The desktop panel regained its general configurability in the 4.2 release, so the 4.3 panel has only minor changes. However, some users might appreciate being able to move windows below the bottom of the panel, or to add spacers to the panel to help them group widgets.
One ch that may be as much trouble as benefit is that the calendar now has the option of announcing the time. This feature may be useful to turn on if you are on a deadline, but, otherwise, I suspect that most users will keep it resolutely turned off.
By far the largest change to the panel are in the system tray. KDE has always given its users more control over system notifications than its rival GNOME, but, with the 4.3 beta, this control is greatly increased. Now, by right-clicking on the system tray -- the point where written notifications generally display -- you can suppress pop-up notices completely if you choose.
In addition, you can suppress notices by categories. These categories (application status, communications, system services, and hardware control) are limited by the fact that what exactly each one consists of is unspecified, but perhaps more details will be given in the final release's online help. Meanwhile, the categories are a welcome gesture toward user customization, even if using them does require a little bit of trial and error.
Most of the settings themselves have not greatly changed although the settings window now includes a new network connection tool. However, in the 4.3 beta, KDE now offers more display choices.
In previous KDE 4 releases, the Control Center of earlier versions gave way to the Systems Setting Window. This change replaced the formidably long tree view of settings in the Control Center with a less overwhelming collection of icons and sub-windows.
However, the Control Center likely had as many supporters as detractors, and the fact that you could only display one sub-window at a time meant that you could easily forget where you were. In the KDE 4.3 beta, the System Settings window is still the default, but now you can switch to the tree view, which closely mimics the old Control Center. Just as with the multiple desktop menus available for the KDE 4 series, the system settings now allow users to work in the way they prefer -- a refreshing viewpoint that is one of my main reasons for switching recently to KDE.
After the excitement of the past few releases, KDE 4.3 might seem mildly disappointing. From the perspective of the desktop, at least, it includes no paradigm shifts. Most of its innovations, too, are made to increase interface consistency, or to restore features from the old 3.x series.
However, the move to incremental releases is perhaps inevitable. Many users have yet to absorb the possibilities of features like multiple folder views and activities, so a release that consists of smaller enhancements only seems suitable. If the KDE 4.3 beta contains nothing earth-shattering, it still includes dozens of improvements that, although not necessary, are still very welcome.
As an enthusiastic KDE 4.2 user, I look forward to the final 4.3 release, and expect it to improve my everyday computing in all sorts of minor ways -- mostly by offering me more choice.
ALSO SEE: Why I Switched from GNOME to KDE