I’m still enjoying the post-release excitment since we presented openSUSE 11.4 to the world. The release made quite a splash. 100.000 downloads in the first 24 hours is quite impressive and almost twice as many as for the openSUSE 11.3 release. We had another 250.000 downloads in the six days after the release and literally hundreds of reviews, which often came with interview requests. Pretty much all the reviews concluded that 11.4 is an awesome release, which it is.
openSUSE 11.4 is the first major distribution to ship LibreOffice in a stable release. And we have Firefox 4.0 and, of course, the latest KDE and GNOME desktops. Now for GNOME, that unfortunately doesn’t mean the next revolution of GNOME 3, which is not yet released. Personally I prefer the GNOME 3 Shell and at home I run the preview version that openSUSE ships as part of openSUSE 11.4. Core GNOME 3 developers from openSUSE make sure that we have the latest GNOME 3 available in frequently updated repositories. Frederic Crozat uses those to create the official GNOME 3 live CD which can be found here. We also ship all the latest development tools and libraries like GTK+ 3.0, so developers can get working on GNOME 3.
On my laptop I use Plasma Desktop, so I am very happy with the latest incarnation of KDE’s workspaces and applications. The speed improvements are very noticeable, as is the usual openSUSE polish which gave us our reputation as the best KDE distribution.
But I’m probably most excited about Xfce 4.8! This major release, the result of two years of hard work by the developers, introduces among other things a fully rewritten panel. You can now place panels freely and make them look and work exactly how you like. I spend a lot of time reviewing Xfce and I think it has great potential. The openSUSE developers have worked hard to make it a viable alternative to the better-known desktops from KDE and GNOME. For this release they have improved the default selection of software to make sure a new user has all the basic tools he or she would expect, like office and multimedia. They have added keyboard shortcuts and good default file associations, cleaned up the menu, improved the theming and in short made sure that Xfce offers a great experience on openSUSE 11.4. Xfce is a flexible, stable and configurable desktop that performs exceptionally well and offers a more traditional desktop environment.
With GNOME 3 (and to a lesser extent KDE) going in directions not everyone likes, I expect Xfce to receive a bit more attention in the coming year. Guido Berhoerster, openSUSE Xfce maintainer, is working on a live CD which should be ready by the time you read this – and if you want to check Xfce out, I would suggest going for that!