2019: the year in review

2019 was a massive year for KDE. I’d like tho take the opportunity to highlight some of the biggest improvements and new features that arrived in this year:

Wayland

Though Plasma-on-Wayland is still not totally ready for prime time (and I understand now annoying this is), we made steady progress toward that goal, knocking out a number of blockers. 2019 featured Wayland support for virtual desktops, the proprietary NVIDIA driver, fractional scale factors, screen sharing and remote desktop, Spectacle’s Rectangular Region mode, and the Plasma widget explorer!

Plasma

One of the Plasma highlights this year is the totally rewritten notification system with a Do Not Disturb mode, per-app notification preferences, a sane history model, and loads of refinement and polish. It’s amazing, and it keeps getting better with each Plasma release!

Also very impactful has been a set of improvements in support for client-side-decorated GTK3 apps, including including shadows and extended resize areas and following the system’s color scheme. GNOME apps now look and feel right at home in Plasma!

Plasma also gained a systemwide Emoji input panel and a touch-friendly global edit mode for widgets. This allowed us to delete the Desktop Toolbox–that mystifying hamburger menu in the corner of the screen. Poof, no more!

In System Settings, there is finally full support for configuring touchpads using the Libinput driver, the Night Color feature was ported to X11, and the Workspace Behavior page gained two useful new controls that let you change the speed of all animations through Plasma and apps, and configure what happens when you click in a scrollbar track. In addition, many System Settings pages–particularly those in the Appearance section–have been modernized and given consistent user interfaces.

There were also many improvements to wallpaper configuration. The configuration window now displays the actual set of images that will be used, and the order is configurable. Picture Of The Day wallpapers can now pull images from unsplash.com.

To protect your privacy, Plasma now alerts you when an app is using the microphone.

Discover’s user interface and reliability dramatically improved across the board. I’m no longer seeing social media posts about how much people hate Discover (at least not the latest version; please make sure you’re up to date before you complain!). 🙂

Other miscellaneous features include a configurable grid size for desktop icons, user-customizable date display in the Clock widget, the ability to do calculation and unit conversion from Kickoff, and using slight RGB font hinting by default.

Finally, it became much easier to test and use a compiled-from-source Plasma version. Thanks to this, I’m now living on the master branch of Plasma all day, every day! It’s ridiculously stable, a testament to the incredibly high quality of Plasma’s codebase.

Applications & Frameworks

KDE’s flagship apps gained many amazing and useful new features. Among them:

Dolphin and file dialogs

Dolphin gained support for showing file creation dates, a feature to open folders from other apps in tabs instead of new windows, navigation history in a drop-down menu when you click-and-hold on the back or forward arrows, and animated previews in the Information Panel for video files and animated image files like GIFs. It also tells you what’s blocking unmounting a volume that contains open files, shows tags in the Places panel sidebar, and lets you search for tags.

Dolphin and other KDE apps gained file previews for Blender files, eBook files, .xps and Microsoft Office files.


Dolphin and the file dialogs also gained human-readable sort order descriptions and a brand new much better recent Documents feature.

File dialogs now let you easily switch between the same view modes as in Dolphin, and drag-and-drop a file into the main view to select that file or switch the view to that file’s folder (depending on whether it’s an open dialog or a save dialog).

Gwenview

Gwenview gained High DPI support, touch support, and a JPEG save quality chooser.

Spectacle

Spectacle gained the ability to open new instances or switch to existing instances when pressing the PrintScreen key while already running, configure its global keyboard shortcuts from its settings window, always copy a just-taken screenshot to the clipboard, auto-accept the dragged box in rectangular region mode, and remember the last-used rectangular region box. Rectangular Region mode also became touch-friendly.

Okular

Okular gained smooth scrolling and inertia with touch swipes, support for viewing and verifying digital signatures, and the ability to navigate both backwards and forward in touch mode. It also now remembers view mode, zoom settings, and sidebar view settings on a per-document basis.

Kate

Kate gained an LSP client, regained its old External Tools plugin, got the ability to show all invisible whitespace characters, and massively improved support on High DPI systems, particularly when using a fractional scale factor.

Konsole

Konsole got a tiling split view mode with drag-and-drop re-ordering:

Elisa

The Elisa music player gained an enormous amount of user interface polish, new features, and bugfixes–too many to list, really. It’s a powerful and user-friendly music player that’s fully supported and actively developed, and I encourage everyone to use it! Kubuntu is evaluating shipping it by default in their upcoming 20.04 release, and I hope others follow suit.

This is only a small subset of the new features announced throughout the year in my Usability & Productivity and This Week in KDE series, which in turn are small subsets of the full range of work done throughout KDE. Truly, our community is blessed with tireless contributors! Looking forward to 2020, I think we’re poised to achieve some truly amazing things that will catapult KDE Plasma and apps to the forefront of the Linux world. More on that tomorrow… 🙂

27 thoughts on “2019: the year in review

  1. I’ve missed KDE a lot. Plan on going back once 16.04 support gets sunsetted. The current Ubuntu default desktop just doesn’t cut it for me.

    Is Amarok still even a thing? And K3B. My favorite burning app. lol. I feel so old.

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  2. It was a great year for KDE world! Not so much in the real world for many of our fellow beings in the real world, oppressed by governments, genocided, torn by war – Kashmiris, Assamese and Muslims of India, Palestine, Syria, Rogingyas, Tibet, Hong Kong, and many, many others fighting for their rights. Let’s do and pray, may 2020 bring us a better world. Tyrants shall fall at our hands.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In my country, there’s a famous quotation from one of our founders Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

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  3. This was an awesome year for KDE not because of the development but because of YOU Nate. You are not only keeping us informed but also excited. Plus you act as a liaison between users and the bugs database, which is HUGE. Finally, some order to the giant mess that arouse during the many years: you link us (users) to the relevant bugs reports, so we could contribute, you find duplicates, moderate, act on our (users) behalf to push some fixes and much more! And of course initiatives to improve the Plasma desktop in its many facets.

    It feels like KDE was drowning without you in the bug reports and the whole awesome development was not going through the users, so all users mostly saw was bugs and issues and not the hard work.

    It’s great that KDE finally recognized your work and hired you. You were so needed! THANK YOU! You made KDE to be more awesome!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww shucks, thanks so much for the kind words! I’m so glad that my work is appreciated! 😀 While I will agree with you regarding the importance and impact of promo and user outreach and project management, in truth most of what I do is highlight what was already happening, and advocate for positions that most other KDE developers already agree with. In my opinion, the biggest heroes are the developers who do the heavy lifting of actually creating this amazing software! But yes, it takes all the ingredients to make a tasty pie, not just a few. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I second this.

      I’m always looking forward to a new post of yours and I think this blog became a great hub for all the love and news around KDE software. Also the work you do on the bugtracker and what not… much appreciated!

      THANK YOU a lot, Nate!

      I wish you and the KDE community all the best for 2020!
      Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve heard that Canata’s developer is taking a break for a while, so maybe? That said, there’s definitely room in the world for more than one music player, but I do happen think that Elisa is awesome and that it can become KDE’s next-gen default music player. An advantage is that it has a whole community behind it, not just a single developer. Projects developed by larger communities are so much more durable than projects made by a single passionate developer.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s great to see all the work KDE developers are doing. It’s great to see the additional formats Dolphin is able to preview, but the biggest MISSING one for me is XCF for GIMP files. Files managers used to display thumbs way back, but for some reason, that is no longer the case.

    Keep up the good work

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