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OpenSuse 11.1 aims at user-friendly desktop

The new desktop includes a modified KDE desktop, a new framework for media player synchronisation, new internet and productivity software and other updates

Novell has launched version 11.1 of OpenSuse, its desktop-oriented, community-supported version of Linux.

The update, to be made officially available on Thursday, comes with a modified version of the KDE desktop, a new framework for synchronising media with portable devices, new internet and productivity software and other updates. OpenSuse competes with desktop Linux distributions such as Red Hat's Fedora and Canonical's Ubuntu, with Ubuntu currently the most popular.

Novell has modified OpenSuse's licence for the release, a step intended to make the software easier to redistribute. "We now have a licence that presents no obstacle to redistribution, and no obstacle for modification," Novell said in a statement.

OpenSuse 11.1 integrates the KDE 4.1 desktop environment. While users also have the option of sticking with the older KDE 3.5, this option is de-emphasised in the installer.

KDE 4 is a significant change from KDE 3, and was initially criticised for usability problems. However, KDE 4.1 introduced features designed to improve the user experience, such as porting additional applications from KDE 3.

The version of KDE 4.1 in OpenSuse has additional features, such as the ability for the entire desktop to behave as a folder view, that were backported from the current test version of KDE 4.2 by OpenSuse developers, Novell said.

Users also have the option of installing OpenSuse with the Gnome 2.24 desktop environment, released in September. This version of Gnome includes the Banshee 1.4 media player, which can be sychronised with media-playing software on T-Mobile's Android-based G1 handset, among other devices.

Other new features in Gnome 2.24 are integrated search and indexing, and a new task-management tool.

The new OpenSuse has a modified version of the productivity suite OpenOffice.org 3.0, which provides native support for Microsoft Office's Open XML file format. The suite also incorporates Novell's own modifications, designed to improve Linux integration and to support the embedding of multimedia elements in documents.

The distribution uses version 2.6.27 of the Linux kernel, which has improved drivers for wireless devices and webcams. Novell is shipping other software alongside its OpenSuse update: Firefox 3.0.4, the Python 2.6 and Mono 2.0.1 programming languages, and the Samba 3.2.4 networking technology.

OpenSuse developers in November said they had set up the project's first community-elected board, which replaced the project's first board, appointed by Novell in November 2007. The new board has said one of its priorities is to ensure transparent communications between the OpenSuse developer community and Novell.

OpenSuse 11.1 will be available on Thursday from the OpenSuse website, or through retail channels.