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February 7, 2008

KDE4 Update: A Turn for the Worse?

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I recently wrote a post about KDE4 and Plasma, and my first impressions about it. Yesterday, I ran aptitude dist-upgrade to find out that KDE4 had an upgrade available. KDE 4.0.1 is here.

The main changes I've noticed since the update is some changed and some missing functionality. The "Add widget" area is no longer; it has been replaced with a "zoom zone". When hovered over, the area expands and gives you a "Zoom out" button. This zooms the desktop out to show all four (or however many) desktops on the screen. To zoom out, you must hover over the corner area again (which is now half as large and in the corner of each "desktop"), though this presents two buttons: one to zoom in by another factor of two, and one to zoom back out to normal. I tried the second zoom factor, and was scared I might not be able to get back :D. Seriously, though, it doesn't work (at all) with compiz; as such, I have no use for it. Fortunately, the "retracted" form of the area is grayed out and unobtrusive. To add plasmoids, you must first unlock them (right-click the Desktop > Unlock widgets), then call up the "add widgets" dialogue (right-click desktop > Add widgets...).

Some of the widgets seem to have had an update as well; most notably, the Digital Clock widget, which I use daily. The change: I no longer have the choice to view a 12-hour clock rather than the default 24-hour clock. Oops.

One nice thing I just noticed: in 4.0.0, whilst dragging plasmoids, if your mouse moved behind a window, the plasmoid would lose focus. You had to go around the open windows to move the plasmoids around. No longer; the plasmoid will continue moving unless you let go of the mouse button. Even behind windows.

Another small plasmoid change, affecting all widgets, is that the per-plasmoid rotate/resize button has been split into individual resize and rotate buttons. It makes sense, but it's slightly annoying for me, since I was used to using the both-in-one button. And it adds clutter to the plasmoid interface. But, it's livable.

I haven't noticed any other changes yet (other than the kde4 apps taking over the kde3.x apps), but I haven't exactly dug deep into the bowels of the available settings.

Overall, the change isn't too drastic (what'd I expect -- it's only a .0.1 update). I miss the 12-hour clock, but that's a fault with the plasmoid's developer(s), not the Plasma devs. The change in functionality of the corner area (the "zoom zone" at the moment) is slightly disturbing -- does the KDE team not know what to do with this area? I would suggest making it a button for the Ctrl+F12 feature (an OS X-style "bring widgets to top and darken the background" feature) and bringing back the "Add widgets" button. The plasmoid resize/rotate button split is the tiniest bit annoying, but livable.

And I eagerly await the day I can choose which widgets are always below and always on top :D

Update: I'm afraid I must apologize for being a bit hasty in my "judgments", as it were. Like my first KDE4 article, this was a "first impressions"-style writeup, detailing the first things I noticed after updating. I have since (at the prompting of my commenters :) ) delved a bit deeper into the update to do what I want to do. while the 12-hour switch in the digital clock plasmoid is a missed feature, ravencrow kindly pointed out that you can switch time modes through the "Regional & Language" section of the KDE System Settings. Select the "Time & Dates" tab, and enter "pH:MM:SS AMPM" for the "Date Format" field. You'll have to restart the X server for the change to take effect, but this will let the clock plasmoid display 12-hour formats again. Yay! As pdx and Sokraates mentioned, and as I so hastily overlooked, the "add widgets" button is still present in the upper-right-hand corner, though you must "unlock widgets" before it will display.

Additional links:
Tux Enclave: KDE 4.0.1 Is Now Available


Anonymous said...

why do you need compiz with KDE4 ? The kwin has most of the functionality anyway.

Besides, compiz is at best an alpha hack on the already shaky xorg s/w and that means you are running alpha X s/w. What do you expect ? Why do you do this ? Don't answer here - it is a rhetorical Q intended to lead to introspection.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, you can set your clock to 12 hour time. Go to system settings, and then to regional and language ;)

EterniCode said...

vmuppalla: I addressed my "need" for compiz in my last KDE4 article: "I wasn't able to get all the [kwin] effects to work, and the ones I could get working weren't customizable to my liking." Perhaps when it's matured a bit more, I'll try it again. Besides, I know compiz, and we all know we prefer what we know to what we don't :P

In this article, I meant to focus more on the complete change in functionality of the upper-right-hand corner, rather than my lack of use for it. I wasn't surprised that the zoom effect didn't work with compiz.

ravencrow: Thanks for the tip; I thought I had already changed that (back before KDE4), but I guess the change didn't carry across (kinda duh, given the different config directories).

pdx said...

Add widgets doesnt show up if you've locked the desktop.

Sokraates said...

As pdx stated, the missing "Add Widgets"-option in the corner is most likely due to your desktop being locked.

I had an issue with the KDE4-apps taking over as defaults, firstly because the old links weren't updated and secondly because even alpha or pre-alpha apps were added as the new defaults (e.g. Amarok 2, which I installed separately and it wasn't default before). Thirdly, the "old" KDE3 apps no longer show up in Kickuoff. Usually that's no problem, actually it's a good thing to reduce clutter. But combined with issue No. 2 it's annoying.

I also found out that KDE 4.0.1 tended to have some quirks and some fixes wouldn't work for me. Then I deleted my ~/.kde4 folder and now everything works as it should.

I'm running Kubuntu 7.10.