I Love my new KDE Plasma Desktop Layout, Here’s How I did it

About a month or so ago, I decided to re-arrange my KDE desktop layout. I took a new approach, one that I came up with all by myself (using the customization options already graciously provided by the KDE desktop, of course). Then I made a few slight changes on the way, and I’m extremely happy with the results.

With the new setup, not only my desktop looks minimalist and beautiful (I think), but it’s easier to use as well. That being said, preference is highly individual, but I thought a short article about how I set it up might look appealing to someone other than myself.

As you can see from the below screenshot, at a glance, the desktop features two prominent elements;

An application panel in the middle of the top of the screen, and at the top of the right corner, there is the ‘cashew’ desktop widget. What is not shown in the screenshot is, I have also set up the top right corner to act as a ‘hot corner’ that shows me the currently running applications windows at a glance, once I move my mouse cursor & ‘press’ it against that corner (System Settings -> Desktop Behaviour -> Screen Edges. Then under ‘Active Screen Corners and Edges’, click on the top right corner and choose ‘Present Windows -- All desktops’, make sure all other corners are disabled. Below is a screenshot).

The benefit of having set up the layout this way is that since by default KDE puts Minimize, Maximize, Close buttons at the top right corner of your application windows, the moment I (for instance) minimize an app, I’m half an inch away from accessing it or another that is running minimized or otherwise! I find this to be an extremely effective way of switching between applications. This has enabled me to completely avoid the conventional approach of having to have a ‘task manager’ on the application panel.

The only reason I have the ‘cashew’ desktop widget on the desktop is to access ‘configure desktop’ features to change my background, other than that, it’s completely useless. Strangely enough, once you remove it, there is no other way to access background changing settings in Plasma (yes I’ve also disabled the desktop context menu as well).

Coming back to the application panel, you’ll also notice that there too I have arranged things from ‘right’ to ‘left’. First are my favorite 3 applications that I use in KDE; Google Chrome, Dolphin (file manager) and VLC. So from the right to left, I have added two shortcuts to Chrome and Dolphin. Since I almost always open VLC through the file manager, I have skipped adding it to keep things minimal. The next three icons are network manager, volume control and power management widgets.

Now if you recall, these three come included in the ‘system tray’ widget and I used to have it on the panel, but I didn’t use the others to be honest, which is why I have gotten rid of it. Again, it’s a personal choice based on what I anticipate the most. The other remaining 3 are the CPU & Memory usage, Network usage monitor and the Time & Date widgets, respectfully. All in all, the panel not only lets me access my most used applications but at a glance, it provides me with a ‘system overview’ (sort of) which is I find very useful.

I have not added an Application Dashboard to the panel. But whenever such a feature is needed, I get by using the Plasma Search feature (Alt + Space). As long as you know the name of the app, you can easily find it (through its customization options, make sure to disable ‘Software Center’ from your searches. It’s enabled by default, you’ll see what I meant the moment you search for an installed app).

Otherwise, if you usually ‘wonder around’ to find apps, then it’s better to have the Application Dashboard widget added.

Show Desktop…

Whenever I want to minimize all application windows I simply press ‘Windows Key’ + Space shortcut (go to System Settings -> Shortcuts -> Global Shortcuts. Then from ‘Activity Switching’, choose ‘Show Desktop’ and set your keyboard shortcut) and they all go away, presenting me a clean desktop. If you press the shortcut again it’ll restore the desktop to its previous state.

A Slightly changed Dolphin…

I have removed the ‘Toolbar’ from Dolphin and now it looks even more aesthetic. I only used the ‘search’ function from the toolbar and most of the time I used its keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + F) to invoke it anyway. The other change is that I have changed Dolphin’s opacity to 90% and I love it! (right-click on Dolphin’s title bar and choose: More Actions -> Special Application Settings... -> Appearances and Fixes. Then change under Active/Inactive Opacity).

As a final note, you can easily convert the default Plasma bottom panel to what I have now, by simply unlocking widgets first (right-click on a space on the panel & choose ‘Unlock Widgets‘, then right-click again on an empty area on it and choose Panel Options -> Configure Panel), and then one by one, get rid of the unnecessary widgets you find on it. Once done, simply move the panel to the top middle section of your screen and lock back the widgets. That’s pretty much it, if you have any questions (or better suggestions), don’t hesitate to leave feedback.

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