Taking the suggestion of a colleague, I decided to install Arch Linux on my home desktop. Considering that Arch is one of those distros in which you setup most of the stuff, and the fact that I used LVM on top of LUKS encryption, I’d say the installation process (all three attempts of it) went rather well. And being a long time KDE user that shifted to GNOME when KDE 4.0 (which was more a pre alpha release than a full blown 4.0) came out, I had some mix expectations. But a long of work has been done from KDE 4.0 to 4.2, and as this was the version available in Arch, I decided to give it try. And while it still carries a lot more of eye-candy than I either need or want, many of the usability problems that riddled 4.0 were solved. In particular, I could now create a bar at the top edge of my screen, and throw shortcuts to applications in there. This is in no way as trivial as in KDE 3.5.*, but it turns out it’s not that complicated either. For the applications that have an entry in the K-menu, just drag them to the bar and you are done. For the ones that don’t, create a folder somewhere in your home—I use the Desktop folder, because shortcuts you place in there won’t actually show on the desktop; only widgets are shown—create the desired shortcut (in Dolphin), and drag to the top bar. You can do the same with links to some location (as opposite to shortcuts to an application), but I don’t do this because you can’t change the icon that gets placed in the top bar, and so if you place more than one, you can’t distinguish between them unless you hover the mouse each one).
Overall, it’s being a pleasant (if far from bump-less) ride. Arch seems to have the right trade-off (for me, at least :P) between low and high level. About KDE4, I’m still forming my opinion, but I like what I’ve seen so far😉
Oh and as a final remark, the default KDE theme, dubbed Air, in blueish tones, is so much better than the previous! (which was dubbed Oxygen, and was in tones of… black. Go figure…)