The Road to KDE 4: SVG Rendering in Applications

Since KDE 4 development is in full swing with plans for a KDE 4.0
release sometime later this year, I thought I'd put together a
weekly piece entitled The Road to KDE 4. The idea is to
have a short overview of one or two of the features that show
progress in KDE 4. For my first issue, the goal is to show off some of the great SVG work that has taken place so far. Read on for the details...

Since many features are covered in personal blogs via the KDE Planet, I'll try to cover those that receive less public coverage, or need more public coverage.

The first thing I'd like to point out is that KDE 4 builds, installs, and runs well enough that I can test many of the ported KDE 3.x applications, and most of them are pretty stable. The real joys come when you look more closely at those improvements that are afforded by the changes in the base technologies. Today, I'll talk about one of the eyecandy features provided by Qt 4: SVG rendering in applications.

There are many other KDE applications reaping the benefits of SVG drawing to make them more pleasing, and more scalable. Check out some of these posts:

  1. Albert Astals Cid renovates blinKen
  2. KDE 4 games SVG status wiki

Today I'm going to focus on a handful of apps, providing before and after screenshots to compare the KDE 4 development version (pre-alpha stuff) to the existing KDE 3.5.5 equivalents.

To begin, I'll look at the KDE System Guard, a useful utility packed into KDE that you can pull up as 'ksysguard'. It does all sorts of neat things like display charts of memory and CPU usage, and a process table (also accessible via the Ctrl-Esc keyboard shortcut).

Here's how it looked in KDE 3.5.5:

And now, in the KDE 4 development series (the lines are antialiased, the graphs are translucent and the backgrounds are SVG):

As you can see, it is visually much improved from its current and very functional form.

Next we'll look at some of the diversions shipped in the kdegames package. KAtomic is a puzzle game. It's fun, semi-educational, and could definitely have used an image overhaul. Here it is in it's spartan KDE 3.5.5 glory:

And now, with much improved oxygen-style graphics in the development series:

KMahjongg ships in the kdegames package, and is a staple of puzzle gaming. Here it is from KDE 3.5.5 looking like a game that escaped from the
Best of Windows Entertainment Pack

And now, with a much-improved SVG-powered tileset in the
development series:

And last but not least, is one of the more frequently used parts of KDE: the "Run Command" dialog (Alt-F2). Previously this:

Now, thanks to desktop interface guru Aaron Seigo, it's a SVG themable, really slick element of the Plasma desktop. Still a work in progress, but you'll get the idea from this screenshot.

Until next time folks, when I reveal yet another KDE 4 feature under development. Cheers.


by Charles (not verified)

I prefer the original KMahjongg screenshots. Also, is KDE 4 going to look as ugly as KDE 3.5.5? I'd like something much much better, as good looking as Windows Vista is possible.

by redeeman (not verified)

kde 3.5.5 is already much better than vista.

by AC (not verified)

Well, no.
Vista looks a lot more elegant and polished than a stock KDE install.
Functionality and speed-wise, I'd say they're on par, not "much better".

I really hope that KDE 4.0 would be an "all about the defaults"-release, since the current ones, well, suck.

by Lans (not verified)

Si it is only me who really dislike the look of Vista? Not because it is Window or Microsoft; well, I've never liked MS' designs, but I think Vista just looks "too much". Bleh.

A little bit off topic. But I agree that the default look should (and I think will) be improved.

by otherAC (not verified)

XP was already too much with the luna interface, Vista made things only worse..

by AC (not verified)

Yes, Luna was horrible, I agree on that. But Vista's Glass interface looks good and works well, you have to try it. I'm running it since a month, and it actually doesn't seem a typical Microsoft product. It's very fast, not even a single crash so far, and a lot more polished. And it's trying to "modernize" the classic WIMP paradigm, just look at the new Office. I think that we can learn - and borrow - a lot from our main competitor's work.

by John (not verified)

If you have ever tried PCLinuxOS you will see how KDE 3.5.5. can look 10x better than XP and at least as good as Vista. It is extremely good looking distro.

by Thomas Zander (not verified)

> Functionality and speed-wise, I'd say they're on par, not "much better".

Funny, I thought that you needed to buy a new super duper machine just to run Vista, while KDE runs fine on a 4 year old machine. I can only imagine what that must doe for 'speed'.

The functionality is part is personal; you can configure your KDE much more, for one. You get a much much better command-line application and many more apps in general. For a price you can't beat.

by A.S. (not verified)

The good thing is this, yeah. KDE can give an even better look with very few resources, ie <100m RAM vs 512.

The "bad" thing, is that the default look of KDE sucks. Oversized icons and bars, very common colors and stuff. It makes me wonder why don't the devs go take a look at and get some inspiration... maybe they can include in there 5-10 extra themes.

I'm kind'a sick of distros shipping with only mild tuning of the KDE default, thus making it seem so much "less" than it actually is. And it's all simple things.. proper icon sets and sizes / bar sizes / nice colors etc. These can make the difference between "ok I can work with this" and "wow, what's that?"

Personally I like black so I've singled out one simple / elegant from kde look

but which has a relative harmony in icon sizes / bars / colors ...

..and this one which is was while trying to go a bit vista on mine.. The default suse (10.2) start button sucks anyway - aesthetically. It was just like a rectangle with a not-so-good-look so I used another theme from kde-look... Anyway that's my attempt:

So let's hope default look and embedded themes get significantly improved. It makes a hell of a difference with not much work - just a few choices on fonts, icons, wallpapers, bar sizes etc and voila...

by AC (not verified)

Lets just say that tastes differ. I'm afraid a significant set of people would walk away in disgust if KDE looked like either of these images by default.
I know my first reaction was one where I'm happy I didn't hold a drink in my hands while walking on an expensive carpet.

by Troy Unrau (not verified)

KDE4 will look quite different than 3.x in many ways. However, things like menus and toolbars and such look much like KDE3 at this point because I made the screenshots using the default themes.

At this point though, using the default theme allows app development and porting without having to worry about the possibility of an app crashing because of an untested theme. I have a few articles scheduled for later that will show off just how different KDE 4 can look, but at this point I'm still focusing on the apps and features.

by otherAC (not verified)

>>as good looking as Windows Vista


Hi, the new ksysguard looks really great. Will be possible to copy the current graphic and paste it as SVG on a text editor, or an SVG editor as Inkscape? That will be a nice feature (and I guess similar feature would be also nice in other programs).

by Cerulean (not verified)

That's interesting. Kind of like how text is copied and pasted now. I think the biggest problem would be how exactly you would select individual SVG images. Text doesn't 'overlap' in a window, SVG images can.

by John Tapsell (not verified)

I suppose this could be possible, but why would you want to? Do you mean copy the graph with the lines, axis and everything as an svg?

by joe (not verified)

those are very pretty screenshots, I've compiled from svn a couple of weeks ago and it doesn't look like that. what did you add?

by superstoned (not verified)

i'd say nothing, development is going fast... it's getting at the stage they can start working on the interfaces.

by Troy Unrau (not verified)

I didn't use anything unusual... In fact, the only things I built to get that all up an running were dbus, qt-copy, kdelibs, kdepimlibs, kdebase and kdegames... all in a fresh account on my system that's isolated from KDE 3.5.5... and I purposefully wiped out .kde before loading to ensure that it was using the KDE defaults for all options.

by MamiyaOtaru (not verified)

What's with the redundancy in ksysguard? Specifically the bar showing current CPU usage. One can simply look at the far right of the graph to see that. What's the point in showing it twice?

See pic if this isn't clear enough:

I'd ask for an option to disable that, but for heaven's sake it should just go. It grates. A better way to do it if you simply must have the current value highlighted somehow would be something like this:

by Simon (not verified)

I dunno, personally I prefer the original screenshot. The second is misleading because it looks as if the load has been steady at the current load for some seconds.

Seeingt he current load in a separate bar is a nice feature imo as it can be difficult to appreciate current load from the graph when it is rising or falling rapidly.

by papillion (not verified)

what about placing the 'currrent load bar' on the right of the graph and making it vertical. this way you would be able to compare both more easily and it might even look less out of place

by AC (not verified)

Yes, that's the way Windows does and it makes a lot of sense, and it does look less "busy".

Besides, having duplicated captions (one in the window and one on the graphs) is really a no-go.

I'm not sure about the numbers shown in the status bar either. They contains so much information that to be read you are forced to enlarge the window. How about rewording it? Instead of "Memory: 349.9 MiB used, 1,001.8 MiB total" just show "Memory: 350/1,002 MiB used" or even better "Memory: 35% used" and move the actual numbers to another tab.

by Ankur Gupta (not verified)

Can some one tell me where is the repository (svn/cvs) for KDE System Guard (KDE 4 dev series ) ... Have QT/C++/SVG skills will like to contribute ...

by Carsten Niehaus (not verified)
by superstoned (not verified)

it's just in svn trunk. if you compile and install KDE4, you'll get the new system guard.

by John Tapsell (not verified)

You can email me : johnflux at gmail dot com and we can discuss ideas. Actually the biggest thing I want added at the moment is a simple hard disk monitor to check the hard disks are okay.


by LordBernhard (not verified)

wow.. this idea sounds really nice... please develope this for us ^^

by Dr No (not verified)

Just wonder about any Beryl/Compiz compatability?

by otherAC (not verified)

AFAIK kwin wil get xgl capabilities.

by LordBernhard (not verified)

what about aiglx then?

by Ben Morris (not verified)

You can run Beryl fine with KDE right now. Yes, it involves not using kwin, but there is now a way to use standard kwin themes (I don't know if the window menu has a KDE rather than GTK look yet). The only thing that doesn't really work for me now is kicker's pager.

by Guille (not verified)

Gnome Rulz

this enviroment sucks

by Mr.Gosh (not verified)

Oh man - use your gnome and tay away from future!

I love the upcoming - KDE Ruled allways...

by Mr.Gosh (not verified)

Oh man - use your gnome and stay away from future!

I love the upcoming - KDE Ruled allways...

by otherAC (not verified)

Wow, you must be very jealous :)

But don't worry, you can always switch to kde4 when it's ready, without having to worry about loosing data etc.
Heck, you can even use some of your old applications onder KDE, and with the promise of Portland even with KDE functionality..

So even for you, the future will look bright!!

by Axl (not verified)

I thought KDE 4 was going to bring a revolutionary new approach to office computing.

But this just looks like the same windows-like desktop with neater graphics.

Anyway, is KOffice for Windows coming out anytime soon??

by Thomas Zander (not verified)

No promises; but probably later this year.

by Lans (not verified)

Focus as been on porting libs etc., so the current "KDE4" looks much like KDE 3.x.

by Tim Middleton (not verified)

I just don't see how KDE4 can possibly be released without shame if someone doesn't upgrade ktuberling to SVG...

That and some sort of 3d semi-transparent treatment for kteatimer... and we'd have something very special in a desktop environment.

by Morty (not verified)

I guess kteatimer needs to be made a Plasmaoid(sp) and use all the niftyness you get from Plasma :-)

by anonymous (not verified)

I'm all for KDE taking these steps, but I honestly think that, save for the "Run" design, every single one of these screenshots is simply hideous. Mentally challenged toddlers could scribble more attractive usage graphs with crayons. Those fonts still look like ass. It's like the KDE folks are desperately shouting down a wind tunnel at Vista and Mac OS X. What are they screaming? "Wait for me! I can play too! Look at me!". Vista and Mac OS X simply cling their wine glasses together and laugh.

by Ephracis (not verified)

Remember that this is all just work in progress. You can expect a lot of things to change as we go.

by bitwit (not verified)
KDE 3.5.5 Windeco that loads frame and buttons from SVG files.
Based on Plastik it should be really easy to port to v4 or, at least, the functionality.
Is this even needed ? I haven't dug into Qt/KDE 4 src yet, waiting until its included with my distro, Qt 4 is, so KDE 4 shouldn't be too far behind. Life expectancy of this dist is supposed to be 2.5 years.


by TK (not verified)

I think the SVG rendering is excellent. If all the icons are moved to SVG, then the icons keep their sharpness with increased size. The same with any other graphical item on the desktop. Resizing without pixelating just makes the desktop so much more appealing. I can already see the benefit of this with SVG icons - and this is with the previous version of KDE. One icon image, not multiples for different sizes. And it scales perfectly without pixelating - and is usually smaller.

by LordBernhard (not verified)

is it planned vor kde4 that all icons are completely scaleable?

by Wowser (not verified)

I am so completely blown away!!! This has got to be the most unbelievable and quite simply the uttermost anticlimactic news article I have read involving KDE4 to date. Unfortunately there have been more than a few. :(

by Adekunle Lawal (not verified)

With what im seeing KDE4 promises to be very exciting. The looks are just awesome.
Keep up the great work guys.

by Maxei DeVraie (not verified)

Right now I see that the efforts of KDE developers are again making a mistake by concentrating efforts in the Eye Candy Factor. But there are issues much more important: One is improvement of handling and distributing memory resources. KDE is getting fatter and fatter like a vulgar pig named VISTA. Should I remind that Linux is notable for its (so far) ability to run in old, discontinued hardware? The competitor Microsoft Vista is already entangled in its own trap, being able to run only in top, expensive new hardware.

C'mon KDE guys, Don't follow the steps of Microsoft as your model to imitate or emulate. Linux and of course KDE are not Windows! Please keep doing the right thing. Follow your common sense. I know you have. You should realize that KDE, as a faster GUI will have much more acceptance. If you have to choose between beauty and functionality.... I'm sure u're understanding now.

Maxei DeVrai
SLED 10-KDE 3.5 running in SOYO SY-k7VTA-B, cpu 1.1GHz, 896 MB SDRAM pc133, Radeon and 3D enabled!

by James Richard Tyrer (not verified)

Yes, I have to agree. KDE has become so slow that I am going to have to upgrade my 400 MHz K6 III. When I open too many windows and tabs in Konqueror, it just seems to get lost at the point that I have 1/2 GByte of swap. I have 7/16 GByte of memory and also have a Radeon (a 9200 for which X11 supports 3D acceleration).

Then there is the question of the visually impaired. Is there going to be some simple way to turn off all of this eye candy -- eye candy which is clearly going to make the GUI much less clear for the visually impaired.

IAC, with KSysGuard, I think that it would be a greater improvement to make it fully functional than to add totally unneeded eye candy such as backgrounds and anti-aliased lines. Which lines? A bar graph isn't a line -- there is no line to anti-alias -- and I don't think that you can (or need to) anti-alias horizontal and vertical lines.