KDE Plasma Workspaces Improve User Experience
KDE Community launches Plasma Desktop and Netbook 4.5.0
KDE, an international Free Software community, is happy to announce the immediate availability of the Plasma Desktop and Netbook workspaces in version 4.5. The Plasma Workspaces see both refinement and innovation towards semantic, task-driven workflows. In addition to thousands of bugs that have been fixed in order to make the user experience more complete, more usable and more attractive, some interesting changes are included in this release:
- The notification area in the panel has been cleaned up visually. Monochromatic icons give visual clarity, and more consistent user interactions improve usability. Download tracking and indicators for other long-running operations, which are centralized in the notification area, are now handled by a visual progress indication in the widget itself. Likewise, the display, categorization and queueing of application notifications has been reworked. Notifications from shared Plasma widgets on remote systems may now be displayed as well as local events.
- KWin, the window manager component of the Plasma Workspace, can now lay-out windows on the screen without overlapping using tiling algorithms. Following a defined set of rules, KWin takes care of placing windows for the user. It is now also possible to easily move windows around by dragging an empty area inside the window. This new feature improves window handling ergonomics by allowing empty space to be used as drag handles. This feature will only work with Qt-based applications, as it requires some integration with the underlying toolkit to work properly. Adding and removing virtual desktops can now be done directly from the pager and desktop grid effect. Alongside these changes, many systems will enjoy improved window effects performance.
- Plasma Workspace Activities: the Zooming User Interface (ZUI) of the previous Plasma Desktop releases has been replaced by an "Activity Manager", similar to the Add Widgets dialog introduced with the 4.4 release. The new Activity Manager provides adding, removing, saving and restoring of Activities, and allows to switch between them. The visual concept of an Activity has been extended as well. Activities are now easier to manage and can aid users in their daily computing needs, providing them with a clearer separation between different tasks. The new Activity Manager is the first visible piece of context-awareness brought into Plasma through the use of Semantic Desktop features provided by Nepomuk.
- Plasma Netbook, the KDE Workspace for small notebooks and netbooks, has received substantial improvements with this release. Many of the changes are not immediately visible, but do provide a more pleasant netbook experience with higher performance and better touchscreen capabilities.
- The new "oxygen-settings" tool allows power users to configure the default Oxygen style to their liking. Finally, the theme engine Aurorae has seen many improvements and the blur effect has been reintroduced but may be disabled depending on the capabilities of your graphics driver.
- In a move to support Free Software around the world, all KDE applications now can work with the Thai, Taiwanese and Japanese calendars, and more digit sets are supported. Local holidays are now displayed in detail in the calendar popup.
Workspace Setup Restructured
The configuration for the workspace has been restructured and is now offered through a category in System Settings. The new Workspace section provides control over the Look and Feel of your Plasma workspace. Here you can set the theming to your liking, enable or disable the Semantic Desktop & Desktop Search features, and enable many settings that make your workspace work the way you want it to, be it hot corners, visual helpers used for managing windows, the new window tiling feature, and many more.
The Workspace section in System Settings gives you full control over the look and feel of your workspace.
Workspace effects enhance the user experience in many ways. These include the usage of OpenGL-rendered window previews in the taskbar, and a desktop grid effect which enables you to zoom in and out of virtual desktops. If your hardware or graphics driver does not support these graphical effects properly, Plasma falls back gracefully to traditional 2D rendering. We recommend using the latest version of the graphics driver and underlying XOrg stack for the best performance. In 4.5, it is now possible for administrators and distributors to gain finer control over graphics hardware and drivers used through the use of per-effect blacklists. This makes it easier to enable and disable certain features based on their availability and stability on certain systems. It also makes it easier to provide a smoother experience out of the box to many users.
Plans and Work in Progress
The Plasma team is working on further performance improvements in window management. Also on the agenda is extending the concepts of Activities, the intentional and automatic grouping of related windows and supporting desktop furniture, making the workspace and applications more context-aware, including the use of geolocation. Effects such as blurring transparent window backgrounds are being employed to increase ergonomics while looking good, by making text and user interface elements more readable.
New Plasma Workspaces for Media Center use-cases and mobile phones are also on their way. During the recent Akademy conference, the first phone call was made using the new Plasma Mobile shell.
KDE software, including all its libraries and its applications, is available for free under Open Source licenses. KDE software runs on various hardware configurations, operating systems and works with any kind of window manager or desktop environment. Besides Linux and other UNIX based operating systems you can find Microsoft Windows versions of most KDE applications on the KDE software on Windows site and Apple Mac OS X versions on the KDE software on Mac site. Experimental builds of KDE applications for various mobile platforms like MeeGo, MS Windows Mobile and Symbian can be found on the web but are currently unsupported.
KDE software can be obtained in source and various binary formats from http://download.kde.org and can also be obtained on CD-ROM or with any of the major GNU/Linux and UNIX systems shipping today.
Some Linux/UNIX OS vendors have kindly provided binary packages of 4.5.0
for some versions of their distribution, and in other cases community volunteers
have done so.
Some of these binary packages are available for free download from KDE's http://download.kde.org. Additional binary packages, as well as updates to the packages now available, will become available over the coming weeks.
In order to get the most out of these releases, we strongly recommend to use the latest version of Qt, as of today 4.6.3. This is necessary in order to assure a stable experience, as some improvements made to KDE software have actually been done in the underlying Qt framework.
Graphics drivers may under certain conditions fall back to XRender rather than OpenGL for compositing. If you have issues with notably slow graphics performance, switching off desktop effects is likely to help, depending on the graphics driver and setup used. In order to make full use of the capabilities of KDE's software, we also recommend to use the latest graphics drivers for your system, as this can improve the user experience substantially, both in optional functionality, and in overall performance and stability.
KDE is an international technology team that creates free and open source software for desktop and portable computing. Among KDE's products are a modern desktop system for Linux and UNIX platforms, comprehensive office productivity and groupware suites and hundreds of software titles in many categories including Internet and web applications, multimedia, entertainment, educational, graphics and software development. KDE software is translated into more than 60 languages and is built with ease of use and modern accessibility principles in mind. KDE's full-featured applications run natively on Linux, BSD, Solaris, Windows and Mac OS X.
Trademark Notices. KDE® and the K Desktop Environment® logo are registered trademarks of KDE e.V. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group in the United States and other countries. All other trademarks and copyrights referred to in this announcement are the property of their respective owners.
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