KDE 4.4 aims to take free desktop skyward

KDE 4.4 aims to take free desktop skyward

Networked applications and social computing were high on the developers' agenda for the newest version of this highly-anticiapted open source desktop environment.

KDE 4’s default theme Oxygen is getting new animation features for KDE 4.4.

KDE 4’s default theme Oxygen is getting new animation features for KDE 4.4.

A growing community

If there's one thing the KDE 4 series has done for the project it was raise expectations and generate publicity. With version 4.4 now in the works, there has been no shortage of new contributors to the project. Some 300 new accounts were created for developers over the past year alone.

"We're seeing tremendous growth of the community, and the number of developers and contributors is steadily increasing," Kugler says. "Many sub-projects have grown from a one or two person show to a larger team of developers. So yes, KDE is growing and developing at a really nice pace."

"Will we continue to be able to grow? I hope so, it depends a lot on scalability though."

That scalability requirement involves a plan to move to the Git source code management system; however, a timeframe for the migration of the primary infrastructure and development process has yet to be established.

KDE4 development platform pays dividends

One of the reasons the KDE project decided to begin a new KDE 4 series was to completely overhaul and "modernize" the development libraries and APIs used by the higher-level applications.

According to Kugler, the libraries and frameworks delivered as part of the KDE 4 development platform are already "really paying off".

"We're seeing many great new applications, but also old and well-known candidates making use of all this," he says.

"We do have more in the pipeline, though. In KDE 4.4, the search and semantic desktop features will play a bigger role. There's a new search box integrated in Dolphin, the file manager, so you can search directly from that. In the background, it uses Nepomuk, so all the information in the desktop search index is actually stored across all applications."

"If you tag an image in your image viewer, the tag becomes visible in your desktop search. That's how it should be, right?"

On the frameworks side, 4.4 will introduce a new storage mechanism for the semantic desktop, based on Virtuoso. This should solve most of the performance problems experienced with the Nepomuk data store.

A new library dubbed "libattica" and the backend functionality for social computing have also been added to the main libraries for KDE 4.4. This means that every application will be able to access social desktop features transparently, without having to individually take care of necessities like authentication, different service providers and the REST protocol. Next, developers want to see more KDE apps integrate social desktop features.

When released in January 2008, KDE 4.0 received criticism for a release that did not have all the functionality of the previous KDE 3 series, but with 4.4 essentially being the "fifth generation" of the KDE 4 series, Kugler says the whole KDE 4 vision is finally coming together.

"I think KDE really is in a transition phase between re-implementing all those nice things users were used to already," Kugler says. "With KDE 4.3, we have pretty much caught up with the level of functionality we offered previously, built on top of the new KDE libraries."

"We did manage to do all that with much less complex user interfaces, so it might not seem as feature-rich as KDE 3, but it definitely matches its level, and goes beyond what we had in KDE 3 in many areas."

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