Sneak Peek: KDE 4.3

I've never been a big fan of KDE 4.x. I really disliked the first versions, like KDE 4.04. But, over time, KDE became more useful and usable. By KDE 4.2, I finally saw a new version of KDE I could like. Now, with the "so close to release you can almost taste it," KDE 4.3 is the first of the KDE 4 family that I can wholeheartedly approve of.

Unlike previous versions, this edition, from release candidate 2 on, has run without any hiccups on both of my KDE systems. The first is a Dell Inspiron 530S powered by a 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800-MHz front-side bus. This test machine had 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB SATA (Serial ATA) drive, and an Integrated Intel 3100 GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) chip set. The other, a Lenovo ThinkPad R61, is powered by a a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor T7500 and has 2GBs of RAM.

To check out this new version, I used openSUSE 11.1. SUSE and KDE developers have long worked hand in glove with each other. So, whenever you want to try out the latest versions of KDE, the easiest way to is to use one of the openSUSE KDE builds.

What really struck me about this release aren't any of the new features. Instead, it was the improvement in its overall performance and looks that caught my attention.

The new desktop style, Plasma Air, is both very attractive and very flexible. It's a nice combination. I'm both happy with its default look and feel, and I appreciate that I can easily set it to working the way I want it to work.

One interesting improvement, which you'll need to look closely for, is that you can now reset the System Settings window so that it looks and acts like the KDE 3.x Control Center. Since, I still find that tree-view to be far more useful than the KDE 4.x default, I welcomed this change.

Actually, that small change is indicative of a larger change for the better in KDE. One of my real problems with KDE 4.x was that its developers seemed to want to go their own way while ignoring the wishes of the KDE 3.x user community. Now, KDE 4's programmers are still moving forward with their desktop vision, but they're giving KDE 3's users the opportunity to use the new desktop in an old, familiar way.

If you've been avoiding KDE 4 because of that, or other issues, it's finally time to give it a try. I think you'll find, as I have, that this new KDE is finally ready to compete with its older sibling KDE 3.5.11 and GNOME 2.26 for anyone's Linux desktop.

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