The open source KDE project has announced version 4.1 beta 1 in the first significant release update since the advent of KDE 4 earlier this year.
KDE 4.1 beta 1 has updated Plasma libraries with expanded desktop shell functionality and configurability and the KDE personal information management (PIM) suite is now ported to KDE 4 along with a lot more new and recently ported applications.
Plasma, the software that creates desktop menus and panels, now supports multiple resizeable panels.
The Kickoff application launcher menu has a new look and is more optimized, and the run command dialog has been given a makeover.
In addition to being given a performance boost, KDE's native KWin Composite window effects now have a "cover switch" alt-tab feature and the "wobbly windows" effect.
KDE's PIM suite, dubbed Kontact, is now back in the main development tree as its various tools have been ported to KDE 4. These will be released for the first time with KDE 4.1.
Features from the KDE 3 Enterprise branch have been incorporated into Kontact, making it more useful for business. Improvements include new components like time tracking and note taking applications, a new look, better support for multiple calendars and timezones, and more robust e-mail handling.
New applications joining the KDE stable for 4.1 are Dragon Player, a simple media player, and a new printer applet.
There are general improvements all around but some of the more notable ones are in the native Web browser Konqueror, the picture viewer Gwenview, the file manager Dolphin, and Get New Stuff which facilitates the downloading of new software onto the desktop. Zeroconf networking has also been added to several applications.
Underneath the hood, the core KDE libraries have also been improved with KHTML getting a speed boost and WebKit is added to Plasma to allow Mac OS X Dashboard widgets to be used in KDE.
The use of the Widgets on Canvas feature of Qt 4.4 makes Plasma more stable and lightweight, according to the developers.
Phonon, the cross-platform media framework, gains subtitle support and can now use GStreamer, DirectShow 9 or QuickTime.
KDE 4.1 beta 1 is available as binary packages for a wide range of platforms, and as source packages. The final KDE 4.1 is due for release in July 2008.