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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Thu, 15 Sep 2016

I'm using the KDE Plasma desktop - and liking it

Though I'm a longtime Xfce user on the Linux desktop (and a longtime user of Fedora as my distribution), I'm open to other things.

As I've written many times, I want to like GNOME 3. Fedora Workstation is based on it. But it just doesn't work for me. I don't want to say GNOME 3 is unpolished, but it's just too stripped down until you start shoving GNOME Shell Extensions onto your system.

Plus, GNOME 3 doesn't play well at all with the Citrix applications that I've been using for the past couple of years and will continue using for maybe the next six months.

And GNOME 3 just doesn't "feel right." And "feel" is something I don't want to ignore.

On what I suppose is a bit of a whim (or maybe I did it by accident, I can't remember), I logged in to the Plasma desktop. I don't know if calling their desktop "Plasma" short-changes the KDE brand, or if that matters at all, but I had a poor grasp of what Plasma is in relation to KDE.

It turns out I like Plasma (or KDE, or whatever it's called).

The desktop works well, is faster than you'd think and has quite a bit of polish. There are lots of configuration options, and they are all built in. It's not like the comparative tragedy of the GNOME Tweak Tool and gconf.

And I am growing very dependent on the Dolphin file manager.

Things I like about Dolphin:

  • Split mode. Nautilus used to have it. Thunar never did. It's like having windows in a car that actually open. That's a bad analogy, but the ability to easily transfer files from one directory to another without opening two file manager windows is so fundamental that I wonder why every file manager doesn't have it.

  • Faster transfer to USB flash drives. Is it my imagination, or is Dolphin configured to speed up the copying of files to USB flash drives. Those operations are notoriously slow when done on my Fedora system in other file managers. I know there are ways to speed up those transfers, but I'm too lazy to figure them out. I'm happy to have Dolphin do that for me. I'm pretty sure I got this wrong. The file transfers go at the same speed in pretty much all the file managers.

  • Configuration, configuration, configuration. KDE has always been about configuration of all the things. And GNOME has been not-so-slowly offering a stripped-down, hard-to-configure experience that is low on included tools. Xfce is very configurable, KDE/Plasma even more so. The file manager is such an important part of any system, it's vital that you are able to do what you want with it.

From the "feel" perspective, as I say above, KDE's Plasma desktop is much faster than billed. The animations don't distract. It seems relatively easy on the CPU. I installed the overly complicated digiKam, which I have used in the past because it's one of a very few Linux applications that allows editing of the IPTC metadata in JPG images that the media industry uses pretty much universally. While still complicated as hell, digiKam passes the IPTC test.

I have had problems with the KDE Wallet system "eating" my Google Chrome browser cookies, and that's something I'm not terribly happy with. I lost all of my stored passwords at one point. Firefox definitely "plays" better with KDE/Plasma.

And right now I'm having issues configuring the touchpad with the KDE-supplied utility, though that's today. It worked a few days ago. GNOME is really bad at this -- as is LXDE, one of the many DEs I've sampled in the past couple of weeks.

I can't say that I will move from Xfce to KDE/Plasma because I probably won't. But I can certainly see using the Plasma Desktop as my part-time environment, with Xfce still doing the heavy lifting for my media production and software development needs.

But you never know.