Trying out KDE3
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TranslationInfo:[Author + translation history. mailto: or
original in en Lorne
Lorne lives in Chicago and works as a computer consultant
specializing in getting data in and out of Oracle databases.
Since making the switch to programming exclusively in a *nix
environment, Lorne has completely avoided 'DLL Hell'. He is
currently working on his Master's Degree in Computer
Abstract:[Here you write a little summary]
KDE released their latest code as version 3 recently. This
article will give you an idea what it would be like to try it
for yourself. Though the article uses SuSE 7.3, but binaries
should be available for any major distribution.
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What is KDE3?
KDE is the
default desktop environment for many linux distributions like
SuSE and Turbolinux. It is written in
an object oriented language called C++. Its a great choice for
a graphical user interface because it allows a programmer to
easily take pieces of functionality they know work and to put
them together into a working application. KDE uses a library
called QT and
KDE released KDE3 to
take advantage of the newest version of its foundation library,
QT3. They have done a great job and I am now using KDE3 as my
every day desktop.
How to give it a try
The great thing about KDE3 is that you can test it out and
still use KDE2 if you want to. If you're still using KDE1, you
might want to upgrade your distro right away!
The problem for the KDE1 crowd is that the version of KDE3 I
got in the rpm's uses the ~/.kde directory, so it can conflict
with KDE1. You can get around that, too, if you work at it. KDE
starts in the directory defined in the environment variable
'KDEHOME', so if you set that before starting KDE you should be
You can download the files for your distro from the KDE
recommended mirror nearest to you:
I am using SuSE 7.3, but most of the big distros have binaries
What keeps KDE3 from interfering with previous versions? The
programs and libraries go into their own directories so nothing
gets destroyed when you install. Not like some OS's that put
everything into some crazy 'registry' that no one really
understands and that makes your machine useless when it gets
corrupted by, for example, recompiling your code. That's a
real problem when you develop software for a living and
recompile constantly. On SuSE the KDE3 libraries go into
/opt/kde3 and qt3 goes into /usr/lib/qt3. You should double
check that there is no conflict by doing a 'rpm -qpl
<package-name.rpm>' and look at the list of files the
package contains. Also, rpm should give you a warning before
you install anything.
You can install using rpm's pretty easily. I put all the rpm
files I wanted to install in a separate directory and typed
'rpm --install *.rpm'. If it complains about dependencies,
install the needed packages and try again. I did get one error
about a file conflicting between KDE2 and KDE3. When I looked
into the differences, it was two characters in one line of a
script. I didn't think that it was a big deal, so I used 'rpm
--install --force *.rpm' and haven't had a single problem.
Then you make one change to the kdm login manager. You go to
KDE Control Center->System->Login Manager and add a
session called kde3. This will call the /usr/X11R6/bin/kde3
that is a link to the KDE script that sets everything up so
KDE3 runs correctly. KDE will ask you if you want to import
your settings from KDE2. I did, and a couple of times the
import of KMenu did not work correctly. Not a major issue, but
it was inconvenient. I would recommend not using your old
settings and taking the default setup instead. You can change
it in 'kmenuedit' later if you like.
That should do it.
What are the risks?
No matter what, I think it's a good idea to have a scheduled
backup of all your important files. Hopefully, one that moves
the files off the machine - like onto a CD you burn, if
possible. You do that, don't you? If not, that should be a top
priority whether you try KDE3 or not.
The really safest way is to wait for your distribution to
put a tested upgrade onto a CD and go through their process.
Let's face it, trying out new things isn't for everyone and
just because I haven't had any problems doesn't mean you won't.
I see the actual risks as very small. I upgraded 3 different
machines so far and I wouldn't incur the wrath of those people
if I thought KDE3 would ruin their machine. Having said that,
as mentioned above you might have to force install over a
script conflict. If this makes you nervous, you can back those
files up and restore them if you have problems. Trying the
upgrade does involve some basic knowledge of the system that
could be intimidating. Not everyone likes to play around with
new software since they just want to get things done.
- Konsole rules. It looks great and has lots of options to
make it easy never to touch your mouse again. I do a lot of
work in Konsole, so this is a big plus for me.
- Font Anti-aliasing works really well, even for Konsole.
KDE3 looks great. It feels good,
too. You can make menus transparent in Kcontrol
Center/Style/Effects Enable GUI Effects, though it seems to
require a restart of KDE3. You change the look of Konsole
with many built in schemas. There are some more themes,
- KDE now has a Pager. You can drag and drop applications
from one desktop to another.
- You Alt-Tab between windows and type directly into the
active one without clicking in the text area.
- The 'Edutainment' section has some great programs like
the KTouch typing program that guides you through typing
exercises. I really need some improvement there (as maybe you
can tell from this article) , and it has already helped a
lot. It has a small planetarium called KStars that's cool and
let's not forget the geometry program KGeo.
- No retraining because it works like KDE2, only
What's needs more work?
I did not encounter any major bugs or suffer any type of data
loss. I can only mention a few things that I find to be minor
annoyances, partly due to my own ignorance I'm sure.
- Sometimes logout takes forever. This has always been my
number one pet peeve with KDE and it seems to have
reappeared. I would at least like to see it darken the screen
so I know it's working on it. Also, KDE3 gets very confused
when the Kpager is open - you have to log out again.
- I couldn't get kdm to start a desktop correctly. It
presented the login screen correctly, but it only showed me
the grey background from X Windows. This must be a setting,
but I didn't figure it out. I continued to use the old kdm
with no problem.
- Importing the Menu from KDE2 doesn't work, so you lose
the distribution specific commands like SuSE's yast2. When
KDE3 comes prepackaged in the distributions I'm sure they'll
put all that stuff back.
- Sometimes using KDE window focus you can only Alt-Tab
between two windows at a time. This annoys me because I do a
lot of file editing using Konsole, Konqueror, and gvim. I can
only go between the last two windows I've used. But this
works in other log ons though, so it's a little flaky. You do
have a choice of CDE style, so all is not lost.
- Someone out there's going to complain about the speed and
the size. It doesn't present a problem for me, so I'm not
complaining. However, if your resources are limited then you
might need to use the smallest footprint desktop. I show some
Is it faster?
Since what people really mean when they ask about speed is the
perception of speed. Everyone has their own (sometimes
forceful) ideas about the speed of an application and about the
best window manager/ text editor/ curly-brace style. I'm not
interested in flame wars. These are my best estimates of the
time after several tests. Your mileage may vary. I realize
there are lots of other Window managers out there, but I
thought testing these would give a general idea. I find KDE
fast enough, but I realize that some window managers bring up
an application even faster. Let's begin with startup times.
|Startup from console
|Startup from kdm
|X - Didn't work for me because I broke it.
* - Not Applicable.
For Gnome I used Evolution as the Email client. It has a lot
of functionality so I expect it to start slowly. Also, since I
have upgraded my mozilla, Galleon doesn't work for me.
I am willing to wait that extra second when I'm starting an
application because it's easy to use KDE the way I want to use
it. This is where your personal preferences and needs kick in.
I like Konsole more than I like eterm. Since I start a few
applications and then use them for hours, startup time doesn't
make any difference to me.
What about the memory usage?
I have tested a little using Ksysguard and here are the
As you can see, it takes as much or more RAM than KDE2. If you
are short of memory, an upgrade won't help you. However, since
RAM is cheap it's not that big of an issue for a lot of people.
I think if you have 128 MB you should be fine.
Is it worth it?
I tried to give you enough information to decide how well KDE3
suits your particular needs. I have tried it on 3 different
machines and I haven't encountered a real problem yet. If
you're the kind of person that doesn't mind doing a little Sys
Admin work and you like to experiment with relatively new
software I think you'll like KDE3. If you're looking for a
strictly low maintenance, 'just let me do my job' experience
then I would only do security upgrades and not worry about it.
I personally use KDE3 as my everyday desktop because it makes
my life easier. That's what I want my desktop to do. I think
it's worth giving it a try to see if it suits your needs.