KDE 4 on Windows

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I’d known from the beginning that KDE 4 libraries and applications could be installed on Windows. I hadn’t actually tried installing them on Windows because I’ve been warned that they’re unstable (Windows support is new), bulky (there’re many dependencies), and inefficient (KDE is not just a widget library). I’ve also heard reports of excellent integration and ease of installation, so I decided to give it a try. The test system is a virtual machine running Windows XP SP3 with no theme.

The installer is a small file available from the KDE on Windows Project. It’s a basic dependency-resolving package manager that could be run multiple times to install any desired KDE package available for Windows. The installation process could not be simpler. There were a few settings, such as target directory, download mirror, and desired packages. I selected my local mirror, so the whole process took only 15 minutes from start to finish. Your installation time may vary depending on system specifications, connection speed, and packages selected.

Next, I launched a few KDE applications to see just how they worked under Windows. Surprisingly, they blended quite well into the desktop. It is worth noting that while most of the graphics are from the Oxygen collection, fully-native dialogs retain the default Windows artwork. For example, Kate’s Filesystem Browser tab displays Oxygen icons while the Open File dialog displays classic icons. Still, I feel that there is a nice balance between Oxygen and classic, and Oxygen looks beautiful on Windows. Overall, KDE/Qt applications integrate with Windows much better than GTK applications.

During installation and testing, resource usage was at a minimum. KDE applications competed well even against fully-native software. In particular, Okular is great for PDF-browsing and is much lighter/faster than Adobe Acrobat Reader. KolourPaint handles all common image formats with ease while Microsoft Paint tends to botch JPEG’s and the like. Gwenview is a great replacement for the native Windows image browser. And Kate packs so many useful editing features within such a small footprint that Notepad&Co. can finally be laid to rest. The whole system was rock-solid during testing.

Here’re pictures of the installation process and some applications. The installation process flows from left to right, top to bottom. The applications depicted are, in the same order: Gwenview image viewer, Kate text editor, KolourPaint image editor, and Okular document viewer.