Saturday, July 04, 2009

Help! I'm being sucked in!!!

So I have blogged previously about KDE 4.0 and 4.1, and how they weren't there yet (though 4.1 was a definite improvement), and how impressed I was with 4.2.

A week ago I tried to install a PPA so I could try Amarok 2.1, but the PPA also happened to contain the latest beta version of KDE 4.3 as a whole. Oops. So anyway, I went with it, and aside from the odd crash now and again it has actually been pretty stable.

With the first release candidate I got the new Air theme, and very nice it is too! A far fresher and brighter look.

Also included is the ability to connect to a hidden wireless network: a quite shocking deficiency in previous versions, but better late than never I suppose.

The fade desktop switcher is also quite nice, though I still can't decide whether I prefer that over the spinning cube or not. The thing I like about the spinning cube is that it enhances the impression of my desktops bring physically adjacent in the 3d world, while other switchers don't.

Desktop effects now automatically suspend if things become too much for the system, which makes sense and should help out if you have a runaway process that you need to kill, or if you are doing something like running a game.

Another new feature is a panel spacer, which is the solution to the problem I commented on earlier about widgets wanting to occupy lots of space. Unfortunately, I find it quite fiddly to use. I also still don't understand why the clock widget needs to try to occupy so much space either. Shouldn't it just use what it needs to show the longest time string possible with the current settings and leave it at that?

The system tray has also had some attention: there is now an expand/contract widget that I hadn't noticed before to allow you to see hidden icons, and icons can be manually configured to be hidden based on category.

There is a new launcher menu called Lancelot, which has an interesting "no-click" user interface feature. I'm trying it now, and it seems to be pretty useful.

There are quite a few other changes, but these are the ones that I've noticed the most. In general, there is just a sense of greater polish than 4.2, which suggests a very welcome trend in increasing quality.

The reason for my title post though, is that I've now found myself being drawn a little bit more into the KDE world. After the upgrade to RC1, my GTK apps lost their widget theme and reverted to the very ugly standard GTK look. I fiddled a little bit but could not fix it.

I hate ugly user interfaces, it makes me sad to use them. :) So I thought I'd try kmail again. I have tried kmail a number of times in the past (indeed my accounts were all set up already when I fired it up as a result), but it has never grabbed me and I have always ended up back with Thunderbird.

However, this time I have found myself sticking with it. It's hard to say why, but it's probably more to do with it doing what I would miss in Thunderbird if it didn't do it. Things like sorting threads by the most recent message in the thread: I couldn't cope without that.

But there is also a feature that it has that I don't think Thunderbird does have. You can exclude folders from being acted upon when new mail arrives in them. This means you don't get any notification, and the folder doesn't count towards the unread messages total that sits in the system tray.

I've never used an unread message icon with thunderbird before (if one is even possible) because the nubmer would be meaningless: it would include folders that I don't want to read often (such as mailing lists) and some that I keep unread as the number of unread is actually what I'm most interested in. I have a folder which contains exception emails from work which I have filtered to keep only the last 24 hours of emails unread. So if the number of unread goes up, it is an indication that something is going wrong.

So the total number of unread is basically meaningless. But with kmail I can exclude those folders from consideration, so I end up with a smaller count that represents email that I actually want to check.

Aside from that, kmail just seems a lot more snappy than Thunderbird (KDE 4 as a whole seems really snappy, so this just continues the impression). The memory usage also seems to be quite a bit lower too.

The downside is contact integration with gmail: I have seen example of people getting this (and Google calendar synchronisation) working, but so far have not figured out how to do it myself. Hopefully soon!

So another KDE app draws me in. What's next?

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