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KDE 3.3 Beta ships

The KDE Project last week announced the availability of the first beta of the 3.3 version of its free graphical desktop environment for Linux and Unix workstations. KDE 3.3 Beta 1, code-named 'Klassroom,' (the alpha of 3.3 was called 'Kindergarten'), was released in preparation for the upcoming KDE Community World Summit 2004 (August 21-29, 2004, in Ludwigsburg, Germany), an event known in the KDE community as the 'aKademy.'

'This release gives a preview to other software developers and users out there who can provide lots of meaningful feedback on changes we've made to the user interface, API and new applications that have been included,' said George Staikos, North American spokesperson for the KDE Project.

KDE is developing into a more mature project, Staikos said, so not as much has changed in this version as in previous releases, where there were almost too many new features to list. Version 3.3 includes more 'targeted features,' as well as 'a ton of bug fixes,' he said.

As one might expect, this version is considered the most stable release so far, with better integration and performance optimization for things like faster mail downloads. A lot of work went into enhancing groupware functionality, he noted..

Version 3.3 also comes with a new Web development package, the 'kdewebdev module,' based on the Quanta Plus Web development tool for KDE. 'Web development is a big, new feature in KDE 3.3,' Staikos said. 'A lot of work has been done on Quanta Plus, which is an HTML editor with many more features than the traditional HTML editor.' Designed for quick Web development, Quanta is free and open-source software under the GPL license.

'KDE' stands for the 'K Desktop Environment' (the 'K' actually stands for 'cool,' but the 'C' was already used by the Common Desktop Environment). It's a free, open-source desktop environment and development platform originally built with Oslo, Norway-based TrollTech's Qt toolkit, a cross-platform C++ app framework used to write single-source applications that run natively on Windows, Linux, Unix, Mac OS X and embedded Linux. KDE runs on most Unix and Unix-like systems, including Linux, BSD and Solaris, and it ports to the Mac OS X. In addition to the desktop environment, the KDE Project provides a component-based office suite, called KOffice, and an IDE called KDevelop.

GNOME, a rival Linux/Unix open-source desktop environment, was created as a reaction among free software proponents to the initial licensing requirements of the Qt library that KDE relies on for its graphical widgets. Qt is now available under GPL for non-commercial use, and the KDE-GNOME rivalry has evolved into something of a cooperative competition. KDE developers were invited to a recent GNOME conference in Norway to speak and work on interoperability, Staikos said.

'Choice is a good thing,' he noted. 'I'd hate to see people forced to choose one desktop over another. We work together to make sure that your applications run on both desktops, so that you won't get locked out of an entire subset of the applications that are out there.'

The open-source KDE Project is supported by a community of developers, but it also receives significant support from TrollTech, Linux distributor MandrakeSoft and Novell's SuSE Linux group. IBM, a big Linux supporter, has donated significant hardware to the KDE Project. The University of Tubingen and the University of Kaiserslautern provide most of the Internet bandwidth for the KDE project, according to the organization's Web site.

Initial reaction to the 3.3 beta began coming in within hours of the announcement, Staikos told Programmers Report, through the project's bug-tracking system (http://bugs.kde.org/ ), as well as online forums such as the KDE News Web site.

KDE 3.3 Beta 1 can be downloaded over the Internet by visiting http://download.kde.org . Source code and vendor-supplied binary packages are available. For additional information on package availability and to read further release notes, please visit the KDE 3.3 Beta 1 information page.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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