The KDE development community has banded together and today released an early Christmas present to those using the K Desktop Environment on Linux and other operating systems. The first beta release of KDE 4.2 is now available. KDE 4.2 Beta 1 features a large number of improvements since the release of KDE 4.1 in July.
With "desktop effects" and "desktop bling" attracting many new desktop users, KDE 4.2 now enables compositing effects by default on supported systems. Many of the existing KDE 4 desktop effects have been improved through the use of motion dynamics and other changes. There are also several new additions such as a magic lamp, minimize effect, and a cube and desktop sphere switcher. New Plasma applets have also been introduced in KDE 4.2 for leaving messages, previewing files, switching activity, reading news files, the calendar, timing, character selection, system monitoring, and others. As another nice addition, the Plasma shell has picked up support for Google Gadgets.
Further enriching the interface for KDE 4.2, desktop wallpapers are now drawn using KDE plug-ins, which should allow for unprecedented capabilities in redefining what is a desktop wallpaper. Themes support has also improved and there is a new systems settings module to mix-and-match multiple Plasma themes.
Some of the new and improved applications in KDE 4.2 include a new printing configuration system, KRDC supports Microsoft's Active Directory, significant Okteta improvements, Kontact now supports a new planner summary, Ark has GUI improvements, Killbots has been added to the KDE games module, and the Dolphin file manager has seen numerous additions. KDE 4.2 Beta 1 does bring forth PowerDevil, which is the KDE4 power management infrastructure. A large number of bugs have also been fixed -- the press release reports that 885 bugs have been closed just in the past week. Fixes in the Kephal library improve the multi-monitor support.
The final release of KDE 4.2 is scheduled for January (KDE 4.1 Released, KDE 4.2 In January). KDE 4.2 will be the six-month feature update to KDE4, which will be arriving one year after the release of KDE 4.0 (KDE 4.0 Release Event at the Googleplex). KDE 4.1 was a polished (and much more stable) version of KDE 4.0 and brought many updates to nearly all of the desktop applications. KDE 4.1 was also made available for OpenSolaris. Two other underlying highlight were the Phonon media back-end and WebKit support for Plasma. More information on some of the KDE 4.1 changes can be found in our early look at KDE 4.1.