KDE 4 – The Revolution

In my KDE 3.5 post, I mentioned it was the final release of KDE before KDE 4. According to this interview on O’Reilly with a KDE developer, there are some BIG changes a’ comin’! It looks like KDE will be going through some paradigm shifts in the way they think about the desktop. Interestingly enough, it is tentatively slated to come out in Fall of 2006, around the time that Windows Vista with IT’S paradigm shift in desktop philosophy should be coming out. It will be interesting to see where this goes. Both KDE and MS seem to be moving towards Apple’s chic desktop concepts.

Up until now KDE has always looked like an enhanced mutant (in the X-Men sense of the word) version of the Windows 95 desktop. Sure, there was a K instead of a Start button, but it was all based around the same paradigm. Although I don’t know about Gnome’s origins, ever since I’ve used it, it’s had more of a Macintosh approach to things (at least the way Macs were when I was in school). They had a menu at the top of the screen and, like Macs, the system shutdown command was in a logical place. As a Windows developer’s mother famously asked, “why do I have to click on START to STOP the machine?”

Here are some of the excerpts I found most interesting:

replacing the desktop and panels with a new application called Plasmae

designing applications so they are able to be optimized better. For example, the desktop and panels are being merged into one app, which also provides for functionality now only available in Superkaramba. The resulting design allows us to much more efficiently share application launch, graphics, and geometry coordination data while also avoiding the overhead of multiple processes where just one will do quite fine. This will allow people to have quite flashy desktops (or even simple plain ones) that are snappier and take fewer resources.

I think one of the general aims has been to make the whole thing “lighter” and faster.

I think the last two points (which are basically the same thing in longer and shorter versions) are the most important and will cause many more people to reconsider KDE! Many people have gone to Fluxbox, XFCE, and other window managers because they love to customize, but they hate the bloat of KDE! I think that this time of redesigning the whole thing (even though it will break binary compatibility) will be a GREAT chance to really make some important changes to KDE and, as the desktop I first loved, I will be excited to see where it goes.

On a quick footnote, I wonder if things will change to much that there will be a fork for people who want to keep the old KDE around, but I’m not sure.

Author: Eric Mesa

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