posted by Rahul Gaitonde on Thu 15th Jan 2004 06:40 UTC
IconAround 3 weeks ago, I downloaded the 2nd beta of KDE 3.2 from their FTP site. I've been using this release every day since then. The purpose of my writing this piece is not to highlight KDE 3.2's new features and applications - read the Changelog at KDE's site for that - but to give you a complete picture of how it measures up to its previous versions in terms of everyday use. Does it make me more productive? Is the command line more efficient yet? Or, even better, does it make me use the command line more effectively? Read on...

Part 1: Introduction:

Get it, Install it:

The target machine - my only computer - is a Pentium II 266 MHz with 384 MB RAM, with an Intel i810E chipset. The graphics card and sound card are both onboard. There are 3 hard disks - 40GB, 8.4GB and 2.1GB, and a 52x CD writer. This machine runs Fedora Core Release 1 (my primary OS), Red Hat Linux 9, Mandrake Linux 9.2, Debian Linux unstable, FreeBSD 5.1, Windows 2000 and Windows XP (whew!). The rpms for KDE 3.2 for Fedora Core1 are available at KDE's FTP site. The entire rpm set, minus the internationalization stuff, is a 192MB download. An upgrade to this beta is a simple matter of 'rpm -Uvh ./*.rpm --nodeps --force' . I performed this upgrade while logged into Gnome. Any other Desktop Environment or even the console would work. It's just that upgrading KDE while running KDE wouldn't be too good an idea, though I haven't been that adventurous. Ten minutes later, I'm logged in to my swanky new KDE 3.2 desktop.

First impressions:

The first thing you notice when you start up a few apps is - 'Boy, this is Fast!'. KDE 3.2 is significantly faster than 3.1, and certainly way faster than Gnome 2.4 on my machine. It reminds me of the kind of responsiveness that Windows 98 used to give me on this same configuration few years ago (minus the crashes). Konsole opens up almost instantaneously, and Konqueror takes only about 3 seconds the first time. I was afraid that the increase in bloat with every release of KDE since the 1.x series would one day prevent me from using this computer at all with KDE. I'm glad the guys over at KDE have so splendidly allayed my fears.

The default icon set is still Crystal, though it's now the SVG 1.0 release, and looks a lot more professional and includes more icons than the Crystal 0.6 release included with KDE 3.1. Plastik, a style available for some time now on www.kde-look.org, is now included as one of the default styles. I'm glad they've got a better alternative to Keramik. I remember reading another KDE 3.2 Beta review, where the writer quips "I am smaller than some of Keramik's widgets!" KDE should now seriously consider including better styles and window decorations as the default set. Most, no, all, of the current bunch have been around since the 2.x series. There are excellent alternatives on kde-look.org. Good examples are ThinKeramik, Alloy, Mosfet's Liquid, Qinx, maybe even Mandrake's Galaxy and Red hat's Bluecurve. I've found that the Plastik style and Window Decorations, along with the Bluecurve Colour Scheme, look very pleasing. A nice piece of eye-candy is that the KDE panel, Kicker, can now be made translucent, with any colour/amount of tint.

Part 2: Using it:

The Control Centre:

The first thing I did was to go to KDE's Control Centre and fool about with a few settings. What do I see?

The "Background" window under the "Appearance and Themes" tab has been redesigned. There are no more tabs at the bottom of the window for "Colors" and "Wallpaper" and so on.

Another feature that was present in KDE 3.1, but is worth mentioning, is that you can change the wallpaper by dragging a picture file into the monitor in the "Background" window. Don't flame me for this if you've known about it for ages; I was delighted when I discovered it recently! You can also, by the way, drag a picture file from Konqueror onto the Desktop, and KDE will prompt you whether you want to move/copy/link it, or Set as Wallpaper! This menu pops up only when you've enabled "Show Icons on Desktop". A better behaviour would probably be to automatically set the picture as the wallpaper if icons on the desktop are disabled.

The "Window Decoration" and "Style" windows have been redesigned too. There is now a drop-down list box for choosing a Style/Decoration, and a Windows-style preview.

Welcome additions are the Cursor Theme and Splash Screen windows. Given the wealth of great splash screens/cursor schemes available now, this feature was overdue. These were two tasks that needlessly had to be performed via the command line. After all, the principle behind adding an Icon Theme or Colour Scheme is exactly the same as that for adding a cursor theme or a splash screen - move files into a certain subfolder of your ~/.kde folder. Adding Colour Schemes and Icon Themes could be done graphically for ages, so why not these?

There are now easier interfaces for configuring multiple monitors and changing screen resolutions on-the-fly. There is also one for configuring wireless networking. Since I am nowhere near being able to afford multiple monitors or wireless Internet access, I haven't been able to test these features. The screen resolution changing via the KRandRTray extension works like a charm, though.

Table of contents
  1. "KDE 3.2-b2, Page 1"
  2. "KDE 3.2-b2, Page 2"
  3. "KDE 3.2-b2, Page 3"
  4. "KDE 3.2-b2, Page 4"
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