The swiss army knife of desktop computers

The swiss army knife of desktop computers

As GNOME’s longtime rival, KDE plasma is another of the most popular Linux desktop environments. This is a lot of things people may dislike about GNOME: resource efficient, incredibly customizable and as minimal or complex as you want. This review of KDE Plasma will cover performance, user interface, customization, and recommendations on how to use and who should use KDE Plasma.

First impressions

At first glance, the KDE Plasma desktop is fairly intuitive for Windows users. A logo at the bottom left gives you access to an application menu, a system tray in the lower right corner and no upper bar. The layout is intuitive and simple. It is installed right out of the box.

Plasma connection screen
Plasma deskPlasma desk
Plasma lock screenPlasma lock screen
KDE Plasma is a no frills desk with the potential for deep customization

User experience

The use of plasma is very simple. If you’ve ever used Windows, it’s practically the same. You have the Application menu at the bottom left, which gives you access to the system, including applications, system commands, and favorites. At the bottom right there is the system tray which has notifications, a network and a clock with a calendar.

Plasma workPlasma work
The application launcher in KDE Plasma works much like the common desktop computers we are used to

There is an excellent search function in the Applications menu. It reminds me a lot of Windows that way, where you have access to lots of cool apps without having to install anything else. There are games like Mahjong and Minesweeper installed, LibreOffice for your office work and KCalc for calculation work.

KDE plasma applications

Another great aspect of plasma is the KDE applications. The default KDE applications supplied with Plasma offer you a wide range of functionalities integrated directly into the stock system. KDE Connect allows you to connect your Android or Linux smartphone to your desktop and integrate file sharing, notifications, multimedia playback, etc. If you have an Android device, this is an essential application for your Linux desktop, and Plasma integrates it perfectly.

Kde Connect PlasmaKde Connect Plasma

Kate, the advanced text editor from KDE, is widely recommended as one of the best text editors in a Linux DE. Kate is a multi-document, multi-view text editor with great features, such as an integrated command line, plugin support, preliminary Javascript scripting functionality, and many more. It’s the default editor that comes with Plasma, and it’s incredibly powerful and extensible.

Plasma KatePlasma Kate

KRunner is a launcher that will allow you to execute a command, open an application, open a Firefox bookmark, check the spelling of a word, look through your open windows and desktops and calculate expressions. It’s a bit like macOS Spotlight search which has an unequaled utility on this operating system. KRunner is a huge plasma print; As a mainly GNOME user, I am deeply jealous of the features offered by KRunner.

Krunner plasmaKrunner plasma

Personalization

As great as the defaults are, the strength of KDE lies in its customization. It is “as you please” in the extreme.

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If you do not like the default Breeze theme, it is very easy to change it with the “Global theme” application. You can choose from those that come pre-installed, or you can choose to go out and download more to suit your needs. Customization options are a matter of choice, and you can easily customize it to your liking.

Under System Settings you can change almost all aspects of the system, including global themes, window themes, icon themes, etc. You can make Plasma look like the following.

The swiss army knife of desktop computers

Or like that.

The swiss army knife of desktop computers

There are no limits to what you can do. Plasma is the Swiss army knife of DE Linux, offering an excellent user experience for those who like to tinker and tweak.

Performance

In terms of the use of system resources, KDE Plasma is excellent. I have a recently updated Kubuntu 20.04 virtual machine with 4 cores of my i7-8655u and 8 GB of RAM. With around 490 MB of idle RAM usage and an average of 0.4% idle CPU usage, you can run Plasma in almost any system you have.

Plasma HtopPlasma Htop
Plasma often dropped to 0.0% CPU usage, which is ideal for systems with older or less powerful processors

This small footprint also equates to an excellent feeling. Applications open quickly and the desktop is quick and responsive. You can keep it on a virtual desktop or mount as many as you like, and you can customize the workflow to suit what you want.

The disadvantages of KDE plasma

No software is without its faults. For Plasma, these focus on the basic workflow. The implementation on Kubuntu 20.04 is provided with a single virtual desktop by default. There are options for adding more, but for users who don’t want to play with too much customization, it can be difficult to click on windows. Linux has had epic virtual desktop support for years, and when there are options for heavy multitasking like GNOME Shell and its dynamic workspaces, it puts an end to the enthusiasm of KDE Plasma.

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Where to find KDE plasma

If there is one place I would recommend experiencing KDE Plasma, it would be Kubuntu. Kubuntu does a good job of making Plasma look great without changing too much. Plus, it doesn’t come with Snap apps installed, so for those of you who don’t like Snaps or want to have the choice to enable or disable Snaps, Kubuntu is a great place to discover Ubuntu 20.04 LTS without them.

Kubuntu plasmaKubuntu plasma
Kubuntu 20.04 LTS is an excellent distribution which offers you all the advantages of the latest version of Ubuntu and KDE Plasma

Who should use KDE Plasma?

The beauty of all the customizations offered by Plasma is that anyone can use Plasma. It just starts with spartan, but you can modify it to suit any workflow or appearance you want. You can create a very resource-efficient Windows or macOS clone. In addition, anyone looking to try Wayland without using GNOME should try Plasma. It’s the only other full desktop environment that supports Wayland (with the addition of some other packages), and it’s a great place to test and experiment with Wayland on your system.

Be sure to check out this list of KDE Plasma tips to improve your productivity and find 7 of the best KDE Plasma themes to customize your desktop.

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