KDE 4.1 still isn't for me

A new version of one of the two major Linux desktops, KDE and GNOME, came out today: KDE 4.1 While I don't hate it, I don't see myself switching over from KDE 3.5.9 either.

That said, I will say KDE 4.1 is an improvement over the last 4.x version. I hated 4.04. I disliked it so much that I suggested that it might be best to fork KDE into wherever it was that KDE 4 was going and restart major development work on the KDE 3.5 branch.

After working with KDE 4.1, the release candidate, for the last few days, I'm ready to eat some of my words, but not all of them. I gave the new KDE a trial run on my main Linux desktop. This is an HP A6040N Pavilion Desktop PC with its 1.86 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6320 dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM and 320 GB of SATA hard drive with openSUSE 11. I also tried it on my Gateway 503GR. This system has a 3GHz Pentium IV CPU, 2GB of RAM, an ATI Radeon 250 graphics card, and a 300GB SATA hard drive. On this system, I was running Kubuntu 8.04.

I'm still vexed that KDE 4.1's Plasma interface's insists that icons must live in Folder View rather than on the desktop itself. There are ways around this, but I just don't get the point of the switch in the first place. To me, insisting that icons be in folders is just a nuisance.

One of the things I love about KDE 3.5.x is that it gave me enormous control of both the operating system and the desktop itself. KDE 4.1 simply doesn't allow me all the customization power I'm used to using.

On the plus side, it does enable me to reset some things back to the way I like them. For example, I can use Konqueror, the dual-purpose file and Web manager of KDE 3.5x, as well as the newer Dolphin file manager. In addition, I can go back to the old menu style with a right click and picking "l and choose Switch to Classic Menu Style."

Now that it's out of beta, I also found KDE 4.1 to run much faster. With the debugging code removed and the use of Qt 4, KDE 4.1 is clearly both faster and uses less memory than KDE 3.5.x. I also found KDE 4.1 to be quite stable, which is more than I could say for KDE 4.04.

KDE also has a new look courtesy of both its Oxygen icon set and its use of SVG (scalable vector graphics) to draw the desktop. Add on to this the use of common tools between KDE applications, and you have an attractive and cohesive desktop.

Unfortunately, the KDE applications haven't been keeping pace with the Plasma desktop. Amarok, the KDE music player, isn't even beta yet and many KOffice applications are still in beta. The full KDE application suite simply isn't in sync with KDE 4.1 yet.

So, to sum up, KDE 4.1 is faster, more stable and more attractive than KDE 3.5.9. It still needs the rest of the KDE software family to catch up though before I can recommend most users give it a serious try for daily use.

Me? I'll be sticking with the older KDE. I prefer my old icons and control over KDE 4.1's new faster look. I know to some KDE 4.1, with its underlying Nepomuk, a semantic desktop layer, represents a new paradigm in desktop computing. Sorry, I just don't see it.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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