KDE Gains Browser, Management Muscle

Konqueror lifts version 3.2, but other applications in package lack polish.

Version 3.2 of the K Desktop Environment, which began shipping earlier this month, is a full-featured and easy-to-use desktop environment for Linux and Unix that goes a long way toward making the case for Linux as an enterprise desktop alternative to Windows.

In eWEEK Labs tests, KDE 3.2 impressed us chiefly with its speed and improvements to its native file manager and Web browser. Konqueror is definitely the best file manager weve used on any platform. As a Web browser, the application now stands roughly on a par with Mozilla, although we did encounter a few minor page-rendering irregularities in our tests.

Beyond Konqueror, KDE 3.2 boasts an improved set of complementary applications, including the new Kopete multiprotocol instant messaging client and the Kontact e-mail and PIM (personal information manager) package.

However, these applications are not, in all cases, the best available for Linux. For example, we still prefer Gaim to Kopete as an IM application. Kopete is in some ways more complicated to use and has fewer features than Gaim, but passwords for IM accounts in Kopete can be stored and managed with KDEs new KWallet password management application, which also manages passwords for Web sites accessed through Konqueror.

The KDE 3.2 application is free and available for download in source code form at http://www.kde.org.

For our tests, eWEEK Labs compiled KDE on a machine running Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 using the Konstruct application for automating code downloading and compiling (available at developer.kde.org/build/konstruct).

We also tested KDE 3.2 on a system running Fedora Core 1, for which we were able to download precompiled binary packages (available at ftp://apt.kde-redhat.org/apt/kde-redhat/1/unstable/RPMS).

KDE 3.2 packages are also available for other Linux distributions, including SuSE Inc.s SuSE Linux and MandrakeSoft Ltd.s Mandrake Linux.

Both SuSE and Mandrake will ship KDE 3.2 by default with their next releases. (For a review of SuSE Linux 8.2 and Mandrake Linux 9.1, go to

In version 3.2, Konquerors tabbed browsing has improved significantly. Now, open window tabs shrink to make way for one another, which limits the horizontal scrolling that annoyed us with Konqueror 3.1s tabs.

We also liked being able to require new browser windows, whether launched from a page we were browsing or from a link in an e-mail message, to open in a new tab in our running instance of Konqueror.

Konqueror now supports spell checking in text forms, which is a great resource when working with Web-based applications such as content management systems and Web-mail sites.

We could right-click in a form box full of text and choose spell checking from the context menu, and the software took us through the text just as though we were using a word processor. Misspelled words appear highlighted in red. (The spell-checker engine is the same as KOffices.)

Another small change that we appreciated in KDE 3.2 is a modification to the Run Command dialog: Typing an e-mail address in the dialog launched a message from our e-mail program. Also, KDE evaluated numeric expressions that we typed in—sort of a quick-and-dirty calculator tucked into the interface.

KDE 3.2s Kontact e-mail and PIM software serves basically the same functions as Microsoft Corp.s Outlook, including providing users with access to calendaring information that is stored on Exchange servers. However, Kontact would not fetch Exchange mail unless we enabled IMAP or Post Office Protocol mail protocols on our Exchange server.

We were impressed with Kontacts import and export features for PIM data. PIM data import/export capabilities are still lacking in the Evolution Linux groupware client and others.

Also new in KDE 3.2 is KGpg. KGpg is a graphical front end for the GNU Privacy Guard, a free software tool for encrypting data.

During tests, KGpg made it easy for us to manage encryption keys. In addition, KDE ties into the application to provide right-click encryption of files as well as shredding of files as a more secure alternative to regular deletion.

Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.