Right on the heels of the KDE 3.2.1 release, Savanna is back with an article about her latest upgrade to the KDE 3.2 desktop. After being on 3.2 beta for several months, she wasn't expecting too much of this upgrade.
KDE 3.2 - A Quick Review
Last week, I finally took the time to upgrade to the fully released KDE 3.2
desktop system. I was a little nervous at first because, as many of the devs
online can tell you, I really don't know Linux that well. That means that if
something goes wrong, I usually freak out, go "Oh my God", and panic like
never before. Then they usually have to help me get through the crisis and it
always ends up being something fairly simple and stupid that I did myself.
Needless to say, however, I've been learning. So I took the big step myself
and, happily, I can say that it went off without a single problem. I'm
running KDE 3.2 on Debian - just so you know, and apt-get is a wonderful
Anyway, after being on the beta release of 3.2 for a few months, I wasn't
expecting much of an upgrade. But, of course, I was wrong.
Beta CVS heads are nice, but they have all sorts of minor quirky problems. At
least that's what it always seems like to me. You know the type: your memory
going off the charts at random moments, memory leaks making you restart your
desktop every few days (unless you know what you're doing and can shut down
the appropriate processes, but we're talking about me here), little programs
that don't work *quite* right all the time. You know - buggy things. I don't
mean Microsoft buggy, but quirky enough to make you realize that you're still
not on a full release.
Well, all that is gone. So far, I haven't seen a single application do
anything weird. In fact, it's been as stable as ever.
Okay, if you've never run or seen KDE, there are a few things to know:
1) It's stable.
This is my work computer. I write columns, essays, articles, etc... And this
is my computer on which I do all that work. I browse, email, organize, read,
write, spellcheck and even entertain myself with music all from this
computer. It doesn't crash or give me weird errors. I can leave it on all day
and night (and I do), and I know that nothing will be lost when I get back to
2) It's convenient.
KDE is nice because it has all these integrated packages that work with it
seamlessly. For example, when I blog something and enter the text into the
browser window (Konqueror), I can spellcheck it right there in the writing
box. In fact, it even spellchecks for me while I type (live spellchecking).
No more copy/pasting posts in forums and blogs to see if you made a typo. It
will do it right there. It also has a nice little dictionary I use all the
time on the Kicker (the applications bar on your desktop), and lots of other
things which integrate so nicely that you never have to really maneuver
around one application to the next to get something done. It's like your
whole desktop is one big application that you use in various ways.
3) It's easy to use.
As I said, I don't know Linux very well at all. But I don't have to. I've
written about this last year in another column, but it bears repeating again.
And since KDE isn't only for Linux, it bears remembering as well. Just like
many of my friends don't know what the heck a .DAT file is for, I don't have
to know what all sorts of techy Linux files are for either. The reason is
that KDE is all I deal with when I'm on the computer, and that makes it easy
to use. Instead of cryptic command lines, I just have very nice icons
everywhere, and I can customize it any way I like. If the Kicker bar is too
long, I can make it shorter. If I want more desktop space, I can have it with
3 clicks of the mouse. I usually use about 10 virtual desktops on my system
so nothing is ever crowded at all - I always know just where everything is
and I don't have to figure out what goes where because I never run out of
real estate space.
4) It's got everything you need.
Unless you play lots of games, you just don't need Windows anymore. If you're
like me and you use your computer for
writing/browsing/emailing/organizing/listening to music, etc... then you've
got everything you want in KDE and more. And I don't mean really hard to
understand applications with no style at all, but friendly and nice looking
stuff. In fact, some of the applications I use are easier than the ones I use
on Windows (I have two machines, but I use my Windows one mostly for a few
games. If I didn't play games, I'd put KDE on that too without blinking).
100% of the applications I use in KDE are friendlier and easier to use than
Windows ones. They never crash and I can customize whatever they look like
without even downloading weird shareware which might, or might not, have a
virus or do something strange to a .DLL file and mess up my system for good.
I have no worries like that. In fact, I have so many options that I now think
of Windows as being very limited and clunky and (gasp) techy to use. That's
right. KDE is that friendly.
5) It's secure.
I just mentioned viruses, and I don't get them. Well actually, that's not
true: people send me viruses from their Outlook mail, and I giggle. I mean
it! I giggle. I don't even have a virus checker. Why? Because I don't have to
worry about it with KDE. They won't run on KDE so I don't even have to think
about it. No Norton subscriptions, no worries about strange .EXE files being
sent to you. To me, viruses are a thing of the past. I read about how others
get their hard drives trashed, and I smile. Beat that.
6) It's pretty.
KDE is pretty. Hands down, it's just beautiful. Actually it's gorgeous too.
I've got some nice set themes that come installed with the KDE default, and
they are all so amazingly nice that I have a hard time deciding which to
choose from. I've used Windows themes on my XP box, and it's such a pain in
the butt to customize and make it look nice. Not so with KDE. Every part of
the system looks like you can customize the look with different types of
widgets. You just go into the control panels and click around to suit your
taste and apply. That's it. It can even do desktop slide shows with fade-ins
and other things to make your desktop really come alive and to make it
unique. The icon sets that I have so far are some of the nicest and prettiest
things I've ever seen. And when I get bored of one set, I just choose another
and apply. Even my Kicker bar can have wallpaper (and it does). I'm glad KDE
is this pretty because it makes it look even more friendly, which is exactly
what I want.
7) It's fun.
You want AIM? ICQ? MSN Messenger? No problem. Kopete on KDE gives you access
to all that and more. It's got a beautiful user interface, awesome icon sets,
and it's all integrated into one window and in your Kicker dock panel. It
works flawlessly as far as I can see, and I love it. Chat to your heart's
I also have a nice little weather updater on my Kicker bar with pretty icons
telling me the temperature and what the conditions are outside. Of course I
can look out the window but if I click on this, I get a nice little window
with more info.
I always have music playing with Juk. It's integrated with a small applet in
my Kicker as well (MediaControl) which lets me control everything from the
kicker, even when I'm not on the desktop where Juk is. I just love that. And
if you don't know what Juk is, you can read my review here.
I said that if you play a lot of games, then maybe KDE isn't for you, but I
wasn't exactly right on that score. KDE does have games included. And while
they aren't the latest shoot-em-up type of games, they are a heck of a lot
nicer than the windows games. You have tons of fun ones starting with
solitaire, backgammon, mahjong, and then even the best tetris-like game ever
called Frozen Bubble (you have to try this), and some other nice games as
well. That just makes you realize that Windows, as it is, is just a
little...boring and stale by now. I love my KDE games and I do actually play
them sometimes to relax.
So all in all, I have to give KDE 3.2 a big thumbs up. It's about as nice as I
ever imagined, stable, easy to use, and practical as well. If you're
completely new to the idea of running something like this, you really
shouldn't worry about it because you'll be up and running in no time. If you
know windows, you can run KDE. After a day, you'll never want to go back.
So congrats to the KDE Dev team and many thanks. I hope to see even more
surprising refinements in the near future.