Very short 4.8 first look (from a user’s perspective)

The release candidates of the 4.8 generation are out since a few days and now also openSUSE packages are available in the KDE Unstable repository.

Release candidates by KDE are usually very solid with incomplete translations as biggest drawback but since translating is usually done during RC phase, it’s to be expected.

Plasma Desktop

I’m not a friend of bright desktop themes which is why I always change the Plasma theme from Air to something else on the first day and never see Air again until I do a fresh install for whatver reason. So I can’t comment if the Air theme itself has changed. What I noticed when I switched to Air out of curiosity was the giant size of the clock:

This is in Air alone. In the dark Oxygen theme the clock looks not like someone screaming at me that my eyes are bad. 😉

Possible theme changes aside, from an end-user point of view, the desktop hasn’t changed.  The device notifier uses new technology inside but it looks and behaves just like the old one.

There is a slight graphical glitch in Plasma Network Management but openSUSE has some random (likely untested) git checkout of that in its Unstable repository, so I’m not sure if that’s a Plasma Desktop bug or a PNM bug.

A small but nice change in the Oxygen window decoration is that the X button now glows red when hovering it. IMO that improves usability quite a bit:


A big user-visible change is Dolphin 2.0. As Peter explained last August, 2.0’s file directory code is a complete rewrite and it shows immediately. Dolphin 2.0’s workflow hasn’t changed, so there’s no need to re-adjust, but what’s there is a whole new level of polish:

As you can see in that YouTube video (WebM version available), all operations that require icons to be re-sorted have a fluid animation (lags in that video are due the recording process – it’s 100% fluid on my low-end laptop). Directory reading speed is also much better now.

I encountered three small bugs, though. I’m not sure if I’m the exeption or if those bugs are the rule with the new version:

Bug 264434 Dolphin doesn’t remember the columns widths in details view

Bug 281598 Geometry issues when increasing width of information panel (not exactly my problem but Peter closed my Bug 289851 as dupe)

Bug 289850 Size column uses KiB only
Other than those minor bugs, the experience is great!


With 4.8 I also bit the bullet and switched to Kontact 4.8. I kept using Kontact 4.4 under KR 4.7 because of its bad reputation. My personal mail accounts – thanks to mailing lists I subscribed to – contain several tens of thousands e-mails. So any migration naturally takes its time.

Overall the experience with Kontact 4.8 is OK. From what I see the biggest problems aren’t actually problems with the programs itself but bad communication by the applications.
I also use Thunderbird for my work-related e-mail because I like to keep work and private mails separate. So I can actually compare both.
Kontact just like Thunderbird index mails for quick search. With as many mails as I have, both TB and Kontact take their time but here the bad communication comes into play:
TB says in its status bar in an unobtrusive manner that it indexes the mails. Kontact says nothing. It sits there, some Akonadi process eats roughly 30% CPU power and no common user knows what’s going on.

So there the problem is that Kontact does not talk at all. In another case Kontact talks too much. When I put my laptop in standby and later wake it  up, I get a notification for each mail account that the resource is broken and that the account if offline because of that.
No, nothing is broken. Standby simply caused the internet connection to be severed.
In another case – when I manually flag a mail as spam – I get the notification that the mail can’t be moved, even though it was successfully moved to the Trash folder at the same time.

So what would common users think? Probably something like this: “Kontact causes high workload and admits it’s broken all the time.”

Another problem is the result of an actual bugfix. KMail 1.x could only handle one operation at the time. This occasionally caused the GUI to freeze. The Akonadi back-end still can only do one operation at the time but now the GUI is responsive. So KMail2 downloaded 7,000 mails from one IMAP account and I could still use the application. So I went to another account (already synced) and wanted to read a mail just to get a “Retrieving folder contents” message for the time it synced the other account. Well, at least KMail told me what was going on.

Luckily such large-scale syncs are a one-time thing. After setting Kontact 4.8 up initially, the experience is smooth. In fact I find it smoother than Kontact 4.4. The GUI freezing fix may cause irritation during large-scale syncs but on a daily basis it’s way better. Bug 193514 has also been fixed. Those two have been two of the most hated bugs in KDE history.
I can’t tell how Kontact 4.6 and 4.7 have been but 4.8 is a solid improvement over 4.4. And no, Thunderbird is not better. It has better notifications but that’s it.

That’s it for now. I didn’t notice other changes so far but from what I gathered from blogs, most changes are under the hood anyway. So you may or may not benefit from them.


22 thoughts on “Very short 4.8 first look (from a user’s perspective)”

  1. Hi,

    Concerning Kmail, I’ve been using it for a couple of releases, including KDE SC 4.8 starting with beta1 and it’s very good 🙂 (Just had some crashes of akonadi resources because I often lose Wi-Fi connection, I’ll try to report that but it does not always occur)

    Now concerning Dolphin, I’m disappointed 😦
    It IS really smooth but I don’t like the animations, it’s too slow and I did not find how to disable it :/
    Moreover, sometimes icons move for no reasons (seems less frequent now with RC1)

    1. Dolphin respects the graphics effect level from system-settings. To turn off the animations just use the smallest graphics effect level (systemsettings > Application Appearance > Style). A lot of small animation glitches have been fixed after RC1 – if you still face issues please submit a bug report – thanks!

  2. Hopefully every animation in Dolphin is possible to be configured separately as just “one place to enable/disable effects” ain’t good enough at all. That is same problem with every KWin effect where there is not possibility to make magic lamp slow but virtual desktop rotation fast and so on.

    And what I tried Dolphin on my friend computer, the file selection box looks bad when it has two separated blue highlight boxes around selection (icon and filename?). The current stable version has it good looking where there is just one big selection box so please bring it back!

    1. imho that just creates a useless configuration mess. What use is it? If your computer is to slow for animations, turn them all off. If it’s fast enough, keep ’em on. The KWin effects you mention, btw, CAN be configured separately 😉

  3. I very much like the improvements they have made to Dolphin. As for kmail, I haven’t given it a try for a couple of years, and have relied on Thunderbird. I hated the way kmail operated. Hopefully it will soon be a smoothly functioning, easily configurable piece of software, especially for multiple email address.

    One other thing, I’m curious to what weather plasmoid you are using – that shows up next to you clock?

  4. > The Akonadi back-end still can only do one operation at the time

    What database backend are you using? SQLite is known to have this limitation, but MySQL is supposed to support concurrent access, and this is one of the reasons why it is the upstream default. Of course, some distros decided they know better. :-/ In Fedora, we decided to go with the upstream default.

    1. It’s incorrect that Akonadi can’t handle one operation at a time; I have two mail accounts, and both can download mail simultaneously. However, if I reset my mail accounts, I’ll watch KMail UI freeze, since it overloads my CPU with a stream of mails (KMail 2 maxes out my connection speed, unlike KMail 1, and that definitely is a FEATURE ;))

      1. That is actually the thing I love most about KMail2: it downloads mail and checks for new mail in seconds instead of taking minutes. It used to be impossible to use KMail on a bad mail connection: if the connection broke somewhere half-way checking your mail folders (and that would take up to several minutes per folder so it was far from unlikely) you’d have to start over and thus probably never finish.

        This problem is very much fixed now, mail is usually downloaded in seconds (depending on network speed) – awesome 😀

  5. Only way to make Kontact 4.8 better is to get the akonadi exchange resource working. That will also send it leaps ahead of competition in terms of usability — especially in work environments …. such as mine 🙂

  6. About the close-button being highlighted – this was already in at least 4.7 (on openSUSE), maybe even before.

  7. I’m OK with the other animations, but WHY is this rearranging animation necessary? Why can’t the icons just rearrange as the window resizes like they did before? I don’t get it. I mean, every other item in the window follows it _except_ the icons. Why?

  8. The Dolphin rearranging animation looks horrible.
    Just make everything show instantly.
    None of this Hoolywoodesque nonsense.

    1. I don’t get why you people resize the Dolphin window all the time. If you don’t rezise the window constantly, you won’t even see the the animation.

      1. I don’t resize the window all the time, but when I do, it’s annoying.

        And before someone tells me to disable the animations, I like having them, but that one in particular makes no sense to me.

        1. I think you’re exaggerating. No sane person resizes the Dolphin window all the time and when one resizes the window, the mouse is occupied resizing and the animation happens simultaneously. So the animation objectively does not even handicap anyone’s work flow.
          Dolphin’s side bar animates when when it’s being resized ever since Dolphin was ported to Qt4.

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