KDE community offers one of the the most advanced desktop environments around, Plasma Desktop. But it is not limited to the desktops, KDE has developed technologies for every class of devices, whether it’s PCs, netbooks or tablets. The community develops software packages which are cross platform and are used on different platforms – some of the most notable KDE applications include Calligra suite, DigiKam, K3b and much more.
I run KDE Plasma Workspaces on all my devices – Plasma Desktop on my PCs, Plasma Netbook on my, as obvious, netbooks and laptops and Plasma Active on my Nexus 7. The reason I chose Plasma over others is the features and functionality it offers which are missing from every other desktop environments.
However, I do come across users who don’t want all these features and functionality and instead need a very limited set of applications and features. They find GNOME or Xfce to be the best solution for their needs. Xfce can be increasingly appealing for older and slower hardware (though I am running Plasma on an Atom powered Dell Mini, which is an extremely slow machine, but I see no issues in terms of performance on this device).
That said, there are genuine reasons why some people prefer Gnome or Xfce over Plasma (though a survey shows Plasma to be among the most popular desktop environments, leaving Xfce and Gnome miles behind).
There can be a demand for a stripped down, lightweight distro based on KDE technologies which can compete with the likes of Xfce and Gnome so that such users can get a lightweight Plasma experience without making the compromises (subjective) they have to with Gnome or Xfce.
That’s exactly what some KDE developers are doing. Will Stephenson (along with other KDE developers Klaas Freitag, Jos Poortvliet, Raymond Wooninck, šumski and Andres Silva) is working on a set of packages and defaults called KlyDE, which is based on openSUSE.
This is a project to exploit the modularity of KDE to build a lightweight XFCE-class desktop environment, but that can be expanded as needed with additional features back to full KDE weight.
In a nutshell KlyDE offers minimal KDE install so that it is lightweight, yet can be expanded by enabling, installing more features. I must admit that I don’t find KDE technologies to be resource hungry in my own experience but, KlyDE will have significant impact on performance.
I’d like to go on record that KlyDE is not a fork of KDE or an ‘Alternative KDE SC’. It’s an alternative to the way most distros present KDE by default. KlyDE is (at heart) the core of the KDE desktop with the basic desktop furniture, and the comfort features/integration with the plumbing of a modern distribution, and whatever else you want beyond that is up to you. Arch and Gentoo KDE users have been doing it this way for years. The work to simplify System Settings and speed-up login will go into mainstream KDE. I was at the Tokamak 6 Plasma meeting last week and was discussing implementation with the System Settings maintainer today. – Will Stephenson on G+
In order to achieve this the team is working on three fronts:
- Reduced footprint of default desktop by splitting packages and making components optional
- Speed up startup time
- Simplify configuration by installing a smaller set of configuration modules by default, by installing fewer plugins by default, and by providing simple config UIs for the options used by lightweight desktops.
What’s the base?
KlyDE is using openSUSE as the base, which already offers one of the best KDE integration. According to Jos Poortvliet, “The openSUSE KDE team did a huge effort here, simplifying dependencies so you can have a Plasma Desktop without most applets, Activities, Nepomuk or Akonadi. Of course, that means you give up on good and useful functionality but reality is that we don’t always need everything. This way the functionality is optional and this will hopefully become the default packaging state for openSUSE. What you don’t use will not add menu items, widgets and memory usage to your system.”
As stated above, to keep KlyDE lightweight, “By default, a ‘KlyDE’ desktop comes with none of the above-mentioned things and only a minimum of applications and applets. But upon installation of Activities the widget will be added to your panel and Akonadi will fire up the first time you start up KMail or Akregator!” says Poortvliet.
The team has made available images of KlyDE for testing. You can install it on your PC or run it in a Virtual Machine. I tested it on my Dell XPS M 1330 and I was impressed with how fast it booted and how responsive the entire desktop is. I am already running openSUSE KDE on this machine and it’s equally responsive and fast, but I clearly notice ‘significant’ performance improvement. And here I am highlighting ‘significant’ for a reason. It’s more or less like an Xfce-grade performance with KDE.
How to try
If you want to try Live KlyDE on your hardware, download the iso from this page and use the popular dd command to write it on a USB.
sudo dd if=/path_to_.iso of=/dev/sdX
What’s in the box?
KlyDE comes with basic applications which allows you to start your work as soon as you boot into it. You can install packages as and when you need.
Configure Desktop shows how trimmed down is KlyDE – it gives you most of what one needs keeping out more advanced features.
Since KlyDE is in ‘lab’ stage at the moment, I don’t want to talk about what comes pre-installed. However, I don’t understand why it comes with two web browsers Konqurer and Rekonk (one is enough, though either browsers were not rendering Muktware very well).
If KlyDE is competing with Xfce, it should come with some needed applications so that a user can get an out-of-the-box working experience. The question is which applications should com pre-installed. I think a basic set of media players (for audio video), a browser, a text-editor, a light weight word processor, some image viewing and editing app will be good enough for a regular PC usage.
It will be interesting to see which applications will the developers choose to pre-install on KlyDE, I am sure they are looking for user-feed back and if you want an Xfce grade KDE experience tell us what kind of applications and features you want with KlyDE.
Benefits of openSUSE base
openSUSE has a huge repository of applications so, KlyDE users will be able to install any app they need. If a user needs the 3rd party apps then software.opensuse.org offers a better experience than Ubuntu’s PPAs, in my opinion.
Though I refrain from recommending any OS over other (use what works for you), I do believe KlyDE can be a ‘heavy weight’ competitor to Xfce and Gnome. If you are a KDE (desktop) user and want something lightweight, give KlyDE a try and help developers in making it better.