KDE Plasma — 3

Learning to configure the KDE panel initially was a tad frustrating. Unlike other desktop environments (DEs), there is no popup menu with a Move option. The trick is drag an icon to the desired location. This is simpler and more direct, but the method is contrary to the original KDE 3 and other desktop environments. Memory muscle can be stubborn.

There is a difference between adding a tool to the panel as a widget versus pinning a tool to the task manager, which is itself a widget. From the human eyeball the collection and placement of icons look the same but function differently. Learning this distinction took a frustrating time to figure out.

Related is configuring the System Tray. This component is configured separately from the panel. Controlling what appears in the tray is done by launching the configuration dialog and editing the Entries list. Seems trivial but not to new users.

The System Tray did not display icons for software launched from $HOME/.config/autostart. There are several related bug reports. This is a show-stopper because quick access to some of those autostart tools are part of the daily work flow.

Lazily scanning the bug report discussions spawned the idea there might be Yet Another Confounded KDE Background Service that needs to be enabled. Enabling the Status Notifier Manager service resolved the problem but amplified another usability quirk. The icons in the System Tray are positioned far apart and waste panel space. This is partly resolved by configuring the System Tray Panel icon size to Small, but even then the icons seem widely spaced, let alone somewhat too small.

KDE comes with a boat load of desktop related background services. For now most of them have been disabled and are being enabled individually as needs are discovered as just described. Examples include:

  • Supporting GTK themes requires the GNOME/GTK Settings Synchronization Service.
  • The keyboard repeat and delay configuration does nothing unless the Keyboard Daemon is enabled.
  • Custom keyboard shortcuts fail unless enabling the Input Actions service.

Window compositors provide some interesting display features, but for new users there is too much distraction and noise while trying to learn the environment. For now all of the desktop effects are disabled.

Related is opacity. Many people enjoy translucent windows to be able to see through to the underlying desktop wallpaper. This opacity or translucency can be distracting for some people. Discovering how to disable this feature is challenging. The easiest solution is the sledge hammer — disable compositing.

A time consuming challenge has been finding an agreeable appearance in KDE. In this area KDE is more complicated than other desktop environments. Configuring the desktop is a journey down the proverbial rabbit hole. There seems to be a default reliance on flat icons, which are difficult to distinguish. Finding a reasonable appearance required significant time. Too much time. Despite this effort flat icons still appear in various places throughout KDE, probably caused by incomplete icon sets and interface design.

After many sessions of testing, some of the user accounts lost the ability to use the panel menu search box. The solution is enabling the KRrunner Applications plugin.

Next was KDE PIM apps and the black hole known as Akonadi. One simple test was launching KMail. A horrendous amount of config files were created along with a horrendous number of related Akonadi files. This dumping of config files everywhere belongs in an out-house.

With that episode there will be no further testing of anything dependent on Akonadi. To break away from GTK the remaining option for certain PIM apps is using Trinity Desktop Environment (TDE) if KDE becomes the primary desktop.

Then there are little things like presumptions. Start KAlarm just once and from then on the software acts like a virus. Attempting to disable auto-starting is a proverbial dog chasing its tail until discovering an option in the Settings. The KOrganizer reminder daemon korgac behaves the same until manually editing the user’s $HOME/.config/korgacrc and changing Autostart=false. Why do developers promote designs like this? Autostarting should be opt-in rather than opt-out.

Some good news is Akonadi dependencies in KAlarm have been moved into a plugin. With that option KAlarm no longer requires Akonadi. The disheartening news is this option becomes available in KDE 5.22, which will not be available until the next release of Slackware.

One hope with KDE was possibly using Akregator for RSS feeds. The good news is Akregator can be used without triggering Akonadi. The bad news is Akregator has seen little development since the KDE 3 days. There are few features. Akregator stores cookies with no option to disable. In the Security configuration is an option to enable loading external references from the internet. When that option is disabled each feed displays a useless related message hogging viewing space. There is no intuitive or obvious way to delete all read feeds when terminating. The trick is to configure the archive settings to delete articles older than 0 days and disable not expiring important articles.

Much of this is cutting teeth and adapting to a new environment. That takes time and the overhead is a bit frustrating.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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