The Greatest KDE Distro Ever: An Early Look at openSUSE 11.3

This week the first milestone release of openSUSE was made available. Together with the KDE 4.4 release candidate and excellent integration of GTK applications such as Firefox, openSUSE simply provides the greatest KDE experience available to date. Here's why.

This week marks the first milestone release of openSUSE, on the road to 11.3. With their current stable release, 11.2, the distribution made KDE the official default desktop and thanks to their efforts, created the greatest implementation ever.

Now, with version 4.4 on the way the KDE desktop experience from openSUSE is looking to be better than ever.

The New KDE

If you’ve already been using a recent version of KDE, such as 4.3.5, you probably won’t notice a huge amount of difference between it and the upcoming 4.4. Most of the changes are under the hood with no doubt countless bug fixes and tweaks. There are a number of less subtle changes however, such as the new Plasma interface for netbooks, a technology preview. KDE has come a long way since that initial 4.0 release and this upcoming version 4.4 will be one of the greatest achievements on the desktop for 2010.

The existing stable version is getting useful updates in a regular time frame, while the developers continue to work on the next major release. The KDE team has really been doing a top notch job of improving the code and that is to be commended. What we have today, is truly a marvellous desktop environment and suite of applications to rival any other out there. With the ability to also run on Windows and OS X, the quality and breadth of Qt applications should only increase. Naturally the KDE desktop will benefit from this new focus and become a more and more rich environment over time.

Let’s take a look at a few of the major improvements included in KDE 4.4-rc1:

  • The Nepomuk Semantic Search framework has made leaps: A new storage backend makes it a lot faster. New user interfaces to interact with the Nepomuk database are first delivered with KDE 4.4.0. A timeline view of your files makes finding files used in the past easier.
  • The Plasma Desktop has been further polished. Many user interface elements have received attention by developers and designers. The new widget explorer provides a richer experience for managing desktop widgets. Plasma widgets can now be shared with other users over the network and the handling of storage devices in the desktop shell has been streamlined. Also, in 4.4 Plasma’s little sibling, the Netbook shell debuts as a technology preview.
  • New applications on the horizon range from Blogilo, a rich-client blogging tool to Cantor and Rocs, two scientific applications for advanced math and graph theory needs. Many other applications, such as the Gwenview image viewer and the Dolpin file manager have been further improved.
  • The KDE Development Platform adds the new KAuth authorization framework for easy and secure privilege escalation, printing of odd and even pages, scanner support for the Windows platform and the first pieces of integration of the popular webkit rendering engine.

openSUSE KDE 4.4 desktop
openSUSE KDE 4.4 desktop

OK, I’ll say it. KDE 4.4 is far superior to any release before it. Brace yourselves folks, it’s time to (finally) let go of version 3.

Widget Improvements

The interface for managing widgets (or plasmoids) has been vastly improved. Previously, when wanting to add a widget the computer would present a window where users would scroll and search for the one they wanted. In this interface the descriptions were always hidden and things were harder to find. Now, the task of adding a new widget creates a ribbon, where available plasmoids are grouped. Users can scroll to shuffle the list along, while hovering provides a detailed description. This is a great new improvement which is small and subtle, but works very well.

Adding widgets in KDE 4.4
Adding widgets in KDE 4.4

The storage manager has had a nice little upgrade too, whereby the actions available are now presented within the widget itself, rather than on a new window once you open the device. That’s another small and subtle change that makes a really great interface improvement.

Plasma storage manager
Plasma storage manager

Introducing desktop activities. Now you can have more than just a widget on the desktop, you can add an activity to the desktop itself. There are several to choose from including; the default Desktop, which provides a widget with the user’s desktop icons within it; Newspaper, which puts widgets on two columns; Folder View, which returns a traditional style desktop; and, Search and Launch for the netbook.

Plasma workspaces
Plasma workspaces

The whole Plasma experience has been refined and is even more smooth. Clicking on the Cashew fades the widget menu in and out smoothly. The adding and closing of widgets is also accompanied by a nice animation. Resizing existing widgets seems smoother and they can also be shuffled nicely.

Overall, the Plasma experience with 4.4 is impressive. Everything runs very fast and effects are very nice. In short, it truly looks high class. Users switching from a Vista or Windows 7 should more feel at home, especially when compared to the GNOME desktop.

Netbook Interface

Comments on "The Greatest KDE Distro Ever: An Early Look at openSUSE 11.3"

bartvandeenen

About two months ago I got fed up with all the irritating bugs in Kubuntu, and decided to return to Suse after an absence of some years. I installed 11.2, and I\’m really happy with it. It\’s much more polished than Kubuntu, and I\’m really looking forward to 11.3.

Reply
zakhurlifesbane

I use Mandriva and I have been happy with the KDE updates. Your point about comfort to Windows folk migrating is well-taken though it will definitely upset GNOME aficianados. Mandriva also has out their 2010.1 Alpha which shows similar promise. I do wonder why your article did not mention akonadi which is a very useful desktop enhancement.

GNOME is very respectable but is more of a leap for the migration of Winusers (Even though Evolution has it hands-down over KMail for communicating with non-compliant servers and Exchange and otherwise emulating Outlook and feel).

wilimag has a point, too. If Microsoft issued the best ever linux distro under GPLv3 I still would not use it. Same provision for its partners like Novell.

Reply
wilimag

It may be \”The Greatest KDE Distro Ever\”, but it is Suse.
Suse is coming from Novell.
I prefer to boycott on them.

Reply
masinick

I have to question \”Greatest KDE Distro Ever\”, that seems more sensational than actual, and it seems more like opinion than fact. I would, however, generally agree, based on my own tests, that KDE 4.4 is a significant improvement, that the release, when finalized, seems more stable and functionally complete than we have seen in a few years now and it ought to be one of the better releases. But until we can substantiate product quality, setting that high claim is a bit much. It may end up as \”one of the best\”, but to me, that\’s a bit of a line and it takes away from the credibility of the story in my mind. Moreover, though openSUSE certainly is a desktop technology leader, they have consistently had quality control issues, and releasing a product with release candidate software, though getting it in people\’s hands, simply furthers my suspicions that their quality assurance leaves much to be desired, so again, I find those kinds of things far from \”The Greatest Ever\”, more like the potential for the biggest letdown.

I love technology releases, and I personally use the Mandriva Cooker and Debian Sid a lot. I have too much trouble with openSUSE, and I just have never gotten used to using it as a result, and I find Fedora to be close, in terms of having great preview technology, but highly suspect early release quality. I\’d consider looking at either of them two months after release, but not now? GREAT? Great to wait a quarter at least!

Reply
jonjermey

\”Finally, someone has plugged the missing hole!\”

If the hole is missing, why does it need to be plugged?

Reply
mrrtd

I\’ll admit that the openSuse team do a great job with KDE, but I\’m not a big fan of rpm packages, and not entirely comfortable with the Suse/Microsoft mono situation. So for now, it\’s not a distribution I\’ll be choosing.

Reply
finnmetal

opensuse may well have one of the best KDE implementations, unfortunately it is still opensuse. It is not so much about the distro being funded by Novell or their way of heavily pushing mono on their users. It is more the matter of the way the distribution is built in comparision to other binary distros. The suse init process is horrible. Also the way they package the kernel, gcc, and other packages is just downright nasty. These are just 2 examples. openuse has the tendancy to break things with their updates, most the times leaving some users not being able to use their box\’s for weeks. Their Community is rather rude (mostly novell employees or fanbois) and the help you get is second rate at best.

Reply
csmart

Apologies for the delay, I have been away.

@wilimag, that\’s true and I don\’t like Novell either. However, the openSUSE community also created this project, not just Novell employees, and I think that the community should not be shunned. Once Novell is gone, the openSUSE community will go on.

@mrrtd, one of the beautiful things about Mono is that it\’s not included in KDE at all, yet. The default install of KDE, even under openSUSE, does not include Mono or any of its libraries :-) RPM packages are pretty much the same as Debs, perhaps you mean the management of them rather than the format itself? If so, you really, really should try Zypper. It\’s brilliant.

-c

Reply
richlion

Hello Everyone,
I don\’t know why Suse is to become the best distro ever. I\’ve been dissapointed by Suse a while ago, then again I had Mandriva and I got fed up with RPM packages causing all sorts of disruptions in the system. I think we can only judge the system by the way it reacts to changes when applications added.
Now I am only using Sabayon based on Gentoo. The Sabayon team has been delivering an awesome system from my point of view. There is hardly anything that would not work. I\’ve been using it since 2006, in the meantime still tried other distros and to me no distro looks like Sabayon.
KDE – that\’s a bit of another story. I just wonder how many version we need to go trough until all bugs are fixed, although to me version 4.3.4 is a good step.

Can I ask those who use Suse – how good is the sound system on Suse? Does it use PulseAudio? Is it setup correctly?
For example do those who use Suse have any problems with apps blocking each other?

Best regards,
Richard

Reply
bcspratt

\”OK, I’ll say it. KDE 4.4 is far superior to any release before it. Brace yourselves folks, it’s time to (finally) let go of version 3.\”

You can have my KDE 3.5 when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

Reply
bcspratt

\”Unfortunately, Konqueror and its ageing KHTML engine simply don’t make the grade any more and so the biggest hole in the KDE desktop is a solid, well integrated web browser.\”

Konqueror is not a web browser, Firefox is a web browser. Konqueror is the best file manager I\’ve ever seen (split windows, service menus, drag and drop FTP access to remote sites…. it\’s great).

And for the record, I don\’t like Dolphin as a file manager.

Reply
bcspratt

\”Overall, the Plasma experience with 4.4 is impressive. Everything runs very fast and effects are very nice. In short, it truly looks high class. Users switching from a Vista or Windows 7 should more feel at home, especially when compared to the GNOME desktop.\”

Are you looking to start a holy war (another one)?

Kubuntu: one distro to rule them all.

Reply

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