KDE 4.3. Click to enlarge.
The open source KDE desktop is out with a new release that promises greater speed, improved stability and more features aimed at regular users.
According to its developers, KDE 4.3 — codenamed “Caizen” — benefits from 63,000 changes, of which over 10,000 were bug fixes made since the KDE 4.2 release eight months ago. There is also a new Bug Report Tool that is intended to help make it easier for users to submit bug reports, so that future versions of KDE will be even more stable.
Among the most visible changes in KDE 4.3 is a new default theme for the Plasma interface, called Air. According the KDE 4.3 release notes, Plasma also benefits from performance improvements as well as improved memory utilization.
KDE 4.3 also includes PolicyKit, which is a technology that will enable developers to apply security policies many aspects of the desktop and its operations.
Developers said the release focused on improving on what the project began when it first rolled out the KDE 4.0 desktop in January 2008.
“It is unlikely that any one specific thing will strike the user as the most noticeable improvement; rather, the overall user experience of KDE has improved greatly in KDE 4.3.0,” KDE developer Sebastian Kügler said in a blog post. “The release’s codename, Caizen, is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life. That has been the goal of the KDE team for 4.3.0: polish, polish, polish.”
The release marks a big step forward for a popular desktop that’s offered as an option by many of the most popular Linux distributions, including Red Hat’s Fedora, Novell’s openSUSE and Canonical’s Ubuntu, which offers a KDE version called Kubuntu. Yet several key enterprise Linux distributions like Red Hat Enterprise Desktop and Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, offer the rival GNOME Linux desktop as the default.
Though some might see a rivalry between KDE and GNOME, Kügler does not.
“It was shown during the recent co-hosted developer conference that [the two free desktop projects] actually share more than we’re competing on,” Kügler said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com. “Given that the free desktop is still below 5 percent market share globally, we better target our proprietary competitor [i.e., Microsoft Windows] and strengthen the free desktop as a platform for application developers.”
One of the key areas that KDE is looking to strengthen in KDE 4.3 and beyond, is the idea of the social desktop, with semantic features providing intelligent linkages to data and people.
Key to that initiative is the Nepomuk framework (short for Networked Environment for Personalized, Ontology-based Management of Unified Knowledge) that began in 2007 as an effort to create an open source semantic desktop. Nepomuk is part of the KDE 4.x series and improves with each KDE release, developers said.
At present, it works with the Strigi desktop search framework to deliver search in KDE 4.3, “but that’s really just the first step,” Kügler said. “Instead of offering a ‘dumb’ desktop indexer, we want to connect the users’ data, put it into context and make it a lot easier to navigate.”
“If we can make the computer smarter — smart enough to have basic knowledge of what a file is actually about (has it been sent by a person? What’s the topic? What kind of file is it? Which project I’m working on is it related to?) — it makes it a lot easier to put files directly at the user’s fingertips when he needs them,” Kügler said.