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The KDE desktop project has made some changes to its release process in light of the growth of the project and the fact that it has progressed well beyond the actual desktop itself.

For a long time, KDE was one of the two better-known desktop environments for Linux/UNIX users, the other being GNOME.

But KDE has shown some vision, not all of it realised yet, but all of it based on very sound and rational thinking. There is no longer one monolithic KDE development line; rather, bits and pieces have been separated out as needed, based on their functions and needs.

Says Jos Poortvliet of the KDE community: "We used to create 'KDE 3.x', a collection of a desktop and applications built on a common set of libraries. But since 2005, we've started to do way more than that.

"Many applications (like Amarok, Koffice and more) got a separate release schedule, others that had little to do with our 'core business' of GUI desktop applications joined: valgrind (a command line developer tool); ownCloud (PHP web app); necessitas, an effort to port Qt to Android. And now, the Mer project (an embedded Linux) might join.

"And we have efforts targeting non-desktop form factors like Plasma Active (tablets), Plasma Mobile, and Plasma Media Centre."

Poortvliet said that due to the long delay in releasing KDE 4.0  - which was then renamed to "KDE Software Collection 4.0" - the project decided to release the  libraries, desktop itself and the applications separately.

"When we release them all separately, the term 'KDE X' makes no sense whatsoever," he said. To explain the change, KDE released a long statement but again this would only make sense to people who have been following developments very closely.

Poortvliet said the the work on Frameworks 5 (the libraries) was an especially big deal. "We are working on splitting up our libraries into small, self-contained modules which can be used by any Qt developer piece-meal. This makes KDE technology available to the wider world of Qt developers, blurring the lines between a
'Qt' and a 'KDE' application.

"In short, both socially and technically, KDE is going from a 'Desktop Environment' to a community which creates a wide variety of technology, held together by a common vision of collaboration, explained here."

Poortvliet said collectively it was a very big change which occurred gradually in a largely invisible manner. "Many outside of our community are therefore not aware of it and for us it is very hard to communicate it clearly," he added.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.