After much heated debate over whether the 4.0 and 4.1 releases were ready for general use, the KDE project has released the first beta of 4.2, codenamed “Caterpillar”.
The rapid, staged release cycle of KDE 4 has attracted criticism for not offering the full features and stability of the previous version 3 releases, but the developers are adamant the fourth generation of the open source desktop will be a lot more modern, feature rich and configurable.
“With 885 bugs closed in the past week, the KDE community is now in bug fixing mode in order to provide a smooth KDE 4.2.0 to end users in January,” according to the KDE 4.2 beta release notes.
For the 4.2 release, the KDE team has fixed “literally thousands of bugs” and has implemented “dozens” of features missing until now in KDE 4. 2.
Among the new features to be expected with 4.2, are compositing desktop effects when the hardware and drivers support it (checked automatically), and new effects like the famous “spinning cube” are available.
New Plasma applets include applets for leaving messages on a locked screen, previewing files, switching desktop Activity, monitoring news feeds, and utilities like the calendar, timer, special character selector, a quick launch applet, and a system monitor, among others.
Theming has also been improved and a new wallpaper system allows for dynamic slideshows and “moving” wallpapers.
Other application improvements include:
- The Dolphin file manager now supports previews of files in toolbars and has a slider to zoom in and out on file item views.
- The Konqueror Web browser offers increased loading speed by “prefetching” domain name data in KHTML and a find-as-you-type bar improves navigation in Web pages.
- KMail has a redesigned interface and attachment view.
- The KWrite and Kate text editors can now operate in Vi input mode.
- A new power manager dubbed PowerDevil.
- Archiving tool Ark also has an improved UI and supports password-protected archives.
- A new printing configuration system brings back a number of features missing in KDE 4.0 and 4.1.
- Remote desktop client KRDC improves support for Microsoft's Active Directory through LDAP.
- PIM application Kontact has a new planner summary and support for drag and drop in the free/busy view.
KDE 4.2 will have another beta around December 16 and a release candidate on January 6. The final release of KDE 4.2.0 is due on January 27, 6 months after the release of KDE 4.1.0.