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Previewing KDE 4
Pages: 1, 2

JL: "Replacing the desktop and panels with a new application called Plasma": can you give me more on this? I'm not sure what I saw at Linux World, but it looked very clean.



AJS: That's part of the idea, yes. The central concepts are workflow and beauty. Some of the ideas include:

  • making the desktop a place for more than just icons
  • allowing widgets as first-class citizens on the desktop (for example, Superkaramba)
  • allowing multiple layouts on the desktop that are context sensitive (changing depending on what you are doing, for instance)
  • allowing users to easily and quickly group items on the desktop visually
  • providing ad hoc networking (having, say, an area that a user can drag objects into, and everything in that area is published on the local network)
  • scripting instead of C++
  • using ECMAScript (aka JavaScript) as the default language for widgets
  • using SVG files for graphic design, manipulable via ECMAScript
  • simplifying panels and taskbars
  • instead of panels with convoluted config (current KDE Panels), applets and buttons "click" together and apart (like magnets) to create chains that the user can drag around
  • anything that can be put on a panel can be dragged to the desktop, and vice versa
  • the look is improved
  • modern graphics are provided by artists
  • SVG graphics include animations
  • new X extensions such as COMPOSITE are used, when available, to provide performant and beautiful alpha blending, window thumbnails, and more
  • theming is shared by windows, the desktop, and panels
  • a rethinking of basic components such as notification windows and the system tray make them more humane and workflow-centric
  • the introduction of a new set of artwork (Oxygen) and updated human interface guidelines; we will be making extensive use of the SVG format for these items

JL: Any chance of a sneak screenshot?

AJS: Not at this point, sorry.

JL: What improvements result from SVG use?

AJS: Resolution-independent images allow us to provide graphics that look good whether the user has a low-resolution or high-resolution display and regardless of the size of the graphics they use. For icons and window borders, which the user may change the sizes of, this is a big win.

Additionally, SVG allows for animations and transformations that make it easy to provide very nice and organic effects in the UI. The implementation in Qt 4.1 is quite lightweight and very fast.

JL: Ah yes, there's been some comment about this. One Linux person I talked to made the point that if many things are ported to other OSes, why should they use Linux? I guess, where developers have chipped in on a Linux app or utility and it is then ported to, say, Windows, they might feel fairly grumpy. What do you make of this?

AJS: This is actually exactly the argument I made in my blog last year; that blog entry was then picked up by Slashdot, and from there it went all over. So I am in a nontrivial way responsible for that meme. And I still agree with it.

On the other hand, there can be real benefits to porting our libraries to other operating systems. The primary one is that we get more developers using our technology, which then translates into more applications for KDE. If people use our libraries to build their applications, then we can more effectively address the issue of desktop application availability on Linux and other open source operating systems. But many developers, particularly those producing closed source software, are not willing or able to write software that they can't deliver to people on Windows.

We will not be porting things like Plasma to Windows, however. In fact, Plasma (as an example) will not be portable because we will have hard requirements on X11 in it.

So, while there will be many KDE applications that won't be portable to Windows, our libraries will be available to Windows and Mac OS X developers to easily write powerful and portable applications. This will allow us to increase our developer pool and increase the number of applications available for KDE on Linux.

JL: Does KDE have a stated policy?

AJS: Not at this point, no.

JL: Is there any kind of target date for a beta?

AJS: We're aiming for a release in fall 2006. We don't have any firm timelines yet.

John Littler is chief gopher for Mstation.org.


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