Desktop folder ?

Duncan 1i5t5.duncan at
Fri Apr 8 04:04:58 BST 2011

kde posted on Wed, 06 Apr 2011 23:36:46 +0100 as excerpted:

> I don't know if I am missing something on this facility but there
> doesn't seem to be any easy way of adding other applications to it other
> than by hand. Can't even drag anything into it . The behaviour is a bit
> odd if I do. looks like it's there but isn't really.
> I also can't bring it to the forground which basically means I can't
> really make much use of it as there is generally something mostly on top
> of it.
> In real terms I may as well continue to use show desktop and the taskbar
> so just what is it intended for?

> OpenSuse 11.4 KDE 4.6.0 release 6

It sounds like you just switched to kde4, and don't understand the whole 
plasma-desktop concept.  There's a lot of articles online about it if 
you're interested in reading up, so I'm not going to go into a lot of 
detail, but perhaps some basics (which, the way I write could still end up 
quite long and detailed).

The below points are numbered so I can refer to other points within them, 
but the sequence is the order I thought of them, not step-by-step-order.  
Some of the stuff in the early points won't be available until widgets are 
unlocked, point 5, for instance, so I recommend you read them all before 
attempting to change anything.

1) Plasma desktop unites both the desktop itself (called an activity, you 
can have several different activities, they may or may not correspond to 
virtual desktops, see point 6) and the panels in a single app.  The 
individual widgets or applets that do various things are called 
"plasmoids", and can be added to EITHER an activity or a panel.  Some 
plasmoids behave the same in both places, others shrink down a bit and 
become menus or have an otherwise compacted display, when they're placed 
in a panel.  But the desktop and widgets must be unlocked in ordered to 
add/remove/move stuff.  See point 5 below.

2) The /default/ desktop activity is no longer a static single-directory 
display, but instead, a container in which you can place whatever plasmoids 
you like.  One of the default plasmoids is the "folder view".  A folder-
view set to display the old desktop directory included in the default 
initial activity, but you can open its settings and point it elsewhere if 
desired, or delete it, or add others pointed at different dirs.  So even 
if you stick with ONLY folder-views, you can now have several of them in a 
desktop activity at once, each one open to a different directory. =:^)

3) But there's several activity layouts, not just the desktop layout.  You 
can switch to one of the others instead of the desktop layout if you like.

The folderview layout is similar to the folderview plasmoid, only it takes 
the entire activity/desktop.  It's most like the old-style desktop, 
displaying icons for the files and subdirs found in a single directory, 
often, the user's default ~/Desktop directory.  A lot of people find that 
they're more comfortable switching to that, at least at first, while the 
rest of kde4 is new.  When they're ready, they can switch back to the 
desktop layout or try one of the others.

The other layouts include newspaper view, a column-organized vertically 
scrolling layout similar in style to a newspaper, and search-and-launch, 
with a run/search testbox and icons for the apps-menu categories.  These 
two are both designed to work well on netbooks, pad-computers, and other 
similarly small and sometimes touch-sensitive displays.

You change layout in its settings dialog, accessed either from the context 
menu or from the "cashew", for which see the next point.

4) Each activity and panel has a "toolbox" called the "cashew" (due to its 
shape).  The activity cashew can be found in one of the corners (it's 
movable, if widgets are unlocked), and is normally faded to black&white 
unless you're hovering the pointer over it.  The panel cashews disappear 
when widgets are locked, appearing only when they're unlocked.  The 
toolbox can be used to access various configuration options.

5) I've mentioned locked and unlocked widgets several times.  This is an 
important point.  The widget locking mechanism locks/unlocks all the 
panels, widgets, and activities, together.  Normally, you'll want to keep 
them locked so you don't accidentally move things around or the like, 
while unlocking not only allows you to move stuff around but to add and 
delete it, to change the activity cashew location (drag it), the activity 
layout type as in point 3 above, etc.

6) You're likely familiar with virtual desktops from previous usage, as 
they're a common X feature and thus appear in most window-manager/desktop-
environments.  Activities are /designed/ to work separately from virtual 
desktops, but some people prefer linking them, so each virtual desktop has 
its own activity.  The option for that is in kcontrol (umm... called 
system settings for some odd reason in kde4, altho most of the options are 
specific to the kde environment of that single user and thus not global 
system settings AT ALL, the kde3 term kcontrol is thus more accurate and 
what I continue to use as a result), workspace appearance and behavior, 
workspace behavior, virtual desktops applet, desktops tab, different 
widgets for each desktop checkbox.  Your choice, but as activities mature 
in future versions of kde, they're going to get more powerful, and while 
linking them to virtual desktops doesn't remove a lot of functionality 
now, it's likely to as activities gain power.

7) Also in kcontrol, you'll likely find adjusting the desktop effects to 
be useful, particularly if your graphics are older or things seem draggy 
and slow.  The desktop effects applet is found under workspace appearance 
and behavior.  If things are really slow as they're likely to be on older 
hardware, you can disable all the fancy effects entirely, on the first, 
general tab.  But that's a rather drastic cure.  You may find that 
increasing the animation speed is satisfactory and leaves effects 
working.  Alternatively, if you have solid graphics with good OpenGL 
support, you might wish to try slowing down the animations to see them 
better.  If you're a customizer as I am, you'll want to try each effect on 
the all effects tab individually to see what they do, then decide about 
them, but note that not all of them will necessarily work, depending on 
your graphics hardware and recentness of your kernel/X/mesa/graphics stack.

8) Also of interest in kcontrol, under workspace appearance and behavior, 
window behavior, in the task switcher applet, on the main tab, is the 
include desktop checkbox.  If this option is on, you can task-switch (alt-
tab or whatever) to the desktop as well as individual apps.  This may well 
answer your "can't bring it to the foreground" complaint, at least if 
you're used to alt-tabbing for task-switching.

9) The dashboard is a special activity that can be configured and called 
on its own, separate from all the normal activities.  I don't do anything 
special with it on my main workstation system, which has plenty of screen 
real estate, but it comes in very handy on my very limited display space 
netbook, where I make heavy use of the dashboard as its own activity, 
displaying a set of plasmoids that are on their own panel on my 
workstation.  I won't describe the dashboard further here, but it's there 
if you want it, and if you see references to the dashboard, you at least 
know what they're talking about now.

10) It's worth noting that the plasmoids shipped with kde are only the tip 
of the iceberg.  On you'll find a whole host of all sorts of 
different plasmoids available, if the ones shipped with kde don't suit 
your fancy.  It's worth at least looking at, just to see what sorts of 
plasmoids are available.

With that as a general whirlwind intro, here's some more specific 
suggestions based on your message.

a) If you just want the old desktop dir on your desktop functionality, try 
the folderview layout mentioned in point 3.

b) There are several methods for getting to the desktop faster.  You can 
put it in your alt-tab task switcher sequence if desired, point 8.  You 
can use hotkeys to get to it (configuration not detailed above, look in 
kcontrol, common appearance and behavior, shortcuts and gestures, global 
keyboard shortcuts, select kwin in the dropdown, show desktop).  You can 
add the show desktop plasmoid to a panel.  Etc...

c) It's worth mentioning the dashboard for its possible use as an 
"overflow" activity, especially since it has its own show dashboard 
plasmoid and keyboard shortcut settings.  As mentioned, I use it heavily 
on my netbook, since it's so display area limited.

d) Adding to suggestion a, above, I'm not sure if the difficulty you 
mentioned in adding apps to the desktop was due to having widgets locked, 
point 5, or to a misunderstanding of the flexibility of the desktop 
activity.  If it's the latter, perhaps you will be more comfortable with 
the folderview layout as mentioned in suggestion a, but there's serious 
advantages to keeping the desktop layout if you can get comfortable with 
it, since you aren't limited to just that single folderview, but instead 
can have several folderviews, pointed at different directories, and/or can 
mix other plasmoids in with the folderviews.

e) Do go take a look at the available plasmoids at  There's 
a good chance you'll find at least one that'll become extremely useful to 
you, very possibly to the point you'll wonder how you ever did without 
it.  Of course, that increases the flexibility of plasma even more. =:^)

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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