openSUSE 11.4 review – KDE 4.6 and Tumbleweed shine

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If you have experience with various Linux distros, it’s hard to be excited about openSUSE, as on the surface it doesn’t seem to have changed that much in recent years. Of course, open source development doesn’t stand still, so you’ll find a lot of major version bumps in the distribution’s software when you upgrade from openSUSE 11.3 to 11.4, especially if you choose the KDE desktop environment. OpenSUSE 11.4 gives you the newest KDE 4.6, LibreOffice 3.3.1 and even beta 12 of Firefox 4. Under the hood the developers have also integrated the newest components, including Linux kernel 2.6.37 (the 32-bit kernel supports 4 GB of RAM, no need to install a PAE kernel), X.Org 1.9 and Mesa 7.9.

Most of the new features you’ll encounter in daily use are due to the KDE project. KDE 4.6 has made its Activities system more easy-to-use and the file manager Dolphin has added ‘faceted browsing’: you can search through your files using their metadata as filters. A new sidebar shows these filters you can select, e.g. the rating you gave to your music files. KDE 4.6 also includes smarter power management preferences and a new Bluetooth back end. A couple of KDE applications have gained support for social networks: the image viewer Gwenview has a Share button to export pictures to popular photo sharing and social networking websites, and the screenshot program KSnapshot has received the same functionality. Of course you’re not obliged to run KDE: the openSUSE 11.4 DVD also offers GNOME, Xfce and LXDE to choose from, although KDE is still the distribution’s focus.

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