Technology and Internet

Plasma 5

Upon the release of the new version of Kubuntu, I decided to update my Ubuntu machine and move from the rock solid KDE4 to the new Plasma 5 desktop environment. In this post I do a small overview of my experience with it until now.

I first started with the version 5.2 since it is the one that comes with the default repositories. I spent several days on this release and then moved to the newest 5.3 that was launched roughly around the same time as the new Kubuntu version.

So why I decided to move to Plasma 5? Because it is gorgeous, the new default theme and the overall design is a breath of fresh air, it makes all other DE I’ve used with their default themes feel ugly. Second because it is the future and I like the change in strategy used by the KDE team to split the previous huge monolith into several small libraries that can be used independently. The releases are now also divided into Plasma 5 (de Desktop Environment), KDE Frameworks (those libraries) and KDE Applications.

Plasma 5 is great because it maintains the KDE tradition of giving you a huge amount configuration capabilities, so you can make it work the way you want. It also does not try to enforce a tablet/phone user interface, I’m working on a laptop with keyboard and a track-pad not in a touch device.

These were the things that I liked the most in this new version:

  • The overall new look, including the theme, new icons, splash screen, etc.
  • The new system tray widget. The new aggregation feature is awesome and now includes the clipboard contents.
  • Keyboard backlight controls work great (out of the box) on my machine.

It is new but almost everything works as it should. For sure there are still some missing features and personalization capabilities that were present before and weren’t ported for the new version but nothing that time will not solve.

Even though the experience has been pretty good, there are still some rough edges that need to be addressed and lots of widgets/plasmoids are still missing. For example in the last few days I’ve struggled with two issues and haven’t been able to solve them completely. The first one was described here in the official forum and it seems many people had the same problem, the second one is related to the dark version of the theme that suddenly stopped working, as you can see in the following screenshot:

Breeze theme working as it should
Something is wrong with this Breeze Dark theme

Other thing is that the developer documentation is still in its early days, so, good luck if you want to develop something for this new version.

Summing up, if you are using a UNIX based operating system and like to have bleeding edge software installed, I definitely recommend that you try Plasma 5. You will be surprised with it, but for the time being do not forget to also have other DE installed, in the case you run into some problems, like I did, in moments that you don’t have the time to search for the solution.

By Gonçalo Valério

Software developer and owner of this blog. More in the "about" page.