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New KDE 3.4 a Sight For Poor Eyes

The KDE Foundation released version 3.4 of its open source desktop operating environment yesterday, which includes features that satisfy accessibility groups and more than 6,500 bug fixes.

Since the version 3.3 release in August, more than 80,000 contributions were made to the project, which translates into "several million lines of code and documentation added or changed," according to the foundation.

Accessibility is one of the key features of the new release, which is improved via a new KDE text-to-speech framework (KTTS)that integrates with a number of KDE desktop applications. Users can enjoy text-to-speech capabilities from Konquer (KDE's KHTML Web browser), as well as PDF documents.

The new KSayIt application extends the speech capabilities even further by verbalizing notifications from all KDE applications, as well as "speaking" any given text file. High-contrast themes, as well as a monochrome icon set, have also been added to further help those that have low vision.

"With each new release, KDE continues to enhance its support for people with disabilities," Janina Sajka, chair of the Accessibility Workgroup of the Free Standards Group, said in a statement. "This is making KDE more and more attractive to more persons with disabilities. And, it's also helping KDE meet various social inclusion objectives worldwide, such as the Section 508 requirements of the U.S. government."

KDE 3.4 also includes improved collaboration features via its updated Kolab 2.0 groupware suite, which now also allows users to interface with Microsoft Windows Outlook clients.

Kontact, KDE's multi-network instant messaging solution, has also been upgraded, with improvements to its contact list, as well as enhanced support for ICQ, AOL, MSN, Yahoo, IRC, Jabber and Groupwise IM contacts. The Akregator RSS application has now also been included as part of the core KDE 3.4 offering.

The KDE release follows its open source competitor GNOME 2.10 release by a little more than two weeks. Most Linux distributions include both GNOME and KDE.

Novell announced last week that its upcoming SUSE Linux Professional 9.3 release, expected to ship next month, would include KDE 3.4, as well as GNOME 2.10.

Mandrakelinux 10.2, which had its first Release Candidate issued today, includes KDE 3.3.2. Red Hat's Fedora Core 4 Test 1, which was released earlier this week, included KDE 3.4 Release Candidate 1, though its development tree was updated today to KDE 3.4, which means that the next test version of Fedora Core will include the latest KDE 3.4, as well.