Plasma documentation for KDE 4.3

Duncan 1i5t5.duncan at
Thu Jul 16 12:31:42 BST 2009

Martin Koller <kollix at> posted 200907152306.23888.kollix at,
excerpted below, on  Wed, 15 Jul 2009 23:06:19 +0200:

> I'm currently migrating from being a longterm KDE3 user to KDE 4.3. So I
> want to find out: what can KDE4, especially Plasma, offer me I had not
> in KDE3 ?

Hi.  I'm in the same boat, switching, ATM.

This isn't intended to be negative as there's some great stuff in kde4, 
but I will say, keeping an open mind is vital, as there's some BIG 
changes, and some things just can't be done quite like they were in kde3.

FWIW, it's my opinion that the kde3 power-users, those who had customized 
it and used its capacities to the fullest, or at least way beyond what an 
ordinary user does, are the ones really hurting as they try to change to 
kde4, because the customizations don't work the same and some of the 
power-user tricks from kde3 don't work at all in kde4.  Of course, kde4 
has its own tricks, and what's great about it is that many of them are 
more exposed to the ordinary user, so most ordinary users really like it, 
because they can do so much more.  But for those who knew and used the 
power-user tricks in kde3, there's a lot more pain as they try to adjust 
to the new way of doing things.

Just a couple quick examples to give you an idea what I'm talking about. 
(a) If you used khotkeys in multikey mode in kde3, that doesn't yet work 
in kde4.  I used that HEAVILY here, and it looks like I'll have to switch 
to a non-kde hotkey applet now, as the kde4 version doesn't do global 
multi-key hotkeys any longer. (b) If you have heavily tweaked and 
customized your kde3 color scheme, there wasn't a way to convert it to 
kde4 until literally /just/ /yesterday.  But kde4 has a much richer color 
setup than kde3 did, so while there's a tool to help now, it's not going 
to be an exact conversion, as that's simply not possible.

If you get stuck on something that used to work on kde3, try checking the 
list archives, as there's several threads dealing with various things.  
In particular, check the "KDE 3 users: What are the last of the KDE 3 
features missing from KDE 4?" thread, started a few days ago, as that's 
the thread where everything's being listed.  Some items there will say to 
see other threads, but they're all being listed there.

But as I said, there's a whole lot MORE that kde4 does now, and with the 
new framework, there's a lot of room to grow that kde3 didn't have, so 
it's getting even more new features faster than kde3 had done for quite 
some time.  So while some stuff doesn't work the same way and will take 
some getting used to, or even using a non-KDE solution like it appears 
I'll be doing for my multi-key hotkeys, most folks should look back and 
be glad they did the conversion, once they get thru with it. =:^)

> E.g. in the bottom panel I see an icon telling me "Show the
> Plasma Dashboard" ... but I have no idea what a "Plasma Dashboard" is,
> and clicking on it just dims my whole desktop and leaves the icons on
> the desktop in normal colors ... But what can I do here ?
> Also the idea behind the activities is not obvious to me (e.g. what's
> the difference to virtual desktops ?).

Probably some of the best documentation for plasma right now is Aaron 
Seigo's blog.  He's the lead plasma dev, and his blog talks it (and kde4 
in general) up, showing various tricks, etc.  A lot of it is "big 
picture" and he's already blogging some 4.4 stuff, but it sounds like you 
could use some of the big picture stuff right now, at least to get your 
head around what the big idea is, and some of the flexibility now 
available in kde4 both to developers, and as they take advantage of it, 
to users as well.

There's 26 plasma posts, it says.  Check the right side labels list.

Here's one of interest, a plasma 4.3 screencast!  There's a torrent link 
in the post, and there's a youtube link in the comments, if you prefer

Also big-picture, you may wish to google-linux, kde pillars:

This one's on the above google list, but it's worth mentioning on its 
own.  Yeah, it's somewhat developer focused, but it's a good read for non-
dev power-users, too.  The intro covers one of the "big deals" about 
plasma, that it integrates what were in kde3, multiple different 
components, kdesktop itself, the kicker panels, kmenu, and krunner (the 
run dialog).  From IBM-DeveloperWorks:

Introducing KDE 4 plasmoids

Meanwhile, to answer your specific current questions:

One of the ideas began elsewhere, Google's desktop widgets, Apple/OSX's 
dashboard, etc, that KDE/Plasma took and ran with, is integrating all 
sorts of informational applets, weather, Internet Atom/RSS feeds, weather 
applets, stock tickers, new-mail notifiers, IM/IRC widgets, sticky-notes, 
system status applets, all sorts of other stuff as people experiment with 
and expand the concept, on the "dashboard", sort of the desktop, but 
anything /but/ the /traditional/ basically static desktop, with its few 
basically static icons.  In fact, another option is "folder view", a 
container with a bunch of icons, but now instead of just one, you can 
have several of them, with each one pointed at a different directory on 
your disk, or even on other machines on the network, etc.

Of course, one of the first problems with this idea is that the desktop 
is normally behind everything else.  Of course, there was kde3's (and 
Windows 98's and... and...) desktop button, which effectively minimized 
everything else, getting you back to the desktop.  And on kde3 and many 
other desktop environments, one also had multiple "virtual desktops", 
etc, and it was easy to switch between them.

But this desktop-view (desktop centric world-view) was limited in some 
ways.  The dashboard concept, then expanded to activities, aims to 
eliminate those limitations, expanding the concept in new ways.

Actually, as far back as Windows 3.1, I remember running a third party 
application (Power Desktop or some such thing, of course that's been over 
a decade and a half ago now, so the details have faded a bit) that was an 
early version of the concept, and I'm sure it wasn't the first.  The 
thing it did that was so neat, that we're only now getting back to, is 
that it had access to its various icon groups and widgets on a separate 
layer -- they were NO LONGER "stuck" to the desktop.  You could alt-tab 
(IDR whether it was actually that, or a different key sequence, but 
anyway) to the "widget layer" -- the widgets would then float ABOVE the 
traditional windowed apps on the desktop, instead of BELOW them.

That's the general concept here, as well, tho as you I'm just switching 
myself, so am not so familiar with the implementation yet, but I've been 
reading about the concepts since Aaron and others were blogging about and 
doing mockups of their ideas before anyone could even run apps on the new 
framework that was to become kde4.

Anyway, the idea is to make what was the former static desktop into a 
much more dynamic place, where people can put the stuff they'd have 
formerly put in auto-hide or not-always-on-top panels, in kde3, while 
making it far more accessible at the same time, so all those new applets 
are easy to get to, pretty much like another layer of the application 
stack that can be alt-tabbed to like any other app, but with dedicated 
functions instead of just in the alt-tab stack.  Plus, since the panels 
and the desktop are elements of the same thing, the plasma applets can 
move from one to the other and back, with ease.

So that's the general idea behind plasma, at the single activity level, 
anyway.  So what IS this activity thing?  Well, the idea there is to do 
something parallel with the dashboard and plasma, to what virtual 
desktops does with the idea of a single desktop.  Each of these different 
dashboards can be setup differently.  For example, consider a laptop, 
with one dashboard setup with folder views of various machines at work, 
another with views of various home machines, a third for use in transit 
where there's little or no connectivity, and a fourth with public 
Internet accessible widgets, for use at say a conference, or at home or 
work when doing the Internet thing.  Then one can switch between these 
"activities" (for that's what one very quickly appreciates them as) much 
as one can switch between virtual desktops, each setup with its own set 
of apps.  However, what Aaron and the other KDE devs are hoping, is that 
once this is actually deployed, it'll become far bigger than the sum of 
its parts, and people will be doing stuff with it that we really can't 
predict at this point, because we've not worked with it, and don't know 
the strengths and limitations of an actual real-world implementation.  
Once those are known, the hope is that people will take it to places and 
do stuff with it nobody has yet dreamed of.

(You'll see one idea they're playing with on Aaron's blog, if you read 
enough of it.  They're taking little bluetooth enabled embedded 
applications boards, say with temp, humidity, etc sensors, and having 
them setup so as soon as you walk in the room, if you're computer's 
configured for it, a plasmoid will popup with the sensor info, etc.  
Similarly with wifi or bluetooth enabled printers, etc, or networked ones 
when you plug in the Ethernet cable.  You walk into their vicinity and 
the plasmoid pops up with paper and ink status, etc.  You walk away, and 
the plasmoid disappears, perhaps to be replaced by others as you walk 
into other rooms, etc.  Consider what this could do with a house wired 
with a MythTV setup, etc.  Consider just carrying such a wireless enabled 
device around, as a remote...  There's all sorts of idea like this that 
can be explored, and they're hoping even more we can't even imagine yet, 
as the practical possibilities make themselves apparent.  Of course, the 
flip side would be walking down the street and having plasmoid ads 
popping up to annoy you -- but OTOH, imagine craving a coffee and being 
able to flip an option and go from no ads allowed, to only allowing 
coffee shops or more broadly, all food and beverage shops, ads thru.  Of 
course, they've been talking about this on cell phones for awhile too, 
and the idea isn't entirely new.  But in the context of activities, 
perhaps you could have a "street shopping" activity...  Obviously, 
there's security, and simply environmental noise factors, to consider 
here, as well.) 

That's the idea, anyway.  I'm not actually running 4.3 yet, since it's 
not released in full form (I tried and had my fill of pre-release earlier 
in the kde4 cycle, and decided I had to wait until the kde4 basics 
stabilized substantially further before I tried /that/ again), but 4.2 
barely had activities working as they were envisioned, at all.  4.3 is 
supposed to be somewhat better in that regard, but they'll still not be 
full bloom yet.  4.4 should be where they really start coming into their 
own.  But since you're already moving to 4.3-rcs, you'll actually be able 
to play with stuff I've only read about, and won't get until the full 
4.3.0 release around the end of this month.

Hope that answers your questions, and opens your mind to the 
possibilities... and many more questions! =:^)

(No, this level of detail... and length... isn't unusual at all for my 
responses.  Some enjoy it, some kill file it.  YMMV.)

Duncan - List replies preferred.   No HTML msgs.
"Every nonfree program has a lord, a master --
and if you use the program, he is your master."  Richard Stallman

This message is from the kde mailing list.
Account management:
More info:

More information about the kde mailing list