KDE brings Safari improvements to Linux

A major upgrade to the Linux graphical user environment includes faster-running applications and an improved Web browser

The KDE Project has released a significant update to its K Desktop Environment software that includes refinements to the Konqueror Web browser derived from collaboration with Apple's Safari browser team.

Some of the most noticeable improvements to KDE 3.2, which is the result of a year-long effort, are in application start-up times and HTML rendering, according to KDE developers. KDE is one of two major packages offering a graphical user interface and integrated applications for Unix and Linux, the main alternative being Gnome. KDE is used as the default interface on systems including Ark Linux, Conectiva, Knoppix, Lindows, Lycoris, Mandrake Linux, SUSE Linux, TurboLinux and Xandros, and is included as an option with most other major Linux systems.

The Konqueror Web browser, which shares its basic engine with Apple's Safari, has benefited from Apple's Safari work, KDE said. Konqueror now loads and renders more quickly and has better support for Web standards. One of Apple's major efforts with Safari has been encouraging users to report sites that don't work properly with the browser, in order to improve compatibility.

KDE includes better support for standards from FreeDesktop.org, which should mean better compatibility with non-KDE applications. The configuration system has been improved, with tweaks to the KDE Kiosk environment management system. The software also brings in a variety of user interface refinements, including a new look called Plastik.

The software adds support for Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), which allows cross-platform desktop sharing. Developers processed nearly 10,000 bug reports and about 2,000 feature requests for KDE 3.2.

New applications include music player JuK, instant messaging client Kopete, KWallet for storing passwords and Web form data, and the KGpg encryption tool.

The software is available for free download from KDE's Web site in 42 languages, with another 32 partially translated.

KDE-alternative Gnome received a boost last year with Novell's acquisition of Ximian, which makes a Gnome-based user environment, and the SuSE Linux operating system. Novell recently updated Ximian Desktop 2, adding compatibility with SuSE Linux, and is planning closer integration of the two.

SuSE has previously focused its graphical user interface efforts on KDE, which is a rival to Gnome -- for example adding tweaks to the interface in a project backed by the German federal government.

Several attempts have been made to eliminate the difficulties posed by multiple desktop environments, including an initiative from Linux distribution leader Red Hat giving both KDE and Gnome the same look and feel. A project to create a standardised, streamlined version of Linux that would be easy for software developers to support, called UserLinux, hit a snag when project leader Bruce Perens opted to use Gnome, to the exclusion of KDE.