Kubuntu Hardy Heron KDE 4 Remix review

As promised, here I'm going to take a look at the new 'KDE 4 Remix' version of Kubuntu.

For the uninitiated, let me explain. The latest version of the KDE variant of Ubuntu, has two versions - the standard disc featuring KDE 3.5.9, and this KDE 4 Remix disc, which features the new KDE 4.0 release.

In this review, I'm going to focus on this distro from the user's perspective. There's plenty of cool stuff under the hood of KDE 4, but here, I'll focus on what you can actually see and play with, as that's what will probably sway people to using this release or the official one.

So, without further ado, let's load up the KDE 4 Remix disc.

Once you've gone through with the installation process, which is virtually identical to that of the standard KDE 3 disc, you get greeted with the Kubuntu KDE4 desktop.

Default desktop in KDE 4

It features an attractive blue abstract desktop background, with the black KDE bar running across the bottom. The K menu is obvious and clear, and therefore should be very simple to pick up if you've ever used KDE before. More on the K menu later, however.

The KDE 4 spin of Kubuntu apparently lacks overt Kubuntu branding and from the user's perspective looks like a stock copy of KDE 4 without modifications.

One of the first things you may notice is this weird looking icon in the top right.

Add Widget icon on KDE 4 desktop

Hovering over it reveals an option to add a new widget. KDE 4 features a new widget engine integrated into the new Plasma desktop. Right now there are only a handful, including clocks, a battery monitor, application launchers and other utilities like that. Despite being few in number, the widgets are attractive and functional.

Unfortunately, not all widgets that were compatible with KDE 3's SuperKaramba application work with the new system at the current stage. Aside from this, KDE 4's widget system is solid, if lacking in variety at the current time.

K menu in KDE menu

The K menu is KDE's central location for starting applications, much akin to Windows' Start menu. Previous editions of KDE have had a simple scrolling menu with application categories that then expand to allow the user to launch individual applications. There was access to other items, like settings, but it was more of an afterthought.

The new K menu has been reworked and now features several categories across a bar at the bottom. The Favourites bar records the items you use from the menu most frequently, and allows for easy access to your favourite things.

The Applications category works more in the traditional K menu style, but adopts a Vista-style scrolling system rather than cascading submenus out all over the screen. This makes it a lot clearer and keeps everything in one place.

The Computer category offers access to system settings and common places, while obviously the Recent category and Leave category do pretty much what they say on the tin.

Overall, I'm a fan of the new menu. Admittedly it will take some adaptation for me personally, when I do switch to KDE 4 full-time, but then I'm not a big user of the menu anyway, tending to plump for icons on the bar to launch apps, or using Alt-F2.

New theme in KDE 4

One of the big new things that the user will notice is a visual refresh. A new icon theme, called Oxygen, features in this release. From what I've seen, Oxygen looks professional and clean in the new interface, and most certainly a welcoming change from the Crystal icon set which has been around for a long time in KDE 3.

There's also a new control style and window decoration style for the release. The controls look modern and fresh, but I can't say I am a fan of the new window decoration. By default, there is a serious lack of contrast between the active window and the inactive window.

Default window decorations in KDE 4

I find this disappointing, as it detracts significantly from KDE's usability. Previously, the default window decoration had a good contrast between active and inactive, so this feels like a step backwards.

Admittedly, it's a trivial detail to change to something better, however you lose the sense of visual consistency across the new platform.

While many of the applications have been updated to use the new functionality in the KDE 4 platform, some older, KDE 3 applications remain. KDE 3 apps fit in well with the rest of the system. There are no visual inconsistencies with the theme, as it all runs on top of the same Qt toolkit.

I couldn't really find anything that rough around the edges to be honest. What needs to happen now is for the distros to make the migration over to KDE 4 full-time, and then applications can follow suit and start taking advantage of the new underlying technology that 4 brings to the table.


The Kubuntu KDE4 Live spin gives you the benefit of using the new KDE 4 desktop environment in a relatively stable, tried-and-tested Ubuntu system. While it is a shame that KDE 4 couldn't make it to the official Kubuntu release, that is planned for Intrepid Ibex, perhaps this does give KDE application developers a clear signal that v4 is coming, and will hit the major distros soon.

In my time playing with this disc, I had no major problems at all. Aside from my minor annoyances with some elements of the theme, KDE 4 provides that new backend technology that application developers can use to build extremely rich applications, but also giving a new smooth visual refresh to convince users to upgrade.

For the moment, I am going to stick with the KDE 3 version of Kubuntu for my main desktop. This isn't particularly because I think the KDE 4 spin won't cut it, but more down to pragmatism (and/or laziness), as I already have the KDE 3 version up and running and right now, it serves my needs well enough.

The KDE team face a unique challenge. They need to get KDE 4 working to a level where distros ship it by default. Until that happens, there won't be a sufficient base of users to justify application developers making the jump over to the new frameworks, and therefore KDE 4 won't have enough shiny new toys. This Kubuntu implementation sends out a clear message, though - KDE 4 is coming, and it works pretty damn well.

Avatar for peter Peter Upfold - http://peter.upfold.org.uk/

Peter Upfold is a technology enthusiast from the UK. Peter’s interest in Linux stems back to 2003, when curiosity got the better of him and he began using SUSE 9.0. Now he runs Linux Mint 9 on the desktop, runs a CentOS-based web server from home for his personal website and dabbles in all sorts of technology things across the Windows, Mac and open source worlds.

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Discussion: Kubuntu Hardy Heron KDE 4 Remix review

  1. Andrew Min (guest)

    # Posted on 29 April 2008 at 09:43 PM

    FYI, you can get a KDE 4 version of SuperKaramba to run the SK3.5 widgets.

  2. Gigi (guest)

    # Posted on 30 April 2008 at 06:48 AM

    Reads more like a KDE4 review than a Kubuntu Hardy review. could you clarify the following?

    1. included apps
    2. package manager/updater
    3. kubuntu branding
    4. control center

  3. # Posted on 30 April 2008 at 03:10 PM

    [...] Kubuntu Hardy Heron KDE 4 Remix review [...]

  4. maniacmusician (guest)

    # Posted on 01 May 2008 at 07:39 AM

    A few notes;

    • You definitely let your bias as a KDE user interfere with your article. Even though I'm a mostly-KDE user myself, I definitely know that there are some things relating to user experience that you didn't really touch on, such as available config options. that remix will be fine if you want to use the default everything, but for the average user, it isn't really enough.

    • A correction; I may be wrong, but I don't think that Kickoff is actually branded the KMenu (seeing as how the legacy menu is an option for users). I'm pretty sure that it just happens to be the most complete and available menu at this time, so it's being used.

    Also, I know you decided to skip under the hood stuff for this review, but it would've been cool to mention that because of the modularity of Plasma, any item of the interface can be easily replaced, such as the menu. As you may know, there are some alternative menus in development, so users won't absolutely have to use Kickoff or go back to the old menu style.

    • Last thing; Oxygen is not just an icon theme, but a complete visual theme that includes icons, window decorations, cursor styles, and even (I believe) sounds.

    Thanks for the article, it's always good to be spreading news.


  5. MacLone (guest)

    # Posted on 01 May 2008 at 03:40 PM

    At this stage KDE4 is extremelly half baked. It would be a great replacement...some day...

  6. davemc (guest)

    # Posted on 01 May 2008 at 04:42 PM

    Completely confused and rambling review! As other posters have pointed out, is this a KDE4 review, a Kubuntu review, or just random thoughts thrown out willy nilly? Suggest you grab a review template from a serious professional reviewer for future efforts!

  7. Pumpino (guest)

    # Posted on 02 May 2008 at 11:07 AM

    KDE 4.0 is lacking in a number of areas. For example, let's look at changing the IP address of your machine.

    In KDE 3, you'd simply go into System Settings and make the necessary adjustments. Try that in KDE 4's System Settings, and you suddenly find that the option is no longer present.

    Fedora 9 gets around issues like this by including its own graphical tools which fill the gap, but Kubuntu with KDE 4 requires the user to edit config files by hand just to change something simple like the IP address!

  8. To Pumpino (guest)

    # Posted on 02 May 2008 at 10:30 PM

    What's wrong with editing a configuration file by hand? That's how it is supposed to be done in the first place.

  9. Kevin (guest)

    # Posted on 04 May 2008 at 03:01 AM

    The Konqueror picture reminded me why I've always hated that browser. Why do we have to scroll windows horizontally in order to view an entire web page ? That doesn't happen with Firefox or Epiphany.

  10. Cec (guest)

    # Posted on 10 May 2008 at 08:28 PM

    For the anonymous author of post #8, GUIs are much more intuitive to the majority and are more idiot-proof.

    for the author, what's the point in writing sth that talks only about the beauty of icons and borders? If u want to talk about the user point of view, just put a link to the KDE4 visual guide.

  11. Vlad (guest)

    # Posted on 13 May 2008 at 05:42 AM

    @Kevin: come on, that is ridiculous! the reviewer made konqueror really small to make a smaller screenshot. try making the firefox window tiny and you'll see a scrollbar too.

  12. James Turk (guest)

    # Posted on 13 May 2008 at 04:40 PM

    I read this a few days ago and just posted a pretty in depth review that goes into detail on some of the KDE applications, it's aimed at Ubuntu users or non-KDE users in general. This in particular addresses some of Gigi's concerns.


  13. Hard to believe (guest)

    # Posted on 17 May 2008 at 11:47 AM

    "The Konqueror picture reminded me why I’ve always hated that browser. Why do we have to scroll windows horizontally in order to view an entire web page ? That doesn’t happen with Firefox or Epiphany."

    What a retard. The scrollbar you're seeing is in whatever browser you are running (which presumably isn't Konqueror).

  14. Patrick (guest)

    # Posted on 26 May 2008 at 03:23 PM


    I have loved ubuntu, and some kubuntu versions. PClinuxOS seems to have better functioning for kde for multimedia though. Our business has tried up to forty linux systems, but have basically decided upon ubuntu hardy or gOS. With PCLinuxOS being an option for KDE users.

    The reason we've made this decision is being simplicity for our customers, and easy operation. We now have finished our beta version of our own distro based off the new hardy gnome, it is almost flawless. As we try to convert folks to Linux stability and safety, it is multimedia functioning that leads to the most questions. Newbies don't know terminal or konsole, so simplicity is a charm.

    Kubuntu Hardy Remix was something we hoped to replace PCLinuxOS with, but after days of trying to tweak the multimedia plugins I've about given up. If someone knows something that can either link Realplayer or Mplayer plugins correctly and or consistently play Kaffeine or VLC plugins well. I'm about to give up on it. I even tried gecko player for both.

    One big question. Why is the applications tab blank in firefox if you install it? This problem leaves it almost impossible to link your players correctly if you use anything other than Kongueror's standard. Kongueror is way to quirky.

    Appreciate your reviews and insights always Tuxmachines. Have a great holiday.

  15. Mike (guest)

    # Posted on 06 June 2008 at 02:30 PM

    The last time I evaluated KDE 4, you could not correctly add a new user using KUSER. It would save the new user as USER 0. (root)

  16. Arnold L Johnson (guest)

    # Posted on 13 June 2008 at 06:07 PM

    The GUI both colors and shapes the character of the distro. KDE 3.5 is one way and KDE 4.0 is another. I like KDE 4.0, but...try to drag and drop on the desktop, where's the trash and why is it so hard to use the handy sudo to open Konqueror or Dolphin as root to create a folder?? If you are going to change the way things are done there should to be an explanation in the documentation, hey that rhymes!! By all means, make it easier for me but don't leave things out and call it simple. An efficient work-flow for common tasks with repeatable results, documented for our enjoyment, that's user friendly. Does KDE 4.0 muck up what Ubuntu already made clear and simple?? Well,yeah, I am enjoying a lot of new stuff, but missing a lot of useful/old stuff. Beautiful car, sleek but no trunk, engine sounds great but I can't hear the radio!!

  17. A.Lizard (guest)

    # Posted on 30 July 2008 at 02:28 AM

    "try to drag and drop on the desktop"

    Not fixed in 4.1-release in Kubuntu/Hardy.

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