Skip to main content

KDE 4.6 Review: It’s Full Of Awesomeness

KDE official logo 
On January 26th of this year, KDE released version 4.6.0 of its Plasma Workspaces, Applications, and Development Platform. While many major versions of KDE have focused on features, 4.5 was mostly a stabilizing release, fixing thousands of bugs. The 4.6 release is all about polish. It is the icing on the cake for KDE 4, adding speed, visual enhancements, and increased hardware compatibility.

Faceted Browsing for Dolphin – Pressing Ctrl+F in Dolphin used to open Kfind, a search interface that used various Linux/Unix search tools such as “find” and “locate” to get you the files you wanted. In KDE 4.6, you can open the search interface within Dolphin and find indexed files quickly and easily. The addition of a filter side bar also allows you to find exactly the types of files you want, giving you options for file type, creation date, and even rating.
Dolphin search interface in KDE
Kate SQL Client – The popular all-in-one text editor for KDE now has basic SQL client functionality, thanks to the new SQL Query plugin.
App Enhancements – Many other applications have been enhanced. Gwenview and KSnapshot now have social media sharing buttons. Marble has a route planning tool with MarbleToGo for mobile devices, and KStars now has OpenGL rendering support. A few games also received upgrades.
New Activities Design – KDE Workspaces activities allow the user to truly have multiple desktops, with each one having its own purpose, its own set of widgets, unique wallpaper, and even its own applications. Each activity additionally has its own set of virtual desktops, giving you maximum power and flexibility. This is an improvement over the last version, which was pretty confusing. The one feature I would still like to see is the ability to give each activity a more distinct icon.
KWin Improvements – One of the areas where KDE lagged behind was compositing window management. In previous versions, Compiz has always outperformed KWin, even though it was not a KDE window manager. In 4.6, KWin has been optimized, adding a significant performance boost. KWin also has support for more graphics adapters and better detection. The improvements were noticeable as soon as I started it.
New Notification Features – You can now detach notification popups from the tray icon and drag them anywhere you want, and expanded notification popups have a new meter telling you how fast a download is coming.
KDE Notification popup detached from panel
Docking Taskbar – The KDE panel has always had launcher capabilities, but now you can pin tasks in the taskbar, turning them into smart launchers. This worked fairly well, but it has some ways to go before users would be able to use the panel like a true dock. That may not even be the intentions of the developers, but it is a nice option to have, nonetheless.
Speed – In general Plasma feels snappy and fast. Even on my desktop computer, I used to notice a slight lag in effects such as the shelf widget icon highlighting. Those are now lightning fast. The same applies to just about every other plasma and KWin effect.
KDE new wallpaper
Oxygen-GTK – One of the big improvements in KDE 4.6 is the new Oxygen-GTK engine that finally makes GTK apps look pretty much identical to KDE apps, even with window color gradients in place. The screenshots on the KDE website confirm that it works, but I was not able to get it to work out of the box. First, it did not even come with my install of Kubuntu, so I had to download it from the project’s website. Even then, I could not get it to work right without manually editing the .gtkrc-2.0 file. After that, it worked as expected. On my test user account, which had received less tweaking, it worked without any problems.
Abiword Oxygen-GTK theme

Overall Impressions

KDE 4.6 is the fastest and most polished release of KDE in the 4.x series. It is truly smooth, and the added features just make it that much more solid and remind me why I chose KDE as my desktop. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, as they move closer to the inevitable KDE 5. As long as they stay on the path they are currently on, the future looks very bright.


Popular posts from this blog

Top 5 Women Who Impacted Technology in 2010

Katie Stanton, International Strategist for Twitter Katie Stanton has impressively long names of companies in her resume. They include the White House, Google Inc, and her latest addition is Twitter. Her remit is working on Twitter’s international strategy and her experience in social media will be a key asset to the company. Katie has a history of working in technology, and her knowledge of departmental laws will help Twitter work alongside government agencies, as she’ll be spearheading the free information approach, especially after the Wikileaks incident. Stanton has been a key player in the techsphere for some time, and this extends to her private life. Following the Haiti disaster she worked with a group of engineers to create a free texting service to help those in need and she is constantly in demand as an expert in both social media and government policy.
Caterina Fake, Co-Founder of Flickr and Hunch Despite having a surname which sounds like a pseudonym for a spy (it’…

AT&T MiFi 2372 review

In the week or so that I have been testing the AT&T MiFi 2372 by Novatel Wireless, it has already saved no less than three lives. First, it saved my cable guy’s life. You see, Time Warner Cable provides the worst home Internet service I have ever experienced. I can’t even think of a close second. If providing terrible home Internet service was a sport, Time Warner Cable would be on its tenth consecutive undefeated season. Forget the fact that my upload speed is capped at 60Kbps and I’m lucky if I can get half that — it has been months since I’ve gone through a full day without at least one service interruption. Months. Unfortunately, Time Warner Cable has an exclusive contract with my building so I have no choice but to endure its abysmal service. Last week, as a Time Warner Cable technician entered my home for the sixth time in two months, I realized that this certainly would have spelled serious trouble had it not been for my trusty new back up device. Before the Mi…

Evolution Of Computer Virus [infographic]