Linux All-in-One For Dummies, 5th Edition (2014)
Book II. Linux Desktops
Chapter 2. The KDE Desktop
In This Chapter
Discovering KDE’s common features
Introducing the Main Menu
Configuring the panel and the desktop
As mentioned in Chapter 1 of this minibook, Linux distributions come with one (or both) of two popular graphical user interfaces (GUIs) — GNOME (or one or more of its variants) and KDE. With both interfaces installed, you can switch between the two in a matter of seconds. If you don’t like GNOME, you can use KDE; or if you don’t like KDE, you can use GNOME.
This chapter explores the major features of KDE, just as Chapter 1 of this minibook examines GNOME. I strongly encourage you to try both GUIs before you decide which one you’re most comfortable using. Remember, you can run KDE applications under GNOME and vice versa. Several installation procedures, including those for Fedora and openSUSE, allow you to choose to install KDE or GNOME. Installing only one interface by default allows for a quicker and easier setup and installation; you can always go back and install the other interface later.
Each distribution customizes the desktop, so there may be subtle, minor differences between what you see in your distribution and what’s described here.
Getting to Know the KDE Desktop
The initial desktop for KDE looks like any other popular GUI, such as Microsoft Windows desktop or the Mac OS X desktop. Figure 2-1 shows a typical KDE desktop.
KDE stands for the K Desktop Environment. The KDE project started in October 1996 with the intent to develop a common GUI for Unix systems that use the X Window System. The first beta version of KDE was released a year later, in October 1997. KDE version 1.0 was released in July 1998.
Figure 2-1: A clean KDE desktop.
Figure 2-1 is from openSUSE 12, which strives for a minimum of desktop icons. Along the bottom of the desktop is the panel — which is similar to the top and bottom bars in the Windows taskbar. The panel has buttons on the left (shortcuts to various programs), a set of buttons to the available desktops, a task area, a time display, and (to the right) icons that provide volume control and access to the KDE’s Clipboard manager, Klipper. In the middle part of the panel are buttons for any applications that you started (or that were automatically started for you).
Desktop context menus
The KDE desktop displays a context menu when you right-click a clear area on the desktop. The context menu offers a menu that includes the following options (with slight variations between distributions):
· Run Command
· Lock Screen
· Leave (exit the desktop)
· Desktop Settings (set such onscreen features as the wallpaper)
Figure 2-2 shows the desktop context menu in a typical KDE desktop.
Figure 2-2: The context menu in KDE.
Icon context menus
Right-clicking any icon in KDE displays another menu, as shown in Figure 2-3. Many items on this context menu are the same no matter what icon you click, but right-clicking certain icons (for example, the CD-ROM device icon) produces a somewhat different menu. Desktop menu options with a right-pointing arrow have other menus that appear when you put the mouse pointer over the arrow. You can perform the following typical tasks from icon context menus:
· Open a folder in a file manager
· Open a file with an application that you choose
· Cut or copy
· Rename the icon
· Move the icon to the trash
· View the properties of that icon
For the CD-ROM device icon and similar devices, the icon context menu typically provides an option to eject the media.
No matter where you are in a GUI desktop, always right-click before you pick. You’re bound to find something useful when you right-click!
Figure 2-3: The pop-up menu for an icon in KDE.
Understanding the KDE Panel
The panel is the long bar that stretches across the bottom of the desktop. Figure 2-4 shows a typical view of the KDE panel.
Figure 2-4: The KDE panel.
The panel is a parking place for icons. Some icons start programs when you click them. Some show status (for example, what programs are currently running) as well as information such as the date and time.
If you move the mouse pointer on top of an icon, a Help balloon pops up and gives you a helpful hint about the icon.
The Main Menu button
The leftmost icon on the KDE panel is the Main Menu button. (KDE documentation calls the Main Menu button the Application Starter). Like the Start button in Microsoft Windows, the Main Menu button is where you typically find all your applications, organized into submenus. The Main Menu button is often labeled K, although the letter can be changed by the distribution.
Click the Main Menu button to see the first-level menu. Then mouse over any menu item with an arrow to bring up the next-level menu and so on. You can go through a menu hierarchy and make selections from the final menu. Figure 2-5 shows the Main Menu hierarchy in a typical KDE desktop.
Figure 2-5: The KDE menu hierarchy.
The most recent versions of KDE feature the KickOff application launcher as their main menu. KickOff allows you to access frequently used applications more quickly than navigating through the traditional menu hierarchy. In most desktops, clicking the Main Menu button to open KickOff presents the following top-level categories:
· Favorites: Easy access to frequently used applications and documents. To quickly add a file to your Favorites, right-click it and choose Add to Favorites.
· Applications: The applications and tools installed on your system. Click a subcategory with a right-pointing arrow to open more options.
· Computer: Access to hard drives and removable memory devices, as well as the trash.
· Recently Used: A chronological display of recently opened documents and applications.
· Leave: Options to log out, restart, shut down the computer, and more.
In the Applications tab, you will find the following menu subcategories (and probably a few more depending on which distribution you are using):
· Games: A menu of games (and a lot of them at that) such as arcade games, board games, and card games.
· Graphics: Programs such as Flickr, KolourPaint, and KSnapshot (used to take the screenshots in this chapter).
· Internet: Internet applications, such as a web browser, an e-mail reader, and an instant messenger.
· Multimedia: Multimedia applications such as a CD player, a sound mixer, a sound recorder, and volume control.
· Office: Office applications such as the LibreOffice.org Office suite (includes the Writer word processor, the Calc spreadsheet, the Impress slide presentation program, and the Draw drawing program).
· System: The utilities needed for system configuration. An example of the System menu is shown in Figure 2-6.
· Utilities: Additional miscellaneous utilities that can be utilized by KDE, including text-to-speech tools, a personal alarm scheduler, and a screen magnifier.
Figure 2-6: The System menu choices.
Three additional KDE menu choices — Administration, Settings, and System — may be present and will help you configure almost anything you need. They’re not present in openSUSE because it uses YaST as the interface to accomplish those tasks.
In each distribution, the main menu and KickOff have different categories but the same menu organization, so you should usually be able to find what you need.
In addition to the Main Menu button, the KDE panel has several icons (labeled in Figure 2-4). You can identify any icon by moving your cursor over it and reading the pop-up description that appears. The most common icons are as follows:
· Desktop Pager: Navigate between workspaces or “virtual desktops.”
· Open windows: Display all currently open windows.
· Active window: Switch to another running application or window.
· Network connection: Display information about current wired or wireless connections.
· Volume: Display a volume control bar that you can use to change the sound’s volume by dragging a slider.
· Notifications and Jobs: Mouse over to see the progress of current jobs such as file transfers or printing documents.
· Time: Display the time; clicking displays a calendar that shows the current date.
· Panel toolbox: Adjust size, location, and controls for the panel.
Configuring the KDE Bottom Panel
For all the power inherent in the KDE panel, it also has a great deal of flexibility. If you right-click a blank spot on the panel, the menu shown in Figure 2-7 appears. You use this menu to add and remove items from the panel and even create an additional panel (which allows you to configure your desktop to look and work as much like GNOME as you want it to).
The most powerful menu choice is Panel Options. Choosing Panel Options⇒Panel Settings⇒More Settings displays the utility shown in Figure 2-8. From here, you can place the panel in a location other than its default location along the bottom, adjust the alignment of the panel, automatically hide the panel, select whether windows will appear in front of or behind the panel, and more.
Figure 2-7: You have a lot of flexibility when configuring the panel.
Figure 2-8: Configuring the KDE panel is easy.
Configuring the KDE Desktop
After right-clicking an empty spot on the desktop, you can choose Desktop Settings from the pop-up menu. Doing so displays the configuration tool shown in Figure 2-9. You can configure such items as the background and special mouse controls to perform helpful functions on the desktop.
Figure 2-9: You can change the desktop settings.
For more thorough desktop configurations, choose Configure Desktop from the Main Menu to display the configuration options shown in Figure 2-10. You can set the screen size, adjust settings for multiple desktops, change the screen saver, and play around with desktop effects.
The settings here are organized into categories, such as Common Appearance and Behavior, and Workspace Appearance and Behavior, as well as Network Connectivity, and Hardware. Click an item to view the subcategories for that item. Click one of the subcategory items to change it. After making any changes you want, click the Apply button to enact the change. If you don’t like the result, you can often click Reset to go back to the original setting.
Depending upon your distribution, you may also want to use downloadable programs such as SAX2 for desktop configuration. SAX2 is an open source program that simplifies configuration.
Figure 2-10: More desktop configuration options.