What’s new in openSUSE Leap 15.2
openSUSE Leap 15.2 has entered the Beta phase on the 25th February 2020. I have recently installed this on my laptop to check it out. Leap 15.2 will coincide with SUSE Enterprise Linux Desktop 15 Service Pack 2. Both Leap and SLED share a lot of underlying packages, so this will be (again) a rock solid release.
openSUSE Leap 15.2 features many big updates. This includes a new version of the KDE desktop environment, a new version of the GNOME desktop environment and a new Linux kernel. In the Leap 15.2 column of the table below, I have highlighted in green the packages that are significantly changed in comparison to Leap 15.1. And in blue, I have highlighted the packages that are changed compared to Leap 15.1 at time of its release, but which are now also available in updated Leap 15.1 installations.
openSUSE Tumbleweed is a rolling distribution, so it will always change. The Tumbleweed column features a snapshot of the situation at the end of April 2020. I have only highlighted in green the packages that are significantly newer than the packages in Leap 15.2. This shows the areas where Leap 15.2 is behind the software development curve. Staying a bit behind the curve is not necessarily a bad thing. You install openSUSE Leap because you don’t want to deal with constant change. You install openSUSE Tumbleweed if you want to stay on the cutting edge. They both have their own audiences. This comparison helps (future) openSUSE users understand the main differences between Leap 15.2 and Tumbleweed, so they can figure out which of these distributions is right for them.
|Package name||Leap 15.1||Leap 15.1||Leap 15.2||Tumbleweed (Apr 2020)|
|KDE Plasma 5 desktop||5.12.8||5.12.8||5.18.4||5.18.4|
|Mozilla Firefox ESR||60.6||68.7||68.6||68.7|
|Rapid Photo Downloader||0.9.09||0.9.14||0.9.22||0.9.22|
Software package updates
Chromium moved from version 73 to version 81 and a lot has changed. Important new features include a Forced Dark Mode that enables dark mode on every website, the Silent Notification Popup feature contains notifications under a special icon in the URL address bar, the Tab Freezing feature unloads tabs that are not used for 5 minutes (saving CPU and RAM). A lot of security improvements were made, including DNS over HTTPS (experimental) where DNS (domain lookup) requests are send over a secured connection. Mixed HTTP/HTTPS content is now auto-upgraded to HTTPS, the Password Checkup utility checks if your saved passwords have been breached and the Predictive Phishing feature warns users if they are about to enter their passwords in a phishing website.
Digikam 6.4 features a lot of changes in comparison to Digikam 6.0. The 15 year old KIPI plugin interface is swapped for the much improved DPlugins interface. This allows plugins to work on all aspects of the Digikam application and accompanying tools. And a lot of new plugins take advantage of that. There is a new plugin to use images as your desktop wallpaper. The GMic-Qt plugin adds a lot of filters (comparable to GIMP and Krita). A RAW import tool plugin allows configurations from Darktable, Rawtherapee and Ufraw to be imported via the Image Editor. And finally a new Clone Tool Plugin allowing you to clone parts of an image. The new LibRaw 0.19.3 library allows for more RAW formats to be imported into Digikam.
Flatpak 1.6.3 has changed the protocol and API for handling authentication, making it more secure, flexible and futureproof.
Gimp 2.10.12 is a major update compared to Gimp 2.08.22. It has a new image processing engine called GEGL. This image processing engine makes use of multi-threading, making Gimp much faster. Gimp now works in a linear RGB color space. Color management is also a core feature of Gimp. Gimp 2.10 has better file formats support, including reading and writing TIFF, PNG, PSD and FITS files. The interface of Gimp is also improved. It now has HiDPI support and the icons are more stylized. Gimp 2.10 has better transformation tools, better selection tools, an improved text tool and a number of digital painting and digital photography improvements. If you want a detailed description of all improvements, check the release notes.
The GNOME desktop and applications are updated from version 3.26 to 3.34. That is a difference of 4 major releases. The GNOME Shell has seen many performance/speed improvements, so it feels much more responsive. The Adwaita theme has gotten an overhaul and now features a flat style and more beautiful icons. openSUSE Leap 15.2 also allows you to install the Yaru theme (Ubuntu) and the Pop!_OS theme (System 76). The touch keyboard is much improved and now features emoji’s. And finally you can group apps into folders in the Activities overview.
Many GNOME applications feature UI improvements, including Web, Settings, Contacts, Notes and Terminal. The Photos application features new editing tools. The Files application features a new unified navigation/search bar. Web also features a new reader mode and the option to enable hardware acceleration. GNOME Software features a faster search engine. There are many improvements to the Boxes virtualization application, but according to a recent Arstechnica article it is still less usable than Virt-manager. There are also 3 new application introduced. Fractal is a Matrix Chat client. Matrix works similar to WhatsApp and Telegram but it’s Open Source and decentralized. It is co-developed and heavily used by the French government to make sure that their conversations stay private. Usage is a new (basic looking) performance monitor tool. And Podcast (obviously) is a Podcast player.
GNUCash 3.9 features many improvements for your accounting needs. Usability is improved, by adding better tooltips, multi-selection in the import transaction matcher and the ability to assign a single target account to more than one transaction in the import matcher. It features improvements to reporting, including a full rewrite of Customer/Employee/Vendor reports, improvements to the Transaction report and the introduction of a user-customizable CSS based stylesheet. It features currency handling improvements, including using the default currency for the summary bar currency. And using the customer and vendor currency instead of the default currency when generating bills, invoices or credit notes.
Hugin 2019.2 can now convert the RAW images to TIFF with a new RAW converter.
Inkscape remains on version 0.92.2. Which is unfortunate, as Inkscape 1.0 was just released and contains many new features.
KDE Applications were updated from 18.12.3 to 19.12.3. Which equals 3 releases. A lot of improvements were made over the course of that year. Dolphin (file manager) can now be launched from anywhere via the Windows + E keyboard shortcut. Dolphin handles the rendering of tumbnails much better and now includes previews of .cb7 files. Gwenview (image viewer) has better touchscreen and HiDPI support. Its tumbnails load faster. It has a new share menu to share images via email, phone, NextCloud or Twitter. And Gwenview now integrates with Krita out of the box. Okular (document viewer) has improved touchscreen support. It now supports viewing and verifying digital signatures in PDF files. It also adds support for LaTex documents. It improves ePub support. And it has improved annotation features.
In terms of productivity, Kmail (e-mail client) has seen some improvements. It now has unicode color emoji and markdown support. It has grammarly integration for better grammar checking. And it detects phone numbers, which can be dialed via KDE Connect. Korganizer (calendar) improved its support for Google Calendar. A new application was added, which is called Kitinerary, a travel assistant.
In terms of multimedia, Kdenlive (video editor) has seen a big code re-write. It should now be faster and more performant and easier to use. It features new keyboard-mouse shortcuts to make you more productive. And it comes with a new sound mixer to help you synchronize music with video clips. Elisa is a new KDE music player. It looks quite similar to Amarok, which was my go-to music player for the last 10 years. It looks interesting enough to give it a try. Amarok didn’t have any new releases over the last 2 years. So maybe it’s time to switch.
In terms of utilities, Spectacle (my new favorite screenshot tool) now allows you to configure what happens when you press the screenshot button while the application is open. It features a neat taskbar indicator, showing you (if you choose to delay it) when the screenshot will be taken. And you can now use the touchscreen to select the area that you want to screenshot. Kate (text editor) added a quick open feature to open your most recent files. Konsole (terminal) now has an awesome tiling feature, that allows you to split panes horizontally and vertically as many times as you like. Calligra Plan (planner) finally gets a new release. It helps you plan your projects Gantt style. KDE Connect now has a new feature to write and read SMS messages from your desktop. Also, you can now control the volume of your phone from your desktop. The Plasma Browser Integration plugin gained a nice multi media feature, giving you the ability to blacklist sound sources from certain websites.
The Plasma desktop has changed from version 5.12.8 to version 5.18.4. Which are 6 major releases, so there are many changes to look forward to. A lot of effort has gone into the look and feel of the desktop. The login screen and lock screen were completely redesigned and look much better. The system settings are also totally redesigned, making them better suited for small screen (read mobile) devices. The Breeze icons also have seen some adjustments to make them look sharper. GTK support is much improved. GTK applications now respect KDE settings, KDE color schemes, have shadows on X11 and support the KDE global menu. The Color scheme and Window Decoration pages were redesigned. And you can now set a ‘Picture of the Day’ as your wallpaper. Which is a really cool feature.
If you say KDE 5, you say widgets. And widgets are now easier to rearrange then ever. You can put the desktop into Global Edit mode and easily drag and resize all widgets. The notifications system has been completely rewritten and now includes a ‘Do not disturb’ feature. The system tray now shows a warning whenever audio is recorded, enhancing your privacy. A new widget for display configuration is useful if you have multiple monitors or if you often work from different places. The power widget now shows the battery status of Bluetooth devices. The network manager widget now includes support for WireGuard VPN tunnels. And it is now faster to refresh WiFi networks. And a new system tray widget lets you control the Night Color feature.
The Discover software manager is much improved. Which was really necessary. I intend to address the current state of KDE Discover and Gnome Software on Leap 15.2 in a separate post. You can now sort lists and category pages, including by release date. There are progress bars and spinners added to various parts of the application. It has a new updates page with sections for ‘downloading’ and ‘installing’ applications. You can also deselect updates in the update page. Discover can update your firmware via the ‘fwupd’ project. This is a very nice feature, but only works on supported hardware. It can also update a full Linux distribution. However I can imagine that this feature works better on KDE Neon than on openSUSE (YaST is most likely superior). Discover can auto-install the Flatpak back-end if it’s not installed by default and now supports Snap channels.
KDE Plasma 5.18 has much improved Wayland support (the new display manager). Including initial support for proprietary Nvidia drivers. KWin (the Window manager) now supports fractional scaling on Wayland, which is useful on HiDPI screens. Night Color is now available on X11 (the old display manager). You can now manage your Thunderbolt devices from the system settings. And the desktop is much more responsive.
Krita is now on version 4.2.9 and now supports painting in HDR. The brush speed is much improved, the color palette is easier to use, the artistic color selector has been cleaned up and a new color gamut feature was added. A lot of bug fixes make the application more stable than ever.
LibreOffice moved from version 6.1.3 to version 6.4.2. The tabbed user interface (which looks similar to Microsoft Office Ribbon interface) moved out of the experimental stage and is now fully baked. Writer has seen many improvements. You can now place comments on images / charts. You can now mark comments as resolved. You can now hide tracked changes. You can set the text direction in text frames. You can avoid overlapping shapes, by selecting an auto-detection mode. Handling of tables is much improved. And the sidebar now has a panel for Table actions. Calc has gained a new multivariate regression analysis. Data validation now supports custom formulas. Which is very handy. In Impress, you can now consolidate multiple text boxes into one text box. Overall improvements in LibreOffice are better support for (and faster opening of) Microsoft Office document formats.
The Linux kernel was updated to version 5.3.18. Since the last version, a lot of improvements have gone into the Linux kernel. However, some of these improvements were already backported into the openSUSE 4.12.14 kernel. In this paragraph I will detail some of the major changes between the official kernels 4.12 and 5.3. Intel has added Comet Lake, Cannonlake and Coffeelake support. Intel Icelake Gen11 graphics are now supported. Intel Icelake and Geminilake now support HDR displays. Nouveau, the open source NVIDIA driver, has gained support for GeForce GTX 1650, GeForce GTX 1660 and GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. It also gained support for HDMI 2.0. AMD added various Ryzen laptop and Threadripper improvements. AMD added support for Radeon RX Vega M and for Navi GPU’s (including Radeon RX 5700). AMD added FreeSync display support (for supported GPUs and Displays).
The Linux kernel has improved Btrfs performance and features, including Swap files and Zstd compression support. Realtek WiFi drivers were added for the RTW88 and RTL8822BE chips. The Realtek R8169 driver was updated. The Linux kernel now has full support for Raspberry Pi 3B and 3B+. The kernel also added support for the Raspberry Pi Touchscreen driver. The kernel now has MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboard support. Significant power savings were accomplished for certain hardware by optimizing idle time. And mitigations for the Spectre vulnerability were added for most hardware architectures.
Mozilla Firefox (Extended Support Release) was updated from 60.6 to 68.6. This is a relatively old version, as the regular release of Firefox is now on version 76. I advice everyone to add the Mozilla repository and change Firefox to the non ESR version. But if you use Firefox 68 ESR, there are some nice improvements. On the user interface the new Firefox Home (which you see when you open a new tab) allows users to display up to 4 rows of top sites, pocket stories and highlights. You can now select multiple tabs from the tab bar and close/move/bookmark/pin them all at once. The toolbar now shows your Firefox Sync status. Firefox now prevents websites from automatically playing sounds. The Dark theme has seen some improvements, including a dark mode for the reader. And you can now save passwords in private browsing mode. There are various technical enhancements. Most noticeable are the performance improvements (due to Quantum CSS improvements and Clang Link Time Optimization) and smoother scrolling. Firefox now supports CSS Shapes and CSS Variable Fonts. It now supports the WebP image format. And it now uses TLS 1.3 by default. Another nice improvement is that WebExtentions now run in their own process on Linux.
Mozilla Thunderbird moved to version 68, which is the most recent version. There are some small improvements in comparison to Thunderbird 60. You can now mark all folders of an account as read. Language packs can now be selected in the advanced options. Only WebExtension themes and WebExtension dictionaries are supported in this new version.
Rapid Photo Downloader is now on version 9.22. A notable addition is the support for Canons CR3 RAW format. However this is not supported on openSUSE Leap 15.2 because it uses an older ExifTool version. A (future looking) addition is the support for the HEIF / HEIC file format.
Scribus is updated to version 1.5.5. Most of the changes are under the hood. However there are some nice improvements, such as the ability to use Scribus with a dark UI color scheme. And the possibility to search for a particular function (like in GIMP).
Telegram Desktop has now moved to version 2.0. Notable improvements are the ability to organize chats into chat folders, the ability to pin an unlimited number of chats in each folder, a picture-in-picture mode to watch videos, the ability to rotate photos/videos in the media viewer, an autoplay function for videos, the ability to schedule a message to be send at a later time and the ability to set reminders for yourself in the saved messages chat.
The standard installer comes as a full DVD image (with lots of included packages for offline installation) and as the (smaller) Network installer image. You can download these images for PC (X86_64) for ARM (AArch64) and for OpenPower (ppc64le) hardware.
Live images are available for GNOME and for KDE. These images allow you to try openSUSE Leap 15.2 Beta without installing it to your hard drive. There is also a (live) Rescue image available. JeOS can be used in a virtualized (Cloud) environment and images are available for KVM, Xen, HyperV, VMWare and for the OpenStack Cloud. You can find all images for openSUSE Leap 15.2 Beta here.
Published on: 13 May 2020