On the Desktop
Conectiva has bundled a fairly standard KDE 3.1 with Conectiva Linux 9. The desktop is thankfully uncluttered, and the background is clearly designed to fit with the Conectiva Crystal icon set, which of course is the default icon set in most distributions’ incarnations of KDE nowadays.
Conectiva has created a great default menu system, which by default is task-oriented and gives access to a single program for any given task. The rest of the programs that are installed have been bundled into an “All Installed Programs” menu, which contains the default menus for KDE and Gnome. I rather like this approach, as it gives new users a simplified menu from which to work, but also allows power users to access the full range of available applications without having to look very hard.
The menus have been designed with admirable foresight; applications have reasonably sensible entries, descriptions are excellent and are only present where appropriate, and the applications are well sorted into appropriate categories – barring the “Applications” menu, which would have been better labelled as the “Accessories” menu. The one issue I found with the menu was the “Entertainment” menu, which was mislabelled in Portuguese, rather than English, and had no entry for KMPlayer, Conectiva’s default choice for playing DVDs and other video media.
KDE looks beautiful; fonts are crisp – even in OpenOffice and Synaptic – and the default theme, which combines the Keramik window decoration with a nice colour scheme called “Nine”, provides a great backdrop for the Conectiva Crystal icons, which are just about everywhere, as you would expect in a KDE system. The Crystal icon set was originally created by South American artist Everaldo Coelho especially for Conectiva, and the set was first included with Conectiva Linux back in the days when KDE’s icons were as boring as those found in Windows 3.1. While they are now the de facto standard for KDE in most modern Linux distributions, they still look fresh and enticing in Conectiva Linux, which is great for new and old users alike. Unfortunately OpenOffice is still a depressing grey, as with most other distributions – it would be great if Conectiva could integrate the KDE icons and colour scheme into OpenOffice, like SUSE have done for their upcoming release.
Conectiva is almost entirely KDE-centric by default – with the notable exceptions of OpenOffice and Synaptic. The default browser is Konqueror; the default mail client is KMail; the default MP3 player is Kaboodle, and so on. Excepting OpenOffice, this means that the level of integration and interaction between applications, for example being able to drag and drop from Konqueror into an application, is generally excellent.
Configuration is handled by either the standard KDE Control Center or a Windows XP-like Conectiva alternative, the Conectiva Control Center. The Conectiva Control Center sorts the various system administration tools into task-oriented categories, such as “Desktop” and “Regional & Accessibility”. It also gives access to certain non-KDE configuration tools such as a video configuration utility and Synaptic. The video configuration utility is none other than the venerable xf86cfg, which is not exactly what you could call user-friendly. Tools for configuring other hardware components, such as sound cards, and the network settings, are also missing, which makes it very hard for new users to change settings. It would be great to see Conectiva put some work into this area for their next release, because the lack of configuration tools is a major weakness for the distribution.