The fourth iteration of the K Desktop Environment saw its first release in January of this year; while it generated a lot of hype in the community, its release disappointed many folks whom were expecting to be able to jump headlong into a brand new, next-generation, fully working desktop environment. The result was something that while buggy and unpolished, still hinted at innovation and greatness that only recently has started to really shine through.

KDE 4.1 dropped at the end of July to much fanfare, bringing KDE4 into a state that early adopters can use fairly confidently; we’ve all heard by now of all the things that the DE has been boasting; an entirely new look sporting much in the way of eye candy, the new ‘Plasma’ system for organizing desktop ‘Widgets’ (formerly called ‘Plasmoids’, but now renamed to the more neutral term), and new icons by the Oxygen Project to name but a few things. While implementing a new full-featured desktop environment, let alone one so ambitious as this, is no small feat, the team is slowly pulling together to get their DE polished to the point that reluctant adopters can feel confident in making the leap.

Screenshot lost forever :(

Installation in Ubuntu

For those of you who can’t wait to get your hands on the upcoming release, 4.2, which is due to hit in January of next year, the first beta has just been released, and Project Neon has a repository set up to provide nightly builds of the new version! To use it with Ubuntu 8.10, add the following line to your software sources: intrepid main

Screenshot lost forever :(

Afterwards, open up your terminal and enter:

sudo aptitude install kde-nightly

And log out and in again, selecting KDE Nightly Neon as your session.

You don’t need to worry about this install overriding your current KDE installation, if you have one; the Neon builds install alongside any other DE and will appear separate from your other KDE installations.

If you wish to remove the Neon builds, simply open up a terminal and enter:

sudo aptitude remove kde-nightly

The Project Neon repository also includes the newest builds of the upcoming Amarok 2.0! You can install it via this command:

sudo apt-get install amarok-nightly

The Goodies

Now that we’re done installing, we can take a look at some of the main improvements since KDE 4.1:

Screenshot lost forever :(

Kwin, the compositing window manager, has seen a few decent improvements; among them are new desktop effects, and quite a few bug fixes (KDE was hanging for me personally when I turned on desktop effects sometimes; no longer the case), and the visual aspect of the effects has been tweaked in quite a few places. Selected windows now give off a soft blue glow while deselected windows sport a drop shadow. Also new is the obligatory Genie effect, and the Present effect, akin to Mac OS X’s Expose effect.

The Oxygen Plasma theme and taskbar have also been cleaned up quite a lot since 4.1, and the overall effect is far more pleasing. The Kickoff menu has also seen improvements in its presentation, now feeling a bit snappier, and widgets can now be rotated (though I cannot imagine this feature having any use apart from cosmetic purposes). Also new is the ability to add Google Gadgets as widgets and integrate them seamlessly alongside the regular ones.

Screenshot lost forever :(

Dolphin, the file manager for KDE 4, has also seen a few little improvements too; most noticeably among them being the slider to smoothly increase or decrease the size of the icons in folders.

While this all sounds fantastic, keep in mind that this new version is still very much a work-in-progress, and may be prone to random breakage; the Plasma workspace has still been crashing regularly for me, desktop effects are still a little buggy and sluggish, and a few other niggles which prevent me personally from choosing the new KDE series over the proven stability of the Gnome desktop. However, it’s great for a casual tinker and for those who like to live on the bleeding edge. Have fun!