by January 3, 1999 0 comments

linux.JPG (9333 bytes)When you think about Unix you
normally think of a character-based command-line interface. One does not directly
associate Unix with a nice GUI interface. That’s actually incorrect. Unix has had a
GUI for years and some of the interfaces are really excellent. And the best part is they
are getting better all the time. When I started using Linux in early nineties, we used
only a character-based interface, now I would not even dream of doing that. I now very
definitely use the X windowing system. And here you actually have a choice on the look and
feel of the GUI that you want.

The accompanying PCQ CD has several options of what are known as
Window Managers–FVWM, AfterStep, Window Maker, etc. But the one that has become
really popular lately is KDE. There are several rumors about what KDE stands for but the
official story is that it is not an acronym for anything but the K Desktop Environment.
The high point of KDE is that besides being the GUI itself, it comes with a comprehensive
suite of applications. On the CD-ROM accompanying this issue, you will find KDE 1.1, which
is a vastly improved version over 1.0 that we had distributed last year.

The functionality of KDE just doesn’t require a command-line
session. There are tools available for virtually every task. In fact, it comes with so
many goodies that it takes time to explore. A Windows user would be quite at
home–bubble help on all icons, similar taskbar, single-click items much like the
active desktop.

But it doesn’t stop at that. You get a choice of four desktops,
that can even go up to eight. Now you would ask why do I need four desktops if I can just
open up as many windows as I want. Well, having more desktops definitely keeps things more
under control and less cluttered. Definitely, more usable than just multiple windows.

When you start up KDE, the desktop that you get is fairly well
organized. A few folders like autorun, templates, trash can, CD-ROM, and floppy can be
found on the desktop. All these icons are single-click and when you click on a folder, the
kfm (k file manager) pops up a window much like a browser. On the top and bottom of the
screen is a taskbar showing active tasks and a quick launch set of programs. The taskbar
is fully configurable and right clicking on it will bring up a menu from which things can
be changed around.

Also on the bottom taskbar is the K button, this is quite the same
as the Windows start button and brings up a list of all the programs that can be used. It
has some interesting features like finding and installing all non-KDE applications. Apart
from that, a find button, personal folders button, a terminal, and other useful stuff can
be found on the taskbar.

One of the biggest problems that users have faced with Linux
machines is not being able to use the removable media easily. Changing a floppy or a CD
normally requires a few commands. Not so any more with KDE’s automount feature. The
desktop has a CD-ROM as well as a floppy icon, and clicking these will automatically mount
the device and display the contents of the main folder. To unmount it, simply right click
it and select unmount. After that the media can be safely removed. While the media is
mounted, a little green light shows up next to the icon indicating that it’s in use.

Right clicking anywhere on the desktop brings up a menu similar to
that of Win 95. You can do several things from this like creating new shortcuts on the
desktop, etc. You can also control the display properties from here. While on the subject
of display properties, KDE has a very nice feature where you can control the display cache
for each desktop separately. This gives you tremendous flexibility, you can have some
desktops with lower cache values and have only terminal screens there, and on others with
higher cache value you can keep graphics intensive programs.

Now come the goodies. As I said in the beginning there’s a
certain element of functionality that KDE brings. There seem to be little applets for
virtually all tasks. A very good organizer, editor, networking tools, browser, Internet
connection using KPPP with a graphic view of your traffic during a session, etc. Some very
good and very usable stuff here.

KDE is more than just a desktop. Unlike many others, KDE provides
both looks and functionality. It brings to the Unix/Linux world stuff that has been
missing so far, like “drag-n-drop”, inter-program communication, etc. And this
latest version only underlines how rapidly Linux is adapting to the needs of modern
computing. Linux GUI you can see in the PDF format or you can
download the Acrobat Reader from here

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