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KDE 4.4: Does It Work Yet?

A confirmed GNOME superfan takes a new look at KDE 4.4 and likes it.

This article isn’t a formal KDE 4.4.x review. I’m looking at it with a discerning eye and a prejudiced viewpoint. I don’t feel compelled to present a purely journalistic “fair and balanced” point-by-point arraignment of KDE. There are plenty of lighthearted reviews and cosmetic critiques of the new interface dawdling about so I dare not add another to the din. Instead, I’m stepping back into KDE from a GNOME user’s viewpoint with a single question in my mind: “Does it work yet?”

I used to love KDE way back in the KDE 1.x and KDE 2.x days of yore. I migrated away from KDE during the early 3.x days in favor of GNOME. I switched to GNOME partly because my new favorite distros installed it by default, it grew on me and I’ve stuck with it ever since without a moment’s regret. I took a look a KDE 4.x when it first hit Fedora Spins and thought it was cool but I soon discovered that first impressions aren’t always correct. In fact, after working with it for a while, KDE 4.x was anything but enjoyable to use and I quickly tossed it aside as worthless fluff. I’m giving KDE 4.x a second chance with this new 4.4.x version.

KDE Startup

I no longer have to wait for all of KDE’s features to start up as I nod off watching the little icons appear one by one until I’m finally presented with a usable interface. The new KDE surprised me with its snappy and much anticipated startup speed. I had forgotten that this was one of KDE’s improvements over previous versions but it’s always refreshing to see it in action. I rebooted a couple of times just to make sure that what I was seeing was real.
It was and I’m glad. To the KDE team, I say “Good work” on the startup speed. If that were your only improvement in this release, it would be noteworthy by itself.

Semantic Desktop

I’m not sure why someone didn’t think of this sooner but the semantic desktop idea is intriguing. Simply put: It’s all about metadata. Metadata is data about data. For example, if you download an ISO image from ibiblio.org from one of the many stored distribution directories housed there, you might not remember which one. You might not save the URL in your browser and you might not find that exact site again without hours of searching and frustration. The Nepomuk project makes it easy to exploit this metadata by integrating with the Strigi project which indexes the data. Indexing the metadata would allow you to query the information associated with that ISO file so that you could go back and grab the next release with no hassle.

Other applications of this concept include manually created metadata, metadata associated with a file from its original creator (email, docs, text), tagging, commenting and so on.

Social Networking

If you enjoy social networking, microblogging, sharing photos or keeping up with news events; KDE 4.4 has integrated applets, called widgets, specifically for the most popular sites. You might ask, “What makes a widget better than an icon that allow me to connect to the awesome social networking site of choice?” but the question is easy to answer. Widgets
give you “live” access to your favorite sites and newsfeeds, whereas icons only provide a static link to them.

Netbook Interface

KDE 4.4 is cool for netbooks with its new Workspace Form Factor called Plasma Netbook. Designed for netbook freaks, like me, who try to optimize small screen real estate with a few key icons. Plasma Netbook is a different concept. It’s a paged desktop that starts off with two desktops called Pages. Page One is a widget page with newsfeed, weather, knowledgebase and others.
The second page, Search and Launch (SAL), has icons and a search field on the desktop that replace the regular KDE menus. The search function has built-in intelligence, so if you’re unsure of the exact spelling of an application, you still have a chance of finding it. Additionally, you can build an unlimited number of widget pages which essentially creates a series of desktops that contain specific applications that you configure.

If you don’t like the Plasma Netbook interface, you can switch back to the standard Plasma Desktop via the System Settings menu or icon.

KDE 4.4.x offers more stability than previous 4.x versions and some clever enhancements over previous versions. It offers a more modern desktop designed more for the young, social networking, purely web-existent crowd. For those of us over the age of 30, it’s not entertaining. I don’t want to have to fuss with my desktop to get it like I want. For me, it’s a tool. I don’t spend a lot of time customizing my television, telephone or a screwdriver and I don’t want to spend a lot of time messing about with a desktop. Perhaps the parts of the new KDE that I really like have always existed: Its clean, bright, easy-to-use light-feeling interface. KDE 4.4.0 still has all the KDE goodness plus the cute stuff for the latest generation whatevers.

I rather like KDE 4.4 but I’m a GNOME convert and it would take something better than widgets to divert my attention away from it. If you’re a KDE fan, it’s time to jump in at version 4.4.0. It does work. I appreciate what the KDE developers have accomplished with this new version and am anxiously awaiting a look at KDE 5.0.

Comments on "KDE 4.4: Does It Work Yet?"

auspex

Darn. I was hoping for something a little deeper. Like, does everything _work_. I have my wife\’s desktop still running Ubuntu Hardy, and wish I\’d stayed there myself. So much has been broken, for so long and so little purpose, that Ubuntu and KDE have both disillusioned me.

ctalk01

I think you could call this an \”assertion\”, not a review. Really, if KDE continues its path of emulating a confusing mess of widgets – then it isn\’t on the radar of usability for any foreseeable future. KDE went off in the developer\’s direction and forgot the users – a mistake many developers make.

Speaking of wrong directions, when will Linux-Mag fix its slow website? Every load here is painfully slow, which is why I am less and less of a fan of this site. I get real content and faster sites elsewhere.

1fastbullet

I\’m glad that progress is being made, though I\’ll never use more that a few KDE apps.

Nearly two years ago, I finally convinced my elder brother to give Linux a try. Unfortunately, he opted for the 8.04 Kubuntu version, instead of straight up Ubuntu. And, so, the troubles began.

In an effort to gain an understanding of what he was complaining about, I installed Kubuntu, also. It didn\’t take long to fully understand his frustration. KDE 3x was a nightmare compared to using the Gnome I had become accustomed to. I felt somewhat responsible and, consiquently, great embarrassment- even though I never told him to install a KDE environment.

As I mentioned, I will (in fact, I do) use some KDE apps, k3b being one of my favorites. As to the rest of it, thank you, no. Aside from things not working worth a damn, there is something I find childishly offensive about naming the apps with a K. Sorry, but it is what it is.

bartvandeenen

One thing, if you like KDE, don\’t use Kubuntu. Kubuntu is way more buggy than OpenSuse 11.2. I recently switched after two years of Kubuntu, and many of the irritating bugs are gone. Ubuntu\’s focus is on Gnome, and it shows in the quality control department.
P.S. my laptop battery life has increased by some 25% since I went to Suse. That alone is worth it.

znmeb

Well, I haven\’t had a chance to test on a netbook yet, but I converted to KDE (4.3) from Gnome when I upgraded from openSUSE 11.1 to 11.2. I abandoned KDE in the 3.5 days because it was slow, bloated and ugly. I ran WindowMaker for a long time while I was on Gentoo, but switched to Gnome when I migrated to openSUSE 11.0.

I\’m on KDE 4.4 now. I haven\’t really tried to customize it, and I haven\’t paid much attention to the \”semantic\” stuff. I suspect that if I do end up getting a netbook, I\’ll probably run LXDE on it rather than either KDE or Gnome – when all the smoke clears, I really only need a menu and a window manager, not all the fancy eye candy and search.

khess

@auspex

True, this is no \”deep dive\” into KDE but I tested a lot of the menus, widgets and apps and everything that I touched, worked. And I\’m sure that it\’s true that OpenSUSE works better than Kubuntu or a Fedora Spin but it\’s still pretty cool. I\’m waiting for KDE 5.0 before I attempt a re-dedication to KDE. If you\’re a KDE user, you should upgrade. If you use GNOME, LXDE, XFCE or another desktop, I wouldn\’t switch. Sorry.

mohamedhagag

I\’m a gnome user and KDE lover, i always have the hope to switch to KDE – even since 3.5 – and i took the decision 3 weeks ago to switch and work all day and night on KDE 4.3 – Fedora 12 – and i did enjoyed its eye candy, it was some time consuming to adjust all keyboard shortcuts i used on gnome, but it\’s ok.

but, after some time i got headache of bugs and crash dialogues – on gnome i used to crashes once a week, on KDE there\’s at least 3 crashes/hour.

one very important application didn\’t work with KDE without an ugly work aroung which was Hamster-applet – and it worked fine.

KDE is very nice – but for stability GNOME wins – finally after 3 weeks trying to migrate to KDE, i returned to GNOME :( because of bugs and crashes.

gzmorell

I\’m a Kubuntu Karmic User, I use the KDE 4.3.5 from backports for everyday work, and I am happy with it. I haven\’t noticed any important crash. But I have to admit that some of the applications I use are not KDE, my everyday work would be impossible without Firefox, Evolution or Openoffice. All of them being the more compatible programs for their respective use with anothers OS. Thats perhaps the main problem with KDE, as they have no web browser comparable to firefox (\”arora\” seems to be a promising future web browser application), no office application like openoffice (koffice is still in heavy development), and althougth kmail is a good mail client it is not possible to connect to exchange except for retrieving mail (and only if webdav is enabled). But even those thing are relly annoying, projects like freedesktop make it possible to integrate gnome applications in kde, so in the end it is not a problem to avoid using kde.

johnboy68

It seems with everything in computer\’s, whether it\’s applications or the X-Window interface, it\’s what you learn on that seems best. So it\’s always subjective when it comes to discussions between GNOME and KDE. I started with KDE thus I never liked GNOME. Both are perfectly capable and both have strengths and weaknesses. When I fist tried KDE 4.X I hated it and thought I would never use it. But now that my favorite distro is using it I love it. Give MEPIS 8.4 RC1 a try and I think you may like KDE 4 more than you thought you might. MEPIS has found (in my opinion) a great balance between the old and the new.

ddennedy

Re \”a confusing mess of widgets\”
Have you used Android, in particular a HTC Sense or other tweaked one? Would you call it a confusing mess of widgets? I considered widgets and dashboards mainly superfluous until I got an Android phone. I think a key thing is that some of the widgets need to integrate with apps and workflows to be relevant.

Re \”on KDE there\’s at least 3 crashes/hour\”
Wow, really? I never experienced that even with KDE 4.0. Maybe you have apps that are crashing and not KDE. Do you make/understand that differentiation?

eddiewilson

@:bartvandeenen

I\’ve used both Opensuse and Kubuntu and OpenSuse 10.2 is not up to par with Kubuntu 9.10. The earlier versions of Kubuntu did seem lacking compared to Ubuntu but not any more. Don\’t get me wrong. I\’m a Gnome fan and the only reason I use KDE at all is to be familiar with the system and I do use it quite a bit. Kubuntu with KDE4.4 is a gem. In my opinion Gnome is still better. As with everything results may vary. Personal taste and hardware can make a difference in shaping a person\’s opinion. Thanks for a KDE outsiders point of view.

hariprasad

My problem is, that i dislike the design KDE – specially wheels, this is why i still prefere Gnome.

linuxcanuck

KDE in one hyphenated word: Mono-free. If you love freedom then you have to love KDE for this alone. It is not encumbered in any way. Until Microsoft clears things up (don\’t hold your breath, as the status quo serves their interest), then GNOME is a not an option for me and many others.

Yes, I can strip out Mono, but why should I have to? The obligation should not rest with me. Installing GNOME taints the software freedom experience any way that you cut it. If I wanted Windows then I would use it. If I want a M$ product then I will buy it. Don\’t give it to me without my permission. I am Microsoft free and proud of it. No GNOME user can say that as Mono is part of the default installation.

I use KDE and customize it to my own personal preference. It is the most customizable and flexible desktop there is. It is all about choice and with KDE you have the most. I install the odd GNOME app, but I take a pass on the whole GNOME experience.

I am using KDE 4.4 in Kubuntu Lucid Lynx. I can now have folder view enabled without a plasma and different wallpaper on every desktop, just as I did in KDE 3.5 many years ago. The difference is that KDE 4.4 looks up to date with the power of KDE 3.5. The desktop has been remade at last. Life is good! If you stuck with KDE 3.5 and have not tried KDE 4.4 then you are missing out! If you use GNOME then you are missing out even more and reliant on Microsoft\’s good will (not something they abound in, in case you haven\’t noticed).

Long live KDE!

a-wolfe

I\’m actually glad there are both Gnome and KDE. Traditionally I\’ve been a KDE fanboy, but like many others, when KDE3 came along, that event provided the needed motivation to seriously use Gnome.

That was really a good experience. Though Gnome 2.whatever was more difficult to configure due to their own ground up re-write endeavor, it was still easier to use out-of-the-box than the KDE 3 and early KDE4. With KDE4, I had started to peer back in to see whether it was even usable. With KDE4.4, it\’s at least usable again. Strangely, I\’m having the same experience moving back to KDE as I did moving to Gnome earlier. With the KDE re-write, it is a different animal.

I was glad that there was a user friendly alternative that I could fall back on and really have no problem continuing to use that alternative had KDE never got its act back together to continue forward with Gnome. Diversity and choice is what Linux is all about, right?

lxuser12345

linuxcanuck said,I can now have folder view enabled without a plasma and different wallpaper on every desktop, just as I did in KDE 3.5 many years ago.

Like linuxcanuck, i too love and have always used KDE even through the rough stages of early KDE 4. I cut my Linux teeth on KDE with Suse Linux 6.1 and have remained faithful ever since. Yes,there have been some glitches and quirks along the way,but can any desktop environment claim otherwise? Do not get me wrong, Gnome is also a fine product and i respect all users of it. I even have one of my Desktop PC`s loaded with both Gnome and KDE as there are apps that Gnome has that i also enjoy,but KDE is my main desktop of choice. On the issue of different wallpaper on every desktop. This is one of the features of KDE that i am absolutely in love with. It makes knowing exactly where you are a snap if use virtual desktops as often as i do. My problem is that in KDE 4 i cannot find where they moved the setting to. Most likely sitting under my nose, but at any rate i do need help in this one area with my KDE experience.

P.S. Can anyone expand on the constance annoyance by some users with KDE`s usage of the letter K in their apps? Apple uses the letter I in many of their products. Ever heard of the iphone or ipod and itunes? Yet no one that i have read or talked too ever complains. Gnome is also a culprit. Gnumeric,GTKpod and others (and yes i do understand the difference here) are in my opinion taken from the \”Gnu\” project thereby using the letter G which is also part of Gnome.

dmesg

I didn\’t switch to KDE 4 until 4.4 was packaged for Mandriva 2010.0. I tested a few systems with earlier versions but production machines had been stuck on 2008.1/KDE 3.5.9 or the occasional 2009.0 with 3.5 backported.

But after testing 4.4 I declare \”kde four has arrived!\” It\’s as usable and feature rich as 3.5 was when it finally matured. I\’m using it right now, and I\’m also in the process of updating a couple client\’s \’home user\’ units, they\’re getting Mandriva 2010.0 and KDE 4.4 \’unofficial\’ from the developer, who kindly packaged it for Mandriva and made it available on http://ftp.kde.org.

I tried it on suse 11.2 as well but the packaging was a problem, I didn\’t get it installed anywhere near correctly.

Not sure where fedora is with 4.4, but no doubt by the time it\’s on any official release it\’ll be a smooth, polished and full featured environment, like it is for me on my MDV 2010 installs.

Sure, this article didn\’t really delve into KDE 4.4 in typical \”review\” fashion. More a gauntlet thrown down for this string of comments to follow…

Chalk one vote up for \”KDE 4.4 is one slick desktop!\”

markslay

bartvandeenen said:

One thing, if you like KDE, don’t use Kubuntu.

Well said… its pretty established that Kubuntu is especially buggy… even the Ubuntu forums haven’t cracked this:
http://ubuntuforums.org/archive/click here/t-1188531.html

bedge

Gnome has never had a decent clipboard manager. klipper alone is reason enough to use KDE.

these things are working for sure.
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