KDE polishes Linux look

The new desktop environment for Linux adds features designed to rival Mac OS X and Windows XP

The KDE Project on Wednesday finalised a major update to the K Desktop Environment (KDE), its graphical user interface for Linux and other Unix-like operating systems, adding a new look and feel with improved multimedia support and a better Web browser, among other features.

KDE and GNOME are the two main graphical user interface projects aiming to make Linux easy for mainstream computer users to operate. Linux, in particular, is seen as a potentially serious rival to Microsoft's Windows monopoly because of Linux's stability and low cost.

However, Linux is considered difficult for non-techies to use, partly because of the lack of an easy-to-learn, consistent user interface. With KDE 3.0, the KDE Project aims to bring the software into line with operating systems like Macintosh and Windows XP by adding similar multimedia features, such as the ability to hear a preview of a sound file by passing the mouse pointer over it.

The software is being shipped with such Linux implementations as SuSE Linux 8.0, arriving later this month, and Turbolinux. Mandrake Linux 8.2, released last month, comes with a beta version of KDE 3.0.

Another addition is improvement in support for JavaScript and DHTML support in Konqueror, the file manager and Web browser built into KDE. The group said that the implementation of the DOM model for rendering XML and HTML pages has been improved, the CSS 1 rendering module for cascading style sheets has been completed, and JavaScript bindings and support are faster and more stable than in KDE 2. "The resulting improvements in the speed and rendering quality of state-of-the-art Web pages is something users will appreciate immediately," said Dirk Mueller, a KHTML developer and the KDE 3 release coordinator, in a statement.

KDE 3.0 introduces new software for printer management called KDEPrint, which supports various printing engines and is capable of managing enterprise networked printing systems, the group said.

The software currently supports 50 languages through the use of Unicode, a standard for rendering international characters, throughout its libraries. KDE 3.0 also supports right-to-left writing systems.

The GNOME Project is also preparing a release of GNOME 2.0, which is to add anti-aliased text, improved internationalisation, accessibility features for disabled users and user interface improvements. The third beta-test version of GNOME 2.0 was released at the end of March.

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