A desktop challenger to Microsoft Corp's Office has adopted an open source version of .NET, potentially increasing its appeal to a cross-section of developers,Gavin Clarke writes
The KDE Project has emerged as possibly the first real-world adopter of Project Mono for application development. Mono is an open source alternative to .NET for Unix and Linux desktops, initiated in July 2001 by Ximian Inc.
Central to Mono - like .NET - is support for multiple languages. KDE is a desktop applications package and framework written in the Qt programming language. Using Mono means KDE is open to developers working Mono Basic and C Sharp (open source versions of Microsoft's languages) and Cobol.
Increased language support could increase up-take of KDE as more applications are developers.
Adam Treat, open source developer and Qt Sharp author, said: "The more choices that KDE offers the developer, the more attractive KDE becomes to the developer. Mono holds the promise of providing multi-language support for KDE through the efficient and solid completion of only one binding."
Increased backing from developers comes at a critical time for Microsoft. The KDE office application suite includes a word processor; spread sheet and presentation software among other modules.
Vendors are lining-up to challenge Microsoft's Office since the company introduced unpopular subscription-based pricing in August. Challenges have been issued by Sun Microsystems Inc, Corel Corp and Ximian. Adding to the pressure is the fact many now believe open source desktop technologies have matured and pose a credible alternative to elements found in Office.
Opening KDE up to developers unskilled in Qt could increase the pressure. Astute developers could build applications for KDE that attract customers unhappy with Microsoft's licensing.
KDE developers are working two Mono-based projects. The first is a Mono-based script interface to KDE with planned bindings to Qt. These will allow different languages to be used when building KDE applications.
A sub-project is also underway for a plug-in interface to Kate, the KDE advanced text editor. The project would enable developers to write Kate plug-ins, such as a browser, in Qt or a version of Microsoft's C Sharp written for in Mono for KDE called QtC Sharp.
KDE is also using the open source DotGNU project on KDE, but Treat noted Mono is further along in development. Since announcing Mono just over a year ago, Boston, Massachusetts-based Ximian has completed an open source version of the C Sharp programming language, C Sharp compiler and converted approximately 15,000 libraries.
Ximian co-founder Miguel de Icaza has positioned Project Mono's as a means to streamline development of cross-platform applications instead of a means to build open source web services. Microsoft positions its version of .NET as both a set of more efficient development technologies and a platform for web services.
Treat backs de Icaza. "[Mono] combines a modern development framework and powerful class library with a beautiful new language." He said Mono is a distinct improvement over previous development technologies. "It's a breath of fresh air for developers," Treat said.