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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

KDE 4.2 Review

KDE 4 right now is like using a nice Beta operating system. Well, not exactly. Your filesystem and kernel are not likely to crash. It should be noted that KDE 4.2 never crashed on me once, which is quite impressive. However there are still lots of features/customization options missing from KDE 4.2. The problems with Konquorer was the deal breaker for me, but at least everything else seemed usable for the time being.

The detailed breakdown....

I am spending a lot of time learning how to do the same old tricks in a new way. I'm really trying to hold back judgment because a lot of the ability to customize, which a core feature of KDE, is still missing. I won't be satisfied until it is there.

Now, I think KDE 4 is adding a lot of features that were needed. Better Bluetooth integration for one thing. EDIT: It is a little bug at the moment but when it works it will be nice.

The Problems and the Bugs....

QTCurve: There is a bug with using QTCurve for the Windows Style, which makes lots of black lines in Konquorer, which is too bad. I like that style.

  • Shortcut keys: The default shortcut keys in konsole interfere with real work. But you can change these through the Settings -> Configure Shortcuts menu. My case is CTRL+S, which locks my console. I have seen this behavior before but never from Konsole.
  • Transparency: Good transparency is gone from Konsole. I knew this had happened already and I need to find a good konsole now, but this needs to be stated: True-Alpha-Transparency is a tragedy because we are losing the "good transparency" in our programs. I have no use for this True-Alpha transparency and loath it with every fiber of my fibrously fibrous being. I want to see my desktop background in my semi-transparent console window, and I don't want to see the 20 windows below it.
  • Default Transparency: Ironically you have to open Konsole with a specific switch to enable transparency. Seriously? Lame.
KWin: There are bugs with not saving various preferences correctly. In particularly, I ran into problems with preferences for Konquorer. It was pretty annoying and attempting to delete the settings after they had been stored seemed to be impossible.

Konquorer :

(All the problems with Konquorer in KDE 4.2 is precisely why I hate Dolphin)
  • File Renaming: Changed to a separate window interface, not integrated into the current window interface. Doubtless this is because of Dolphin. Curse it.
  • Folder Tree: Many of options are missing from the right-click menu in the Folder Tree. For example, cannot rename folders by right-clicking; it can only be done in the right hand pane.
  • Configurations: A bug with Konquorer not saving configuration options, like showing tooltips or expandable folders. I hope they fix this soon.
  • Severe conflict between the detail view mode and the icon view mode. This is due to Konqurer stubbornly refusing to save my view settings correctly, if at all. I cannot enable previews in the icon mode and disable them in the detail mode.
  • Sizes of the icons are synchronized in all views. This is simply unusable. I need my icons to be large in Icon View mode and small in Detail view mode. Switching between Icon view and Detail view results in major pain because you will constantly be resizing your icons.
  • Gwenview integration is broken. I can no longer browse images quickly using the Space and Backspace keys in Konquorer. I am sure this will be fixed eventually, but I miss it.
  • 'media:/' protocol: Not there yet and I miss it, but it is planned for KDE 4.3.
  • Mouse gestures: These don't seem to work and the System Settings dialog for configuring them is just.... weird. The problem might be PEBKAC though.
Note on Konquorer:
Despite all the problems, I see some really nice stuff coming our way for Konquorer. The new buttons added to the toolbar menu are nice.

They finally fixed that really annoying bug with sporadic location bar position changes when using integrated Gwenview. I'm happy for that.

Konquorer's bugs were the last straw that made me switch back to KDE 3.5 but when those are fixed I think I can finally use KDE 4.xx.

  • Tabs: Tabs now available in Dolphin. Makes me wonder how it is so different from Konquorer... on the surface anyway. I know underneath it is not a web-browser anymore.
  • Double Clicking: The Folder Tree view requires double clicking to use, not single clicking like it has been for generations. I hope that when this Folder Tree is ported to Konqueror (as the developers plan) they realize the need to improve this. I suspect they will.

Desktop Background: I am actually shocked and appalled that the Slideshow option is without features for scaling/tiling/positions. I was always saddened that KDE used an ugly resampling algorithm for their image scaling (shame on you guys), but this is ridiculous! I can only scale or title but not both! (All the other options are meaningless!).

The Panel:
  • The panel is fairly devoid of all the customizability that really matters.
  • No task grouping options. I have always hated Windows for offering to group my tasks together. I'm not a moron. I know what programs I have and I don't need you to group them. EDIT: I have discovered their is an option to not group specific programs, so they are obviously moving in the fully customized direction.
  • No task sorting options
  • No transparency configuration options. I do not know how to tell it to organize my tasks (or not organize them). Also, I don't know how to tell it to be "Elegant for Transparency" like back in 3.5. I miss that feature. Lets hope it comes back.

Application Menu:

The KDE team really should have put some thought into why Microshaft made their Vista startmenu and why they needed it.

The reason: Microshaft's program menu has no order, so people need help finding their applications.

The new style of KDE app menu takes more typing and more mouseclicks to access programs. It slows down the user for no good reason!! A hybrid system of the search-and-program-list would be nice. However a pure Vista knockoff is awful. Whoever thought this was a good idea for KDE should be ashamed at not thinking things through and blatantly following in the stupidity of Microshaft.
  • Most Recently Used Programs: This is a must have feature, and its not here. EDIT: This is already implemented in KDE 4.3, which does not surprise me and makes me happy.
  • Editing entries: You cannot edit application-menu entries by right-clicking on them and selecting "Edit this item." That activates the item. Instead, the only way to edit a menu entry is to right-click on the App Menu itself and select Menu Editor. Certainly not a deal killer, but a feature I miss when I'm setting up a new installation.

System Settings:
  • Empty Space: Several areas have lots of empty space, while their more advanced options are on other tabs. This just results in unnecessary clicking for me to reach my options again.
  • Colors: Creating custom color schemes is more laborious because what used to take 1-2 click now takes about 4-5. Very very annoying.
  • Some listings in configuration areas are not sorted by name... or by any logic I can see. One is the video section of the File Associations area.
  • Hard drives & File Systems: this configurae interface is missing. This is a critical thing for some people and I cannot BELIEVE that Kubuntu 8.10 shipped without it. It is not even there when I updated to KDE 4.2. Now, I know how to manually configure my own hard drives with Vim in a console, but I thought we were beyond those days guys? Come on! This is an F- grade.
  • Window Behavior: This is already semi-buggy as I mentioned in my tests with Konquorer, but they are planning to redesign and improve this interface by KDE 4.3. So for now we are just waiting.

Hot Keys:
  • Only One HotKey: Since when did KDE decide I can't have 2 hotkeys for the same feature/function/application? This is a mistake, but I suspect this bug will be fixed eventually.

Default Themes: Though I like the default themes of Wonton Soup and Obsidian Coast, both of these have problems. On webpages that need black-text on a white background, they too dark and fall under the perpetual problem we low-contrast users experience. Damn it. I had to recreate my own CDE theme from scratch. Slightly annoying. Not really KDE's fault unless you count lacking a greater variety of default available themes.

There is more to say but I don't feel like going on....

I'm giving up on KDE again this year. I have to find an alternative that works. I will probably switch to Ubuntu and toss KDE 3.5 back onto it.

KDE 4.xx has yet again wasted my time, sadly. I like some of the new things coming out in KDE but most of the functionality I need to use day to day is just not there right now.

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