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'Portland' 1.0 aims to ease Linux interface

Newly released software is designed to help bridge two widely used Linux user interfaces, KDE and GNOME.

Programmers have released version 1.0 of the Portland software project designed to help bridge the gap between two widely used Linux user interfaces, KDE and GNOME.

The Portland software project includes a set of common interfaces for KDE and GNOME. The goal is to make it easier for programmers and software companies to support both user interfaces.

Portland is overseen by the Open Source Development Labs and the effort to consolidate Linux and Unix desktop software projects. The groups announced the software release Wednesday.

Linux loyalties and programming efforts have long been divided between the two projects. Although software designed for one interface can run on the other, users first must have supporting components for both installed, and software companies can't necessarily assume computers have both.

"Linux is the only operating system that doesn't have a unified user interface," said 451 Group analyst Raven Zachary.

"It's not a major problem in most cases, as distributions (Linux software collections supplied by organizations such as Red Hat) solve the problem either by selecting one or offering both options," he said, but added that it's confusing to consumers and resources are being spent supporting two interfaces.

KDE uses a library of components such as buttons and pull-down menus called Qt, and GNOME's equivalent is called GTK+. The Linux version of Adobe's Reader software to view PDF (Portable Document Format) files requires the installation of GNOME's GTK+ interface components.

Portland has won some early support. Qt 4.2, released last week, incorporates Portland 1.0, according to Trolltech, the Norwegian company that develops Qt. In addition, Linux versions Red Flag and Xandros have committed to include it in their next releases, OSDL said.

The software can be downloaded from Portland Web site.