Jack Wallen takes a look at what’s new with the latest release of the KDE Plasma open source desktop.
The latest release of the KDE Plasma Desktop is the latest update to the fantastic 5.24 LTS release and brings about a few additions that really give the open source desktop even more panache. Although these new additions won’t make you more productive, they add just enough polish to the desktop to give current and potential users something to get excited about.
Let’s take a look and see what’s what with this latest release.
How I tested KDE Plasma 5.25
To test KDE Plasma 5.25, I installed a new virtual machine using the KDE Neon distribution. At first, I attempted to use the testing release, but that failed every time I ran the installer.
Instead, I opted to go the stable route, which offers a lovely presentation of what KDE Plasma 5.25 is all about. I will warn you even the stable version of KDE Neon (as shipped with KDE 5.25) isn’t exactly the most stable desktop I’ve ever tried. In fact, I found KWin regularly crashed on me. Is this a product of Neon or KDE 5.25? We may never know. It took me a few installs, but I eventually managed to get a reliable desktop up and running.
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KDE 5.25 has yet to arrive in the standard repositories, and testing it with any distribution that includes it can be an exercise in frustration.
With that said, let’s see what’s new with the latest KDE Plasma desktop.
The Plasma Overview actually was given life in the 5.24 release, but with 5.25 it gets a bit of polish to help with workspace switching. What changes is that some of the effects have been completely rewritten to be more dynamic. Ultimately, however, the Plasma Overview just feels a bit more steady and 100% usable. This feature has been long overdue and I was thrilled for its addition in the previous release.
The Overview is activated by the Super+W key combination and not only displays your open applications but also your virtual desktops (Figure A).
If you install KDE Plasma 5.25 on a device with a touch screen, you’ll be happy to know it includes 1:1 touchpad gestures, which means when using touchpad gestures, windows move as quickly as your fingers so there’s no more frustrating lag.
Along those same lines, 5.25 is the first iteration of the Plasma Desktop to offer Touch Mode, which greatly improves the experience of KDE Plasma on tablet devices. Even better, Touch Mode is automatically enabled if a touch-enabled device is removed or undocked from a keyboard.
I’m not gonna lie, for the life of me I cannot understand why the new floating panel feature (Figure B) is there, but it’s pretty cool looking. And even if this feature doesn’t offer anything by way of increasing productivity, I like it.
You can enable the floating panel by right-clicking the panel and selecting Enter Edit Mode. Click More Options and then, from the pop-up menu (Figure C), click Floating Panel.
The KDE software store, Discover, also received some love by way of a redesigned Application page, which adds an application’s level of access to system resources. You will also find support for deleting both settings and user data for Flatpak apps, and warnings when installing proprietary software.
Other additions and improvements
Here’s a shortlist of other additions/improvements for KDE 5.25:
- Multi-finger gesture support has been dramatically improved.
- The ability to disable screen edge actions for gaming purposes.
- Better support for GTK apps using the Breeze GTK theme.
- A new “shake” effect has been added to the login screen when incorrect credentials are entered.
- Many applets and widgets have been updated and improved.
This one was a bit of a challenge, mostly because even the stable version of KDE Neon was far from stable. It seemed all I had to do with blink and the desktop crashed. Again, I have no idea if this was due to the NEON distribution or KDE 5.25 itself.
Either way, testing this new release of KDE Plasma was less than spectacular. However, between crashes, I was able to get a glimpse of what this next iteration of KDE Plasma is going to look like, and it’s absolutely stunning. Once it’s a bit more reliable and available in the standard repositories, this could easily become a favorite desktop for many a Linux user.