KDE 4 for KDE 3 users
Since the release of KDE 4.0 11 months ago, there’s been a whole lot of heated debate going on, on blogs, mailing lists, forums, IRC and basically any other media you can imagine. The complaints seem to come in waves though – everytime there’s a KDE release or a major distribution release with KDE 4, a new wave of angry complaining people seems to appear out of the blue, putting forward the exact same complaints other people have already been presenting all over the net for months. It would actually be kind of funny to observe the phenomenon, if only they weren’t so loud and angry.
Since the release of openSUSE 11.1 with KDE 4.1.3 is imminent I thought I’d prepare a little something for the upcoming wave of frustrated people. Many other KDE4 FAQs and introductions already exist, but they’re not invented here. I’ll try to keep it short and broad, since almost all the complaints fall into three basic categories.
Yes, KDE 4 is different from KDE 3 in many ways – this was the whole point of KDE 4 from the beginning. It was always intended to be a radical change, since it was decided that incremental improvements would only get KDE so far. This means there is a learning curve and there may be the need to reconfigure some applications from scratch.
However many applications are more or less straight ports, but some components are new and rather different, most notably the desktop and panel (KDesktop and Kicker) were replaced with Plasma, KControl has been replaced with Systemsettings and Dolphin replaces Konqueror as the default file manager.
Over time KDE 4 will become more different than KDE 3, not less, so waiting to migrate later probably won’t make it any easier.
Yes, it’s true that KDE 4.0, 4.1 and even 4.2 doesn’t have every exact feature or configuration option that exists in KDE 3. This means you may have to adapt your workflows a little bit, but it’s very unlikely any of these missing features will be critical to doing your work if you think about it.
Nevertheless KDE 4.x already has got lots and lots of features that weren’t in KDE 3, you just have to look.
The missing features are not the result of a new philosophy for KDE, it just happens that porting everything to KDE4/Qt4 was a huge task, and some components were completely replaced and need more time to mature completely, but mid- to long term it’s for the best. If you compared KDE 4.0 with 4.2 (beta) you’d be amazed how many features and configuration options have been added in one short year.
Lack of polish
As mentioned above important components have been rewritten from scratch and even straight porting application wasn’t a walk in the park. KDE 4.1 is still just the beginning of the KDE 4 era, it will become much better in every area very fast. There’s definitely room for improvements regarding optimizations, usability and bugs in KDE 4.1. But it’s not like KDE 3 was bug free either, many KDE 4 components objectively work much better than their KDE 3 predecesssors.
This post won’t do much to alleviate the inconveniences with migration in a practical sense, but hopefully it’ll help some people migrating from KDE 3 to KDE 4 to understand what’s going on and why, and see things in a bigger perspective.
It’s also interesting that generally the most unhappy users are long time KDE 3 users – whereas users of GNOME or Microsoft Windows etc. don’t seem to have all these problems when they try KDE 4. I guess they approach KDE 4 with more of an open mind, intending to try something new and different, instead of expecting to find their former desktop environment++, maybe KDE 3 users can learn from that approach.
PS: KDE 3.5 is included in openSUSE 11.1, for the last time(!!). It’s under “Other” in the Desktop selection step of DVD installations.