[kde-linux] In KDE4, to set a different background for each of the multiple desktops

Stan Goodman stan.goodman at hashkedim.com
Wed Dec 23 13:52:22 UTC 2009

At 13:46:18 on Wednesday Wednesday 23 December 2009, Duncan 
<1i5t5.duncan at cox.net> wrote:
> Stan Goodman posted on Wed, 23 Dec 2009 00:13:50 +0200 as excerpted:
> > In KDE3 this was possible. The background-installation process is
> > very similar in KDE4, but the result is that the same background is
> > displayed in each of the desktops. Is this a new limitation, or am I
> > missing something. I would be grateful for this information, and any
> > other that will help me with the kind of desktop that I have had in
> > the past, and would like to have again.
> In 4.3 it's possible, but non-obvious.  From what I've read, 4.4 makes
> the process more discoverable as just one of the many plasma
> improvements that are said to be included.
> The key in 4.3 is to realized that in kde4, the backgrounds are
> attached to activities, not desktops.  This is rather more obvious in
> multi- monitor setups than it is otherwise, because each monitor gets a
> separate activity and therefore a separate background, but it quickly
> becomes obvious if you use multiple activities on a single monitor
> setup, as well.
> Activities... are an interesting concept.  The idea is to be able to
> group a bunch of plasmoids into a single task appropriate activity,
> then switch activities when you switch tasks.  It /is/ a neat concept,
> but it /does/ take some getting used to.
> Originally and as designed, activities were supposed to be entirely
> separate from virtual desktops, so there was no particular link between
> a virtual desktop and an activity, and therefore no particular link
> between a desktop and the background, since that's part of the
> activity, not part of the desktop.  However, as kde4 was more widely
> deployed, the developers realized that the virtual desktop metaphor was
> already embedded in people's heads and work-styles, while activities
> were new, and many many people strongly preferred that they be linked. 
> Thus, in 4.3, a new option was added, different activity for each
> desktop. Unfortunately, in 4.3, this option was only available from the
> configure plasma menu, which only shows up when the activities are
> zoomed out, and activity zooming doesn't seem to be as natively
> intuitive as the developers had hoped.  In fact, it can be quite scary
> for some, if they don't know what's going on, so if it happened
> accidentally, they may be rather inclined to avoid the action that
> triggered it in the future.  Of course, that means people aren't as
> likely to discover the options behind zoomed activities, including this
> one.
> So 4.4 makes that option (and others only accessible thru activity
> zooming in 4.3) more accessible from a number of other places.  (Since
> I'm not running the 4.4 betas yet, I've only read of it, I don't know
> the details.)  In fact, by ensuring that all zoomed-out-activity
> options are available elsewhere in the UI, 4.4 is said to do away with
> the necessity of zooming activities to get to them entirely, tho some
> people like the zooming, once they get used to it, and it should remain
> an option, perhaps like the desktop grid effect option.
> Meanwhile, how does one access this in 4.3?  Simple.  Click on the
> desktop "cashew" (aka toolbox, that little plasma symbol), and select
> zoom out.  Now you have access to activity options such as creating new
> ones, etc.  On the popup menu that should appear at the top left,
> select plasma options, and a dialog should popup with a couple of...
> what else, plasma options. =:^)  One of these is the separate activity
> per desktop option that should enable what you're after.

I've given it a shot. For the benefit of any other readers, I should 
mention that what you have written as 'elect "Plasma Options"' Should 
read 'select Configure Plasma" (no doubt a simple typo). Then, after 
selecting "Separate activity per desktop", six distinct shower curtains 
popped up, all without any identification, so that one doesn't know after 
performing an "Activity" which desktop he has Acted upon. That can't be 

Leaving that aside, I assumed that now, in each shower curtain, I must 
click MB2 to choose and install a background image. But in fact that 
click does nothing. I fiddled around a bit, which caused one of the six 
windows to occupy the entire screen, after which more fiddling made it 
small again, but there were only four of them, not six as before. Now it 
was possible to MB2 on any one of the four, and set a background. I felt 
rewarded for 4 out of 6. But I didn't know how to find the remaining two, 
nor how to return to normal (non-"Activity") operation, so I rebooted.

What I have now is three (not four) virtual desktops with presentable 
backgrounds, and three with the default background (Bubbly Chartreuse). 
The shower curtain appears only on desktop #1, which is good, but I would 
like to dump  it too. And I would like to take another crack at setting a 
good background on the three that don't have one. 

My question at this point is: Should I begin the process again from 
scratch according to your directions? Or is there a way to bring up the 
former set of Activities as it was, with six windows? I ask because I 
don't know if I am leaving two (or three) Activities in existence but 
uncompleted, that may come back to bite me in the future.

But it it is going to leave me with shower curtains on each desktop, I 
don't think I'm interested. Can I hide them in some way, and go about my 
business in the way I have until now enjoyed?

Stan Goodman
Qiryat Tiv'on

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