The Plasma Workspace is one of the key technologies of KDE SC 4 (also known as the "Pillars of KDE"), and one of the most visible to users. As Plasma treats the user interface differently than a traditional desktop, there may be confusion as to what Plasma is, what it does, and how to perform common tasks.
This document attempts to address these problems by providing answers to the most common questions.
What does Plasma do?
Plasma is the default workspace (desktop interface) for KDE. It includes an application launcher (start menu), the desktop and the desktop panel (often referred to simply as the task bar). However Plasma is more than just this familiar collection of utilities, it is a common framework for creating integrated interfaces. It is flexible enough to provide interfaces for mobile devices (phones and netbooks), media centres and desktop computers; to support the traditional desktop metaphor as well as well as designs that haven't yet been imagined.
How does Plasma work?
Plasma's main components are widgets. Widgets can take on a variety of functions, ranging from displaying your desktop and associated wallpaper, showing your laptop's battery level, displaying your plugged in devices, and drawing the taskbar: basically, they are small applications that live on the desktop. Additionally, widgets can be grouped together in "containers", like the panel and even the desktop itself.
What is the Folder View applet?
The Folder View applet, like its name says, is used to display items (folders, files) from a directory. Such a directory can be either a local one residing on your computer, but also a remote FTP, SSH, or SMB share. In the future, it will even contain results from Nepomuk searches and tagging.
You can choose to view either all files, or filter either by specific regular expressions (e.g., all files with a certain extension) or by file type (for example, just images).
This applet also supports basic file management properties (moving, copying, cutting and pasting for example), and you can have as many as you want on your desktop.
Lastly, you can use one Folder View as the whole desktop, effectively replicating the "old style" desktop paradigm.
What is KRunner?
Krunner is the versatile mini-command line you can activate by pushing "Alt-F2" or by selecting "Run Command" from the desktop contextual menu. It can search for applications, bookmarks, even sessions basing on your input, show system activity and even do simple arithmetic calculations.
KRunner's functionality can be extended through the use of plugins ("runners").
What are the "cashews"?
What is commonly referred as "cashew" is the Plasma toolbox, the logo you can find on the default desktop, on the upper right corner, and on the panel, on the right hand side (left hand side if you use a Right-To-Left language). By clicking on them, you can access other configuration options. Some of these only appear if the widgets aren't locked (see below).
Please provide an option to disable the upper right cashew.
Although putting an option to disable the cashew for desktops sounds reasonable, from a coding point of view it would introduce unnecessary complexity and would break the design. What has been suggested is, since the destkop itself (a containment) is handled by plugins, to write a plugin that would draw the desktop without the cashew itself. As a matter of fact, some distributions ship already a "Desktop without cashew" plugin.
What is the Zooming User Interface (ZUI)?
The Zooming User Interface, or ZUI, is another component of Plasma. It enables the user to group different groups of plasmoids together, and to quickly switch between one and another using a zoom-and-pan approach. Notice that the Zooming User Interface is going to be radically changed for the 4.5 release of the KDE SC.
How does the ZUI work?
Suppose you have three groups of plasmoids (such as widgets, application launchers, etc.) which you want arranged in specific combinations depending on what you want to do. You first group them according to your tastes, then you can switch between them by zooming out (getting a preview of all the groups) and then back in on the specific group you want to use. Notice that it is different from traditional X11 virtual desktop switching, as there is a higher degree of flexibility by using this approach, as the groups can be totally different from each other.
A very good example of this behavior is shown by this image courtesy of Half-Left from #kde on freenode.
That said, you can tie virtual desktops to ZUI activities.
Whether you like a clean, mean desktop, the Plasma Netbook interface, or a more traditional one, you'll find lots of help on this Configuration page
See the Glossary page.
A page of Screencasts will help you understand Plasma
- Daniel Laidig & Simon St.James - thanks for the umeet IRC logs!
- Marco Martin - thanks for the information on panels!
- Sebas - thanks for letting me use information from your blog entries!
- Half-Left - great example of ZUI usage!
- Aikurn - Excellent videos!
- Marcelo Magno T. Sales - for giving panel Tips on a mailing list
- Luca Beltrame - current maintainer
- Joseph M. Gaffney
- All the anyonymous contributors