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KDE 3.4 is expected to be released late March 2005. The new version has many improvements who will make the day to day computer experience better for Linux users.

The hard-working KDE team has made many improvements to the new KDE release. It is faster, more user-friendly and overall smoother to use.

  1. What is KDE, and why should I try it?
  2. What is new and cool in KDE 3.4
  3. New in KDE - More Bundeled Software

1. What is KDE, and why should I try it?

Linux is a operating system for personal computers that made by a huge Open Source community. The OS allows you to do run programs so you can do the tasks you need to do on your computer.

Linux is kind of like the well known OS called Windows, but there are huge differences behind the hood. Windows is kind of a huge bloated package that does and has everything, it is kind of like one huge brick with many features. Linux is more like Lego, you get thousands of different building blocks you can use to make your own desktop. This nature is why Linux is overall a more expensive, harder to learn and most importantly better OS. Linux is a collection of small programs designed to do a specific task very well who work together to form a complete desktop system.

1.1. Piecing it all together: How the Linux puzzle works

Briefly explained, most Linux desktop systems have a kernel at the bottom, a system for drawing graphical elements on the screen called a X-Server and programs called X-clients running on top of that. Even the Window Managers, the programs who draws borders around your programs so you can move them around, is just a X-Client program. So it is possible to run any Window Manager of choice on top of a X-Server, you can replace or tune any of the building blocks who ultimately form your desktop to your preference. There are many pure Window Managers available, Fluxbox, Ion, EvilVM and IceWM are just some examples.

KDE, Gnome and XFCE are complete desktop systems, they are a huge collections of small individual programs who work together and form complete desktop systems. XFCE is a light desktop meaning it is a small collection of simple programs, KDE and Gnome are huge packages with just about everything included.

Pure Window managers and light desktops are commonly preferred by power users because it requires some knowledge to use them effectively. KDE has evolved into a extremely user-friendly, powerful and smooth desktop system suitable for beginners and people who are used to the Windows Operating system.

The KDE Desktop is now, at version 3.4, mature enough to be a good realistic desktop alternative for Windows users.

1.2. Under the Hood of KDE

The underlying libraries used by all KDE programs and components are what makes using the KDE desktop and KDE programs a great joy. Just take the simple every-day task of opening files. The KDE file dialog box, available to programmers at just a few lines of code, is among the best ever created. You can make files and folders, preview files, add a list of shortcut folders and so on. You can open remotely stored files and edit them using the ssh (fish://user:password@box.tdl), ftp (ftp://user:password@box.tdl) samba (smb) and now with 3.4 even Subversion files directly from any KDE program.

This reflects most of the features in the KDE libraries: they are mature, advanced, user-friendly and most importantly, they allow you to get things done smoothly and effectively.

1.3. Tons of (free) Software

KDE is not just a complete desktop system, it comes with a huge amount of great software covering a broad range of applications. The programs included with KDE includes the excellent web browser Konqueror, the personal information management suite Kontact, the great text editor Kate and numerous other programs, big and small, for nearly all tasks. A broad range of board games are also included.

There is also a complete office suite availale for KDE called KOffice. It is available seperately. It allows you to do the basics you would expect from suck packages, but it is not as mature or complete as the OpenOffice alternative.

1.4. KDE can be what you want it to be

Mouse gestures allow you to make a task be executed when you move your mouse in a given pattern while holding a button. KDE allows you to assign mouse gestures and keyboard shortcuts to make it suit your own needs.

Some of the default keyboard shortcuts in Konqueror are somewhat strange. Browsers should reload the page by pressing ctrl-r, Konqueror (probably for historical reasons) uses F5. And ctrl-pageup/pagedown does not switch between the tabs. The default for switching tabs, ctrl+, and ctrl+., is not a bad idea, but it is non-standard. The good thing about Konqueror and KDE in general is that you are completely free to change and customize annoying things like this to your preference. From Konqueror, select the Configure Shortcuts under the Settings menu to make it behave like you want:

All KDE programs also allow you to change what icons are available in the various toolbars.

The KDE Desktop can be customized using a broad range of themes available from KDE-look and other sites.

The screenshots used on this page does not use the default theme, wallpaper or fonts. These things can be changed in the KDE Control Center (you can start it with kcontrol, look under Appearence and Themes).

2. What is new and cool in KDE 3.4

KDE 3.4 is a minor release, meaning the technology under the hood have been majorly improved, but not changed in huge fundamental ways. Even so, the new version has a lot of cool new things to offer compared to version 3.3.

2.1. Fast as lightning

KDE 3.4 does seem to to be faster when you start programs, and using them seems smoother. This may just be a placebo effect, five test-subjects may be totally wrong, but it is our distinct impression that is responds faster on both new and old boxes.

It is still not fast enough, though, you still have plenty of time to stretch while you wait for even simple programs like KolourPaint to start.

2.2. KolourPaint can now do Text Aliasing

KolourPaint, a basic program for drawing, now does antialias text and shows RMB context menus when a selection tool is activated

2.3. Faster and more correct Konqueror

Konqueror is now even faster than before. Stil not instant, but faster than the Mozilla family. The underlying KHTML which is used to render the pages is improved, meaning pages generally are shown more correctly. And the cut, copy and paste icons are removed from the toolbar to make it fit smaller windows.

Konqueror has been able to view Linux manual pages for quite some time using man:programname, a start page is added for the URL man: without a program name. From there you can browse all the categories of manual pages available on your system.

Like Firefox, Konqueror now highlights the location bar when you are using secure sites (https:// locations), making it easier to view the difference between insecure and secure locations.

The file manager now highlights selected sort column and a new combined view. A new configuration dialog is added (Settings -> Configure Extensions) where you can select what plugins to use and not use.

2.3.1. New protocols (ioslaves)

Konqueror has got some nice new local links (ioslaves) who allow you easily access services and information.


The media ioslave supports HAL/DBUS and hotplugged devices. If you have a working USB subsystem (This is distribution specific) then your digital camera will show up in media:/ when you plug it in, making it simpler to manage your modern toys.

2.4. Klipper - Easy Cut and Paste

Klipper is a tray application that caches what goes through the Clipboard so your previous cut and pasted content remains available even after You are free to choose how many entries you would like to keep, the maxiumum in 3.4 are 2048 entries. Though you really do not need to cut or copy, Klipper can be configured so it automatically takes a copy of all the text you highlight. Highlighting text is enough to instantly paste it using the third mouse button if you are using that option.

Klipper now supports images also, a long-desired feature for anyone working with graphics. And yes, it this works with Gimp 2.2.x and OpenOffice as well as all KDE programs. Copying images through Klipper has a bug as of KDE 3.4 beta2, images from Gimp are listed twice on the clipboard. But apart from that, a great new improvement.

2.5. KATE - The flagship editor

Kate is a pure text editor. This may seem odd to people who are used to things like Microsoft Word, but the fact is that most Linux users prefer pure text or close to pure text formats when they write things. The reason is that you can do quite advanced things even with pure text if you later filter it thorough the right tools. This article is written as plain text in Kate, yet it now appears to beas a web page.

Kate as some quite new improvements, some small and some signifficant. A nice small detail is that unsaved files are now shown in red to help people who fail to notice the huge visible icon next to the file who also shows files are unsaved.

2.5.1. Where did I put that file?

You can now search for patterns (regular expressions) recursively through many files and folders directly from inside Kate and open them directly.

2.6. Better Karm

Karm is a little-known program for keeping track on how much time you actually spend on doing given tasks.

Karm allows you to divide tasks into subtasks making it very easy to find out just how much time you have used on the various parts of your projects. The program can publish how much time you have used using to shared calendars using the iCalendar ICS. This support is imporved in 3.4, Karm will now react properly when another program changes the shared ICS file you are using.

2.7. KPDF gets sweet

KPDF have been majorly improved. KPDF shows you thumbnails of all pages and lets you navigate with ease, it can show a slideshow of your images and it allows you to select any area and instantly copy it as text or an image to the clipboard. This is not all new, but the general improvements in the KPDF version included in 3.4 does make it a much better experience. It is probably the best PDF viewer ever made, at least it is the best for Linux. Open any file in KPDF, GPDF and XPDF (the common Linux choices) and you will instantly notice how much better KPDF is compared to the alternatives.

3. New in KDE - More Bundeled Software

Several existing third party KDE programs have now been taken in to the warmth of the KDE distribution.

3.1. Akregator

Akregator by Stanislav Karchebny is a stand-alone KDE RSS news reader program. Other KDE programs like Kontact allows you to read RSS news, but some may prefer this more feature-rich pure-RSS tool. It is now a part of the Kdepim (Personal Information Management) package.

3.2. Kontact - the new king of KDE personal information management

Kontact is a personal information management suite. It is not new to KDE, but some part of it are. Kontact is a package that combines several stand-alone parts of KDE: It combines the mail program kmail, the organizer Korganizer, the notes management tool knotes, the KDE address book and now new to 3.4 the RSS reader Akregator. All the parts of Kontact can be used as stand-alone applications, Kontact glues them together into one productive program.

The initial startup time for Kontact is noticeably slower in 3.4 over 3.3 thanks to more underlying featuers. It does now seem to switch between the various parts available in it noticeably faster, the waiting time that matters during your work day is reduced.

Notice the new sidebar in Kontact on KDE 3.4

Kontact now gives you direct access to more parts of KOrganizer directly, allowing you to easily navigate through the various information needed to work effectively.

Learn more about KDE:

Thanks to canllaith and specially Beineri on #kde at freenode

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