I've been impressed with the advancements the KDE development team has made with version 4.5. Not only is the desktop environment light-years ahead of where I expected it to be (after the abysmal 4.0 release), it's has turned out to be a desktop that any Linux user would be happy to use. It's as stable and as responsive as GNOME and as flexible as just about any desktop.
But beyond the desktop itself, KDE has a number of excellent tools. If you've never tried, you don't know what you're missing. So I thought I'd highlight some of these tools and maybe pique your interest. These tools vary in topic and task and should appeal to a wide range of user types.
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KMail is important for any user migrating from Mac who was/is fond of Apple Mail. It has a similar look and feel to Apple Mail and offers a nice feature list that will make you right at home with your email client. The biggest downfall of KMail is that to connect to an Exchange server, that server must have IMAP enabled. KMail is also a part of the Kontact groupware suite. Kontact can certainly stand toe to toe with other groupware suites —with the exception of Exchange integration. But Kontact can connect with other groupware servers, such as Kolab, OpenXchange, and GroupWise.
KRDC is a powerful remote desktop client that allows the user to connect to both RDP and VNC servers. KRDC was completely overhauled in the Google Summer of Code 2007 to be included in the KDE 4.0 release. It s features include a tabbed interface, full screen mode, Windows port, KDE Wallet support, and a new configuration wizard. Connecting to a server is so simple, any level of user should be able to handle it.
Kexi enables Linux users to use and reuse databases created by Microsoft Access. It can also read MySQL and PostgreSQL databases. Kexi has a user-friendly GUI that offers numerous features, such as a full GUI for the creation of databases, tables, and data and running query and parametric query support. Kexi allows the user to create tables, queries, forms, reports, and scripts all from a powerful graphical interface.
KPlato is another piece of the KOffice groupware suite that really shines. This project management tool allows the user to manage moderately large projects that include multiple resources. KPlato lets the creator of a project use different types of task dependencies and time constraints, do estimates, and schedule tasks according to network and resource availability. This outstanding project management tool also features Work and Vacation, Cost Breakdown Structure, Dependencies (both graph and list), Project/Task Perfomance Charts, Work Packaging View, Gantt charts, Resource assignments, and much more. With KPlato, a project can be rescheduled and will retain all of its original scheduling. KPlato should make any project manager happy.
Kate is one of the more powerful GUI-based text editors you will find. Kate is actually two parts: KatePart (the underlying framework used in a number of KDE applications that require a text editor) and Kate (the MDI text editor application). With Kate, you have a window splitable, tabbed interface that allows you to keep multiple documents open at once. Additional features include spell checking, CR/CRLF/LF newline support, encoding support, encoding conversion, syntax highlighting, regular expression-based find and replace, and block selection mode. Kate will be much more at home in newer Linux users' hands (those who do not want to try the likes of vi, emacs, or nano).
Klipper is one of the most powerful clipboards available to any operating system. It not only allows you instant access to a history of copied text, but it also allows you to create Actions that can be applied to specifically formatted copied text (such as automatically opening a Web browser for copied text that begins with "http://".
7: Konqueror with Webkit
KBackup is one of the easiest-to-use backup utilities for the desktop you will find. It has a great user interface that allows a user of nearly any experience level to create both local and remote backups. KBackup can do full and incremental backups and does so very quickly. KBackup saves in the .tar file format. Its only downfall is that you need to make sure you have a recent version (as of this writing, 1.2.11) to get scheduled backups.
KMyMoney is a fine example of how Linux developers can create an application that handles a significant task (accounting) and make it simple without losing power and features. KMyMoney has three primary goals: simplicity, accuracy, and familiar features and it succeeds with each one. Whereas GNUCash focuses primarily on higher-level accounting (but can be used for home or business finances as well), KMyMoney focuses on serving as a personal finance manager with the added bonus of using a double-entry accounting style. KMyMoney also has an optional plug-in that enables online banking.
KSystemLog is for all you Linux admins out there who don't want to take the time to use a text-based editor or the less command to view your system log files. With this handy log view tool, you can have all of your system logs at your fingertips in one simple GUI front end. With no more than a double-click, you can open a system log entry and know exactly what's going on with that particular system. With the click of a button, you can switch to viewing system logs, kernel logs, authentication logs, daemon logs, and X.org logs. When you click on a category, all its entries are populated in the main window. You can then double-click on an individual entry to view the details. This tool is a must-have for any admin looking for a solid GUI to take the place of text-based log viewing.
This is but a sampling of the tools KDE has to offer, but they're the ones I see as must-experience tools coming to us from the KDE desktop environment. Do you have other favorites you'd add to the list?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.