MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.-Developers of KDE, the popular Linux desktop environment, are targeting Windows and enhanced Macintosh support.
With release 4 of KDE, also known as the K Desktop Environment, officially announced Jan. 11, the developers of the free software environment said support for Windows and deep support for Mac OS X are on the horizon, with some pieces ready for evaluation now and others to be available by the summer.
At the KDE 4.0 launch event here at Google’s headquarters on Jan. 18, Aaron Seigo, KDE project lead and vice president of KDE e.V., the governing body of KDE, said the goal of taking KDE cross-platform is “potentially one of the game-changers” for the technology and for open-source software in general.
In a keynote speech at the KDE 4.0 launch, Seigo said that developers “came to the realization that for every one of us programming on the free operating systems, there were hundreds [of programmers] on Windows and Macs, and we were losing an opportunity here of bringing free software to all of those individuals. … So, in one sense, Windows and Mac had been sort of a free software ghetto, so with KDE 4 we worked on ports to Windows and Mac.”
On Jan. 22, the KDE community released KDE mirror infrastructure to deliver KDE Windows packages to developers. The new KDE binaries for Windows are early components representative of additional KDE libraries and applications KDE plans to port to Windows as part of the KDE Windows Project.
“Traditionally, we have done really well with Linux and the BSDs [Berkeley Software Distributions],” Seigo said. “Solaris is an OS [operating system] we are purposely targeting with KDE 4, so we’ve actually started a project within the OpenSolaris community to manage the packaging and the Solaris-specific improvements to KDE 4.”
Moreover, Seigo said the support for Windows and Mac is “not just a Linux compatibility layer. … These are native apps; they run natively. They are in technology preview right now. They work. The goal is to deliver these [technologies] in production quality in KDE 4.1.”
He said KDE 4.1 is expected in July.
Benjamin Reed, a KDE developer, demonstrated Konqueror, the KDE Web browser, running on the Mac OS.
“The goal is to, by KDE 4.1, have everything integrated and have a finished release,” Reed said of the libraries and applications KDE will port to the Mac OS.
KDE Targets Windows, Mac
Jesse Zbikowski, author of the Linux Is Fun blog and member of the Bay Area Linux User Group-or BALOG-said he is gearing up for KDE 4.1. “They’re saying with the next release this summer you’ll be able to run all your Apple OS X desktop widgets inside Linux also,” Zbikowski said.
“Reaching out to developers was one of the things we really wanted to achieve,” Seigo said. “Another thing was to spread adoption of open standards and open document formats. This is key and critical to maintaining freedom around the world.”
Meanwhile, Seigo said groupware is an interesting example of open standards and open formats in action.
“So what if we brought a groupware suite familiar to people who are used to [Microsoft] Outlook but that does not run just on Linux and Unix, not just on Windows, not just on Mac, but on all the platforms?” Seigo said. “And it looked identical on all the platforms and worked identical on all the platforms and gave equal time to any groupware server?”
He said this is one of the things KDE developers are considering and hoping to promote. He said Microsoft Exchange “does not use a lot of open protocols; they are fairly proprietary.”
“For those who would like to actually be able to access their information using open protocols and open formats, you now have the option to pick your server and your desktop and they’re not tied together at the hip,” Seigo said. “This is one of the very exciting possibilities we’re opening up.”
He said that KDE supports the ODF (Open Document Format).
Also, following on the free software theme of KDE, Seigo said KDE plans to eventually provide search capabilities with street maps where the data is open and free.
Holger Schroder, a KDE developer working on the Windows port, demonstrated the progress so far on the project. He showed various KDE applications running on Windows, “but we do not yet have KOffice [the KDE office suite] or we do not yet have Konqueror running right now, but besides that it [the KDE Windows Project code] is quite usable right now, and we hope to have it stable by KDE 4.1”