Plasma 5 — a review

[Update: I have added a comment which updates some of what I wrote in this post.  Check the comments below.]

I have been using opensuse Leap 42.1 on my main desktop for a little over a week.  So I now have a better feel for Plasma 5, than I had from periodic testing.  So it’s time for me to give my opinion on Plasma 5.

Overall

My overall summary, is that Plasma 5 is recognizable as a successor to KDE4.  It does not make the radical changes that we saw going from Gnome 2 to Gnome 3.  The changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

I won’t go through every change that I see.  That would be tedious to write and boring to read.  So I’ll mainly discuss the changes that are particularly noticeable.  And since we are more likely to notice changes that we don’t like, this may look like a gripe list.

Most of the changes, even the ones that I don’t like, are relatively minor.  In spite of having a gripe list, I expect to continue with Plasma 5 (either on Leap or on Tumbleweed), and not try to go back to KDE4 on opensuse 13.1 or 13.2.

Breeze

I rather like the Breeze theme.  So this isn’t a gripe.  It somehow seems a more natural theme than those that I tried for KDE4.

Logout

I’ll mention this minor gripe first, because it is the first that I noticed.

On KDE4, if I wanted to reboot the system I would right click on the desktop, and select “Leave”.  A small menu would popup near the mouse, where I could choose “Logout”, “Restart” or “Shutdown”.

With Plasma 5, I can still right click on the desktop, and select “Leave”.  Then a menu pops up asking me to confirm logout.  The place to confirm logout is near the center of the screen.  If I want to reboot, I have click an icon near the right of the screen.  And the icon does not appear to be labeled, though it is easy enough to guess which is “logout”, which is “restart” and which is “shutdown”.

My gripe (admittedly minor), is that I have to move the mouse pointer all the way to the right of the screen, then all the way back to center, if my aim is to reboot.

Folder view

Opensuse typically puts a “Folder View” widget at the top left of the screen.  It displays what is in the “Desktop” folder, though that can be changed.  I have been using that as a kind of “To Do” list.  I download files there, and use the widget as a reminder that there is something read or otherwise deal with.

In Plasma 5, the widget is smaller than in KDE4, though it can be resized.  And, in Plasma 5, the icons are larger.  So less is visible without scrolling.  And, with the larger icon size, I would have to resize to something uncomfortably large to be able to avoid the scrolling.

Again, a relatively minor gripe.

Default Applications

I tried to set the default browser to “in an application based on the contents of the URL”.  That’s what seems to work best with Konqueror.  I should add that I mainly use firefox for browsing, but I use Konqueror as the default so that it is what Akregator starts.  I rather like Konqueror with Akregator, though I would prefer rekonq if it did not crash as often as it does.  I start firefox with a script anyway, so making konqueror the default is the way to go.

After setting the default browser as indicated, I then repeat that step.  And the configuration screen tells me that “firefox” is the default.  Something is broken in setting defaults.

On closer checking, it looks as if my chosen default browser did take.  So the problem is that the setting doesn’t remember what is currently set.

Again, a rather minor gripe.

Wall paper

I’m not so much bothered by this change, but some people are complaining.  So I will mention in.

With KDE4, one could set a different wall paper or background on each desktop.  With Plasma 5, this is not possible.  Different activities can have different backgrounds, but all desktops in a single activity have the same background.

When I started using KDE (back at opensuse 11.3 as I recall, I did use different backgrounds.  I did this so that I could easily tell which desktop I was on.  But, starting with opensuse 13.1, I switched to having the same background on all.  It turns out that I can tell which desktop I am on anyway, due to the particular windows that I have open.  So I went “minimalist” on wall paper.  And that’s why I am not objecting to this change.

Menus

This is a more serious gripe than the others.  I don’t like the menus as much.  This is, at least in part, an opensuse change.  They decided to go with the upstream menus rather than the opensuse designed menus.

Following a suggestion by wolfi323 at the forum, I went to the directory “/etc/xdg/menus” (as root), and copied “applications.menu” to “kf5-applications.menu”.  That got me back to something similar to the KDE4 menu.

After that copy, the kickoff menu for Leap 42.1 is actually better than that for KDE4, at least as I use it.  However, I had also set the middle mouse button to provide an applications menu.  That worked very well in KDE4.  But in Plasma 5, if I use

middle-click –> Internet –> Web browser

then I see several entries labeled “Web browser” with no way to tell which is which.  And that is my gripe about menus.

Sound

This one is my biggest gripe.

In KDE4, I might be listening to music.  And, for some reason, a video is making sounds in my browser.  I could click on the speaker in the tray.  And there I would see a volume control for the music (with Amarok), and a separate volume control for the video.

I am not seeing those separate volume controls with Plasma 5.  So I have a lot less control over the sound volume from different channels.

Conclusion

The Sound problem is the only one that has made me think about whether I should go back to KDE4.  However, I’ve decided to stay with Plasma 5, and put up with that problem.

So that’s my gripe list, and my impression of Plasma 5 at this stage.

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About Neil Rickert

Retired mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

4 responses to “Plasma 5 — a review”

  1. Neil Rickert says :

    A couple of updates:

    (1) At the forum, wolfi323 has pointed out that there are still multiple channels with independent volume controls. To access them, right click on the speaker icon in the tray and then click “Audio Volume Settings.” That does seem to work, though not quite as natural as it was with Kmix in KDE4. And Kmix still exists for those who prefer it.

    (2) I looked at settings for the “Folder View” widget, and I was able to reduce the Icon size. It is working better with the smaller icons.

    Like

  2. Mikko Merikivi says :

    Would using KMix work to solve your volume control tray icon problem? It seems to me Plasma 5 changed the default volume mixer to something else.

    Like

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