Tutorial: Plasma – Pretty (Inter)face


If you want features, bells and whistles, and configurability in spades, your best choice of desktop is probably KDE’s Plasma desktop. Navigating and discovering all that’s on offer can be a challenge, though.

While many user interface designers advocate simplicity and simplified decision-making for users (which often results in no decision-making at all), the KDE community [1] has stubbornly gone the other way, jam-packing all manner of features and doodads into its Plasma [2] desktop (see the “KDE Is Not a Desktop” box).

KDE Is Not a Desktop

This has been the subject of much controversy and confusion, but, no, KDE is not the name of a desktop environment anymore and hasn’t been for some time now.

The desktop is called Plasma. KDE, on the other hand, is the name given to the community of developers, artists, translators, and so on that create the software. The reason for this shift is because the KDE community builds many things, like Krita, Kdenlive, digiKam, GCompris, and so on, not just Plasma. Many of these applications are not even tied to Linux, much less to the Plasma desktop, and can be run on many other graphical environments, including Mac OS X, Windows, Android, and others.

Also, much like KFC does not stand for Kentucky Fried Chicken anymore, neither does KDE stand for Kool Desktop Environment. KDE is not an acronym for anything. It is just … KDE.

To illustrate Plasma’s flexibility, I’ll show you some tricks you can use to emulate other desktops, starting with global menus. Both Unity and Mac OS use a global menu: It is the menu that appears in a bar at the top of the screen and shows a selected application’s options, instead of having them in a bar along the top of the application.

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