posted by Rahul Gaitonde on Thu 15th Jan 2004 06:40 UTC

"KDE 3.2-b2, Page 3"
The Universal Sidebar:

Konqueror (and indeed, KDE itself) now has this neat feature called the Universal Sidebar.

It is essentially the same sidebar we used to see in Konqueror in previous KDE versions, only this time, it's been implemented as a standalone bar, with added functionality. It retains the old Home directory tree, Root directory tree, Bookmarks, History and Media Player, but adds a "Services" tab. Here is where we get to see some nice functionality: The "Devices" entry provides instantaneous access to all mounted partitions. The KDE team would probably do well to extend this one and list all partitions that exist on the hard disk. Lycoris and Xandros (among others) have done this for quite some time now. The "Fonts Installer", mentioned earlier, lists "System" and "Personal" fonts. The former are, as you guessed, the system-wide ones, to be messed about only by root. The other, "Personal" folder, is where you can drag-and-drop additional True Type Fonts and voila! They're instantly usable! The "Lan Browser", used in conjunction with the Lisa daemon, makes it really easy now to browse your Windows shares. It's much better than KDE 3.1 in terms of reliability, but nowhere near perfect.

The Universal sidebar can be added to your desktop via right-clicking kicker and navigating to "Panel Menu -> Add -> Panel -> Universal Sidebar". I've discovered that by setting it up vertically on the left/right and auto-hiding it, I can have quick access to all the features above. Hence, I can eliminate the sidebar in Konqueror, giving me more space for viewing my files. Cool, eh?

There are a couple of other innovations that the folks up at KDE can come up with: how about integrating Kuickshow with Konqueror? To put it philosophically, Kuickshow is an answer searching for a question. It's too ill-defined an application to exist on its own. All it can really do that Konqueror itself can't, is provide a slide show, So we could have something like right-clicking on any image in a folder, and selecting "Start Slide Show" to start a show of all pictures in that folder. Very useful for those with large photo/wallpaper/screenshot collections. I tried implementing that as a service menu, but apparently Kuickshow doesn't have a command-line option to start a slide show. Or smart features such as right-clicking on an image and being able to set it as the wallpaper. There is a tutorial that shows how to do this, but then, it's something virtually everyone would like, so why not implement it by default? Another cool feature might be to selectively enable labels on toolbars. Example - the "Back" button in Windows 2000/XP filemanager. The forward/up buttons do not have any text beside them. The "Back" button, used more frequently, has text beside it, making it larger and hence easier to click on quickly.

Gripes with Konqueror:

My chief gripe with Konqueror is the insistence on having useless features such as Cervisia, KFileReplace and FSViewPart prominently featured in the context menus and toolbars. Although undoubtedly innovative features, they need to be placed in unobtrusive locations. Get them out of the way on the default toolbars.

The Number of cached options in the "Copy to" and "Move to" context menus within Konqueror is limited to 6. Why this limit? Unless there is some fundamental, architectural limitation that prevents greater than 6 options, this limit seems arbitrary and artificial. How about also adding favourites to this list? For instance, I place all downloaded software in directories named "rpms" and "tars". So I'd like these two locations permanently in the "Move to" and "Copy to" menus.

I can't bookmark individual text/PDF/etc files in KDE's Bookmarks, only folders. If I can bookmark an HTML page, why not any other type of file? This limits its usefulness. Also, Bookmarks and History ought to be available only in Konqueror's Web Browsing profile. They need to be removed from the Universal SideBar; they're essentially parts of Konqueror, and have nothing to do with the Desktop Environment as such. This last part has been a request in many reviews of even KDE 3.0 that I've read, so it's a demand that's being made for some time.

A familiar complaint against KDE is "feature bloat", the relentless increase in features in KDE applications. I'll put a different spin on that: feature bloat, instead of being criticized, ought to be encouraged - no other desktop environment, least of all Windows XP's, comes anywhere near being as configurable as KDE. But where improvements need to be made - and fast - is the layout of the dialog boxes for the settings for all these features. Personally, I don't mind the current state at all, since KDE's been my primary desktop for years now, right from KDE 1.x. But I can quite imagine how utterly overwhelmed a new user would be with KDE 3.2, even if he/she is a Linux user accustomed to another environment. Much has been said of the clutterbox that the Control Centre's become. Konqueror's own settings are far more organised, but its toolbars are a nightmare. Users simply do not want so many features up front.

Kaboodle and Noatun:

Two words: Drop them. Kaboodle and Noatun are pathetic. They are nowhere as functional as XMMS or (G|K)Mplayer, slow to start, use too many resources. I do not use them, neither do any of my many KDE-crazy friends. I'm sorry, but remove them. The only feature xmms and mplayer lack, which Noatun has, is a system tray applet. It would be cool to have that instead. KPlayer and KMplayer are already great KDE frontends to mplayer. How about one for xmms? That would fill the gap left by Noatun and Kaboodle.

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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