KDE 4.5 - Desktop files

Duncan 1i5t5.duncan at cox.net
Sun Aug 15 23:26:31 BST 2010

Frank Weng \(a.k.a. Franklin\) posted on Sun, 15 Aug 2010 20:29:02 +0800
as excerpted:

> Another problem after upgrading to KDE 4.5
> All my icons on my desktop are gone.
> They are stored in my ~/Desktop.  However after upgrading to KDE 4.5 no
> icons on my desktop.
> I tried to add an application to my desktop, and it showed - but the
> file was not  in my ~/Desktop.  I don't know where it is.  I think that
> if I put my original icons and desktop files into the new directory, it
> should show again.
> Would anyone please tell me how to get it work?

David gave you the direct instructions.  Let me explain a bit what is 

The short version is that the kde4 desktop (plasma) team simply realized 
that the "desktop" is a system virtual location, that isn't physically 
tied to any specific filesystem directory in one's home dir, and there's 
no law saying it has to be logically tied to a single desktop directory, 
either, as has been the traditional concept for some time.

In realizing that, they realized there's a lot more flexibility there, and 
that the desktop can be used for all /sorts/ of things... dynamic applets, 
often Internet connection tied, displaying dynamically updated comics, 
weather, various system status graphics (super-karamba make this possible 
with kde3), pictures (NOT just a single background), views into various 
filesystem directories (NOT tied to a single "desktop" directory, several 
at once if desired, with each one in its own frame of whatever size the 
user configures), perhaps multiple clocks set to different timezones 
(maybe you have family or friends in several, and for large companies, 
offices in one or more others), calculators, spelling apps, character-
pickers, perhaps system logs... you name it.  What makes this even more 
useful is modern desktop effects like window translucency, so if desired, 
one can keep an eye on the desktop even thru active windows on top, and 
more useful still, multiple separate "activities", which can but don't 
have to correspond to the existing multiple desktops feature available for 
years. =:^)

So the default desktop activity type is now a multi-use environment called 
"desktop", to which you can add various widgets doing all the things 
above, and more, just as previously, you could add widgets to the panels.  
In fact, plasma is responsible for both the desktop activities and the 
panels, now, and with widgets unlocked (on the context menu or available 
from the toolbox aka "cashew"), you can add various widgets, called 
plasmoids, to either the panels or the current desktop activity.

As it happens one of the available plasmoids is called "Folder view".  
While I've customized my own desktop substantially and haven't seen the 
default in some time, I believe the default desktop includes one 
folderview, defaulting to the traditional desktop folder.  I know (as I 
just checked) that new ones added default to the user's home dir.  But it 
doesn't have to stay pointed at that directory.  You can point it at any 
directory on the system you want. =:^)  And unlike the traditional desktop 
folder, you can have multiple folderview plasmoids on your desktop at 
once, each pointing to a different directory, so while you can have your 
usual desktop dir displayed, you're not limited to that, but can have 
other directories displayed as well.  Of course as mentioned above, you're 
not limited to folderviews either, as there's a reasonable variety of 
plasmoids/widgets shipping with kde that you can add to your desktop if 
you like, and many many more available using the "Get New Widgets" button 
right in the add widget dialog, or if you prefer, by browsing kde-
look.org.  All these can be sized and oriented as desired, smaller to fit 
more or let the desktop activity background show thru, or larger and 
easier to see.

So there's a tremendous amount of flexibility there, that the old single 
desktop directory icon display didn't have.  But, you don't have to use it 
if you don't want to.  If you prefer the old style single directory view, 
as David described, it's easy enough to set the desktop to that instead. 

But there are two additional types of desktop containment as well.  These 
were designed for smaller displays, netbooks and even tablet and phone 
format displays, but are available for desktop users to, if they want 
them.  The Search and Launch containment is sort of like the kickoff menu 
in desktop format.  As mentioned, this often works better on smaller 
displays than a menu does, but it can also be useful for folks that need a 
larger screen display or that perceive the large icons on the desktop as 
simpler and more intuitive to work with than a standard menu.

The Newspaper activity is a multi-plasmoid containment much like the 
standard Desktop activity, only in a scrolling column format more suitable 
for small screens.  The plasmoids are arranged in columns much like the 
articles and ads in a newspaper, with the columns extending off the 
display and the ability to scroll up and down to get the plasmoid you want 
in view, much as you'd reposition a newspaper to read an individual 
article on the far larger page.

Finally, as all the above choices might hint and as already mentioned, 
you're not limited to a single activity, or even a single activity per 
desktop, tho you can tie the activities to the desktops if you want.  You 
can add new activities, configure each of them as you like, and switch 
between them as desired.  In fact, the default kde netbook layout 
(available to choose in kcontrol/systemsettings, workspace appearance and 
behavior, workspace) has two activities setup from the beginning, search 
and launch, and newspaper, along with a selector on the panel that 
switches between them.

So if you like your traditional single-folderview desktop, but still want 
the flexibility of a standard desktop or prefer search and launch to the 
normal launch menu, setup multiple activities, one configured as the 
traditional single-folderview desktop, another as something else, or even 
another single-folderview desktop, but pointing at a different directory. 

Of course, the flexibility doesn't end there.  Consider the additional 
possibilities.  If you have a laptop, it's possible to have one (or more) 
activity(/ies) setup for use at work, another for use at home, and another 
for the train/bus ride to and from work.  Or, if you're a weather fanatic, 
consider setting up an entire desktop of various weather plasmoids, 
displaying the weather for different cities around the world.  (You could 
combine this with the multiple clock idea above, and not only know the 
time, but the local weather, when you call your folks, or the company 
office located half way around the world, or get stuck talking to that 
call center support tech you're sure is located in India or the 
Philippines!  If you wanted you could even combine it with the news feed 
from the local TV station or newspaper web site, and discuss the local 
gossip with them! =:^)

Of course as mentioned, it's easily possible to have multiple activities 
with folderviews set to different locations on the filesystem... maybe 
even network filesystems you're only connected to at work or at home.  And 
don't forget the whole desktop devoted to system monitor applets of 
various types, and/or to logging displays of the last 10-20 lines of a 
half dozen different log files. =:^)

Eventually, the plan is to integrate activities with another concept, 
tasks.  Again using the home/work/train example, you could setup a task 
with the files you use at work open (perhaps even multiple tasks), another 
with the ones you use at home, and another with an mp3 or movie player and 
a dolphin or gwenview window open to a bunch of media files, for the trip 
home on the train.  Closing the task would note where you were in each 
associated application and activity, then close them so they're not using 
system resources.  Reopening that task would return you to where you left 
off.  But this is a work very much still in progress.  It won't appear in 
that form for awhile, but should gradually get closer to it, and 
ultimately progress beyond that, with each coming six-month release of kde. 

So if you like, yeah, you can easily revert to a single desktop folderview 
showing only the one desktop folder.  The option is there.  But do 
consider at least setting up a second activity for experimentation, as 
there's so much more than that possible, now, even more coming in the 
future, and with a bit of experimentation with what's possible, you'll 
very likely soon be wondering just how you ever got along with the desktop 
limited to display of a single directory, before. =:^)

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

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