By Ryan Paul | Published: June 20, 2008 - 08:00AM CT
Novell announced the official release of OpenSUSE 11 yesterday. It's the latest version of the community-driven Linux distribution and includes significant new features like the KDE 4 desktop environment and the PulseAudio sound server.
We tested both the GNOME and KDE flavors of OpenSUSE 11 by installing from the Live CD images. These work reasonably well and provide an installation experience comparable to that of Ubuntu and Fedora. The few minor issues that we encountered when we tested the beta 2 live installers back in May have all been resolved. There is also a full installer that is offered as a 4.3 GB DVD image. It provides a highly polished visual interface and an enormous package selection. For most users, who only require one desktop environment, the live installers are probably more practical than the full installer.
OpenSUSE 11 ships with KDE 4.0.4, which is acceptably stable. It's not quite ready yet for all KDE users, but it's far more complete and robust than the original KDE 4.0 release. The distribution also ships with full support for KDE 3.5 so that those users who aren't ready to make the switch yet aren't left out in the cold. Although 4.0.4 doesn't have the 4.1 plasma hotness, it does have usable implementations of important features like support for creating multiple panels, changing panel height, and setting the edge each panel is connected to.
The OpenSUSE GNOME installation uses version 2.22 of the desktop environment, which was released in March. GNOME 2.22 includes some important new architectural improvements like a new virtual filesystem layer.
The most recent versions of several popular applications are included in OpenSUSE 11, including the Firefox 3 web browser, which was released earlier this week. The installer ships with Firefox 3 beta 5, but the final version will be made available through an Internet update. OpenSUSE 11 also includes Banshee 1.0, a recently released overhaul of the popular open source audio player. As we noted in our recent review of Banshee 1.0 beta 2, it's an excellent program that delivers solid multimedia functionality and a very nice user interface.
OpenSUSE 11 also comes with the aesthetically rich Compiz window manager enabled by default, and it ships with a few cool new plugins like cube deformation that you won't find in the latest Ubuntu release.
This is a very strong OpenSUSE release with a lot of compelling improvements. OpenSUSE 11 offers the best KDE 4 experience out there and will continue to be our reference distribution for KDE testing. OpenSUSE 11 is also an increasingly solid choice for GNOME users—its unique GNOME customizations add a nice level of polish, and the inclusion of Banshee and Beagle ensure that it provides a better set of default applications out of the box than Ubuntu and Fedora. It's no Ubuntu-killer, but we can definitely expect to see OpenSUSE gain a larger following in the coming months.