With KDE Software Compilation v4.4.0 tagged and going through final release engineering processes, early reviews and discussions about it are appearing around the Internet. It's great to see the interest bubbling around it all.
One interesting meme is that "not much has changed". That sentiment is a sign that things are settling down nicely in KDE 4: things aren't moving around as much and there's a sense of predictability again. This is an important milestone.
However, some people are under the impression that pretty much nothing has been done except "under the hood changes". I think this highlights a challenge for our communication around SC 4.4.0: just because KDE 4 has hit an externally visible stable trajectory and the SC 4.3 -> SC 4.4 jump is smooth, that doesn't mean that there aren't lots of new and exciting things in SC 4.4.0.
Let's take the Plasma Desktop, for example. As can be seen in the 4.4 changelog for libplasa, plasma-desktop, plasma-netbook and krunner, we've been busy doing as much new stuff as refining the existing.
We have added a number of "usual suspect" type things: drag-and-drop for wallpaper plugins, ten new Plasma widgets, one new DataEngine and five new Runner search plugins. Let's not forget, though, the plasma-destop Kiosk lock down features or the brand new Plasma Desktop Scripting tool for sys admins, power users and packagers. This feature is being used in several upcoming distribution releases already and offers something KDE has never provided before. (In fact, does anybody know of any other production system that provides such a system for the desktop shell layout?)
Then there is the first release of Plasma Netbook, which is a whole new shell consisting of a little over 6,700 lines of code that isn't shared with other Plasma apps.
There is also the new mouse actions plugins that let you associate any combination of mouse and meta-key (Control, Alt, etc) on activities with actions. In KDE SC 4.4.0 there are six such plugins included: activity switcher, window list, desktop switcher, default context menu (highly configurable, btw; you can turn on/off pretty much every individual entry via the config UI), paste (e.g. to attach to middle click :) and an app launcher. Sensible defaults are provided for these, and those defaults can be overridden by an libplasma application to suit its needs. Since they are plugins (and the API is part of libplasma, so guaranteed to remain BC from SC 4.4.0 on out), it's also possible for people write new plugins of their own. You aren't limited to menus, either!
We have Plasmoids in the system tray, improved and extended animations and many other improvements. Per-virtual-desktop-activities is very smooth in SC 4.4.0 as well, and there were multi-screen fixes even.
Then there are all the nice improvements in KSysGuard and more than you can shake a stick at in KWin, so if we want to cover the KDE Workspaces we'd have to go on for quite a bit longer than this one blog entry. Then we'd have to move on to all the applications that come with a KDE Software Compilation release, many of which have individually important improvements.
It is quite true, however, that much work did go into refinements, bug fixes and infrastructural improvements. For me, the KDE SC 4.4.0 release is a very well-rounded release in this respect. It is full of new features and capabilities (without becoming a Frankenstein of configuration overhead, either!), but it is also full of good maintenance work. This is why, combined with KDE SC 4.3 being a good predecessor, some aren't noticing the new things we're delivering in this release.
Hopefully we can communicate both the feature adds as well as the refinement work effectively, because that is indeed the whole story.