Learning that KDE 4.1.0 had been released by the KDE Community, I hastened to download and install this latest, greatest Linux desktop on the Ubuntu-powered Black Tower. Put generously, the results were highly disappointing!
While much more finished than version 4.0, this initial version 4.1 release of KDE still has gaping holes in both its basic functionality and its user friendliness. On the other hand, the new desktop sports radical new features and enhancements compared to the current KDE 3.5.x, so it’s not surprising that finalizing it is taking longer than had been hoped.
The Black Tower’s rather unsatisfying KDE 4.1.0 desktop
(Click for larger view)
Based on my limited experience so far, KDE 4.1.0 really should have been positioned as a “beta release,” or better yet a “feature preview release” — rather than having the “full release” status that a “version 4.1″ designation implies. In short: it’s simply not ready for prime time.
KDE 4.1.0’s System Settings tool
(Click for larger view)
Some of the numerous obstacles I’ve run into so far, in attempting to use it on the Black Tower, include:
- Inability to automatically align icons (aka “widgets”) on the desktop (what happened to KDE 3’s “Align to grid” option?)
- Inability to add user-defined icons (widgets) to the desktop
- Inability to add widgets to the task bar (e.g. “Show desktop” or Konsole), either by using the “Add widgets” function or by dragging them from the desktop
- I had to delete the ~/.kde4/ directory in order for 4.1 to load without crashing
- Why are my applications’ fonts now so darned ugly?
- Why are the titles below the desktop icons truncated?
I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these problems (“features”?) have simple solutions of which I’m not aware. But if so, I don’t see why an experienced KDE 3 user should have so much trouble transitioning to KDE 4. Perhaps a “Quick Start for KDE 3 Users,” listing key operational differences in easy-to-absorb terms, should have been included on KDE 4.1.0’s default desktop?
In conclusion, as a highly satisfied user of KDE 3 for about 7 years, I’m certainly not looking forward to switching to something as alien as KDE 4 appears to be, based on my experience with it so far. Hopefully, when the KDE developers are really finished with KDE 4, it’ll be both a desirable — and user-friendly — upgrade from KDE 3.
I suppose I’m having a taste of what Windows XP users have been forced to swallow in migrating to Vista. But with the KDE Community being a far cry from Microsoft, I suspect the finished product (KDE 4.3.1? ) will be more than satisfactory! For now, I’m eagerly awaiting that day; but until it dawns I’ll stick with KDE 3, thank you very much.
Be sure to read the interesting and informative reader comments below — they form an integral part of this article. Also note that since initially publishing this story, I performed a full reinstall of KDE 4.1.0; by doing so, I was able to resolve some of the issues cited above (see my comments below regarding this).
Further information on the KDE 4.1.0 release is available here.