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Building a New KDE - page 2

Starting from Scratch

  • January 31, 2008
  • By Bruce Byfield

Much of the work on KDE 4.0 concerned what the community calls "the pillars of KDE"--the sub-systems through which KDE interacts with hardware and data. These sub-systems go by a bewildering set of names, including Solid, Phonon, Akonadi, Strigi, Sonnet, Decibel, and Plasma. Fortunately, part of the intent in KDE 4 was to abstract the information extracted by these sub-systems into user-friendly forms, so most of the benefits of these pillars are visible to KDE users only indirectly in the form of increased speed and performance.

However, just as important in KDE 4.0 were the efforts to reshape the look and feel of the desktop. Partly, this reshaping was due to a desire to help port KDE not only to other operating systems, but also to make it more usable on laptops, handhelds, and mobile devices to prepare for the future. "We can't any longer assume that everyone is going to have a 19 inch LCD monitor," Olson says.

But a large part of the reshaping, Olson says, was due to current fashions in desktop environments--fashions shaped largely by Windows and Mac OS X, respectively the dominant desktop and the most critically acclaimed.

Olson notes that there is an "ebb and flow" in desktop designs. "If you go back to both KDE and GNOME in the late 90s," he says, people were complaining about how monochrome we were and that we were very Unix-y. Then Windows XP came out, and people were saying that we were drab, so we made a concerted effort to go to colors that were more vibrant. And you know? The next thing you know, people are complaining that we're too vibrant and too cartoonish."

In response to such complaints, KDE chose a default set of artwork called Oxygen that Olson characterizes as "more professional, more polished, and more photo-realistic. [The designers] went back to scratch and defined a color palette that was sensible, and literally built from the ground up."

However, despite the obvious influence of other desktops, Olson hopes that the pillars of KDE will help the KDE design to rise above its influences, and deliver superior graphics and performance comparable to those on Windows or OS X even on older desktops, or during intensive multimedia operations.

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