Linux Desktop Keeps Getting Better with KDE 3.5

News Analysis: The newest version of the KDE Linux and Unix desktop interface will have users happy that vendors have recently decided to keep supporting it.

The KDE Project released the newest version of its K Desktop Environment, KDE 3.5, on Tuesday, to the delight of its many fans.

"The improvements made in the past year show how mature the KDE Project is. KDE is the most powerful desktop environment and development platform in the market, Stephan Kulow, KDE release coordinator, said in a statement.

KDE is one of the two most popular Linux/Unix graphical desktop environments, GNOME being the other. Like GNOME, it comes with a family of KDE-compliant applications ranging from a Web browser, Konqueror, to an IM client, Kopete.

Recently, however, KDE has faced trouble hanging onto the business Linux desktop market. Novell Inc. briefly planned to stop supporting KDE on its business Linux lines—Novell Linux Desktop and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

In the face of protests from KDE users, both inside and outside the Linux company, Novell shifted course and announced that it would continue to support KDE in its commercial Linux products.

This new version will give users of Novell SUSE, not to mention other KDE-friendly Linux distributions like Mandriva Linux and Kubuntu, more reasons to be happy that KDE is still advancing.

KDE 3.5s many improvements start with the interface itself.

The Kicker, KDEs desktop application-launcher menu bar, has been greatly improved. It now allows users to add applets to the bar. Users also can set the Kicker and pager, which enable users to switch from one virtual desktop to another, to display in one of three modes: elegant, classic and transparency.

In addition, the pager now shows you the application icons of each window to help distinguish between them. Users can drag and drop applications and windows from one virtual desktop to another.

KDEs combination default Web and file browser, Konqueror, has also been improved.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Novells earlier choice of GNOME over KDE.

Like Mac OS Xs Safari Web browser, Konqueror has now passed the Web Standards Projects "Acid2" CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) compliance test.

Konqueror also now only displays the appropriate options for users depending on whether theyre browsing the Web or looking at local or network files. On the Web side, the browser also has an ad-blocking feature.

The revised browser also includes an optional search bar. This gives users the power to select a search engine from a dropdown menu.

Kopete, KDEs IM client, includes improved interoperability with Microsoft Corp.s MSN and Yahoo Inc.s IM services. Moreover, it includes better audio and video device support for IM-borne videoconferencing.

/zimages/2/28571.gifRead more here about the beta testing of KDE 3.5.

The new KDE also comes with SMN (Storage Media Notification). Most users will be familiar with this from Windows flawed AutoRun design. In Windows, when a CD or other media is placed in a PC, it can automatically start running an application.

In KDE, and other desktops and operating systems like Mac OS X, the SMN design detects when removable media, such as a CD or DVD, has been inserted, and notifies the user that the new media is now available through the KDE window manager. The user is then given a choice about what to do with the disk, such as read it, run a program or display a video.

Overall, the new KDE also seems to have better performance.

While in no way a full review, Ziff Davis Internets initial impressions of KDE 3.5 in action were positive.

On a SUSE 10 system with a 2.8GHz Pentium IV, 512MB of RAM and an Ultra ATA/100, 7200 RPM, 60GB hard drive, KDE 3.5 proved to be a tad faster than the original KDE 3.4.

In particular, the new Konqueror proved sprightlier in working with both local and LAN-based files and Web sites than its predecessor. While Firefox 1.5 users arent likely to be tempted to give up their browser, Konqueror may just start getting some second looks from Linux desktop users.

In a separate development, the KDE Project has also published a new list of available native KDE applications, sorted by task areas. Any KDE user will find it useful.

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