.

    Furthermore, it solves the “real-estate” issue (screen space) by scaling that ‘launchpad’ dynamically. It also solves the problem of association (how-to associate open windows to the programs’ entities in the users’ minds), open windows of the launched programs can be chosen by clicking on the same shortcut [launcher] that started (launched) the program itself.

    If I really need to go on at this point I can: those running programs can be further controlled by manipulating (mouse-clicking) the programs’ launchers – resulting in simple and direct menus for desired actions without requiring interaction with the open window of the running program itself.

    Even more: the launchers themselves can also alter their appearance (and or add to it) to produce equivalent functionality to what people expect from a ‘systray’ or system-tray item.

    In summation, it is the merging of “Program Launcher” + “Taskbar” + “System Tray” + “System Event Notification” all rolled into one. Unfortunately, all of the above is not used to the full degree in any particular program; however there are many programs that make use of more than one of the methods available.

    The list goes on and on. That is just one company’s (TEAM’s!) vision. I see no reason for further propogation/perpetuation of the Microsoft (IBM!) paradigm – to be blunt, it is old and absolete.


  53. Long time KDE user here, seriously considering moving to Gnome or XFce4.
    Long time user don’t need a series of shocks, they need evolution.

  54. As a ordinary user of Linux for 5 years, I wasn’t impressed with a few of the new features. The Kickoff menu is just plain annoying ( I tried it in Suse). As for the new system settings, I tried that in Kubuntu and didn’t like that ether. I also think Konqueror is just fine as a file manager. All you need to use it is click the icon- if you want more, there is more. Plasma does sound good because Superkaramba can be buggy. I hope Kde4 keeps the freedom of choice alive so I can choose to use the standard menu, Kcontrol, and Konqueror as options. Otherwise I’ll stick with Kde 3 for a while.

  55. I agree with those who are disgusted at Dolphin being the new default file manager. I’m sorry, but it feels like a Windows3.1 toy program. Is this an attempt to copy GNOME, which seems a bit too eager to dumb software down? I’ve never understood why kong’s extra features are a problem for new users. Dragging files around to organize them is just as easy – most people simply ignore the extra features. The metaphor of “work with files anywhere, be they on an ftp server, the local hard drive, inside of a zip file or a WEBPAGE” makes perfect sense and makes things _easier_. It’s 2008, and the next gen of major file managers for both GNOME and KDE don’t support tabs? What gives? Why this regression?

    I use KDE because of the extra features. If you make KDE too much like GNOME, why would I keep using it? If I want reduced features, I’d use XFCE and get a hefty increase in ram and cpu usage, which is a nice tradeoff sometimes. What would set KDE apart if it continues to be GNOMEfied?

    I do like the under-the-hood stuff very much from what I’ve read, btw, but I don’t like that I have to essentially wait until KDE 4.1 to get back to what I can now do with 3.5…

  56. For those of you complaining about Dolphin because you tried the KDE3 version: you do realize that the KDE4 version of Dolphin is very, very different from the KDE3 Dolphin? Judging it on the functionality of of the KDE3 version is rather unfair to all of the KDE developers who worked on improving the program since it was included in the main KDE4 desktop. Try the KDE4 version out before saying ‘”Oh my god, the KDE3 Dolphin sucked, so it’s going to suck in KDE4, too!”

  57. Nael Masood, will it have tabs? Will it be able to use kio:slaves as easily as kong? Can I still copy a file from a zip or tar ball directly to an FTP site (or to my iPAQ via synce), or will I have to run a file manager, archiver and FTP program separately to do the same job(s)? Will it be able to view text files, images and such internally or will it always launch an external program to view these?

    If it becomes the default file manager, will “third party” programs that add options to the kong Actions menu add those same options to Dolphin? What about apps that add actions to Dolphin – will it also add them to kong every time? Does Dolphin allow multiple-file right-click? That is, can I click on a group of files and compress them all together via a right click option? Can I send a group of videos to Kaffeine in this way?

  58. Done a little testing of KDE4, and found some things are great,

    The new menu is better! Having tried Fedora KDE with old style menu, now after having got used to OpenSuSE / KDE4 menu, it is very apparent, that it is hard to “downgrade” back.

    The only thing I’d like, is not to have click open the sub menus, but have them appear with mouse over. Sometimes I do find, I move sections by accident, trying to select a particular menu entry, which means I have to start over.

    Overall though it is an improvement, even for power users. It’ll probably be refined a little, 4.1 anyone?

    I am concerned about Konqueror, though browsing mostly worked, and they fix serious bug quickly in CVS. The file managing side just crashed.

    Dolphin works, but I hate it! Konqueror’s the only file manager I have really found worthwhile. It desperately needs Dolphin to be an option, not forced on you.

    The main problem, was what I tested just didn’t have enough there, in the environment, yet I know from running KDE4 apps under KDE3 that lots of things are ready.

    Overall, I’d rate the RC release, I had, as Alpha quality. There were just too many obvious bugs. I’d expect a Beta to be usable in normal daily use, and feature complete, but with some workrounds needed for glitches. Should be the tricky stuff that has the bugs.

  59. HI,
    The posting comes at a very good time , this should keep the bad roomers away for a while😉.

    well There are two points I want to stress.

    1.) One of the Major Needs of Plasma was to bring web services to the desktop , for example the Weather Engine by Shawn, and RSS feeds, … etc. this was not possible with desktop or Kicker.

    2.) The separation of the Data Source with the GUI is the other feature. which lets the arts/ users / people like to modify things to experiment with the look and feel, while the programmers keep improving the back ends.

    3.) SVG based themeing, and Consistent look for the desktop was never possible. But Plasma just turns that switch on🙂.

    Those are the few points that you missed🙂.

    Now, there is a very false point you make . SuSe Did not do a Usability Survey on normal users as u say, it was carried out with some suse employees (30 odd) to justify what they were doing. I always loved KDE and I will continue to do so, But I’m not ready to accept the fact that open developers have to work for the spec set by suse.🙂 i hope you too digg bit deeper into facts before promoting certain companies🙂.


  60. how is kickoff hard? newly installed apps, when the package follows standards, will always appear in the applications submenu, as New, at the top of all other categories. if you don’t know what category it is, well just type it in and it should be found. how harder can that be? i’ve been using KDE for so long, and Linux even much longer, & i still hate that Windows-like main menu up to now. alt+F2 or that menu on gOS is even better IMHO. LOLz!

    the tradtitional KDE menu, like Gnome, is too Windows and is bad. whoever said that kickoff is like the XP menu must be blind. why it is even better.

    one thing missing though is when i checked the KDE 4rc1 live cd, you can’t drag the entries/apps to the favorites menu anymore. what happened to that? it is one of the cool features.

    also better integration with logout, shutdown should be done to it. tab placements too, like in the original none-qt based tabs. i like to prettify my desktop. why should Linux, or KDE for this matter, look ugly (although i don’t think it’s ugly but a lot of theme/icon/etc customizations have to be made to suit my taste) when the other OSs are pretty?

    maybe have the favorites tab adapt to the users most used apps or what? that is one thing i miss. right now it only has recently used apps. better integration into KDE, like you can control how it behaves include in the control center.

    whatever Suse’s reasons and so-called “usability research” on kickoff, i don’t care. at least they did something to that UGLY windows 98-like main menu that is still the main menu up to now. what is it already, kde 3.5.8? 90s is sOoo over. i applaud novell/suse for this menu, although i say it still needs improvement. by the way i am a kUbuntu user.

  61. I don’t know how much time have those who complain about Kickoff spent actually using it, but I guess that it hasn’t been a lot based in the fact of the falseness they say. It’s faster to find a program. That’s a fact. And includes an spotlight feature-like (and that’s Mac idea, not M$) built in that is not more invasive than the own menu, and thnxs. Not possible with (kicker) kmenu. And includes and “out” tab that would occupy the whole screen in kmenu that it’s intuitive for NEW USERS, who are the real target for KDE. And so on.

    I had my sister and brother in law using linux (actually they nearly only use linux) and have never complained about kickoff nor asked a single question on how to use it, ’cause it’s intuitive!.

    But, why so much complaining?; you can change the menu and choose another, say lancelot or raptor when they’re ready!, or even use a dock!

    Talking about Konqueror, it won’t be eliminated so you can still use it. As far as I know changing the default manager in KDE3 is fairly easy, and surely KDE4 won’t be different here, particularly talking about power users who need to deal with FTP and so on (which HOME users don’t!). Have you seen the split button in Dolphin? its a pretty useful feature thought to make drag and drop easy. Guys, calm down and make of KDE4 a welcome release. In other way, we’d be playing (a not fair and not beneficial) some others game.

  62. To Kickoff vs. KMenu: Who is currently using KDE? The Computer-People! So personally for me, I will not use KDE 4 unless a old style KMenu is avialable. Specially because Kickoff is just a crap!! I can’t say that more clearer. I HATE IT! Really. Why have the Novell/SuSE People just to copy all the crazy M$-Ideas? I use SuSE but the first thing on a new desktop is to switch back to the KMenu-Style.

    To improve things is not a bad idea. But also on knowing the existing problems with kicker and kmenu, NEVER TOUCH A RUNNING SYSTEM! It works, the users can easely handle it, and its easy to use.

    How can we convince the people to switch their windows boxes to a free desktop like Linux when we bring the windows crap on the Linux desktop? The will see it and say “Its the bullshit as on my old desktop. Why should I switch? It doesn’t improve my daily work”. I just don’t belife that the kickoff was more favorite to the people. The novell guys just want to write something new and tinked something together and afterwards tried to trueing it by saying that it was tested by “normal” people. I think this is just a lie. Nobody which is right on mind will use a menu where he/her have to horizonally switch between the same old menu structure (containing a lot of hirachy levels) in quite small window when a use can see all the menu elements (main menu points) at a glance and know where he/her is in the menu structure. All the concepts behind the kickoff menu are just aginst all the priciples of usablity and logical thinking!

    Based on the knowledge about the contract between Novell and microsoft, isn’t it possible that novell consciously wrote that crap menu to help microsoft dissuading people from linux? So microsoft later can say that their menu is much better and more useful than the kde kickoff menu? It seems nearly that this might be the most logical explication about this kickoff stuff. It’s just that much bad, that I can’t see any other idea behind it.

  63. Nice list

    i am especially worried about konqueror

    dolphin sounds like a way away from power users more to the gnome way of life to treat your users like they are stupid😦

    but lets be patient and wait…

  64. Miguel Branco wrote: “It’s faster to find a program. That’s a fact.”

    Most complaints about Kickoff state the fact, yes, that’s a fact, that navigating through Kickoff’s Applications tab is slower than navigating through K Menu’s Applications menu tree. Defenders of Kickoff then answer that Novell’s tests prove that Kickoff is faster than K Menu. Since none of Novell’s tasks involved the use of Kickoff’s Applications tab, the test results are irrelevant.

    Novell’s tests only prove that tasks that do not require the use of a menu tree may benefit from the best features of Kickoff like its Favorites tab with integrated Search or its easy-to-find History tab.

    Both the traditional K Menu and Novell’s Kickoff are suboptimal. K Menu lacks Kickoff’s tabs that speed up the execution of tasks like those in Novell’s tests. On the other hand, Kickoff’s Applications tab is a regression with its click-click-click Next/Back dialogs compared to K Menu’s hover-over Applications tree.

  65. Siraj Razick, yes, you’re right, I didn’t stress that. But that would have belonged more to the not present section “Superkaramba vs Plasma” or “kdesktop vs Plasma”.
    However, about the menu part: I try to digg deep enough when I mention something. And no, I do not promote any company here, please don’t make such false accusations. Anyway, back to the topic: according to the study information roughly half of the group were students. So it is unlikely that these people have been employed by Novell. Were did you take your information from?

  66. I tried both Gnome and KDE when starting out with linux, and I stayed with KDE simply because all of the features I was looking for were all just there. Gnome felt like everythign was an add-on.
    I loved that in Konqueror from the url bar I could browse any file system, simply entter http:// for web, ftp:// for an ftp server, smb:// for a samba server – etc. The only thing it was missing was a “mount this file system” option and browsing SSH or rsync shares. You could then just copy files around between everything.

  67. Typos:

    “Despite it’s superior technology” –>
    “Despite its superior technology”

    “of it’s life time” –>
    “of its life time”

    “powerfull” –> “powerful”

  68. Just a note:

    usability of a menu is made up by more than the “number of ‘klicks’ ”

    One of the major advantages of Kickoff is that it provides quick access by dividing the menu in ‘sections’ (favorites, history, …), at the same time this keeps things more condensed, which usually means less menu items per menu, which -in turn- means less searching until you find the right one.

    Finally, usability specialists do not do something without reason. Although, once in a while, they may get it wrong too.

  69. I have an idea…

    This was inspired by KPersonalizer. Why not allow each user to *choose* what kind of environment he or she wants? This is an example:

    Have an option that asks what menu style you want, i.e.:

    Choose Your Menu Style
    Classic KDE 3.x Menu
    Longtime users of KDE or those who want
    “old-school” menus, click here.
    New Kickoff 4.x Menu
    KDE’s new Kickoff menu makes your
    applications and documents easy to get to!
    KBFX Spinx Menu (this isn’t part of tho project, so leave it out by default?)
    Themeable Vista-style menu that can also display
    the Classic KDE Menu.
    Lancelot Menu
    Raptor Menu

    And then something like

    File Manager

    The Swiss Army Knife of File Managers. Great for
    power users and “classic” KDE lovers.
    A slim, configurable file manager that allows easy
    access to your files.

    See? If it’s all going to be included (or can be) why not make it configurable like this? KDE is known for almost OCD levels of configurability, and this should make everyone happy. The results of the File Manager option could automatically write to a Home “launcher” or menu item, and the Menu options could kill/replace the running menu app on the fly when chosen.

  70. John Howell, you can browse ssh-shares easily with KDE: the plugin is called fish. Just try fish://yoursshserver.com and watch the magic🙂

    Trevor: Thanks for the hints. As a non-native speaker I appreciate that very much🙂

    Hazuki, the problem is mainly that there is no alternative at the moment.

    pbm: Thanks for the translation!

  71. @Ariszló :

    yes, that may be the case, however it also has some good points for example it is nearly impossible to ‘overshoot’ the ‘back’ button when using the mouse.

    Perhaps for this part of KickOff a better solution could (should?) be found.

  72. I have my frequent applications placed on a big, beautiful panel, and am only using the menu when I need something specific. Nearly all GUI applications have a toolbar for the frequent actions and a main menu for everything, so why should the start menu be any different? Well, using the new Kickoff for navigate thru all programs is uncomfortable, to say the least. Can you imagine, say, the Kate menu replaced a Kickoff-like applet? As for the search being easier by typing – you know, Alt+F2 and typing is even faster. And besides, search is required if you don’t know where something might be. With KMenu, when you need a player, you can bet it’ll be under multimedia, there is no need to search, except for a few programs ambiguous between System and Utility.

    Kickoff is similar to the former KControl, while the new systemsettings are arranged very much like KMenu, and both are so much better now? Hmmm. Why don’t you just say “we copied Vista” – there is nothing wrong with it, except that not all users – not even all Windows users – find Vista more convenient than XP.

  73. “Oscar: your opinion is biased by the “change factor”. Kmenu needs from 2 to N clicks for every action.
    – click on the K button
    – N clicks to reach Nth level items
    Kickoff needs from 1 to N clicks:
    – hover the mouse on the K icon
    – click the most used application/first level item in the “all programs” tab
    – N clicks to reach Nth level items”

    I just agree that Kmenu is much faster on my test. For my personal use, i use most of time Alt+F2 because i know what i want to start. But for all (6) old people who has _ever_ used PC (windows, macOSX, GNome, KDE) i have installed mandriva what comes with kickoff and normal menu for them.

    All of them exept one, liked _kmenu_ because it told everything in one sight. They did see where was “office” or “Internet”. And this just gave me more proof that Kickoff was error to install first time to them because after few weeks, i gave them kmenu to test and they likes. And as i mentioned, only one didnt like kmenu and preferred kickoff, reason was very clear, he has parkison’s disease and he could open kickoff menu even he’s hand was shaking. Others didnt have this kind problem because their hands where fine.
    Even they havent used PC ever, they learned fast kmenu structure and i even helped it by taking off all menus what they didnt need. Just leaving what they needed and changed “last used application” to “most used” and from 5 > 10 so they got all what they used on daily, from there. But most imporant thing is, i added those icons to kicker too. And they used them mostly and not just menu.

    First time when i readed this Novell study of kickoff, i liked it. I installed SUSE to test it and it first feeled good. Few times later, it started to fight back so hard because _i had_ other learning and feeling. But i dont know any normal user who would like kickoff, because it hides menus when it enters to other level and when you open menu again, it still on that submenu even you would like to open other application exp, kword and not kmail. You need to click more and know where you are and it slows down daily operations.

    I like Kmenu because.

    1) It dosn’t slow down (me or my clients)
    2) It shows whole structure once and dont hide any information.
    3) It needs less clicks and expands this way same time when user learns and _allows_ learning.
    4) It dont do something when you accidental hover your mouse over BIG button under thing. Like you move your mouse slowly from K-button to most used and it goes over “history” tab and it change there.
    5) It stays same all the time and dont change anything else than most used application -list on top of it.
    6) Behavior is same as all applications menu, you have one list, from there you have submenu what you click. Thats why accessing exp. konqueror menu is similar action as accessing kmenu.

    Reasons why _I_ like Kickoff:

    1) It shows connected massmedia devices there too (but on different tab) without adding applet to kicker.
    2) It has bigger buttons for those whos hands are shaking etc.
    3) It gives bigger list of favorite and history elements.

    “Throw your mouse to the bottom left, and the menu opens. No click here.”

    No, you cant just throw your mouse to left. It needs always a click to get back to menu from submenu. And if you have used KDE4, you cant even throw mouse on it because there is space between Kmenu and screen cornet, about 1cm wide and user needs to _aim_ to that button what allows user to go back. And it is so thin that kmenu is easier to use. There is big problem there because when you just “throw” your mouse to side and click, you click desktop and menu gets closed, not good.

    “Click one of the favorites (that’s what you’ll be doing about 90% of the time).”

    Yes, that is one thing what most users just do. We dont need menu for that, we just add those icons to “kicker” as MacOSX does. Menu is more important for opening applications what you dont know and you like to just open it without starting typing what you do. It might be faster to read “Office > Word prosessing” and click, than type “write letter” and then again click what you find. Fastest way is if you have icon on kicker to open it, a lá MacOSX.

    Many users have icons on desktop because they can open apps from there. Problem is, desktops gets hided everytime you open something. Menu is better because it always gets over open windows.

    There is so many things what is need to keep on mind when designin menu. Kickoff is somehow good but it sametime much worser and thats why i check on every client case that do she/he need a kickoff or not. 97% cases is Kmenu is better. I have about 50 personal clients and only few is using
    kickoff. Few is using Gnome and they dont even like Novells new Gnome menu either or Ubuntu’s style. They preferr old Gnome menu.

  74. We should setup a web poll and do our own “usability test”. Asking only people who have used both for some time. Would anyone be willing to set one up?

  75. Many of the KDE3 to KDE4 changes just make sense, even to non-programmers like me. Abstraction layers like Phonon and Solid reduce so much redundant work by developers. An Amarok dev explained that the Phonon engine for Amarok 2 only consisted of 300~ Lines of Code, while the Xine engine in Amarok 1.4.x was 2100~ LoC.

    I really like what Plasma has done though. Aseigo explained in his latest screencast how the flexibility of the new panels (which are essentially just widgets with other widgets drawn on them, like the desktop) allows for them to be designed and redesigned easily.

  76. “We should setup a web poll and do our own “usability test”. Asking only people who have used both for some time. Would anyone be willing to set one up?”

    Such tests are usually done by careful observation, not polls.

  77. Hi all,

    Well this article is a good one. It makes things more clear.
    I think you guys made the right decisions and your argumentation is understandable on the features chosen for KDE4.

    What we have to remember :
    => Maintaining a code base which is difficult to read is not recommended : we lose time.
    => While new applications are already there, and working better than the old one, why keeping these oldies! Moreover, these new apps are more user-friendly and have more capabilities. It would have been crazy not integrate these!
    => Catching up with other OS Desktop technologies (MacOS and Windows) must happen. That’s why I think KDE4 is coming🙂 Then, the goal is to overpass these two proprietary systems and spread some more Linux Desktop systems.

  78. Thank you for pointing that out! I wasn’t following the development of the KDE for the last weeks, so your post probably makes me have a second look at the ‘finished’ product.🙂

  79. Hi all ! (Sorry for my poor english level )
    What I expect from KDE 4 is :

    -> a good devices manager much better and less buggy than the kicker applet one.

    -> the benefit of Qt4 font rendering to begin to use koffice.

    -> a real great panel

    -> an adapted (small) and reshaped menu that opens when left-clicking desktop, as in e16 or e17. I think this is the fastest way to access apps. I’m frustrated not having this in KDE 3.5.x

    -> the idea of a better konqueror that perfectly embed video, flash, etc.

    -> and the ability to configure everything.

    I agree with those who think like everything in Gnome is an add-on. When I’ll launch KDE 4, first thing I’ll do is to open kcontrol (or anything similar) and see if there is more and more options to suit everyone needs.

    Every time a new Gnome version comes up, I install it and look for options, and then remove it.
    My girlfriend used KDE 3.5.8 for the first time last week : after 5 min, she asked me how
    to change colors, background, window style, icons, focus, fonts, etc… I think new generation kids are newbies during 1 day or 2. Then, they want more and more options…

    About menus, I only use kmenu to search unknown apps. Most of the time i use Alt+F2, click on my favorite apps icons on the panel or click on devices icons on the kicker applet.

    Finally, Konqueror file manager is the ULTIMATE tool of KDE. My (windows users) friends get stucked when they see konqueror copy a file inside a zip archive directly to an ssh folder or open directly a audio disk and showing ogg,mp3 or flac directory.

    In fact, I think a computer must be highly configurable to suit everyone needs.

    Sorry for being so long… Hope this will help to understand users.

    PS: great article about KDE4.

  80. Can I make Kickoff act and behave as KMenu ?
    I tried pulse audio in Fedora 8, but had to uninstall since it was incompatible with skype. Will I be able to run kde multimedia apps without phonon installed ?
    Distros shipping with KDE4 will also have kdelibs3 present for backwords compatibility. Will this mean an overall higher memory if I run a qt3 app ?

    PS. Konqueror is dead and you know it. Look at the number of emails they have on the mailing list compared to a few years ago. Hard to find an ajax enhanced website that actually works 100%. I could go on.

  81. No, kickoff will not behave like kmenu not matter what you configure. However, there will be an old-style menu available shortly after the KDE 4 release.

    About PulseAudio and Phonon: you will not be able to deactivate Phonon, but that would not make sense anyway. Phonon is something entirely different than PulseAudio: it is just a layer, not a specific engine. Phonon will Xine or GStreamer as its backend and therefore will not block Alsa (like PulseAudio does in the end) – as long as you can for example watch a video with kaffeine and at the same time use Skype Phonon will not be a problem.

    About the memory consumption of KDE3 apps: it might be, but I’m not really sure to be honest.:/

    And Konqueror… well, I wouldn’t say Konqueror is dead, but I think the current situation around WebKit and KHTML doesn’t help the KHTML developers. Konqueror itself is more or less just a shell for KHTML and the file manager kpart. The second one was already replaced by the Dolphin one, and time will tell about the first one. But the facts you mentioned are real and therefore I think it is more the question of when and what then of if KHTML will be replaced.
    In this regard, let’s see what comes out of QtWebKit🙂

  82. I must say that by and large I agree with the negative comments about kickoff. The first thing I do when installing Opensuse is to switch back to the classic KDE menu system. I don’t like kickoff at all, it takes longer and more mouseclicks to get to where I’m going and the layout is just bizarre.

    My biggest complaint, though is about KDEPIM, which is the single most important KDE app for me, because it won’t be updated for KDE4. This is the app that is KDE to me. I could care less about fancy 3D graphics that don’t work on my system anyway.

    I don’t want the look of KDE to change, I want to see performance improvements. I’d like to see the bugs in Kmail fixed, I’d like to see more work on Kpilot, etc. And I’m not knocking the overworked developers that do all this stuff, but I’m much more interested in getting existing problems fixed than getting new bling.

    KDE4 without a new version of KDEPIM is pointless.

  83. I’ve been using KDE for about 6 years now and I have to say that every release seems better than the last…until KDE4. The dolphin kpart is less useful than konqueror, and kickoff is perhaps the least usable menu system that I have ever encountered. Applications should be easily discoverable and kickoff defeats that.

    I know that the developers are wedded to their precious “Novell usability study” and will likely never admit that they are wrong, but it would be great if they would consider the outcry from their loyal users and provide a way to get the great improvements “under the hood” with a saner user interface.

  84. I tested the Kubuntu KDE 4 live CD. The only “old style” menu thing I could find was a desktop plasmoid (isn’t that the name for those applets?) Will there be a way to directly replace kickoff?

    What about the dolphin kpart? Will konqueror features that were discarded be re-added? Specifically, I miss preview on hover for files. (I use this all the time on sound files.)

  85. chemist109: The main idea behind KDE 4’s new desktop is that Plasmoids can be used on the desktop as well as in the panel. So you can just embed the old school menu in the panel.
    Open the plasmoid browser, scroll to the old school menu, and drag&drop it to the panel.

  86. every says whitout a real based argumend that KDE4 is !!FASTER!!!! so, please! dont be stupid, svg icons need floating point calculations! png static icons dont! dont sayid stupids thins!

    also KDE4 is like vistas’s themes, too many stupids thing not ussefully!

    so, please!

  87. Picorro, KDE uses a bitmap cache for rendering for example for the icon rendering. I wouldn’t be surprised if that one is also used for Plasma in case you are referring to the SVGs in Plasma.
    Additionally, KDE is not only about SVGs: Qt4 is noticeably fast than Qt3, arts is simply not needed any more, etc.

    So get a grip and stop insulting others as being stupid but get your facts right.

  88. Overall I have to say the Plasma is about the UGLIEST desktop I’ve ever seen. If you have any applets on the desktop (Note that I say ON, not EMBEDDED – cuz they AIN’T!) and move your mouse around, you get those stupid-assed borders & controls appearing. Additionally, the applets are NOT scalable in any useful way. And, as discussed ad nauseum in previous mposts, the panel is less than useless. Overall I give plasma 1 out of 10 stars. I am sadly disappointed. It’s enough to make me switch to Gnome (although G is only marginally better). At least the big G has a useful panel. I miss KDE 3.5.

  89. Nevaar, like I said to others: get a grip, and write, what your problem is:
    What do you mean by “the applets are NOT scalable in any useful way”? Why should the panel be useless? It is a panel and acts like a panel. If you don’t like panels, don’t blame KDE!
    Last but not least: “At least the big G has a useful panel. I miss KDE 3.5.” Then use it! KDE 3.5 is still there, and it will be there for the next years.

  90. I arrived here while trying to decide what to do about for my next desktop.

    I am currently running OpenSUSE 10.3 with KDE 3.5.9. I had used and administered Linux servers for several years (mostly at runlevel three), and only in the last year or so have had to deal with Linux windows managers to any great extent.

    However, my windows manager experience goes back as far as early Motif/Motif Windows Manager, Xerox Star Office, and several Unix GUI’s, Apple from the Lisa era on, as well as all but the latest bloated Microsoft windows manager.

    While ten users “may” be enough to provide a statistically valid set of requirements, they do not automatically provide or guarantee such a valid set. If the sample is biased by selection criteria, for example, the requirements set produced will be invalid.

    And spatial memory (which in reality becomes neuromuscularly embedded memory) is almost always faster than any machine’s ability to guess a usage pattern, for anyone who does not follow a simple usage pattern.

    So I have been convinced by the arguments for the design of KDE 4.x that its design objectives are not my usage objectives. This is unfortunate, in that I originally rejected the Gnome interface because of its decline into a “simplified” interface that limited the power user, and KDE at 3.5 offered a viable alternative.

    Now KDE 4 comes along citing historically valid codebase constraints to justify the need for change, but then uses that argument to justify the specific “brain dead” , — “Here, let me assume you are going to do the same thing you did the last time” — mentality in interface design.

    Funny, too, that this kind of “variable” or “most recently used” style of interface was introduced to the modern world by Microsoft, and is right there with the paperclip assistant and Microsoft Bob as Windows Annoyances.

    Asiego, and the KDE 4 design/development team, I beg you to reconsider the possibility that your user sample may not have been the only, or even the best one, on which to base your design decisions. It looks for all the world to me like you are focused more on where you stand relative to Gnome and Windows, and less and less on just fixing the coding problems in the 3.5 codebase and then incrementally extending a design of proven acceptability with a strong user base.

    Then add on all the new features that you want — plasmoids, new style “most recently used first” menus, or whatever else — as extensions to a cleaned up and further-improved KDE, maybe KDE 3.6, the one with cleaned up kicker code, etc., followed by a 4.x built to extend, rather than replace, the KDE 3 behaviors.

    Otherwise, you will end up with a small base of new users, who will quickly abandon the interface, as most of the power users will have already jumped ship.

    I, for one, came looking for reasons to adopt KDE 4, and to get a sense of “when” it would be ready…instead, it has turned out to become a question in my mind of “if” it will ever be ready, in the sense that KDE 3 is ready to be an unobtrusive medium-heavy weight desktop for power users. (It — 3.5 — is slightly too unstable for my taste, but not severely so.)

    KDE needs to seriously stop and rethink its direction or else it needs to accept the fact that those of us who contribute elsewhere than to KDE, may no longer be the “early adopters” who lead others to the technology.

    My personal gameplan is to stay at KDE 3.5 for about a year, and then see if the worst follies of KDE 4 have been overcome, before deciding what to do next. Others may leave sooner, headed for Gnome. Others may leave, or decide never to come, to Linux, because they don’t want see a reason to learn a new interface just to be forced to follow conventions similar to those that were forced upon them in their old environments.

    At least there, Microsoft had the good sense to give its power users, (or old fogeys if you want, we are still the same users), the option to retain the older, more straightforward behavior.

    The real test, for me, of the open source model will be whether or not there is a desktop that is powerful, easy and intuitive to use, and easy to configure, a year from now, in the Linux world. Gnome seems to be awakening from the folly of dumbing down options, late in the game, perhaps too late. And now KDE seems determined to rush to join them in the blind determination to see Linux on the desktop (read “the majority of desktops”). Let’s run out and find a few users who aren’t power users, since there are more of them — if we find out what they want, and give it to them, growth will surely follow, right? Sorry, wrong.

    Stop patronizing those who don’t know if they want a distro, at the expense of those who need a seriously usable desktop interface.

    Go ahead and flame me if you want, but there is no more reason for me to learn an interface like what KDE 4 is trying to become (smarter than the user), than there is for me to learn the Vista Aero Glass interface.

  91. Dan, please bear in mind that first of all this blog post is months old – no one except me will notice any new comments – and second that I’m not a KDE developer. So this is definitely the wrong place to talk about your concerns.

    Also, to be very honest, your post is much too long. No developer will ever finish reading it. And for me as a blog admin, I was immediately reminded of point four – which is hopefully not what you intended.

    Anyway, the basic of your concern seems to be that users have to learn new ways to handle the UI. But there is no such thing as “a new interface”. Where should it come from, anyway? The Plasma panel is just another panel, nothing new there. Most changes in KDE 4 are under the GUI level (Solid, Phonon, etc.), the apps are the same but ported, and Plasma offers interesting things – if you want them.

    But stating that KDE 4 requires to learn entirely new interface things is just plain wrong.

    Yes, there is folderview, but folderview isn’t even released yet. And since a lot of work is put into folderview to make sure that old users won’t be bothered by the new options there won’t be a difficult learning curve.

    Stop ranting in long posts.

  92. I installed openSUSE 11.0 with KDE4 on my wife’s laptop. It rocks! We came from an Apple environment (wife is an end user who typically used Windows prior to Apple. And used Windows badly at that!). It incorporates features similar to Apple and has all the opensource software which I installed on the Apple. I found my iMac dodgy and the hardware kept stuffing up. I bought the wife a laptop and installed openSUSE on it and she loves it.

    Despite a few glitches like Dolphin failing a screen refresh during long periods of unuse and greying out, some apps occasionally close out of the blue, I’m fully happy with the decision to install openSUSE 11.0 on the laptop.

    I understand all software is a work in progress and nothing these days is released without unforeseen bugs, patches an so on. That’s software and that’s life. Lots of people whinge about bugs and novel features but they don’t realise that by the time software is perfected, it is time for the next version and it is outdated. Hell, Windows comes with a tragic list of bugs every new OS.

    I fully turned Linux this year and being a Windows developer by day, I am forging into Linux and Oracle in my vocation so I can leave Windows altogether🙂

  93. Wow, nice success story, thank you for sharing😀
    If you have some more details or want to spread the word even more, I could also post your experiences in its own article. Just mail me if you are interested🙂

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