KDE 4.3.0 is out, and it is a great release. It is unlikely that any one specific thing will strike the user as the most noticeable improvement; rather, the overall user experience of KDE has improved greatly in KDE 4.3.0. The release's codename, Caizen, is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life. That has been the goal of the KDE team for 4.3.0: polish, polish, polish. The statistics from the bug tracker speak for themselves: 10,000 bugs have been fixed. In addition, close to 63,000 changes were checked in by a little under 700 contributors. That is not to say that the KDE team did not add a large number of new features: 2000 feature requests were implemented in the past 6 months, meaning that any user's pet feature might well be among the improvements KDE 4.3.0 brings.
The changes in KDE 4.3 are largely in three categories: the desktop workspace, the applications, and the development platform.
- Plasma, KDE's desktop interface and KWin, KDE's window and compositing manager are now working more closely together. Desktop effects and the Plasma shell now share their themes, and it is also possible to have separate sets of Plasma widgets and wallpapers on each virtual desktop. The new Air theme makes a visual difference. It is much lighter than the Oxygen theme, which is still available through the Desktop Settings dialog.
- On the applications front, KDE 3 users will like the new tree view in System Settings, which more closely resembles KDE 3's KControl. Dolphin, KDE's file manager, now show previews of images contained in a directory as an overlay for the directory icon. Hovering over it enables a slideshow of the images in the directory the icon represents.
- KDE's development platform has become more stable, more performant, leaner and at the same time more complete. For Plasma applet developers, there is now a geolocation plugin that makes it possible to query the current location. This is used in the OpenDesktop applet to show people near you. The new KDE PolicyKit library provides a mechanism for applications to authorise certain actions based on profiles. A KDE-style API makes it secure and easy to temporarily elevate privileges for an application.
Of course, those are just a few examples of the changes in KDE 4.3.0. All of the seemingly small changes add up to make a wonderful difference to our users.
The KDE 4.3.0 release will be followed by the usual monthly bugfix and translation updates. The next feature release, KDE 4.4.0, will see the light of day in January 2010. For those among our readers who enjoy microblogging, we have set up an experimental "LifeStream" tracking the "!kde" tag on Identi.ca and Twitter. Check out buzz.kde.org for the stream. Jos Poortvliet, who also wrote the excellent release announcement, has created a screencast (Ogg Theora, HTML 5) that gives an overview of the versatility and coolness of KDE 4.3.0. As always, be sure to check out the release announcement for more details.