Reviewed: KDE 4.5

KDE

Trepidation. That about sums up the feeling of upgrading to a new version of KDE. You want to like it, but are afraid that whatever has been fixed will be counterbalanced by something rather sucky. This version of KDE has seen 16,022 bugs fixed and 1,723 new feature requests added, so the balance is in favour of not-sucky. Or is it?

For the most part, the improvements in this version of KDE aren’t the things that you see, but the things that you don’t see any longer. Chief among the long list of user grievances in 4.4 was the behaviour of system notifications – no longer. Now the notifications look better and don’t clog up the screen for 10 minutes every time you try to copy a file somewhere it can’t fit.

New meta desktops show promise - but why on Earth change the position of the cashew? And what do those icons mean? Help me, Obi-Wan.

New meta desktops show promise - but why on Earth change the position of the cashew? And what do those icons mean? Help me, Obi-Wan.

But the first thing you might notice about the new KDE happens long before that. In the lots-faster-but-not-actually-very-fast boot-up sequence, you’ll hear some audio; audio you can actually hear properly. Phonon now supports a PulseAudio back-end for sound – and while many apps don’t play properly with PA (not KDE ones, just apps in general) it does make for a better audio experience on KDE.

But wait, what’s this? Click on the KDE cashew and you’ll find a new entry: Activities. An activity is like a different usage paradigm – a way of working with the desktop. You can create new ones that order all your widgets, display different desktop folders and such; sort of a meta version of virtual desktops. Apart from the strange icons these associate themselves with, why in the name of all sanity does the cashew control switch position on the screen when in a different mode?

Marble madness?

Marble, the new iteration of it, is perhaps a distillation of some of the KDE issues. Now, Marble is great. Really. It’s a fantastic piece of desktop bling, with lots of added maps and new features such as real-time weather reports and even journey routing. By hooking up to the OpenRouteService.org API through a plugin, it can now give you street directions from A to B pretty much anywhere in Europe.

It’s sort of impressive, but the interface is a little clunky – you need to type in the names of your points one at a time, select the correct one from a list, then move on to the next point. It’s light on options for selecting a specific point, and there’s no way to route via a particular place. It’s a technologically cool feature, but not a practical one. Being able to save out the current map view as an image is useful, though.

An interesting addition to Konqueror is the inclusion of an optional WebKit renderer for web pages. WebKit started life as a branch of KHTML, the default renderer, which was, erm, borrowed by Apple to become the basis of Safari. But it seems that the controversy over how open source it actually was has been smoothed over in the interim years. There’s no doubt that WebKit offers a faster and more standards-capable experience than KHTML. Sadly, you won’t find anything in the Konqueror config dialog to help you set up WebKit – you need to mess around with the default filetype handlers, but it’s worth getting a bit dirty for.

Some people may think that KDE 4.5 is a disappointment because it lacks shiny new exciting features. Actually, it isn’t a disappointment for that very reason. A lot of the annoyances and fripperies of the desktop have been sorted out with this release, but that said, it seems about 80% of the way along to being a great desktop.

Our Verdict: Now with less suck, the 4.x series moves from being merely usable to almost desirable. 8/10

Features at a glance

<strong>New apps:</strong> A clutch of new apps join the KDE fold, and there are plenty of updates to games as well.

New apps: A clutch of new apps join the KDE fold, and there are plenty of updates to games as well.

<strong>Marble routing:</strong> The excellent Marble now features routing and, more usefully, saving map snippets.

Marble routing: The excellent Marble now features routing and, more usefully, saving map snippets.

First published in Linux Format

First published in Linux Format magazine

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Your comments

Always with the whining...

Let me first disclose that I was never a KDE 3.x user, so I have apparently not experienced the perfection that was before the heretics, flesh-eating zombies and Liberals took over at KDE.

I've been using Kubuntu, perhaps the most derided KDE distro, as my work environment since Jaunty/KDE 4.1, which I experienced as perfectly usable while every blogger was decrying the End of Days.

I'm not going to claim I never saw an error message or never crashed the window manager while playing with Plasma gadgets, but even with my PPA list being a large and dynamic chunk of my sources.list file I've enjoyed a pretty stable development environment for a couple years now.

KDE 4 turned heads then, as it does now, and each release has only gotten better. Oh yeah, and it's FREE.

Your "sucks less" review (which somehow computes to an 8/10) is a big whine-fest to a whole bunch of people busting their butts on something that actually makes it cool to be a Linux user. You sound like my six-year-old twins complaining about the dinner they asked for. I for one sure appreciate their effort, and admire the fact that they made a ballsy decision to boil the ocean and then kept focused while the masses screamed foul to make it happen and produce a UX that can be compared to Windows and OSX without snickering.

If trepidation is what you feel with each release then you should stick with Gnome, because I agree that you won't get any surprises with new releases there. And that's fine too, because choices are nice: especially when they're gifts.

I'm not saying your review has to be all rainbows. You'd be doing your readers and the KDE community a service by pointing out any shortcomings or missed opportunities for improvement you uncover in your review; and there's a little of that in this review. But also way too much whining.

The re-branding

Please, it is not anymore KDE 4.x but KDE SC 4.x. KDE is the community what develops KDE Platform, KDE Workspace (the real desktop), KDE Applications and KDE Development Platform and they all are released with specific plans, where comes the release name "KDE Software Compilation".

3.x stays as KDE. But the whole 4.x series has been re-branded as the technology has changed.

KDE SC is the release for group of other brands of the KDE software what gives you what you need.

Not being honest

I agree with "inghamc" post.

You should either:
- note that this is totally subjective opinion driven by your feelings;
- or at least try to reasonably explain statements like:
"Now with less suck, the 4.x series moves from being merely usable to almost desirable"

It is not that much about hurting other people feelings, who have worked so hard to make 4.5 happen.
It is about being honest to your self and to your readers.

So please try to properly document your views, or don't bother writing a 'review' at all.

KDE now...

I have been using Ubuntu full time for several years now. Though I have been taking a peek at KDE 4.X releases(Ubuntu and other distros), I never committed till now.

Recently I installed Linux Mint(KDE) on my laptop. The looks, and the behavior sets it apart. The whole thing is stable, the experience is uniform, cohesive and polished. Kudos to KDE team. They were able to pull off a total rewrite, though admittedly with some hiccups. Since Linux users have choice, when KDE 4.x was unstable(or not liked by users), users could adopt Gnome, Lxde, etc. No harm done.

Unlike Windows or OS X, Linux has the advantage of multiple WMs. Why not leverage that and take one or two projects in an aggressive and radically different path at a given time? Users can adopt other choices during the time it takes the new version to stabilize.

Thank you KDE team!

Reviews are subjective

"note that this is totally subjective opinion"

That is a given as this is a review. An objective review would simply be a list of features with a tick or cross next to each of them to denote whether they work or not.

KDE vs Gnome. I've

KDE vs Gnome. I've preferred KDE forever. I wish there were a better way to kill time than with the bouncing Icons. How stupid is that? I also WISH someone would build an easy way for users to "filter" the sewer out of the internet. Mandriva has done it - so it is feasable. Lets not talk about censorship - Who thinks its stupid to drive without a seatbealt? Its the same thing / protection - as far as I'm concerned. GOOD WORK DKE TEAM

Rebrand?

I still love KDE, I stuck with it from 4.0 all the way to today. I just wish they'd rebrand the letters KDE (Kool?, really? Not very corporate but indeed very sad sounding)

Maybe K could become something else, then every app made for it (usually starting with a K) can give themselves better names. As a plus point we're seeing these apps change and describing it to people that haven't used it doesn't make me sound like an adolescent anymore.

If they keep KDE, they should make K mean something cool. Kashmir? Kosher? Kalamazoo?

kde sc netbook

I am similarly well entrenched into the Ubuntu Gnome world. However, being less than ecstatic about the new Ubuntu Netbook interface coming in 10.10, I decided to take a look at the next release for kde (kubuntu 10.10). I was VERY impressed.

The netbook interface is much smoother, and seemed stable. I had seen it before, but it seems more mature now.

Note: I am not confusing kde with kubuntu, that was just the medium I prefer.

By the way, complaining about people complaining strikes me as a tad ironic.

KDE SC

I've not yet used 4.5, but a big Thank You to the KDE developers, who have always provided me with a desirable desktop!

First of all... THANK YOU

First of all...

THANK YOU KDE team!

IMHO KDE SC 4.5.x is amazing and the KDE folks deserve kudos and much thanks for their hard work.

People's preference differ. Perhaps the author should stick to analysis of his preferred DE (which clearly isn't KDE)

This review is something rather sucky.

Trepidation. That about sums up the feeling of reading a review of a new version of KDE. You want to like it, but am afraid that whatever the whining reviewer will say. This review is something rather sucky.

Thanks KDE Team. Been with you since 1998 with Mandrake Linux.

Ass Kicked

At the top of the page they claim: "our Linux podcast kicks ass".

I say: The positive responses here sure kicked his A*SS and well deserved for such a lousy review.

Let's move on

Good review of KDE 4.5.

At some point, I really think that, as KDE users, we need to quit comparing it to its older KDE 3.X version. While true, initially, KDE v.4 did lack quite many useful features that we had grown accustomed to with v. 3.X, it has now matured to quite a polished environment. Is there room for improvement? Yes there is still room for improvement. But, as I read it, on many boards discussing these new versions of KDE, people who are new to the KDE experience and who had never previously used v. 3.X, and therefore unable to compare, are quite impressed with it. It is now obvious that KDE SC 4.5 has earned all of its accolades and is now a big boy amongst the window managers group. Let's move on and assess less on a comparative view of its predecessor but rather on it's present merits.

Let's move on

Oops! Forgot to add that I am on Mandriva 2010.1 with updated KDE SC 4.5 from the kde.org download repositories for Mandriva.

KDE 4.x lost the focus on usability

I don't want to get into a flame war, but to all those whining about the whining, KDE 3 was clearly focused on usability. At a time when Windows made me pull my hair out, the Gnome philosophy was "we don't need no stinking options", and all the others were too minimalist, KDE struck a great balance of features and performance.

Then came the hell of 4.1 and 4.2. Broken printing, no more putting my own favourite icons on the quick launch bar, things that took 1 mouse click now take 3, 4, 5. No more quick browser, favourites list broken, bugs everywhere. A simple desktop, no plasmoids, no 3d, can't run in 1GB of memory without thrashing. Pulseaudio chews up 9-30% of CPU even when no audio is playing. I have to start my day every day with "killall pulseaudio" so I can get some work done. I could go on, and on, and on. The fact that one release fixes 16k bugs speaks volumes. There shouldn't be 16k bugs to fix!

Yes, it was a fundamental rewrite, and bugs are inevitable in that, and a lot of it is volunteer effort, and it has a lot of potential, and 4.3 is somewhat better. I don't want to give a sense of entitlement, I really do appreciate all the hard work that goes into KDE.

But they lost their focus on usability. Why do I have to single click to open a plasmoid then double click to launch Konq? Why can't I have my Konq quick launch icon back? Why can't the print dialog remember my previous selections like it used to? Why do I have to type out the whole file name instead of being able to click a related file and modify the name? Why can't I use backtab for keyboard shortcuts any more? Every one of my day to day activities just got so much harder than it used to be.

And why did I have to throw out my perfectly good Athlon II with 1GB ram and get a 3GHz dual core with 4GB just to be able to run a desktop that can keep up with keyboard while loading a web page? KDE went from a lean efficient design to a bloated painful to use pig. That's what all the whining is about.

I've only stuck with it because the Gnome "we're smarter than you so we'll tell you how it's going to work and you'll like it" philosophy grates on me, and all the others (LXDE etc.) are too minimalist. And I keep hoping one day they'll get their usability focus back and undo some of the damage.

KDE IS ALREADY MORE THAN PERFECT!

Come on!
What else could you ask?KDE 4.5 is magick!

1)Different wallpapers AND widgets for each virtual desktop.
(Gnome is so far away...)

2)Different activities that provide a new set of virtual desktops that can be filled with different wallpapers AND widgets. (a sense of real 3d desktop!)

3)Tabbed and tabbing applications. So convenient!

4)Wallpapers that can be the whole globe rotating!

5)Improved appearance of gtk applications.
(compared with kde 4.4)

All in all, kde is already more than perfect.
Yes, they need to focus more on stability, efficiency and speed but they already know this.

programmer meglomania

Great work dev team! But i still use KDE 3.5.9 for all my basic computing needs.it's simple and easy to use. 4.x makes
every function more difficult for the average user.it's even hard to FIND where all the functions have gone.You have no idea how difficult you have made life for the non programmer. What do i care for a button that is under a menu item that's behind an invisible bar that only shows up when you hover the mouse pointer over it? Get real.A desktop is like your garage.You want to SEE an item, get it and use it quickly.No one wants added complexity to do a job. Except for programmers. They like it complicated. I understand the underlying architecture needed to change to advance the evolution, but WHY did you need to rip out and re do everything on the desktop?

IS IT STABLE?

Look, I almost never make significant modifications to my default desktop other than change font size, small icons, and lame stuff like that.

No cubes, no Compiz, no wobbly windows, none of that useless crap.

What I care about is STABILITY! I do NOT want my Window Manager to CRASH! EVER!

On KDE 3.5, the only thing that crashes KWin fairly frequently is Gwenview - and perhaps Firefox.

From what I've read, in previous releases of KDE 4.x, it has been remarkably easy to crash the window manager. THIS IS NOT COOL!

Do NOT release buggy crap as an "improvement"!

I'm fixing to upgrade to openSUSE 11.3. I'd better not find out that KDE 4.4 is still buggy and unstable.

Nice work KDE SC developers!

I love KDE SC 4.5, it runs really well even with just 1 GB of RAM. Kwin's stable, speed has been improved, plasma hasn't crashed (crashed once in 4.4), everything is more logically ordered,and version 4.5 is loaded with features. Great work KDE SC developers!

I LOVE KDE!!!

KDE 4.5 is the best version to date! Keep up the good work KDE developers!

Don't let the buggers get you down

Yet another Tuxradar piece with barely-hidden contempt for anything KDE-related.

I do love KDE but if I was paid to write a review of GNOME I'm pretty sure I could express my opinions without bludgeoning the hard (free) work of the community.

Whether KDE or GNOME, I think FLOSS runs rings around the proprietary alternatives (though I'm not fussed about using Nvidia's drivers ;) )

Furthermore, when it comes to KDE it looks amazing, performs well, and is customisable to be as dumbed-down or complicated as you want.

Tuxradar has a lot going for it but the GNOME fanboyism is just foolish and blinkered.

Please don't complain about not being able to express your opinions. Fire at will! However, I think you need a big banner: 'WE HATE KDE'. Then new readers/listeners can go elsewhere for a balanced opinion.

Yay for progress!

I started out with Ubuntu 9.04, and think I tried 9.10 briefly as well. But no matter what distro I used or contemplated using I always dual booted with Windows. For a time, I even went back to Windows completely and ignored my Ubuntu partition. It's ONLY thanks to KDE, Kubuntu specifically, that I now use Linux EXCLUSIVELY, and I never thought I would dump windows completely. So when I read a review like this I can't help but see it as really unproductive. It's reviews like this that persuaded me from not trying anything else but GNOME when I first came across Linux and didn't know very much. You are doing a major disservice to the open source movement. Give readers more facts and less opinion so they can make good choices.

KDE rules

I have used kde, gnome, xfce and lxde, and I prefer kde for it's configurability. I have been trying to make kde, but it takes lots of work, with kde 4.4 installed in / and 4.5 in /usr/local. It means using ccmake and cmake -i. Then it usually makes it to around 7%, and then has an error.

I end up just using the slackware-current packages. :(

BTW, why is there an IE9 beta ad on your site?

@TGM K hasn't stood for

@TGM

K hasn't stood for "kool" since the very beginning. They changed KDE to stand for the K Desktop Environment soon after its inception.

K now stands for Krap!

K now stands for Krap! WTF is with all the memory links, how can anyone use this Krap! the launcher has turned into some kids idea of being intuitive (to much garbage), next iteration please remove all the memory and cpu hogging spunk... remember designer folks simplicity is beautiful in any UI

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