August 30, 2008

Wish list: 10 improvements for KDE 4.2

Author: Jeremy LaCroix

KDE 4.1, released last month, brought a great number of improvements to the popular desktop environment. It's the best desktop I've ever used -- but that doesn't mean it couldn't be better. 2009 will see the release of KDE 4.2. Here are 10 features that would be great additions to a future KDE release that I hope the developers will consider.

Easier theme installation

One of the things I love most about the GNOME desktop is how easy it is to install new themes for it. Typically all you need to do is drag and drop a new theme into the configuration dialog and it's ready to be used.

KDE 4 has a nifty way of installing new Plasma themes by integrating the configuration with the KDE-Look Web site. As it stands currently, for window borders and system themes, you must download packages from your distribution's repositories or compile new themes yourself. In future versions, perhaps there could be a link that allows you to install themes directly from KDE-Look, similar to the way you can install new Plasma themes.

Automatically pause desktop effects while 3-D or full-screen apps run

The desktop effects in KDE 4 are top-notch, and offer all sorts of effects from transparency to wobbling windows. If you're a gamer, you may notice that some 3-D games take a performance hit when desktop effects are enabled, unless of course you have a video card with tons of video RAM. It can be difficult to balance desktop effects in a way that doesn't affect the frame rates of computer games.

It would be nice if KDE could recognize when desktop effects aren't needed and pause them temporarily to allow the resources on a system's video card to be dedicated to a tasks that need them more. For example, if you launch a full-screen 3-D game, desktop effects aren't needed while the game is running. In that instance, desktop effects should be paused until the program has closed. Even if you are running a 3-D game that isn't full screen in an active window, desktop effects may still hamper performance, so they should be disabled while it's running.

I submitted this idea to the KDE developers some time ago, but it wasn't implemented in KDE 4.1.

More Plasmoids in the online installer

In the newest release of KDE, you can install Plasmoids by clicking "Install new widgets" from within the Add Widgets menu. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, only one Plasmoid, PicoNet, is available to install. I would like to see more Plasmoids added to this menu, so users can avoid having to download one from KDE-Look and compile it themselves.

Include an RSS newsreader Plasmoid by default

In early builds of KDE 4, an RSS newsreader Plasmoid was included in Playground alongside the news ticker Plasmoid. Unfortunately, in my install of KDE 4.1, this app is nowhere to be found, not even in my distribution's repositories. The RSS newsreader is similar to the news ticker, but it organizes the news headings in a better way by putting each heading into a list. It would be great if the RSS newsreader again became a part of the default KDE 4 install.

Grid for organizing Plasmoids

If you have quite a few Plasmoids on your desktop, getting them all lined up can be time-consuming. A checkerboard grid that appears when you move or resize a Plasmoid to help you line it up with other Plasmoids would make organizing your desktop apps a cinch.

List applications in the kickoff menu by name

The current way of listing applications in the KDE 4.1 kickoff menu is difficult to understand at times. Applications are alphabetized in the menu by description, rather than the name of the app. For example, if you wanted to launch Firefox, you would normally look for it alphabetically under "F." Since the applications are listed by the description, you'd have to look for Firefox under "W" for "Web Browser - Firefox" instead.

The KDE 3 series ordered applications similarly, but you could configure it to sort the applications by the name, which is a great deal more convenient. I'd like this configuration option to return to KDE 4. Until then, the only way to change the ordering that I know of is to use KMenuEdit to organize the applications menu yourself, which can take some time. I submitted this idea to the KDE bug database, but this feature has not yet been implemented.

Customize favorite applications list

With KDE 4's kickoff menu, you can add applications to a favorites list for easier access, but I have found no way to organize this list, other than to remove all of the icons and then re-add them in the order you want them. I'd like to see a function that allows you to drag and drop the icons in a different order, or even include this ability in KMenuEdit to allow you to customize it there. This is a very minor complaint.

Separate wallpapers for each virtual desktop

I haven't found a way to display a different wallpaper for each virtual desktop. When I started using Linux in 2001 or so, this feature was common, as it helped differentiate each desktop. I would like to see it return to KDE.

Hiding and autohiding the panel

While this feature was already suggested to the developers, I'm including it here because it must be one of the most requested features to return in KDE 4. In the KDE 3 series and below you could click on an arrow to hide the panel, or even make it autohide when not being used. I'd like to see the ability to hide a panel make a comeback.

Make KDE faster

Finally, I'd like to see more work done in speeding up KDE. KDE 4.1 already is a fast and efficient desktop, and the KDE developers have done a great deal already in this regard. However, there's always room for improvement, since the less RAM needed to run KDE, the more people that would be able to run it.

As it is, the KDE desktop is already wonderful and full-featured. The amount of innovation that the developers were able to squeeze into the latest release is amazing, and I'm looking forward to future versions. If you have great ideas of your own for improvements, consider getting involved with the KDE project, and propose your ideas to the developers.

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