There seems little doubt that KDE 4, the flagship desktop environment used by many Linux aficionados, was released too early. After seven years of solid, steady KDE 3 deployment, KDE 4 was released amidst the much media hoopla and near-universal user disappointment. It simply wasn't ready for userville. There was too much missing and too many differences; it felt like a retrograde step. To be fair, the KDE team did describe it as a work-in-progress, and some of the fault lies with distro packers who slapped essentially beta code into their latest releases. As a result many users simply avoided it. Including me. At least until recently.
Since its ill fated inception in November 2007 KDE 4 has undergone a number of significant upgrades. Version 4.1 came out in July last year, 4.2 in January this year, and for the last month I've been working with version 4.3 which was released in August. I reckon KDE 4's now ready for the big time, and with Kubuntu 9.10 ("Karmic Koala") due shortly, it's time to throw off the shackles of KDE 3.
Moving from 3 to 4 is a big shift. There's lots of new stuff and many unfamiliar concepts so to start with I'm going to show you how to make it all look familiar. We're going to make KDE 4 look and act like good old KDE 3. That way you can ease into the new environment without losing productivity.
(Note 1: The following discussion ignores all the new stuff for now. We'll get to that next time!)
(Note 2: If you're already running KDE 4, I strongly recommend upgrading to version 4.3!)
The new menu style is known as "Kickoff". If you want to make it eff-off and go back to the traditional K Menu, simply right-click the K button and choose Switch to Classic Menu Style. Right-click again to switch back to Kickoff.
The absence of desktop icons has caused no end of concern. By default they're replaced by a "containment" -- a semi-transparent window displaying the contents of the Desktop folder. (We'll talk about some of this new terminology in Part II.) To get your icons back, proceed as follows;
- Move your cursor into the containment and a handle will appear, either to the left of right of it.
- Click on the X to make it go away.
- Now right-click a blank area of the Desktop and choose Appearance Settings.
- Under Desktop Activity click on the Type droplist and select Folder View.
- Click OK.
Adding icons to the Desktop or Panel
To do this you first need to switch to the Kickoff menu style. (See "Menus" above.) Then you just navigate to the desired application, right-click it and choose Add to Desktop or Add to Panel.
Modifying the Panel
The bar at the bottom of the screen is officially called the "Panel". To modify it, right-click in an unused area and choose Panel Options followed by Panel Settings. This will open an extra GUI. with extra controls.
The arrowed sliders immediately above the Panel allow you position and size it horizontally. Click and drag Height to adjust its height. If you want to move the Panel to the left, right or top of the screen, click and drag on Screen Edge. And you'll never believe what's under the More Settings button. Yup, more settings including auto-hide and how windows interact with the Panel.
You can also reposition things on the Panel by hovering your cursor over them and left-clicking and dragging when the four-pointed arrows appear.
Defaulting to Konqueror
If you don't like Dolphin, KDE 4's new default file manager, you can switch back to Konqueror like this;
- Hit the K button and open System / System Settings. (Or Computer / System Settings if you're using Kickoff.)
- Choose Default Applications, select File Manager and click Konqueror.
- Choose View / Adjust View Properties.
- Choose Details from the View Mode droplist.
- Under Apply View Properties To select All Folders and tick Use as Default for New Folders.
What the hell happened to ...?
* KControl now has a more meaningful name: SystemSettings. (Or "systemsettings" if you want to run it from a console.)
* KCron is now part of System Settings. Choose the Advanced tab and click on Task Scheduler.
* Ctrl+Alt+Backspace to restart the X server is disabled by default. You can either use the more awkward Alt+SysRq+K combination or type sudo dontzap -d in a console window to re-enable it.
* Compiz is still around but you might like to check out Desktop Effects under System / System Settings / Desktop first. (I particularly like the Fall Apart option for closed windows ...)
In the next part we'll explore some of KDE 4s core concepts -- and what makes it different and sooo exciting. Stay tuned!
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