KDE Plasma

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Developer(s)KDE
Initial release11 January 2008 (2008-01-11)
Stable release6.1 Edit this on Wikidata / 18 June 2024
Preview releasen/a
Repository
Written inC++, QML
Operating systemUnix-like
PredecessorKDesktop
TypeShell
LicenseGPL 2.0 or later
Websitekde.org/plasma-desktop

Plasma is a set of graphical shells developed by KDE for Unix-like operating systems. With the KDE brand repositioning in 2009, Plasma 4.4 succeeded KDE 4.3. Currently, it has four workspace variants: one for desktop PCs and laptops (Plasma Desktop), one for TVs (Plasma Bigscreen), one for smartphones (Plasma Mobile), and another for embedded and touch-enabled devices (Plasma Nano). Plasma Desktop, in its default configuration, resembles KDesktop from K Desktop Environment 3 and Microsoft Windows XP; however, extensive configurability allows radical departures from the default layout.

Its technology is a fundamental rewrite of several desktop interaction programs included in previous KDE desktop environments for Unix-like systems, focusing on eye candy and special graphical effects. Plasma replaces the previous KDesktop shell, Kicker taskbar and SuperKaramba widget engine used in the K Desktop Environment 3 series with a unified system of widgets that can be configured and replaced with alternative designs.

Since the split of the KDE Software Compilation into KDE Plasma Workspaces, KDE Frameworks and KDE Applications, each subproject can develop at its own pace. Plasma 5 is on its own release schedule, with feature releases every four months, and bugfix releases in the intervening months.

Releases

Plasma 4

Plasma 4.9 with the Dolphin file manager open

Plasma 4 was released as part of KDE Software Compilation 4 and replaced Kicker, KDesktop, and SuperKaramba, which formed the Desktop in earlier KDE releases. They are bundled as the default environment with a number of free software operating systems, such as Chakra, Kubuntu, Mageia (DVD version), openSUSE, or TrueOS.

From KDE SC 4.0 to KDE SC 4.2, the default theme, "Oxygen", was characterized by dark tones. In KDE SC 4.3, it was replaced by the new "Air" theme, which predominates in transparency and white as the base color. New themes for Plasma can be chosen and installed through software like Discover or online at store.kde.org.

With the release of KDE SC 4.11 on 14 August 2013, Plasma 4 was placed into a feature freeze and turned into a long-term stable package until August 2015. On 15 July 2014 Plasma 4's successor, Plasma 5, was released.

Features

Plasma features containments, which are essentially applets that contain other applets. Two examples of containments are the desktop background and the taskbar. A containment can be anything the developer wants: an image (either raster graphics or an SVG image), animation, or even OpenGL. Images are most commonly used, but with Plasma the user could set any applet as the desktop background without losing functionality of the applet. This also allows for applets to be dragged between the desktop and the taskbar (two separate containments), and have a separate visualization for the more confined taskbar.

Plasma separates components into "data engine" and their visualization counterparts. This is intended to reduce the total programming effort when there are multiple possible visualizations of given data; and to make it easier for the data engine and the workspaces to be written independently.

The scalable nature of the Plasma widgets allows for them to be resized and rotated to any size, with only a brief pause to redraw themselves. The Kross scripting framework allows developers to write widgets in a variety of programming languages in addition to C++.

KRunner in Plasma 4.3

KRunner is a versatile tool for several functions. It replaces the dialog box "Run Command" from K Desktop Environment 3, and also inherits from the application launcher feature, expanding the possibilities through a modular plug. KRunner stores previously entered commands and searches, accessible via an auto-complete feature. KRunner can be shown on the desktop via the keyboard combination Alt+F2 or by selecting "Run Command ..." in the desktop menu.

These functions are handled by the plugin:

Widgets Notes widget in Plasma 4.3

This is a list of widgets that the current release version of Plasma supports. Not all widgets are supported by default in all Linux distributions; some may require different packages or even a recompilation of Plasma.

Previous Plasma Workspaces releases also supported Edje gadgets and E17 modules. Support for those was developed in 2008 but removed later, in 2010.

Google Gadgets were also supported. After Google announced the discontinuation of its two services that utilize Gadgets – Google Desktop and iGoogle – KDE removed support for this widget engine in early 2013.

Version history

Plasma 5

Plasma 5 with the Breeze Dark theme, with Konsole and Dolphin, core KDE applications

Plasma 5 is the fifth generation of the graphical workspaces environment created by KDE primarily for Linux systems. Plasma 5 is the successor of Plasma 4 and was first released on 15 July 2014. It includes a new default theme, known as "Breeze", as well as increased convergence across different devices. The graphical interface was fully migrated to QML, which uses OpenGL for hardware acceleration, which resulted in better performance and reduced power consumption.

Plasma Mobile is a Plasma 5 variant for Linux-based smartphones.

Architecture

KDE Plasma 5 is built using Qt 5 and KDE Frameworks 5, predominantly plasma-framework.

It improves support for HiDPI displays and ships a convergable graphical shell, which can adjust itself according to the device in use. 5.0 also includes a new default theme, dubbed Breeze. Qt 5's QtQuick 2 uses a hardware-accelerated OpenGL(ES) scene graph (canvas) to compose and render graphics on the screen, which allows for the offloading of computationally expensive graphics rendering tasks onto the GPU, freeing up resources on the system's main CPU.

Windowing systems Plasma 5.24 running under Wayland on Arch Linux

KDE Plasma 5 uses the X Window System and Wayland. Support for Wayland was prepared in the compositor and planned for a later release. It was made initially available in the 5.4 release. Stable support for a basic Wayland session was provided in the 5.5 release (December 2015).

Support for NVIDIA proprietary driver for Plasma on Wayland was added in the 5.16 release (June 2019).

Features Version history

The first Technology Preview of Plasma 5 (at that time called "Plasma 2") was released on 13 December 2013. On 15 July 2014, the first release version – Plasma 5.0 – was released. In spring 2015, Plasma 5 replaced Plasma 4 in many popular distributions, such as Fedora 22, Kubuntu 15.04, and openSUSE Tumbleweed.

Feature releases are released every four months (up to 5.8 every three months) and bugfix releases in the intervening months. Following version 5.8 LTS KDE plans to support each new LTS version for 18 months with bug fixes, while new regular releases will see feature improvements.

Plasma 5 releases
Version Date Key features
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.0 15 Jul 2014 First release.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.1 15 Oct 2014 Ported missing features from Plasma 4.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.2 27 Jan 2015 New components:
  • BlueDevil – integrates Bluetooth technology within Plasma and KDE Applications
  • KSSHAskPass – front-end for ssh-add which stores the password of the ssh key in KWallet
  • Muon – a collection of package management tools for Debian-based systems, using the apt-xapian index and the Synaptic search algorithm
  • sddm-kcm – config module for SDDM themes
  • KScreen – screen management software Hooks into KDE System Settings, makes use of KDE Daemon and KGlobalAccel
  • kde-gtk-config – GTK 2 and 3 style configurator
  • KDecoration – a plugin-based library to create window decorations. These window decorations can be used by window manager which re-parents a client window to a window decoration frame.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.3 28 Apr 2015 Tech preview of Plasma Media Center. New Bluetooth and touchpad applets. Enhanced power management.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.4 25 Aug 2015 Initial Wayland session. New QML-based audio volume applet. Alternative full-screen application launcher.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.5 8 Dec 2015 Improved Wayland support.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.6 22 Mar 2016 Increased security.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.7 5 Jul 2016 "basic workflows now fully functional" in the Plasma Wayland session. Automatic virtual keyboard.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.8 LTS 4 Oct 2016 Long Term Support version.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.9 31 Jan 2017 Wayland improvements. Global menu support.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.10 30 May 2017 Performance improvements.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.11 7 Nov 2017 System Settings redesign. Notification history. Added Plasma Vaults. Wayland improvements.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.12 LTS 6 Feb 2018 Increased stability and speed. Wayland improvements.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.13 12 Jun 2018 Integration with non-KDE web browsers. New lock and login screen designs. Improved Discover appearance. New screen layout selection dialog upon connection of a new screen
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.14 9 Oct 2018 GTK global menu integration. Wayland improvements.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.15 12 Feb 2019 Support for virtual desktops, touch drag-and-drop, and the XdgStable, XdgPopups and XdgDecoration protocols in the Plasma Wayland session.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.16 11 Jun 2019 Revamped notification system with Do Not Disturb feature, grouping in history, critical notifications in fullscreen apps, and better file transfer progress notifications. Support for the NVIDIA proprietary driver on Wayland. Full support for WireGuard VPNs. Full touchpad configurability on X11 with Libinput driver. Modernized login, lock, and logout screen designs. UI improvements throughout Plasma and Discover
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.17 15 Oct 2019 Night Color available for X11. Plasma now recognizes when a program is running in full-screen mode and prevents pop-ups. Fractional scaling support in the Plasma Wayland session.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.18 LTS 11 Feb 2020 Easier system settings. Interactive notifications. New Emoji picker. New wallpapers. Improved GTK app integration.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.19 9 Jun 2020 New system monitoring widgets. New Info Center app. Improved System Tray visuals and interaction. Timezones visible in clock pop-up. Inline reply function for notifications from supported apps. Global animation speed setting.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.20 13 Oct 2020 S.M.A.R.T. disk monitoring. "Highlight changed settings" feature in System Settings. Digital clock applet shows date by default. Redesigned status OSDs. More options and improvements for switching between grouped Task Manager tasks. Window corner-tiling shortcuts. Adjustable per-channel audio balance. Middle-click on notifications icon to enter Do Not Disturb mode. Support for screencasting, shared clipboard, middle-click paste, window thumbnails, and adjusting the scrolling speed in the Plasma Wayland session.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.21 16 Feb 2021 New application launcher. Applications theme improvements (unified header bar). Breeze Twilight, a new variant of Breeze with a mix of dark and light colors. New Plasma System Monitor app. New Plasma Firewall settings page and improvements to System Settings. Media Player applet's includes the list of applications currently playing music in the header as a tab bar. Support for virtual keyboards in GTK applications in the Plasma Wayland session.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.22 8 Jun 2021 Adaptive Transparency for panels. Many style improvements and bug fixes for widgets and KRunner. Stability improvements for the Plasma Wayland session.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.23 14 Oct 2021 Switch between different performance/power saving modes (on supported hardware). Overhauled visual style for the Breeze theme. Customizable accent color. Bluetooth enablement status configurable and remembered across reboots by default. Easier to search for settings in System Settings. Application launch feedback animations and stability improvements for the Plasma Wayland session.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.24 LTS 8 Feb 2022 New Overview manager to more easily switch between desktops. Visual refresh for the Breeze theme. Color picker for accent colors. Accent for critical notifications. System tray widget enhancements. Speed and productivity enhancements to Discover. Help integration into KRunner. Fingerprint authentication support. Additional support for colors, VR, and drawing tables in Plasma Wayland.
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.25 14 Jun 2022 Overview manager displays all open windows and virtual desktops. Trackpad gesture support. Sync accent color to the wallpaper. New touch mode with resized elements. New customization options. Reworked Discover application page. Greater global theme options
Old version, no longer maintained: 5.26 11 Oct 2022 Resizable panel widgets. New timer widget. New Aura browser and Plank media player for Plasma Big Screen. Enhancements to Night Color. Sharper scaled text on XWayland applications. Wallpaper changes alongside dark mode. Dismiss notifications with middle click.
Current stable version: 5.27 LTS 14 Feb 2023 Welcome wizard, window tiling system, a more stylish app theme, cleaner and more usable tools, the ability to control Flatpak permissions in Discover (similar to Flatseal), additional widgets for users to control their machine
Legend:Old versionOlder version, still maintainedLatest versionLatest preview versionFuture release

Plasma 6

KDE Plasma 6 is the sixth and current generation of the graphical workspaces environment made by KDE. It is the successor to Plasma 5 and was initially released on the 28th February 2024.

Plasma 6 changes the default display server from X11 to Wayland, though the former is still available.

Variants

Plasma variants

Plasma Desktop is the main variant of KDE Plasma, targeted to desktop PCs and laptops.

Plasma Netbook

Plasma Netbook aims at netbooks and may also be used on tablet PCs. The first stable release shipped with KDE SC 4.4. With the release of Plasma 5, Plasma Netbook's functionality was merged into Plasma itself.

Plasma Active

Plasma Active logo

Plasma Active was a workspace for devices with touchscreens. It shipped with several applications such as Kontact Touch and a document viewer based on Calligra Suite. "Contour" was the name of an interface for tablet devices. Its development was started in April 2011 by basysKom. Replacing an earlier tablet prototype, Contour has then become the main workspace UI of Plasma Active and was shipped as 1.0 in October 2011.

Plasma Active has been succeeded by Plasma Mobile starting with Plasma 5.

Plasma Mobile

Plasma Mobile was targeted at smartphones and small tablet devices that are mainly used via touch input. It was originally expected to be released in 2011 along with Plasma Active 1.0 but development focus shifted towards Contour. A new version with the same name but based on KDE Frameworks 5 has been announced on 25 July 2015.

Plasma Bigscreen

Plasma Bigscreen for TVs and set-top boxes incl. voice interaction.

Plasma Nano

Plasma Nano is a minimal shell for embedded and touch-enabled devices, like IoT or automotive.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Being the main Plasma variant, it is often referred just as "Plasma".

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External links

Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Using KDE