Plasma is Getting Hot
KDE’s Plasma 5.2 was released last month and I thought that it was time for me to give it a trial run. Having tried KDE’s previous iterations in the past, I was always disappointed with experience, even if at the same time, it did appear to be at the forefront of desktop innovation. Personally, I found it too complex, too busy, too many animations and thought it lacked that professional look that Gnome and Unity provided. However, after hearing and seeing more details on the new Plasma 5 desktop, I felt that it was only fair to give it another try.
Installation and Logon
I’m using the 64-bit KaOS distribution with Plasma 5.2.1 and the installation was similar in appearance to the installers used by other distributions, but yet it was a slightly quicker and smoother experience. From booting with the live USB to having the OS installed took only 15 minutes. I have mixed feelings regarding the logon screen. It is uncluttered, as it should be, but I think it could benefit from some crisper fonts and layout and I can’t help feeling that there is a mismatch with the look and feel between the logon screen and the desktop.
The KDE Plasma 5 desktop is a huge improvement on 4. It looks modern, crisp, sleek and professional with a traditional outlook which many of us like, particularly those who come from a Windows background. It’s obvious that a great deal of time and effort has gone into the design here. For example, the panel clock is well proportioned and easy to read. Clicking on the clock reveals a smart looking calendar and the other tray/system icons are sharp and informative by their design. Open programs have their icon in the panel represented in colour, whilst those inactive programs/windows are shown in monochrome. Unfortunately though, the programs icons were a little on the small side and I found that I had to increase the height of the panel, so as not to strain to hard to see them. The ability to see the status of the program in a preview window is another nice addition.
The style and design is also evident in the program launcher, with well proportioned icons and beautiful logout, restart and shutdown buttons. The Dolphin file manager is also easy on the eye, with a simple and attractive drop-shadow. One particularly welcome feature is the window transparency, which activates when dragging windows. Having the ability to see what’s underneath the active window is extremely useful, especially when you have a number of windows open or programs that you’re working with and you have limited screen real estate. These enhanced graphical features are not overdone however, at least in their default state with the KaOS distribution.
I also noticed that the desktop components, like the panel and Dolphin seem to adjust themselves well to resizing, in much the same way as you get with responsive web design, so I suspect Plasma would look good on a range of devices and screen sizes.
KDE’s widgets were one of the features that I didn’t like very much in Plasma 4, particularly as they reminded me of those used in Windows Vista, which just became annoying after a while. However, in Plasma 5, widgets are functional and look good at the same time. Of course one major advantage of using KDE’s widgets is that they take seconds to add and less time to remove if they’re in your way, so they’re definitely a +1 for those who like to customise their desktop.
KDE’s Plasma 5 desktop is breaking new ground in design and with each new release it’s getting better all the time. I could see this becoming the desktop of choice for new Linux users and those who like customisation, but for me there are still one of two issues to overcome.
For example, open Firefox, Chrome, or Libre Office and the menus and interface are horrible. As they use GTK+ and not QT, they don’t fit in at all with the KDE theme and I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be to change this, unless the developers of those applications create versions specifically for KDE.
The KDE developers and contributors can be justly proud of the beautiful desktop which they have created and I think there’s a bright future ahead for this Linux desktop.