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.comment: A Look at KDE2 - page 3

What's New?

  • October 25, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

Starting KDE2 for the first time, chances are your first impression will be, "Wow! This sure isn't the KDE I know!" The splash screen is the best I've ever seen, anytime, anywhere. It sticks around for quite awhile, as splash screens go, and it may not be obvious at first that it's actually the front end to a little application that shows the progress of KDE2 as it loads. In due course it is replaced by one of those little applications that have become so popular, one of the "Welcome to..." tourguides. If this sort of thing appeals to you, by all means spend some time with it. It will appear everytime you start KDE2 unless you use its opening screen checkbox to disable it. If you don't now, you will soon.

Then comes a screen with Kicker at its bottom, populated by a few icons on the left (which, fortunately, can be deleted), and a nice desktop field.

KDE-1.x was wonderfully configurable, though some of the tricks (such as getting icons off the desktop and having the change survive a restart) involved--horrors!--actually editing configuration files. But KDE2 is an order of magnitude more configurable, with support for themes old and new, enhanced support for legacy applications, improved menu editor and simplified addition of applications to Kicker (which can also be accomplished, now, by drag 'n drop). The number of little applets that dock to Kicker has been increased, and those that existed before--such as Klipper, the clipboard app--have themselves been made more configurable and powerful. Configuration can be accomplished in a variety of ways--localized and specific, such as desktop settings by clicking the right mouse button on the desktop and choosing that item from the resulting menu, or in centralized locations. KMenu has a general configurator and a Preferences submenu tree that offers all the choices available in the configuration application, broken out for easier access.

In the course of testing KDE2, I found only two obvious little bugs, one completely harmless and the other intensely annoying. The first is that some of the application sizing isn't quite right: the Shisen-Sho game (one of the 22 games in kdegames) is beset by extremely wide borders on the right and bottom, giving it an unfinished look incongruent with the rest of KDE2. The second forced me to change the way I work. Let me explain.

I hate a cluttered virtual desktop (even as I apparently cannot survive without a cluttered physical desktop). This means that I nuke all the icons on the desktop and set Kicker to autohide (and have nothing at all to do with the secondary menubar thing inexplicably available, though not enabled by default, that stretches across the top of the screen to no purpose that I can think of). I also set mouse policy to "focus follows mouse." And it is here that a really tragic bug appears.

If running XFree86-4.01, as I am (and maybe if you're not), and choose "focus follows mouse," selecting any menu in any application, KDE2-native or not, allows about a second to make a menu choice before the menu disappears behind the application itself. This is terrible, but it's made worse by the fact that the menu doesn't know that it's behind the app, so clicking in the application in any of the space where the menu was just a second ago, activates whatever menu item corresponds to that place. If you get coiled, ready to spring, and click on the menu again--nothing, because the menu already thinks it's open. You need to click on another menu, then back to the first, to see it again. And again, it'll disappear very quickly.

The workaround is to switch to "click to focus" when choosing mouse policy. The solution, best I can tell, awaits KDE2.1.

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