Hands-on: Plasma, KWin improve in KDE SC 4.4 beta 1 The developers behind KDE have announced the release of KDE Software Compilation 4.4 beta 1. We conducted hands-on testing to see what the new version brings to the desktop. KDE was created with the goal of building a desktop environment for the Linux platform. The modern KDE ecosystem, which spans multiple operating systems and includes a wide range of applications and development frameworks, has a broader mandate and loftier aspirations. In an effort to improve the way that KDE stakeholders communicate about the technology, the developers recently announced plans to overhaul KDE's branding. The assortment of applications and software infrastructure that has traditionally been referred to as the KDE desktop environment will now be known as the KDE Software Compilation (SC), and the new 4.4 beta, which was made available on Friday, is the first release to use the new branding. The beta introduces several excellent window management features that have been highly anticipated by KDE enthusiasts. I installed KDE 4.4 SC beta 1 on openSUSE 11.2 using VirtualBox for some hands-on testing. I used the binary packages that are hosted in the openSUSE build service's unstable KDE repository. Plasma has continued to mature and offers a number of compelling enhancements in 4.4. The dialog for selecting plasmoids to add to the desktop is gone. Its replacement is a horizontal strip that appears above the panel that runs along the bottom of the screen. That displays the available plasmoids as blocks with large icons; users can drag plasmoids from the strip and drop them on panels or on the desktop. It looks very similar to the widget selection interface from Apple's Dashboard. Some of the most impressive new features in KDE SC 4.4 can be found in KWin, the KDE window manager. It has finally gained support for tabbed window management. Users can join multiple windows into groups that can be moved around and managed together. KWin's Oxygen theme has been enhanced so that any windows in a group will appear as titlebar tabs. You can switch which window is active by clicking on one of the tabs in the titlebar. Window grouping features can be accessed by right-clicking on the titlebar of a window. You can set keyboard shortcuts for rotating among windows in a group, but there doesn't yet appear to be a way to create a group directly from the keyboard. Window grouping was mostly developed by Jorge Mata as a Google Summer of Code project. The implementation is impressiveÃ¢â‚¬â€although it's not quite as slick as the equivalent feature in Compiz, the integration with the Oxygen window decoration is really good. Another nifty new KWin feature in KDE SC 4.4 is edge snapping. When you drag a window to the left or right edge of the screen, it will snap into place and fill that side. When you drag it away from the edge, it will snap back to its original size. You can also drag a window to the top edge of the screen to maximize it. This feature, which is a lot like Aero Snap, makes it easy to set up windows side by side. There are a number of more sophisticated KWin changes that are under active development but probably won't arrive in KDE SC 4.4. I'm particularly enthusiastic about a project that was undertaken by developer Nikhil Marathe which will ultimately add dynamic window tiling, so that KWin can be used like Ion and other keyboard-oriented tiling window managers. It's still at an early stage of development, but it shows considerable promise. Several new applications will debut in 4.4, including a new blogging tool called Blogilo. The tool, formerly known as Bilbo, is designed to give users a way to manage and post content to blogs that use the Metaweblog API, including Wordpress, MovableType, and Blogger. Its built-in content editor has optional WYSIWYG support and spellchecking. Due to its broad assortment of capabilities, Blogilo is arguably the most feature-rich native blogging tool on the Linux platform. It's a particularly useful tool for users who write multiple blogs and want to manage them through a single interface. The official release of KDE SC 4.4 is scheduled for early February. You can learn more about the roadmap and planned features by looking at the 4.4 release goals page at the KDE wiki. For additional details about the beta release, check out the official announcement at the KDE news site.