This weekend I finally made the switch from KDE3 to KDE4. That’s the windowing system I use in Linux; I’ve been running KDE3 for something like ten years now and really enjoyed it. I had tweaked it so thoroughly that everything worked smoothly and behaved exactly as I expected. But KDE3 reached end-of-life about three or four years ago, and all of the modern software has been ported to KDE4. There’s only so long I could hold out– it’s something akin to continuing to use Windows 95 because you really like the interface, I guess. But someday you have to make the jump to (shudder) Windows Vista.

Anyway, the biggest pain of the migration was what’s called the PIM module: that’s “personal information management” and encompasses email, calendars, to-do lists, and address books. All of those things are absolutely critical to my everyday workflow, both personally and at work. If I don’t have my calendar and to-do list, I don’t know what to do when I get up in the morning. Without my address book I don’t remember anyone’s phone number, and of course without email I’m cut off from the world.

I’ve been resisting KDE4 all these years mainly because the developers changed the underlying technology that powers the PIM stuff. I was worried that all of my data would get garbled, or I wouldn’t have access to my 16 years of accumulated email archives, etc. I was pleased to find that many of my fears were unfounded, although there are still some annoying problems with the new version. The biggest one is the fact that apparently I can no longer use a central data server for all of my stuff… rather than using good old-fashioned text files to store contacts and events, KDE4 uses a full relational database and some behind-the-scenes shared messaging software. Heaven knows why.

The migration itself took a few hours of poking around, figuring out where things are in the new setup, as well as some time tweaking the desktop to have the same layout and magic shortcut keys as my old seutp. I’m probably 90% of the way there, and along the way I discovered some bugs and quirks in KDE4 that others have reported but haven’t been fixed. Sigh.

Overall I’m mostly satisfied with the new KDE4, but honestly if I could continue using good old rock-solid KDE3 for the next ten years I’d probably be happier. As a software guy and all-around Linux geek, though, sometimes I have to swallow the bitter pill.