KDE 4.5 release ups stability, adds Webkit browser

Consistent UI across applications and toolkits

The new notification system in KDE SC 4.5 groups multiple jobs and notifications are remembered for a while.

The new notification system in KDE SC 4.5 groups multiple jobs and notifications are remembered for a while.

The KDE project has released the sixth generation of version 4 of its open source software compilation (SC) and desktop environment with KDE SC 4.5 now available for download – including a Webkit option for the native Web browser.

The KDE 4 series began in January 2008 and received criticism for being too much of a deviation from the 3.5 series and not maintaining feature parity.

Since then five point releases have introduced new technologies and closed the gap on user expectations. The developers have settled on regular six month interval between point releases.

A special focus of this release cycle is the stability of the software delivered with KDE SC 4.5, say its developers.

“While there are many exciting new features, developers have spent considerable amounts of time finishing off features and polishing those that haven't come to full bloom yet,” according to the project.


See related article: KDE innovation still brewing amid stable 4.5 release |

Between the second beta and the first release candidate (about three weeks) for KDE SC 4.5 some 1233 bugs were reported and 1165 were closed. Between the first and second beta releases (two weeks) 1459 new bugs were reported and 1643 were closed.

“KDE SC 4.5 includes new features, greater ease of use, accessibility, good looks, better networking and further internationalization.”

Specifically, 4.5 debuts a reworked notification area that replaces the old “system tray” for a consistent UI across applications and toolkits.

On the desktop, the window manager, KWin, has a new tiling effect to automatically place windows next to each other and graphical effects like blurring the background of translucent windows for a better user experience.

A frequently requested feature of KDE is to add support for the Webkit rendering engine to Konqueror, the default Web browser.

KDE SC 4.5 has a Webkit component that can be installed and Konqueror can be switched from using KHTML to Webkit for the rendering engine.

Webkit began as a fork of KHTML by Apple in 2002 and has since been adopted by large software companies like Google and Nokia (both also KDE contributors).

The WebKit component for Konqueror is available from KDE's Extragear repository and is based on the KPart component technology which integrates with password storage, content-blocking and other Konqueror features.

Other general improvements include:

  • KHTML continues to develop, gaining support for XPath queries
  • Web content performance has been increased using a new scheduling policy, allowing for more parallel downloads of content from distinct servers, in turn enabling pages to be rendered faster as more of their components are loaded together. Both the page-rendering speed of the KHTML and the WebKit engines benefit from these changes
  • Plasma Workspaces can now be configured using JavaScript templates which can be distributed as small, separate packages. This makes it possible for system administrators and integrators to set up custom Plasma configurations for users, or to change the default setup of a standard Plasma Desktop
  • KSharedDataCache is a new caching mechanism for applications. This memory-mapped cache is already used for icons and demonstrates noticable speed-ups
  • New Perl bindings to allow application developers a greater choice of languages when developing software using KDE Platform components
  • The Phonon Multimedia library can now use PulseAudio

New E-mail app held back

KDE’s PIM applications continue to undergo heavy development for the KDE 4 release series and as such the developers decided to delay the release of the mail application, KMail, for one month after the 4.5 release.

KMail 2 has been ported to Akonadi, a storage layer for PIM data, and this should be released with 4.5.1.

“In the meantime, the stable version of KMail from KDE SC 4.4 will be maintained,” say the developers.

“Akonadi will centralise [synchronisation] and caching of PIM data, deliver wider support for groupware servers and will make handling PIM data, such as contacts, calendaring and e-mail more efficient by sharing it across applications.”

The KDE project is online at: www.kde.org.

For a little history, see the original announcement of KDE 1.0 in July, 1998.

Rodney Gedda is Editor of TechWorld Australia. Follow Rodney on Twitter at @rodneygedda. Rodney's e-mail address is rodney_gedda@idg.com.au. Follow TechWorld Australia on Twitter at @Techworld_AU.

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