Some oddities with KDE activities

I have been using activities in KDE for a little while now, as reported in an earlier post.  In this message, I will mention a few oddities that I have noticed.  I am  not calling these bugs.  They are, I suppose, surprises, ways that things behave that are not quite what I would have anticipated.  But they do not cause me serious difficulties.

I am typically using two activities.  For the purposes of this post, I shall call them “Activity A” and “Activity B”.  When I first login, I see Activity A showing on my desktop.  Using the scroll wheel on empty desktop space takes me to Activity B.  SuperKey+Tab also switches activities, where SuperKey is the key with the MS Windows flag.

Tray icons

Some software applications run with a tray icon.  This, by itself, has nothing to do with activities.  For example, if I start Amarok, then close the Amarok window, that leaves an icon for Amarok in the tray.  The application is still running, even though I have closed the window.  If I then click on the tray icon, the window reopens.  In my typical usage, I have three such applications:

  1. Amarok, which I use to occasionally listen to music while working;
  2. akregator, the RSS aggregator software, which I use for following a  number of blogs;
  3. liferea, another RSS aggregator, which I mainly use for following a blog that does not seem to play well with akregator.

After logging in, and starting a few applications, I probably  have Amarok and liferea running in Activity A, and akregator running in Activity B.

If my current desktop shows Activity A, and I click on the akregator tray icon, that switches me to Activity B.  Likewise, if my current desktop shows Activity B, and I click on the Amarok tray icon, that switches me to Activity A.  However, and here’s the oddity, if the desktop shows Activity B, and I click on the liferea tray icon, that does not switch me to Activity A.

I presume that the difference here is that Amarok and akregator are both KDE applications, while liferea is a Gnome application.  Presumably, the activity switching is partly controlled by the application, rather than by the desktop management, and because Gnome applications are not activity aware, they do not switch.

Session saving

I normally configure my KDE desktop to start with a previously saved session.  So I have saved a session with some of the applications that I want to have standardly running, including Amarok and a Konsole window.

I have configured the Konsole window to be present in all activities.  To do this, I right click on the window top margin, move the mouse over the “activities” entry, and check the “all activities” box.  I then resave my session, so that it will remember that the Konsole window should be present in all activities.

This works fine.  If I logout, then login again, the Konsole window automatically shows up in my session, and it shows up in both Activity A and Activity B.

I have tried doing the same with Amarok.  That is, I clicked on the tray icon for Amarok.  Then I right-clicked on the window top margin, and set it to be in all activities.  Then I closed the window.  That works fine in the current session.  I can then click on the Amarok tray icon in either Activity A or Activity B, and I see the Amarok window either way.  However, that activity setting won’t save.  If I save my current session, then logout and log back in, Amarok starts up only in Activity A.  If I want it to appear in both activities, I have to manually set that for each login.  I normally don’t bother to set it, since I do most of my work in Activity A, so I am rarely troubled by Amarok being associated only with that activity.

I am guessing that the activity affinity for Konsole is being saved in Konsole settings rather than in the desktop session.

Desktop and Activity independence

The current desktop and the current activity seem to be kept independent of one another.

Suppose that I am using Activity A, and I am in Desktop 1.  I then switch to Activity B.  While in Activity B, I switch to Desktop 2.  It I switch back to Activity A, I will still be in Desktop 1 for Activity A.  And if I switch again to Activity B, I will still be in Desktop 2 for Activity B.

I don’t consider this an oddity.  The independence is rather nice.  I’m inclined to consider it a useful feature of KDE activities.

Activity and Desktop confusion

Here’s the oddity that is related to the independence.  Assume that I am currently in Desktop 1 using Activity A.  And I have previously started akregator to be associated only with Activity B.

While on Desktop 1 in Activity A, I click the tray icon for akregator.  That switches me to Activity B, where I am on Desktop 2.  However, the akregator window has opened on Desktop 1, so is nowhere to be seen while I am in Desktop 2 of Activity B.  This was unexpected, which I why I call it an oddity.

Similarly, while in Desktop 1 of Activity A, suppose that I switch to Activity B, where I am on Desktop 2.  Then, while on Desktop 2 of Activity B, I click the liferea icon in the tray.  As mentioned earlier, that does not switch activities.  However, it does open the liferea window in Activity A.  But it opens that window in Desktop 2 of Activity A.  If I then switch back to Activity A, I won’t see the window because I am currently in Desktop 1 there.

To state the above examples in simple terms, clicking a tray icon opens the window for that application in the desktop of the current activity, rather than the desktop of the activity where the application will open.

My first inclination was to think that a bug.  However, an application could be associated with more than one activity, and the current desktops could be different for those activities.  So opening the window in the desktop appropriate for the activity where that window will open, is actually ambiguous.

In normal use, I have only noticed this particular weirdness when clicking on the akregator icon.  And that’s because clicking on that icon is a nice short cut which both opens the window and switches activities.  When I want to open liferea, my normal practice has been to first switch to the appropriate activity, because clicking that tray icon does not work as a short cut.  So, with normal practice, the liferea window opens where expected.  I guess I need to stop relying on that short cut for akregator, so that I won’t continue to have these unexpected surprises.

Those are the oddities that I have noticed up till now.


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About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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