During the past few days, I have been testing KDE 4.1 beta on Mandriva Cooker. Actually the version I tested is even a bit more recent than KDE 4.1 beta: Cooker currently includes the KDE 4.0.81 snapshot.
Overall, the desktop is basically in a usable state. I experienced a few crashes, but generally it was not too bad. Unfortunately I could not report them all, because I don’t have the -debug packages installed (thanks to our infamous download limits in Belgium, it’s a bit difficult to keep these big packages up to date). Most problems are related to things not working correctly or not very intuitively. In my opinion this has always been the weak spot of KDE.
Here’s a list of bugs which I reported during the last few days:
- KWin/System Settings: XRender smooth scaling setting not saved
- KMail: check mail at startup should be enabled by default
- Kopete: raw HTML shown in tooltip pop-up for MSN contact
- KMail: disabling message structure viewer when the message structure viewer is enabled, causes a crash
- Kopete: no invisible status possible by default
- Gwenview: should save the visibility settings for the sidebar and the thumbnail bar for the next session
- Kopete: message in pop-up notification is empty when receiving a single emoticon message
- KWin: desktop effects only enabled if I change the compositing type setting
- Dolphin: no visible button in sidebar to empty wastebin
- KMail: provide close button to disable Favourite folder view
- KMail wrong encoding for sender name which is not selected in message list
- Kopete: truncation of contact names not done for status change messages
- Kopete: message pop-up notifications are not disappearing automatically
A lot of this problems are not too bad, but they make the desktop loop a bit unfinished and less professional. The finishing touch is still lacking.
So apart from that, I experienced some more random crashes for which I did not find a reproducible test case yet. Sometimes a combo box in Konqueror’s web browser shows completely black when opened for the first time. Also in Konqueror, there are some refreshing issues, where you get part of the page overlapping with other parts, until you scroll the problematic part of the page out of the window and back in. Sometimes sound notifications in all KDE applications stop working completely. Some dialogs are not heigh enough by default (for example in Kopete’s new account wizard), a bug which was already reported on KDE’s bugzilla.
Plasma is still a mixed bag in KDE 4.1. The folder view, which is used for showing the normal icons on the desktop we are used to, does not have a correct right click menu for the menu icons, which makes it difficult/impossible to rename or remove icons on the desktop for example. I failed to add a “show desktop” button on the panel (nothing seems to happen when I do this). It’s deceiving that such basic features are still not working correctly now. All in all, I also have the impression that this whole Plasma thing also makes the desktop much more complex. It also adds little gain (only a few interesting gadgets mostly used by more advanced users and geeks) while it has still many drawbacks in basic features which are used by many less experienced people.
What’s also very problematic, is that there is a huge speed regression in KMail. in KMail 4.1, it is simply mail folders containing ten thousands of messages are barely usable, something which worked fine in KMail 3.5 and also works fine in Evolution. I reported this problem and apparently this is a known problem in QT 4.4’s Q3ListView class. Trolltech does not want to fix this bug anymore and so the only possible solution is to port KMail to use QTreeView, which will not happen for KDE 4.1. Unfortunately this is yet another example of things which won’t be complete for KDE 4.1.
KDE 4.1 generally feels very fast. Dolphin is a very nice addition to the desktop and while I was not really a fan of the KickOff menu earlier, it’s actually very usable. KDE finally can access file systems on encrypted LUKS devices (although it’s currently not working for me, probably because of a bug which is also affecting GNOME). and Gwenview is a very nice default picture viewer. Amarok 2 however does not seem very usable yet at this moment. I also like the new default setting of showing the text under the toolbar icons (however I don’t understand why this is not the case in Konqueror) and the integrated desktop effects in KDE are nice, while being a bit less bloated and bombastic than Compiz.
While KDE 4.1 has some very nice improvements, I think I will never install it on systems I manage for others (normal, non-technical computer users) which are now using KDE 3.5. For those kind of users, I want a (near) perfect desktop where everything is polished and things are working perfectly as intended and as would be reasonably expected by normal users. I’m afraid it will take until somewhere in the the KDE 4.2 series until this will become reality. If you are a more experienced user and don’t mind basic Plasma things not being finished and other unpolished things all over the desktop and don’t have any huge mail folders, then even already KDE 4.1 beta could be right what you need. Personally, I will continue to use GNOME 2.22.2. For now, I consider this as the most professional desktop which is capable of offering the kind of stability and smoothness most new Linux expect.