Ars Technica: A First Look at KDE 4 Beta 2

At Ars Technica, I have put together an article detailing my impressions of KDE 4 Beta 2 (more or less, my source checkout is from within 24 hours of beta 2 being tagged last week). An official beta 2 announcement should be arriving shortly as the distros have been packaging it this last week. I am happy to say that beta 2 has made significant progress since beta 1.

Dot Categories: 


by Hans (not verified)

Well, it's definitely not the final design.

by T. J. Brumfield (not verified)

All drafts I've seen of Oxygen seem to suggest it will be very "clean", minimalist, and focus heavily on white. Given how popular OS X clones are on, I firmly expected KDE 4 to look more like the Milk/Baghira clones out there.

by pinheiro (not verified)

No its not all white, the problem is the color pallete being broken and we are currently fixing it.
The contrast issues has alot to do with that big problem that the developrs are fixing.
Here you will find most of the work mocks we are using for oxygen style has you can see its not all that white and i will make color corretions wen the pallete is fixed so it fits well enough on not so well tuned tft screens.

by joe (not verified)

These mockups look really great. Keep up the good work, I hope KDE4 can look like this.

by T. J. Brumfield (not verified)

I've seen these mock-ups before, and I think they are gorgeous. If the final product looks like that, I'll be very happy indeed, but none of the actual screenshots I've seen look like that.

by T. J. Brumfield (not verified)

In those mockups:

You have some sort of doc with the KMenu in the middle, sys tray on the right, and open windows on the left. Is there a program/method for me to do that right now?

I just love how that looks.

by Alex (not verified)

It's cool.
but the bottom panel is somewhat bigger for old small CRT.
I think it may add a button like '-' at top-right of panel,
to lay down the panel.
I mean when user pushes the button,
then the panel become a slim bar,
and reverts it when pushes again.

by Lee Grant (not verified)

Oh dear, I was hoping the default windeco would be a green gradient to match that cute green arrow widget rather than the present monotonous gray/white with such awful contrast (no offence meant to those who came up with the theme - it's just that the buttons don't really stand out against the pale background). Oh well, one hopes that it is still a work in progress, rather than the final product.

by Batiste (not verified)

I know this mockup is old but I find it accurate :

Simple and clear with sharp edge and few spaces.

by reihal (not verified)

That mock up is going to make a lot of people very disappointed.

But, in the end someone will create a theme that looks like that and post it on

By the way, where can I find that wallpaper?

by Iuri Fiedoruk (not verified)

As KDE4 will support creating themes with SVG, I belive we'll be seeing nice themes like that very soon :)

by donju (not verified)

Perhaps you should take a look at the artists' mockups which have a bit more contrast. The final design might look like that:

by Iuri Fiedoruk (not verified)

Yep, please add color to the titlebar with focus. Everthing I've seen ultil now about Oxygen style made me belive the final version is intented to be all white yes.

by Henrik Pauli (not verified)

White on white. I can't even see where a window begins and where it ends. Or where a widget begins and ends. It's kinda mystery meat to me. Other than that, it's okay, I like the shapes and all. Definitely more contrast please.

by composite with ... (not verified)

you *NEED* to use composite with window Shadow !!! with the theme , you will see the edges beautifully...

by Soap (not verified)

Some of us can't use compositing. Or, is that part of your point?

by Luciano (not verified)

Composite has issues on most of the computers I have access to.

A default theme should look decent in all reasonable configurations.

I really hope the final version will take this problem into account, as well as being more accessible (all other window decorations allow for larger border sizes, for example, to make window handling easier).

by Henrik Pauli (not verified)

Can't use it. Please tell AMD/ATi to make a good driver.

Even if I could... I'm not sure anyone should be required to. That's kinda cutting off a huge amount of people from using the default (emphasis: default) theme, which is just plain silly.

by Sutoka (not verified)

Amazingly AMD/ATi just announced they're finally gonna give proper support to AIGLX in the next driver version (not the one thats supposed to come out in a day or two, but next month I think). Unfortunately that could be good or bad for those of us that use the FLOSS ati driver (it could make the developers less motivated, or it could give the developers a better source to get information from).

I'm glad that KWin will be able to fall back to no-composite mode, since right now composite would kill my laptop (hell, just typing that last sentence the desktop wasn't refreshing fast enough to follow what I was typing... and still typing!)

by T. J. Brumfield (not verified)

Colored pixels cost extra money.

by Coward (not verified)


by Henrik Pauli (not verified)


That was a good one :)))

by Sebastian (not verified)

Totally agree.

There is no contrast at all.

I am sure there will be a configurable outer liner for the final windeco.

I hope, there will be a highlighted menubar.

I hope there will be more contrast and more courage in using more colors.

entirely out of place and have absolutely no connection with the rest of the style. Plus, they look like a blatant ripoff of macosx/vista.

Second that.

Well, for sure they are temporaries to show it's work in progress!

by Iuri Fiedoruk (not verified)

I think KDE artist team wants to economize energy on LCD screens as Google does :)

by pinheiro (not verified)

On the last moths people have been complaining a lot About the lack of contrast and the all white issues on the oxygen style, i have said also lots of times that it is mostly a pallet issue. But the message is not getting out, so... i will do what i always do... Show pretty pictures.

by bsander (not verified)

Don't worry, the message willget out fast as lightning when it's actually fixed :) Just don't get too upset, you guys are doing a great job, I already love the icons!

by T. J. Brumfield (not verified)

Anyone remember all the bitching about how KDE 3 had "extra" borders and people demanded that they cut down on borders?

You now have a clean look without borders and everyone is demanding that borders be put back in.

by Henrik Pauli (not verified)

Took me a while to see the comment and you'll likely never see this reply, but here goes:

Those borders were about frames inside the application, which do sometimes stack really horribly. I was talking about the window border for first, and for example button frames (which is a bit different from having a frame in a frame in a frame, like some KDE3 apps do) -- though, yeah, the second one probably wouldn't fit all that well into this theme. But I sure hope I will be able to see at least a little where my LineEdits and ComboBoxes begin and end.

by chair (not verified)

How hard would it be to universally remove the menu bar and compress it into one tool bar button? Kinda like what IE 7 can do (but not so chaotic). Similar to KDE3 where you can stick the menu bar up top Mac style, you could have an option to remove the menu bar and put it into a button at the beginning of the tool bar (with the application's icon, and a label "Menu").

It'd save a lot of space, look cleaner and only cost one click to any action that's in the menu. I don't know, maybe it's a bad idea, but I think it'd be a cool option.

by Troy Unrau (not verified)

It's not a terrible idea, but not something that would likely ever become the default. It's probably not even that difficult to implement if someone was willing to take a crack at it.


by chair (not verified)

Yeah I'd give it a try but I'm only new to programming (did a semester of Java and I'm doing C right now). But I want to get into KDE eventually, when I have more time.

Thanks Troy, and thanks for all the work you do to keep us informed :)

by Hans (not verified)

Probably not hard at all, Amarok already do this. However, it would be great if you could move/remove the toolbar button (like any toolbar items).

by cossidhon (not verified)

Great idea! If you put in a wishlist item in kde bugzilla, I vote for it!!

by cossidhon (not verified)

O, I forgot to mention. Doesn't OS-X has something similar? I has, if I remember correctly, buttons in the title-bar with a hide/show functionality for either the menu-bar or the tool-bar (or both).

Yeah, that's neat: Create an extra button in the titlebar; left mouse-click on it shows/hides the menu-bar, right mouse click on it shows/hides the tool-bar, And maybe: middle mouse click shows/hide statusbar. Put in a little animation for the wow factor. This way you can really save on screen real estate and still keep total control.

And I agree, I think it's easy to implement. Most of the code most be already there, just implement the extra button.

by Luciano (not verified)

This could probaby be done, since it can be considered a variation of the top-level (macos like) menu bar. Accessing menus would be a click further away, though. I find the toplevel menus are easier to use. Last time I tried there were problems with using them in KDE4, but I hope that will be fixed before the release.

by cossidhon (not verified)

In fact, I believe all that hide/show functionality is already in the "window" menu in the upper left corner, but i'm not sure, I can't check right now. So it would only boil down to a "shortcut" button in the title bar, And if you don't want it, remove it using the "windows decoration kcontrol".

I say it again, I think it's a GREAT idea!!

by reihal (not verified)

The same debates pops up again and again.


Waste of screen space, low contrast icons and widgets, artsy fartsy fear of colour.

by Iuri Fiedoruk (not verified)

Maybe because artists aren't taking notes and changing what people thinks is wrong?
Or maybe because they are doing so, but not right now?

Who knows? :)

by jospoortvliet (not verified)

the reason is that it's just not ready... pretty simple. They have mockups, go check them out, there you see the target look.

by Iuri Fiedoruk (not verified)

I did, before posting here in the dot I posted in Pinheiro's Blog and liked his answer a lot (basically the problem is that there are too much hardcoded coloring and other style parts).

by bert (not verified)

The code for the top-level menu bar is still from Mosfet a bit buggy.

However, it works for most of us. The real problem is that there is no way to use GTK applications or QT ones and have a top-level menu bar. I think a top-level menu bar is very convenient if it is supported.

by Manabu (not verified)

I already use an extension to that in firefox. It realy save screen space, but in some apps that I use heavily the menu I would like the defaut menu.

by name (not verified)

They hack a new KDE and the discussion goes about the *eyecandy*. do you buy a new car depending on its colour? I think there will be a lot of themes and icons and klicki-bunti-stuff. If you do not like the default look, there is for you pleasure.

by Anon (not verified)

KDE3's poor aesthetics and generally bad first impression are often cited as one of the reasons why so many people are now switching to GNOME. Sure, people willing to overlook the rough edges might be willing to go over to and compile a new theme(!), but this certainly doesn't apply to the majority of potential users. It would be a huge shame not to fix this defect for KDE4.

by Luciano (not verified)

To me "poor aesthetics" is an issue of interface layout, and not of theming.
The real problem is overall, control panel use different convention with regard to aligment and size of common widgets (combo boxes and color boxes too long is my biggest annoyance, though I've learned to ignore the problem with time) and that can't be fixed with a theme.

by name (not verified)

KDE comes with more than just one theme installed, so the users are not forced to compile anything, they can just click on the decoration they want.

I mean that functionality and ease of use is more important than eyecandy. On the other hand (or eye ;-)) I understand that eyecandy will impress Windowsusers more than a naked and effective commandline.

"why so many people are now switching to GNOME."

You think they do it because Gnome has more bling?

by Anon (not verified)

"You think they do it because Gnome has more bling?"

I've read hundreds - possibly thousands - of testimonies from GNOME lovers (or KDE haters ;)), and mostly they cite GNOME's clean-looking widgets, its uncluttered and carefully-designed UIs of both the DE and core apps, its consistency across applications (a result of GNOME's far more detailed HIG) and just general the general look and feel of GNOME/ Gtk.

Technically, they seem to like GNOME precisely because it has *less* bling, but what it has is judged to be well-chosen.

They dislike KDE because it is judged to be ugly in terms of default themes, windecs and icons (remember: the KDE guys once thought it was perfectly acceptable to choose *Keramik* as the default style!), loud, flashy, blingy, "in-your-face" and cluttered - basically, they view it as something that was, from a UI point of view, thoughtlessly thrown together by people with poor, or no, taste.

Personally, I don't care about looks (I'm much, much more interested in KDE's functionality, excellent technology, and progressive, vital and helpful dev community), but a *very* substantial portion of people prize it above all else.

What I found the most interesting from my researches is that surprisingly few people cite confusingness or lack of usability of KDE as a reason they don't like it - it's nearly all fastidious exclamations of distaste.