For all its server room successes, Linux has found the mainstream corporate desktop a much harder nut to crack, and much of the blame belongs to usability issues. With a solid, configurable interface that should please Linux newbies and power users alike, Version 3.0 of the K Desktop Environment represents Linuxs best shot yet at breaking out of the back office to gain ground on the desktop.
KDE—as well as the GNU Network Object Model Environment, or GNOME, the other major Linux desktop environment—is layered onto X Window System and Linux in roughly the way that Windows 9x sat atop DOS. KDE 3.0 masks this complexity much more effectively than did previous versions, where simple operations such as cut and paste functioned unpredictably at times.
KDE 3.0 now cuts and pastes as you (and, more important, your end users) would expect it to and boasts effective utilities for managing printing and font installation that its previous incarnations lacked. The font installer, which was previously available only as an add-on for KDE, is particularly welcome because Linux distributions typically ship with a very limited font selection.
KDE 3.0 is available for free download in source code or compiled binary form at www.kde.org. However, most users will get KDE 3.0 along with a specific Linux distribution, such as SuSE or Mandrake Linux, both of which feature KDE as their default desktop environment.
KDE 3.0 ships with KDevelop 2.1, a graphical C++ integrated development environment programmers can use to build applications for KDE and for systems running QT/Embedded or Qtopia, the framework on which the interface for Sharp Electronics Corp.s Zaurus SL-5500 Linux handheld computer is based.
Applications based on KDE 2.0 will have to be ported to KDE 3.0 to work with the new system—a process that the KDE maintainers claim is much simpler than porting KDE 1.0 applications to KDE 2.0 was. In the meantime, users can run these earlier applications provided that they install the KDE 2.0 libraries.
Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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