KDE, the desktop software project widely used on Linux systems, this week released the first test version of KDE 4.1, a significant upgrade and the second edition of KDE to use the Qt 4 application development framework.
KDE is in the middle of a transition from the Qt 3 framework to Qt 4, making it necessary for all the applications making up KDE to be ported as well.
This release is aimed at testers, community members and enthusiasts, with the aim of eliminating bugs and making KDE 4.1 a full replacement for KDE 3 — something the project admitted is not yet the case with KDE 4.0.
The project said that with version 4.1 a number of additional applications have made the transition to KDE 4, most notably the personal information manager Kontact.
Unlike its predecessors, Qt 4 has been released for Windows, meaning KDE 4 applications can run natively on that platform. KDE 4 applications also run natively on Linux and Unix variants, including Mac OS X.
Another significant change with KDE 4 is the introduction of an engine for generating desktop and window panels, called Plasma.
Plasma has "matured" in version 4.1 compared to its initial introduction in KDE 4.0, the developers said in the announcement of the test version.
It now supports multiple and resizeable panels, allowing the same flexibility as KDE 3's system, the project said, adding that it now includes features such as a Cover Switch, as well as performance gains in composited window management.
Other applications now ported to KDE 4 include media player Dragon Player and the KDE CD Player. Other elements that have been tweaked include the Konqueror browser and the Dolphin file manager.
Developers have improved the speed of KHTML, the browser engine on which Konqueror is based, and have integrated Apple's KHTML-based web-rendering toolkit WebKit into Plasma to allow Mac OS X Dashboard widgets to be used in KDE.
The final release of KDE 4.1 is scheduled for 29 July, six months after KDE 4.0's release. Binary and source packages can be downloaded from KDE's website.