KDE 4, from the Perspective of a Non-Developer

Let me first explain where I’m coming from on this:  I’m not a developer.  I’m not a programmer, and I’m not an IT professional.  I’m just a moderately proficient desktop user.  I’m experienced enough with linux so that terminals don’t scare me, but a linux prompt without a desktop in sight does scare me.

I downloaded the KDE 4 version of the Kubuntu Hardy Heron Beta, and installed the normal kubuntu-desktop and ubuntu-desktop packs, so that I could switch between KDE 4 and the other major desktops (KDE 3.5 and Gnome), and see how well Ubuntu was integrating them into the beta as well.

I’ve been using KDE 4 for a few weeks now, and I must say that I like it a lot.  However, it’s still not nearly as well polished as KDE 3.5, and it lacks some features that I consider necessities for a linux desktop.  For example, any file you download from the Internet onto your desktop places a link to that file on the desktop, but you can’t actually manipulate that file from the desktop at all.  You need to open a file manager and open the desktop folder before you can copy, move, or delete the file.  In my opinion, that’s just blatantly unnecessary, especially as KDE 3.5 didn’t require you to do that (it’s like they went backwards in terms of usability).  There are a few other things that indicate that KDE 4 just isn’t quite done yet.  The way the panel manages widgets is too restrictive (it seems difficult to move widgets around on the panel).  Theme integration for GTK apps isn’t available in the settings menu by default.  The digital clock widget doesn’t allow you to switch to a 12-hour clock by using the right click menu (you need to go into the system settings for that).  But most damning is that all the widgets on the desktop and panel freak out when you open OpenOffice.org Writer.  The images just fritz out, as if they’re running on bad video drivers…independent of the rest of the desktop.  It’s weird.

But even with those faults, I like it a lot.  I like the default theme and visuals immensely.  Overall, I certainly like it better than Gnome.  Even with the unpolished desktop, this has been my best experience with a linux beta.

However, if you’re new to linux, I wouldn’t recommend KDE 4 quite yet.  It’s not polished enough yet.  If you’re thinking about adopting linux, or trying to push it on a friend, stick with either a KDE 3.5 or Gnome desktop for now.  Those aren’t as buggy, and are still slightly more intuitive overall.  I expect KDE 4 to surpass them on that front soon, but it’s not there yet.

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