KDE 4.1, part 2
Plasmoids - The life blood of KDE4
For many, the verdict was out regarding Plasmoids, the KDE4 widgets that come bundled and run with the desktop, like an especially bossy version of the old Superkaramba. We were rather partial to the widgets, and knew that the lack of variety would not be an issue as more people started to create their own. Even at this stage, there are a number of new widgets out there, ranging from useful to entertaining. But many were worried about the initial release's occasional problems with Plasmoids -- reports of crashing and freezing and issues with widget behavior.
The Plasma engine seemed to be one of the last things the KDE4 team had to finish up. It's not terribly surprising, as it was a major change from any previous versions, it's an extremely ambitious project, and face it, there was a lot that could go wrong. It seems that the worst thing that happened for the KDE4 team was simply that time ran out. Plasma was released in January with the final 4.0 release, and it still was (and felt) very alpha. People that liked the widgets were at best a little uneasy, people that didn't like the idea of Plasmoids used the intermittent flakiness as an argument why Plasma wouldn't work.
With the roll out this week of KDE 4.1, it is obvious that Plasma is getting the "Most Improved" award this semester. It is exceedingly stable, and fast, and behaves consistently across various widgets.
Perhaps it's purely psychological, but we feel like the widgets have "calmed down" a lot. Though we are given the opportunity to add widgets with just about every right mouse click, the options available for placement, sizing and locking feel easier to maneuver and a lot more responsive. We've always really liked the idea of the widgets, but they felt commandeering. We especially liked the Folder View widget. Ours shows the desktop icons by default (but you can set it to show any folder you want, and even display specially filtered content). Sure, it's very possible to add each shortcut to your desktop as a widget if you prefer, but this seems a lot neater and easier to control.
Adding widgets is painless, as is removing them. The "Add Widgets" dialog is a warehouse of pre-installed widgets. KDE4 gives the ability to rate them as favorites and sort by various criteria and categories. Installing widgets can be as easy as a click, however, it didn't seem to work for us. We aren't sure if this had something to do with our generic OpenSUSE install, the install of the KDE 4.1 release candidate initially used, or if some bit of communication was missing between KDE4 and KDE-Look. In some ways though, it was a more interesting trip to visit KDE-Look's Plasmoid pages directly to see all the widgets, instead of just the highest rated or newest, and it wasn't really much more work to install them.
KDE 4.1 RC1 Widget Installation from Download Squad on Vimeo.