Ever since the bumpy start of KDE 4 series, KDE has maintained a steady improvement, consistently bringing stability, performance and features, as well as raising its overall quality release after release. Personally, I think KDE 4.4 was the first release to really bring stability and performance to high standard levels, while 4.5 and 4.6 have managed to improve that even further and expand that same level of quality to other areas.
Today, KDE 4.6.5 is an impressive desktop environment, packed with great features and no longer suffering from the issues that held it back in the past (lack of stability, performance and a heavy resource footprint). Having said so, I have historically disagreed with some of the project fundamentals and its apparent lack of interest for setting the basics consistently. Unfortunately, things don't seem to improve much in that regard with version 4.7, as explained by Bruce Byfield in this ARTICLE.
Click on image to enlarge
Issues aside, today I want to talk about the new features that will soon be available in KDE 4.7, which are significant both in terms of quality and quantity. Note that you can get more information from the Official KDE 4.7 announcement HERE.
According to the official announcement: "The Plasma Workspaces gain from extensive work to KDE’s compositing window manager, KWin, and from the leveraging of new Qt technologies such as Qt Quick."
That already sounds juicy, but a bit more detail and examples truly help in understanding the extent of these improvements. One of the first changes in this department (and a very welcome one, I might add) is an update of the Oxygen icon theme that should improve overall aesthetics. Another change involves better consistency in panel items, such as clock and notification areas. While it's hard to understand how far that consistency goes now, I have been thinking it was a much needed improvement for quite a while. Just hovering over one of the panel icons or clicking on it will randomly bring up menus that either look like plasma or nothing like it. I think that's acceptable for third party applications (i.e., Dropbox), but sound, clock, calendar, klipper, battery and device notifier should all behave and look the same, preferably like plasmoids. Hope that's been achieved in KDE 4.7.
One of the most exciting new features is Kwin support for OpenGL ES, which not only will make KDE portability to mobile devices easier, but will also make Kwin perform better in standard computers as well as position it in a favorable spot looking towards a future transition from X to Wayland. Along those lines, another impressive feature can now proactively detect if support for OpenGL ES is available, if support for less advanced graphical features is, or if none at all, automatically configuring desktop visuals accordingly. This is quite an impressive achievement in an area in which KDE is leading over other desktop environments.
Improvements are not limited to visuals, though, and the fact that KDE 4.7 includes NetworkManager 0.9 support, as well as BlueTooth tethering (Yes!), 3G (Yessss!!) and VPN support makes me want to upgrade already! KIO, the system-wide proxy manager also gains features and stability. Media management improvements are also part of this release, including Phonon Zeitgeist support, as well as better integration between Kmix and PulseAudio.
KDE 4.7 brings a lot of exciting new features and improvements to the table in the application arena. Probably the most anticipated (both due to its relevance as well as the fact that it missed release KDE 4.6) is the return of Kontact, now with full Akonadi integration. Similar levels of Akonadi integration apply now to Kmail 2, which apparently brings no significant interface changes (shame, as there are things that need work, such as a better account creation wizard), but should provide much more robust contact management.
Click on image to enlarge
In a somewhat surprising turn (in that it is not consistent with what other apps in KDE are doing), Dolphin returns with a simplified interface that gets rid of the standard menu bar. Whether this is an actual improvement or not, we will see, but I think it is a plus from an aesthetics stand point... and it's not like I use Dolphin's menu all that much!
Click on image to enlarge
Digikam 2.0 comes out at the same time as KDE 4.7, including great and much anticipated features such as face recognition, image versioning support and reverse geotagging, among others. Kate, KDevelop, Gwenview, Marble and Okular also bring interesting changes and enhancements.
An interesting new addition is KDE-Telepathy, the new instant message solution in KDE, which for now is not part of the main release due to very early stages of development. If this solution brings similar features as the one in GNOME Shell, like deep desktop integration, it will be a big plus. If, on the opposite, it is just another chat client, well, I know I won't be using it.
On a different note, KDM can now interact with GRUB2, making it possible to choose which OS to reboot to (obviously on machines with multiple OS). Not like this feature is incredible useful or time saving, but I think it's nice.
Looking at the official announcement release notes, this is one of the most ambitious KDE 4 releases ever. After a few mostly concentrating on stability and performance, KDE 4.7 brings many new features and enhancements that should raise the bar even higher. Unfortunately, some of its long-time shortcomings are still not getting much attention.
Expect a KDE 4.7 review as soon as it lands in my PCLinuxOS installation!
NOTE: All images from KDE.org