Almost a year to the day KDE 4 releases started with 4.0.0, the KDE project has been in damage control about how it handled the apparent developers release, but that all changed today with the second major release in the KDE 4 series, KDE 4.2.0, codenamed “the answer” aimed squarely at a whole new free desktop experience.
Its developers describe KDE 4.0.0 as having “embryonic concepts” which would be leveraged into a more user-friendly and productive desktop in successive major releases. KDE 4.1 was an improvement, but 4.2 was always going to the first “real” KDE 4 release.
Since 4.1 the project has had more than 62,400 commits by some 600 contributors.
KDE 4.2 is seen as the “positive results” of the KDE 4 beginning and is not the end, but another milestone along the road of KDE 4 development.
Plasma: it's all about the desktop
The KDE desktop shell, Plasma, has received a good makeover and includes many new widgets for uploading files to Web applications, system monitors, weather information, file previews and even a simple Web browser.
Thousands more widgets are now available on Plasma thanks to support for Google Gadgets and Mac OS X dashboard widgets.
Keyboard shortcuts can now be assigned to widgets for quick access and the Folderview widget allows files in any local (including the “desktop”) or remote location to be previewed or opened
Other desktop enhancements include the ability to zoom in and out of named desktops, a new System Settings module for fine-tuning Plasma themes, and the option to have the desktop background as a slideshow.
Support for installing and moving widgets with drag-and-drop is also a feature, and widgets can be dragged and locked to the panel which can now be set to hide automatically.
An experimental feature included in 4.2 is widgets on the screensaver which are still interactive. For example, the widget can display a song playing or be used to leave a note from someone while the screen is still locked.
KWin's compositing ability is not new with 4.2, but it has received many performance and feature improvements like checks for low-end hardware, automatic fall-back under heavy load, and use of the new Kephal Library for better multiple screen handling.
For owners of netbooks many configuration screens have been redesigned to fit smaller screens and another benefit for mobile users is that power usage has been reduced all throughout the KDE stack.