Linux Mint 13 KDE released: But does it live up to expectations?

Review Mint 13 KDE and it soon becomes clear that it's a release that contains so many good things in a single package
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

Hot on the heels of its Xfce build, the final release of Linux Mint 13 KDE is now available for download. This is an iteration that a lot of people have been anxiously awaiting, because it combines a lot of good things in a single package.

As part of the Mint 13 family, it is based on the KDE desktop version of Ubuntu 12.04. So those who want Ubuntu but not Unity, or Mint but not Cinnamon or MATE, and feel that Xfce might be downsizing too much, now have another excellent alternative.

However, it is important to note that Mint 13 KDE is not derived from Kubuntu. It has been created by the Mint development team starting from the main Ubuntu distribution — essentially in the same way as the Mint 13 Gnome distribution is created.

The ISO DVD installation image is about 900MB, so it's a DVD image and not a CD, and available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. As with the other Linux Mint distributions, it is a hybrid ISO image, which so it can either be burned to a DVD or copied to a USB Flash drive. If you have a running Linux system, just dd the image to the USB disk. The Release Notes and What's New documents give more details about the contents of this release.

The default Mint 13 KDE desktop looks like this:

Linux Mint 13 KDE Desktop

If you leave the settings at default, this is the screen that will greet you whether you boot from external media or the hard drive after installation. The only change I made to the standard setup was to add a couple of my most commonly used programs to the desktop folder.

The KDE menus are at the bottom-left corner of the screen. Just click on the little icon there and you can add items to the desktop folder as I have done by dragging and dropping from the menu to the desktop folder. I have also added a Weather applet and Shutdown buttons to the bottom panel.

However, with KDE this desktop is only half the story. The screenshot above was taken on my HP Pavilion dm1-3105 sub-notebook, which has an 11.6-inch 1,366x768 screen. For anything smaller than that, such as my various netbook systems with 10-inch 1,024x600 screens — such as my Acer Aspire One 522 where the following screenshot was taken — I switch to the KDE Netbook Workspace:

Linux Mint 13 KDE Netbook

That is, without a doubt, the best netbook desktop I have ever seen — and it just keeps getting better with every new KDE release. It is just a lot easier and a lot more comfortable to use on a netbook — the application icons in the upper section of the screen are easy to add and delete, and they launch with a single click of the mouse.

The menu icons in the lower part of the screen provide logical groups of applications and utilities without having to walk through a traditional cascading menu hierarchy. The search bar in the centre of the screen provides easy access when you don't know or care which of the menu groups something might be in — or you're just old, forgetful and lazy like me. Applications start in full-screen mode by default, and the top panel auto-hides whenever you start or switch to another application.

My intention is for this to be a quick overview of Mint 13 KDE, so I won't go into a lot more details about the desktops. So what about the technical details? What is included in Linux Mint 13 KDE?

Linux Kernel 3.2.0 It has all the latest device support. As I said with Mint 13 Xfce, I have already installed it on a wide range of notebook and netbook systems, and everything just worked out of the box on all of them. No driver problems. No screen problems. No network problems. Down to and including Bluetooth and 3G cellular modem.

KDE 4.8.4 Another significant improvement over previous releases. Powerful, flexible, fast and beautiful. If you prefer a traditional desktop, rather than what is going on now with Gnome 3 and Unity, you are likely to be very comfortable with KDE.

digiKam 2.5.0 My absolute favourite photo-management program. Cataloging, tagging, geolocating, simple editing, publishing/sharing, panorama creation, and much, much more.

LibreOffice Text. Spreadsheet. Presentation. Database. Drawing. It's all there. It can read MS Office documents. It can write PDF files. Best of all, it isn't cursed with idiotic ribbon menus.

Firefox 14.0.1 The latest version — enough said.

GIMP Image Editor 2.6.12 No skimping to save space here. The GIMP is included in the base distribution. If digiKam doesn't have enough photo editing capability for your needs, then you need GIMP.

Gwenview 2.8.4 At the other end of the spectrum, if digiKam is more than you need or want, Gwenview is a very nice photo viewer and minimal organiser.

Amarok 2.5.0 Full-featured audio player. As good as any, and better than most.

Kaffeine 1.2.2 Media player with digital TV support.

VLC 2.0.1 My go-to media player. If I have something I need to play, audio or video, in whatever format, this is where I take it first.

This distribution is going to be another feather in the cap of the Linux Mint team. If you haven't tried Linux yet, this is a good opportunity. Download the ISO, burn it to a DVD and boot it up. Check the device support. Check the programs. Kick the tires, and drive it around the block. I'm willing to bet that after such a test, the next step for a lot of users would be to install it to disk.

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