Wednesday, March 28, 2012

KDE Telepathy news

The need for a modern IM client that provided seamless desktop integration in KDE has been clear for some time, so about a year ago, some KDE developers set out to create KDE Telepathy. Since its inception, the soon to become default IM client in KDE was more than just that, it was more about creating a 360º view inside the desktop and integrating real time communication as deeply as possible, albeit providing the foundations for other bits and pieces to be built on top. They call it Real Time Communication and Collaboration, and frame the project goals as follows:

"Real time Communication has traditionally been a detached feature of Desktop Computing, provided via stand-alone Instant Messaging clients with poor integration into the desktop experience. One of the primary goals of the KDE 4 series is to tighten integration between different components of the environment. The Realtime Communication and Collaboration (RTCC) project aims to tackle just this."

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It was not long ago that KDE Telepathy 0.3 was released and it can already be found in some distros, taking over from Kopete. In my experience, KDE Telepathy works fairly well, with an easy and intuitive user interface. It is a departure from the Kopete approach in that it is part of KDE, not so much a stand-alone application you open or shutdown. KDE Telepathy is always there, users simply get to create accounts and manage their connection status through a plasma widget, which makes the whole desktop integration concept more of a reality.

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When users get messages, they will see a plasma notification with the message content and replying is as simply as clicking on it.

The plasma notificiation eventually disappears, but a small icon remains there in the system tray until the user acts on it.

Needless to say, KDE Telepathy 0.3 is a very early release, not yet fully stable and missing several important features, but work is ongoing towards significant improvements. Many of those will see the light of day come version 0.4, as explained by David Edmunson in this POST of his. Some of the highlights include:

  1. Log Viewer: Keeping conversation logs was a feature already available in KDE Telepathy, but with this new release, a log viewer will make its debut. Merging of Kopete logs (relevant for users who were using Kopete) is a work in progress.

  2. Chat Plasmoid: Easily the most exciting new feature in my opinion. By default all conversations will open in this plasmoid (if installed), on top of the notification area. This approach is similar to the one we see in GNOME Shell and ensures that instant messages will not get in the way of what users are doing, offering an extremely convenient way to reply if desired, avoiding switching to another application, etc.

  3. Contact List Plasmoid: Still a work in progress, the team is asking for ideas for a fancier interface.

  4. KRunner Integration: Thanks to a newly created plugin for krunner, searching for contacts and starting chats should be even easier.

  5. Video Support: Probably a feature we all want, but the chances of seeing it there in this upcoming release are slim at best.

    EDIT: Sounds like video will finally make it to KDE Telepathy 0.4. Check this POST for the latest update.

So there you have it, KDE Telepathy is coming together nicely. At this rate, it will be a first class instant messaging client by v0.5. Very much looking forward to that!

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