With the upcoming Frameworks 5, the KDE Release Team will decouple the release cycles of Workspaces, Applications and Platform. While Applications will have more releases in the 4.x series, the Plasma Workspaces team has decided to focus on Workspaces 2. The recently released 4.11 version of Plasma Workspaces will have Long Term Support. Meanwhile, work on Frameworks 5 is progressing, making KDE technologies ready for the future. What does all this mean?
As mentioned in the announcement, the Plasma Workspaces 4 series will no longer receive major feature work. The Plasma Workspaces team is focused on the transition to new capabilities made possible by Qt 5. KDE Applications will continue to be released in the 4.x series, while Platform and Workspaces only receive fixes as part of the release cycle. Users are advised to continue with the 4.x series of KDE Platform, Workspaces and Applications. Frameworks 5 (the new identity of Platform) and Plasma Workspaces 2 are under heavy development and best suited for developers and savvy users who can deal with frequent stability issues. People are free to use early versions of Frameworks 5 and Workspaces 2. However, there is a high risk of breakage.
KDE Frameworks 5 (note the plurality of frameworks) is the successor to KDE Platform 4, bringing significant technical differences and a change in focus. It will be the first release of KDE libraries based on Qt 5, which brings significant improvements to users. New technologies are being introduced and libraries are being cleaned up, reviewed and brought up to date with new standards. At the same time, the team is making the development platform more modular and making it easier to reuse solutions in a wider range of platforms and devices, including desktop and mobile. Technologies such as QML allow KDE developers to take advantage of a leading graphics rendering engine, and allow for more organic and fluid user interfaces across devices.
Benefits for all Qt developers
More information on Frameworks 5 will continue to be available as more detailed articles, blogposts and technical papers are published about KDE Frameworks 5. "The Road to Frameworks 5" offers more details.
Plasma Workspaces 2
The current KDE Workspaces 4.11 will be supported for at least 2 years with bugfixes and translation improvements while development work is focused on Plasma Workspaces 2. No new features will be added to KDE Workspaces 4.11; however bugfix releases will happen regularly, even after the release of Plasma Workspaces 2.
The biggest change in Plasma Workspaces 2 is the move to Qt Quick and the dynamic QML user interface language. Plasma Workspaces 2 implements Plasma Quick, which is Qt Quick plus a number of Plasma integration components for themes, compositor interaction, internationalization, data access and sharing, configuration, hardware and more. The new release brings developers a leaner Plasma Development API and dependency chain, making development easier and more efficient. For users, the move to Quick and QML delivers consistently fluid interfaces with lower resource usage and better adaptability to a wide variety of devices.
KDE Applications will continue to have feature releases in the 4.x series, combined with future bugfix releases of KDE Platform 4 and KDE Workspaces. For the convenience of release management and packaging, version numbers will most likely continue to increase together. KDE Applications 4.12 are scheduled for release on December 18, 2013.
There is currently no concrete plan for porting KDE Applications to KDE Frameworks 5, although some teams have started experimenting with this. A full scale move to Frameworks 5 is not expected until the new Frameworks and Plasma platforms are ready. Users can rely on at least 2 more releases of KDE Applications with the current underlying 4.x technologies.
Timeline and Plan
In summary, change is coming, and the KDE Community is committed to providing a stable, reliable desktop before, during and after the transition. KDE Workspaces 4.11 will be supported for at least 2 years while the Team prepares for the first version based on Qt5 and Frameworks 5, planned for the second quarter of 2014. The KDE Frameworks team will release the first preview of KDE Frameworks 5 by December 2013, with a final release planned for the first half of 2014. Applications will stay on the 4.x series with the 4.12 release scheduled for the end of 2013 and at least one more release in mid-2014.
These are major technological transitions for KDE. Schedules will be adjusted as necessary based on actual experience.
Thanks to the KDE promo and release teams for help with writing and information.