Savanna Says: KDE 3.2 - A Quick Review

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

by Savanna

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.

Dot Categories: 


by Dominic Chambers (not verified)

Really nice review. Totally different to the typical technical reviews you see being posted. It's interesting to hear that you've had no problems heavily customising it since you class yourself as a non-technical person.

As for stability, I am surprised. I am finding KDE 3.2 to be quite buggy, but I am starting to think it's just problems with my 3.1 configuration files, or with my Distro -- ArkLinux.

How did you manage with installing Debian? I really want to move to Debian for the stability and the huge package repository, but am scared off by the installation process -- I don't have a week to spend doing an install. Any tips?

by trlpht (not verified)

There are many debian alternatives. I downloaded and installed MEPIS Linux. It rocks! You can boot from the CD, it has awesome hardware autodetection, and is incredibly easy to use. You can use the debian repos to stay up to date as well. I am using it full time now after having used SuSE - I love it!

by Dominic Chambers (not verified)

Excellent! Thanks for the tip. I am actually downloading Mepis as we speak -- have been for the past three days (I have a modem)! I only asked because I wasn't able to google 100% positive info that a Mepis install really would give me Debian. I can safely continue downloading ;-).

Can't wait!

by Chris Cheney (not verified)

If you want to install Debian I would recommend using a recent debian-installer snapshot from it is much easier to use than the old installer.

by Aaron J. Seigo (not verified)

hey savanna, good to see you're still around! =) i missed your unique voice in the KDE world while you were busy with life, etc.

looking forward to more of your articles!

by Joe (not verified)

People with cool names get all the attention.

"Aaron" and "Savanna"...Nobody cares about poor Joe.

by Aaron J. Seigo (not verified)

aaaaaw... i think somebody needs a hug! ;-)

** HUGS **

by mi (not verified)

It is not a kde games (it's some mandrake guys who did it) and it's not a tetris like game.
Try klines and klickety for nice puzzle games.

by Carlo (not verified)

Oh yes, what a supersweet review. Not a single bad word about things that don't work or are not that convenient as in windows. Reminds me to paid reviews about microsoft software.

Not a single crashing kde applications? Never - if you have a stable system, windows applications don't crash more often, than kde applications.

by Richard Moore (not verified)

If you'd like to write your own review, then go ahead - we'll accept negative stories too.

by Carlo (not verified)

I'm not interested in writing reviews. The point is, that this text isn't a review, but a glorification. A review is worthless, when the author not even tries to be objective and to reveal existing problems and shortcomings (beside the good things of course).

by David (not verified)

Sometimes people don't want to pick huge gaping faults - people just want to get things done. Revolutionary I know.

by Carlo (not verified)

Hm, could you please tell me, what your comment has to do with this "review" and my comment? I heavent't heard of a _most_uncritical_review_contest_ ever.

by David (not verified)

Err. How about Savanna doing a review of KDE and finding that it does what she wants? She isn't necessarily looking for faults at every turn, but does it clearly do what she wants? Yes. Conclusion? No this isn't a totally critical review looking for faults and cracks, but within the context of what Savanna wants from her desktop environment, and wants to get done, KDE 3.2 is quite clearly more than good enough. Sorry.

by Aaron J. Seigo (not verified)

this is a Savanna Says, not a Consumer Reports review =) as a review it might be worthless, as an overview from the perspective of a happy user it's priceless =)

by Carlo (not verified)

lol, of course priceless - in german exists a "nice" phrase: blowing sugar into someones ass - maybe kde devs like this ;)

by Aaron J. Seigo (not verified)

i just find it hard to believe that you know more accurately how Savanna feels about 3.2 than Savanna herself does, and that you feel fit to comment on her means of expressing it as if you are an authority on that. i also find it unfortunate that you lack the ability to smile and enjoy positive things when they come around just because they are positive and light hearted.

or is there a German phrase that explains how being an insulting pessimist is a positive character trait?

by Eric Laffoon (not verified)

Oh... all this happiness is starting to upset me. What can I do to ruin it?

I think that's got to be one of my favorite lines from the comedian Christopher Titus. ;-)

by Carlo (not verified)

Yeah, it's horrible. :)

by Carlo (not verified)

>i just find it hard to believe that you know more accurately how Savanna feels about 3.2 than Savanna herself does, and that you feel fit to comment on her means of expressing it as if you are an authority on that.

Nope. I just have a very different idea what a review is.

>or is there a German phrase that explains how being an insulting pessimist is a positive character trait?
Let me think about it, maybe I find one. In fact I wrote my opinion and if you mean the "sugar sentence" I wrote "maybe". So call me a pessimist, if you like, but not insultant.

by Alex (not verified)

This isn't a review, this is "Savanna Says:" it is just her opion on KDE 3.2, it is not meant to be 100% objective.

by David (not verified)

Oh for crying out loud. Look. This is just a KDE user who's been using KDE 3.2 and has given her general opinion, or 'review', on it. Can she get things done? Yes. Does it do what she wants? Yes. Is she actively looking for faults at every turn? No, but that doesn't mean that there aren't any.

by Kenny Martens (not verified)

>>Not a single bad word about things that don't work or are not that convenient as in windows.

Hmm, now that you mention it, you are correct. Part of that is probably because Savanna hasn't used KDE 3.2 for very long. I know that when I got my brand new KDE 3.1 desktop, it was several months before I began to be aware of the bugs and limitations of the desktop. I was too focused on the exciting new features that I didn't notice many of the little things that irk me so much now. Now I can hardly wait to get KDE 3.2, because I am no longer satisfied with 3.1.

I expect that once I get 3.2, I will absolutely fall in love with it for about two or three months, then I will begin to notice bugs and bothersome little design flaws. Anyway, my point is that Savanna is still at the "in love" stage with KDE 3.2; a more informed, objective review is not possible until about two months down the road.

by Carlo (not verified)

Did you read the "review"?

> After being on 3.2 beta for several months, ...

And beside less bugs, there's not a big feature difference from KDE 3.2 beta to 3.2.1.

by Kenny Martens (not verified)

Yes, I did read the review, and I did see that she used the beta for quite a while. But upgrading from a beta to the real thing is not a trivial change, as far as bugs go. A several month old beta is bound to have some serious bugs, non-trivial bugs. The sort of bugs that make a new feature unusable. So in that sense, there could be a big feature difference from KDE 3.2 beta to 3.2.1.

If anyone here used those KDE 3.2 beta and subsequently switched to 3.2.1, I would be interested to hear about the feature differences. If I'm wrong, I would like a chance to change my mind.

by Carlo (not verified)

>If anyone here used those KDE 3.2 beta and subsequently switched to 3.2.1, I would be interested to hear about the feature differences. If I'm wrong, I would like a chance to change my mind.

Did it. But I really couldn't name big added features from the first beta to 3.2.1. That doesn't mean that there are changes and a lot of bug fixes of course. The step from 3.1.x to 3.2.x is huge, though.

by Jan (not verified)

My personal opinion is that a integration of a chess client in the KDe Games package is a must.

slibo or knights are mature KDE programs. Please ship them with KDE.

the first impression counts. Many people try out the games first as first time users. So consistency and quality with the games is very important.

When I see students at the university's computer pool approximately 5 % of them play chess via a web browser client.

by Jan (not verified)

Knights seem to be unmantained for a year

by Anonymous (not verified)

Slibo is alpha software and currently unmaintaned. The best Linux/Unix user interface for Chess is still Xboard even though it uses plain Xlibs and many of Xboard's key options must be set by commandline parameters at start up.

by Kasper H. (not verified)

Personally I prefer eboard ( to xboard.

by Johannes (not verified)

What happened to Slibo? I tried to, but it does not compile... depends on qt 3.0 ...

by brockers (not verified)

Seriously?? How can you possibly like xboard over Knights? What does xboard do that knights does not? BTW I have submitted a patch a while ago and talked the the developer and he said he was still working on it (specifically email support was on the top of his list.)


by brockers (not verified)

Here is a pick of knights with my prefered theme (I love the sudo-3D UI for chess) The two squares are in green because Knights shows available moves when you right click on a pawn or piece. The other windows is the freechess server used to play internet games with Knights.


by Jan (not verified)

I prefer slibo but I can't compile it on my maschine. The theme looks a little bit broken.

by Anonymous (not verified)

Xboard allows you to edit position and to play against CPU from an arbitrary position. It is also mostly bug free.

by Bert (not verified)

slibo provides more options, however I didn't get it run under 3.2 yet.

by John Tapsell (not verified)

I was thinking the same thing for Go.

by Alex (not verified)

I like KNights the best and their developer said that he was considering making it a part of KDE 3.3.

by Aaron J. Seigo (not verified)

i'd love a nice networkable KDE Go game =) i checked out QGo a LONG time ago, probably time to do so again...

by Sandesh Ghimire (not verified)

i think kde deserve 5/5 stars

by ac (not verified)

"and then even the best tetris-like game ever called Frozen Bubble (you have to try this)"

..of all that rules, the Bubble rules all..

by c (not verified)

Even Kopete is usable!!! I've criticised it's stability before, but for the first time ever I've had it running two days without a single crash!

Next app I'm gonna try is JuK instead of RhythmBox (which has been more stable so far and faster at scanning my mp3s).

by cyprien (not verified)

what's the weather applet he wpeaks about ?

"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"


by ac (not verified)

Judging from the giggling at 'poor virus' users,
she, uses KWeather

right click on the Kicker bar -> Add -> Applet -> KWeather

by Nobody (not verified)

Where I can find kdegames3d-3.2.1.tar.bz2?

by Paul S (not verified)

Great review with positive comments.

I love K3b for writing CDs/DVDs and GuardDog to set uop my firewall. Both are excellent and totally Free. No need to get hacked versions of software to do the job on Windows, like Nero and ZoneAlarm.

I can't wait to get home to upgrade from KDE 3.2.0 to KDE 3.2.1 !

by Daan (not verified)

About the stability of KDE: up to 3.2.0, KDesktop would crash the first time* I would drag a file over it, since upgrading to 3.2.1 this does not seem to happen anymore. That would make this version really great; I have not experienced any crashes yet.

But actually, the very page I am typing this in exhibits a rendering bug of Konqueror - the large text box is placed on an entirely wrong place or renders incorrectly when I (un)maximize the window. Yes, I'll submit a bug report.

* After restarting it things would normally work

by HelloWorld (not verified)

I use now KDE3.2, I thing it's very good, and damn fast, but it is a little bit too buggy... There is really a need of fixing bugs.
I.e. Kontakt is very buggy. I have allways to resize the preview window than looking at mail, and switching between folder, only to cite one bug. They are also much more (I allready reported this bug). I think kde 3.1 was less buggy - but it's because they are so much addition in kde3.2 that it was difficult to find all bugs.

by Aaron J. Seigo (not verified)

kontact is only at 0.7 (IIRC) in KDE 3.2, and there is a quick release turnaround scheduled for the next version of kdepim (separate even from KDE itself! =) ... the relative newness (and therefore bugs, quirks, etc) of kontact are well known ...

as for fixing bugs, we're happy to get all the help we can get there .. our code base is getting HUGE and our user base even HUGER, which means our bugs database is getting to be fairly beefy. =)

i've even been known to hang out on #kde-devel on (along with others) and help new bug fixers get oriented ... see you there?

by brockers (not verified)

Anyone besides me thing that Plastik is easily the most beautiful window decoration in the history of the world. Seriously! I never cared too much about the whole WD thing, but now I find myself absolutely enamored by Plastik. Kontact is already nicer than evolution (in what.. one year of development.) The universal sidebar is already an addiction. Great release ppl.