KDE 4.0 was released to mixed reviews; more or less everyone recognised the enormous potential of the still young platform, but some doubted whether or not the KDE project had made the right choice by releasing KDE 4.0 as, well, 4.0. The KDE developers were clear: just you wait for KDE 4.1. They released the first beta of KDE 4.1 today.The goal of this first beta is to find any bugs and regressions, so that KDE 4.1 can be the version of KDE4 which replaces KDE3 for end users. The release announcement states the following three highlights of KDE 4.1:
- Greatly expanded desktop shell functionality and configurability
- KDE Personal Information Management suite ported to KDE 4
- Many new and newly ported applications
A lot of time and energy has been put into Plasma, as anyone following Aaron Seigo’s blog (now with punctuation!) will know. Panels can now be multiplied and resized, so users are no longer stuck with just one immobile, inconfigurable panel at the bottom of their display. The Kickoff menu, my personal pet hate about KDE4, has been overhauled too, as well as the Run command which allows power users to textually launch just about anything. The compositing features have also been improved.
Since the release of KDE 4.0, a number of new applications have been written for or ported to KDE4, including Kontact, a CD player and Dragon Player (lightweight multimedia player). The printer applet has been overhauled, and Konquerer got a set of new features such as web browsing sessions, undo mode, improved smooth scrolling, and a full screen picture browsing mode courtesy of Gwenview. The KDE4 file manager, Dolphin, now supports tabs, and improved folder tree, and the ‘Copy to…’ makes it return.
There have been a lot of changes under the hood as well:
KHTML gets a speed boost from anticipatory resource loading, while WebKit, its offspring, is added to Plasma to allow OSX Dashboard widgets to be used in KDE. The use of the Widgets on Canvas feature of Qt 4.4 makes Plasma more stable and lightweight. KDE’s characteristic single-click based interface gets a new selection mechanism that promises speed and accessibility. Phonon, the crossplatform media framework, gains subtitle support and GStreamer, DirectShow 9 and QuickTime backends. The network management layer is extended to support several versions of NetworkManager.
The final release of KDE 4.1 is scheduled for a July 29th release. The beta release will find its way to your distribution of choice quickly enough.