Preview of KDE 4.5

When KDE 4.0 was released, it was clear that it was not finished and not ready for production. By version 4.2, the completely redesigned and recoded desktop environment was starting to regain the stability and depth that many loved about KDE 3, while also adding new features that make KDE a unique and rewarding desktop software compilation.

Just as KDE 3.5 was intended to be a stabilizing, long-term release, the primary goal of KDE 4.5 is to fix outstanding bugs and increase stability. Users will not be blown away by the new features, but there are a few worth noting. Last week I installed the release candidate for KDE 4.5 from the Kubuntu repositories and took it for a spin.

New Notification Area

KDE 4.5 continues to improve upon the desktop’s notification system, creating a new D-Bus-based protocol that provides notifications for KDE and Gnome applications in a uniform fashion. The developers have also created a new system tray with more consistent icons.

KDE 4.5 system tray

The notification area now presents a less intrusive popup and includes past notification messages in tabs according to application. Notification area menus and widgets can now be rendered by the desktop, regardless of the toolkit used by the application itself.

KDE 4.5 notification system

KWin Improvements

KWin, KDE’s window manager, has added support for window tiling, much like the Ion window manager. Users can snap in new windows side-by-side, below, and above other windows on the screen, rearrange them, and resize them, all within the tiling system.

KWin tiling effect

Another new, less-advertised feature is the reinstatement of the blur effect into KDE’s composite desktop effects. This allows transparent or translucent portions of a window (or the entire windows, depending on the theme) to blur the backgrounds behind them. This feature was present in early KDE 4 releases but was then removed due to bugs. Unfortunately, it appears as though the current release will not work correctly on many graphics cards, which is probably why it is not listed among the main features.

Another improvement is that the Aurorae theme engine will now support the same tabbed window system that was introduced into Oxygen in KDE 4.4. Aurorae themes will also be integrated into the same selection menu with other window decorations, making usage of them more seamless. The Window Decorations section in System Settings has been moved to a new section called Workspace Appearance, which includes Desktop Theme and Splash Screen settings.

KWin blur effect

Konqueror Webkit Support

There is now an official Webkit K-part for Konqueror, which integrates many of the standard Konqueror features like ad blocking, password storage, plugins, and more. Konqueror’s default rendering engine will continue to be KHTML, from which Webkit is derived, but users will have the option to install kpart-webkit from their Linux distribution’s repositories. Webkit is the rendering engine used in Apple’s Safari, iPhone, iPad, and Google Chrome.

New Plasma Features

Plasma, KDE’s desktop shell, has a few new features added in SC 4.5. Among them are the preview button in Folderview. Instead of hovering over a folder and automatically giving you a popup access window, hovering your mouse will show an “up arrow” button that gives the same functionality, making it less intrusive.

KDE has also added many new features and fixes to KDE games, admin tools, and other included software. KDE 4.5 is available for many operating systems, including Linux, FreeBSD and other Unix variants, Windows, and Mac OS X. Most Linux distributions provide updated binaries through their software repositories. You can also download KDE from the project’s website and build it from source. KDE is free and open source software, and the new version 4.5 is expected to be released today, August 4.

11 comments

  1. I'm running it since 4.5 RC1 and it is completely awesome. It's really great that they have switched more into stabilization and polishing mode, as it shows quite well. Great work everyone!

  2. I don't know if you work on KDE at all or if you're just spreading the word, but it would be really nice if System Settings > Style > (all of these tabs) were also in the new “Workspace Appearance” section.

    Man, I love KDE more every day :)

  3. I'm praying that the webkit kpart in Konqueror is going to work smoothly. Konqueror was my favourite tool back in the KDE 3 series… but since it doesn't work well with so many websites, i had to switch to Chrome.

    If it works… i'll be exceptionally happy!

  4. My article is submitted 24 hours before publication, and they pushed back the release date last night. That is a common occurrence with open source software, which relies on everyone contributing to get their last minute fixes in on time. That is why I said “expected to be released” and not “certain to be released”. It is actually a good thing. It is better to release something late with all of the bugs fixed than early with some outstanding bugs still present.

    http://techbase.kde.org/index.php?title=Schedul

  5. @Zubin I think Konqueror works very well with Webkit. On my computer, Konqueror's SunSpider Javascript Benchmark total was 357.8ms with kpart-webkit, whereas Google Chrome's was 393.6ms. That's a very small difference. If someone wants to run other tests and post results, feel free.

  6. Great KDE, great article.

    ps: wher I find the wallpaper used in the first and second screenshot?

  7. I can choose Webkit for Konqueror but can only do so for each page — and the setting cannot be saved. KDE devs must accept that user needs choice and if they provide a kpart for WebKit then there should be a way to make it the default — and keep it so.

    I have given up on Konqueror long ago just for this reason, despite its speed, etc.

    I tested the above in 4.5 RC3 as well and it still does not let me make WebKit the default engine!

  8. Yes, they do not make it very obvious, but there is a way to set Webkit as the default. Go to System Settings — File Associations, and then search for “html”. Under “text” you should see an html entry. Click on “Embedding” and then in the Services Preference Order box, move Webkit to the top. Webkit will then be the default for Konqueror.

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