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The critics are wrong: KDE 4 doesn't need a fork

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After the recent release KDE 4.1 beta 2 and openSUSE 11 with KDE 4.0.4, some critics have been especially vocal in expressing their displeasure with the KDE 4 user interface paradigms. The debate has grown increasingly caustic as critics and supporters engage in a war of words over the technology. The controversy has escalated to the point where some users are now advocating a fork in order to move forward the old KDE 3.5 UI paradigms. As an observer who has closely studied each new release of KDE 4, I'm convinced that the fork rhetoric is an absurdly unproductive direction for this debate.

As KDE 4 begins to replace the stable 3.5.x series as the default KDE environment in major distributions, users who are now migrating to the new version are being exposed to a lot of the rough edges. This has ignited a new wave of complaints.

Steven singles out KDE 4.1's desktop folder view plasmoid for criticism, but I regard it as one of the most promising features in KDE 4.1. In fact, I think the new desktop folder view offers some of the first truly compelling evidence that Plasma can deliver on its potential and provide more than just a conventional widget layer. I think it's innovative and it increases the efficiency of my workflow.

The value of conventional desktop icons is that they allow users to organize their files into spatially relevant groupings. But most users just treat the desktop as a dumping ground for temporary content because moving things to and from the desktop requires more interaction and isn't always feasible if you need your project to have a consistent path.

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Too soon to tell.

I used to dislike it, even hate it, but since I installed openSUSE 11, I have decided that it's awful, terrible, just a train wreck, but when I think something is terrible, I usually turn out to be wrong. That's just my track record. I could point to my infamous anti-ubuntu rants from not too long ago. I like Ubuntu fine now.

People who like it probably get it, and I don't get it. I've spent a lot of time running it now, several different versions. People talk about how KDE4 simplifies the desktop, and I am astounded at that. "Simple" is the last word I would ever use to describe KDE4. What do they see that I can't? All I see is an incomprehensible mess. This is why I don't submit bug reports. I don't feel like I understand it enough to be sure that when my YAST repeatedly crashed, it wasn't my fault. (Although it stopped crashing when I installed KDE 3.5.)

If this turns out to be the odd time that I'm right, KDE will be forked, because there will be a need. No need to debate it in blogs, it'll just happen, because it will be necessary. In the past there hasn't really been a need, which is why previous attempts to fork KDE failed. And since I'm usually wrong, this is probably what's going to happen this time.

Anyway, it's too soon to tell if we need a fork, and too soon to tell if we don't need a fork. That's the long and the short of it. We don't have the actual finished desktop, so what we have is a lot of speculation, and it all sounds canned and forced, bloggers trying to stir up controversy and other bloggers trying to squelch controversy. None of it is based on the finished software. That doesn't exist.

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