So, kickoff ... well, a picture is worth a 1000 of words, so they say. (But then if that was true you'd think they'd state that fact in a picture rather than use words and therefore save time and verbage while making their point more clearly. ;)
There's a lot going on in that shot, and here those things are point by point:
- There's the username, host and branding at the top of the menu. This was contributed by Stephan Binner from the OpenSUSE team and probably looks familiar to most OpenSUSE users. The logo (which is a temporary graphic to be replaced with something less lame ;) is clickable and will take you to a website. All of this is configurable so that our downstreams don't have to do any source code hacking or screwing with icon themes. In fact, in 4.1 Plasma themes will support a logos.svg file that contains various bits of branding in it so that downstreams can provide one file and get their branding sprinkled tastefully around. The defaults will remain KDE themed, of course. The upside of recognizing this behaviour of downstreams and working with it is that we can take it into consideration, do a better job of making it easy and work decently upstream and make it easier for downstreams to work with KDE in this way. If you're a downstream and have some workspace branding thoughts, don't hesitate to contact us on the email@example.com mailing list.
- The grey box in the top right is awaiting artwork, but it works already: when you click and drag you can freely resize the menu. This was also submitted by Binner.
- No more HUGE BOLD fonts for headings. They are calmer now.
- The selection indicator is now a rounded rect. It has a gradient to pull the eye gently towards the text (the meaninful bit), while tying the icon and other bits associated with the text together. It doesn't get in the way of the icon or other graphical accoutrement that may appear. The icon of the selected item also grows. There was long discussion *ahem* about how to do this. I really dug my heels in and refused to budge until we had a solution that wasn't a compromise one way or the other and once people got over the fact that I wasn't going to be cool with a quick "fix" that simply introduced other problems, we really started getting somewhere. The result was a real team effort. I think we're getting there with this new graphical treatment, though I'm sure there's more to go even yet.
- The current tab is blended with the content visually for better visual association. The cute little animation of the icon raising is still there of course. =)
- Sub-texts (the little grey bits under the main text in an entry) are still shown on mouse hover only ... with two exceptions: If there are multiple items in the category with the same name we now paint the subtext always; this way if you have 2 "Terminal" applications, you can tell at a glance which is which without mousing over them. The other exception is for lists such as the Recent Documents list where you always want the subtext to see the full path of the document in question. This approach preserves the clean look of minimal text on screen at once while painting that extra text when it is actually of immediate need.
- You can't see this one in the screenshot, but it paints properly when reverse now so those using the desktop with a RTL language can be happier.
- Something else you can't see in the screenshot is the headers on the Applications page are now in breadcrumb style on one line using the same font style as all other headings. Eventually I want to make these clickable for really fast navigation.
- You can right click to swap between Kickoff and the traditional menu now; they are still separate plasmoids but this just makes it easier to swap between them. Neat.
- Lots of pixel twiddling has gone on: better spacing; consistent sizes of items in the lists, even on the applications page; text and icons never touch anymore; all left/right edges of items line up at all times; small indentation before the subtext. It's been fun as numerous people have piled on and fixed these little things. People paying attention to pixels like that excites me. You might think I'm easily excited, but it's the pixels that make the differences.
There is more to do: making the breadcrumb trail clickable on the apps page, changing the position of the tabs depend on where on the screen the menu appears (Will Stephenson has a patch drafted to do this; it's almost there), hooking up the search with Runners, showing the menu right on the desktop when kickoff is placed there (possible now that we have WoC), etc. But it's already approaching something that I think people will like a lot more, i think.
And yes, there are other options available that you can replace this particular ALI with. That's what plasma is all about after all.