This week in KDE: Plasma 5.18 is the release you’ve been waiting for

A ton of features, bugfixes, and and user interfaces have landed for Plasma 18, and a beta release is now available for adventurous types to test out ahead of the release next month.

I think this is the Plasma release that a lot of people have been waiting for. It’s faster, more stable, more beautiful, and more feature-filled than any previous release, and it comes with a Long Term Support guarantee. Nothing is perfect, and we can always do better (and always strive to), but I think Plasma 5.18 is going to hit a sweet spot for a lot of people. Look for it in the next LTS releases of Kubuntu and openSUSE Leap, as well as all the rolling release distros of course.

New Features

Bugfixes & Performance Improvements

User Interface Improvements

How You Can Help

Please test the Plasma 5.18 beta release! You can find out how here. If you find bugs, file them–especially if they are regressions from Plasma 5.17. We want to get as much testing, bug filing, and bugfixing as possible during the one-month beta period so that the official release is as smooth as possible.

More generally, have a look at https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved and find out more ways to help be part of a project that really matters. Each contributor makes a huge difference in KDE; you are not a number or a cog in a machine! You don’t have to already be a programmer, either. I wasn’t when I got started. Try it, you’ll like it! We don’t bite!

Finally, consider making a tax-deductible donation to the KDE e.V. foundation.

This week in KDE: more speed, more features, and a bug massacre

This week should have a little something for everyone. We’ve got bug squashing galore in preparation for Plasma 5.18, substantial speed improvements for wifi connection and Discover launch time, some welcome new features, and the return of an old one–renaming files from the context menu in file dialogs.

New Features

Bugfixes & Performance Improvements

User Interface Improvements

How You Can Help

If you’ve got artistic talent, rev up your digital paintbrushes and try your hand at getting your work seen by millions of Plasma LTS users for years to come in our wallpaper competition: https://community.kde.org/KDE_Visual_Design_Group/Plasma_5.18_Wallpaper_Competition!

More generally, have a look at https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved and find out more ways to help be part of a project that really matters. Each contributor makes a huge difference in KDE; you are not a number or a cog in a machine! You don’t have to already be a programmer, either. I wasn’t when I got started. Try it, you’ll like it! We don’t bite!

Finally, consider making a tax-deductible donation to the KDE e.V. foundation.

This week in KDE: late holiday presents

Most KDE contributors are still recovering from their holiday vacations, but nevertheless the first of my 2020 predictions has been fulfilled: KIO now makes remote locations available to non-KDE apps using FUSE mounts! This brings us to full feature parity with GNOME’s GVFS system and makes it painless to interact with files in remote locations using apps like LibreOffice, Blender, and VLC. Full support will be shipped to users with the Dolphin 20.04 release.

More New Features

Bugfixes & Performance Improvements

User Interface Improvements

How You Can Help

If you’ve got artistic talent, rev up your digital paintbrushes and try your hand at getting your work seen by millions of Plasma LTS users for years to come in our wallpaper competition: https://community.kde.org/KDE_Visual_Design_Group/Plasma_5.18_Wallpaper_Competition!

More generally, have a look at https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved and find out more ways to help be part of a project that really matters. Each contributor makes a huge difference in KDE; you are not a number or a cog in a machine! You don’t have to already be a programmer, either. I wasn’t when I got started. Try it, you’ll like it! We don’t bite!

Finally, consider making a tax-deductible donation to the KDE e.V. foundation.

KDE roadmap for 2020

Yesterday I summarized some of my favorite new features, both big and small, added to KDE’s software catalog in 2019. Today I’d like to talk about the major features and improvements I expect for 2020. Note that this is not an official planning document, it’s just what I anticipate happening and plan to push for and help implement. Without further ado…

Guaranteed

These features are pretty much guaranteed, as they’re almost done or even in the process of landing:

FUSE mounts to better support accessing remote locations in non-KDE apps

Not mounting remote locations has been a longstanding deficiency in the KIO library that does file I/O throughout KDE software. Without this feature, users of non-KDE 3rd-party apps experience frustration when opening large files or streaming videos located on remote locations, when saving changes to those files, and when trying to to File > Save As to make a copy alongside the original.

Throughout much of 2019, a FUSE mount solution has been in development that alleviates these issues! You may have read it about on the blog of Alexander Saoutkin, one of the principal developers working on the feature.

A truly enormous amount of work has already been done, and at this point only a few more bits are needed before we can formally roll it out:

  1. KIO::Open support in KIO-FUSE itself
  2. File truncation support in KIO to support true random-access reading
  3. Adoption of this file truncation support for Samba and SFTP protocols
  4. On-the-fly translation of network URLs into FUSE paths to ensure seamless mounting of accessed network resources

When the patches for these improvements land, we will have full feature parity with the FUSE-based GVFS system that GNOME uses and the mount-based system in macOS! The patches are in progress and I expect them to all land in the next two or three months.

Privilege escalation in KIO and Dolphin

I’ve been promising this for years, talking about how it’s 90% done, then 99%, then 99.9%… you get the idea. I know, I know, I’m the boy who cried wolf at this point! Well, this time we really are on the cusp of victory. There is only a single patch left before we can formally turn it on! Once this happens, you will finally be able to create, move, rename etc. root-owned files in Dolphin without needing to run Dolphin as root or using a hacky extension.

Improved Samba share discovery in Dolphin

We have a patch that implements the WS-DISCOVERY protocol in Dolphin, allowing it to find Windows Samba shares on your local network, which are currently invisible. This has been a longstanding problem, but it’s now finally getting fixed! I expect this patch to land in the next few months, in time for Dolphin’s 20.04 release.

Auto-rotation for tablets, convertibles, and other hardware with rotation sensors

There’s an absolutely enormous patchset that implements this much-awaited feature. More than half of the patches have already landed, so the rest aren’t far behind. I have my doubts that this will make it into Plasma 5.18, but 5.19 is almost certain.

Likely

These features are likely, but not guaranteed:

Implement more of the proposed visual design changes to the Breeze style and KDE apps

The KDE VDG now has an exhaustive plan and sets of mockups for how we’d like to evolve Breeze, Plasma, and KDE apps in the near future: https://phabricator.kde.org/T10891. Check out the dependency graph! Here are some examples:

Pretty hot stuff, huh!?

Bits of it are already getting done. In 2019, we completed a UI overhaul of Plasma and many apps’ configuration windows to use the Form Layout style and a sidebar UI redesign, both of which have been quite well received. And there’s a new SimpleMenu based on VDG mockups in the works, which we hope to replace Kickoff as the default.

I don’t know if everything here will get implemented, but I expect us to push forward with a lot of it!

Better wallpapers in the extra wallpapers repo

A lot of the wallpapers in the plasma-workspace-wallpapers repo (which is optional but installed by default in many KDE distros including Neon, Kubuntu, and Manjaro) are a bit long in the tooth. Thankfully, we have a patch queued up and ready to go that will replace them with modern, beautiful, 4K wallpapers. Unfortunately this patch is blocked by the lack of a wallpaper cache, which means if we replace a wallpaper that someone is currently using, they’ll see a black screen after they upgrade. Not very nice. We’d like to cache the current wallpaper so that this doesn’t happen. I’m hoping we land the cache feature early in 2020 so that the next Plasma release after it can get the improved wallpaper selection.

Moonshot

These features are less likely (bordering on unlikely), but could get in with enough development work!

Per-screen scale factors on X11

There’s a patch implementing this feature that has been rejected thus far because it was not technically correct with the way Qt handled scaling at the time. However Qt 5.14 implements some backend changes that would appear to make this possible. I can’t promise anything but I plan to investigate this to see if it’s something we can do once Plasma depends on Qt 5.14, or if it’s feasible to add the feature earlier than that with a bunch of ifdefconditionals in the code to only turn it on for people using Qt 5.14.

Inertial scrolling throughout Plasma and QML apps

In theory, this is easy-ish. In practice, there are a lot of moving parts. Preliminary work began a few weeks ago, but there’s a lot to do before we can make it all work. It’s on the workboard though!

Power/session controls on the lock screen

This is something needed for Plasma Mobile, and all the Plasma developers agree that it’s fine to have on the desktop too. Development has not yet started, but it might!

What do you think? Seems like a bunch of worthwhile stuff, right? I see these features and improvements as critical for my ultimate goal of making Plasma and KDE apps irresistible for hardware vendors to ship by default (most of them at least; better wallpapers are nice but not critical). I want to make our offerings so good, and for KDE in general to be such a good upstream, that companies trip over each other to put Plasma and KDE apps on their devices! I think ultimately that’s the best way to get our software in front of more users.

If this sounds exciting to you, please feel free to help out–especially for items in the “Likely” and “Moonshot” lists, which are less certain to happen without help. You can help out by testing patches, implementing mockups, hacking on the new features, etc. For more information, visit https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved. It’ll be interesting to check back at the end of 2020 to see how many of these projects have been completed. With your help… hopefully all of them!

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… 🙂

This week in KDE: holiday presents for you!

Though KDE contributors are mostly enjoying a well-deserved rest during the holiday season (hence the late post today, sorry about that), the community’s tireless souls have been laboring anyway to bring you new features and bugfixes anyway! Check ’em out:

New Features

Bugfixes & Performance Improvements

User Interface Improvements

 

How You Can Help

If you’ve got artistic talent, rev up your digital paintbrushes and try your hand at getting your work seen by millions of Plasma LTS users for years to come in our wallpaper competition: https://community.kde.org/KDE_Visual_Design_Group/Plasma_5.18_Wallpaper_Competition!

More generally, have a look at https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved and find out more ways to help be part of a project that really matters. Each contributor makes a huge difference in KDE; you are not a number or a cog in a machine! You don’t have to already be a programmer, either. I wasn’t when I got started. Try it, you’ll like it! We don’t bite!

Finally, consider making a tax-deductible donation to the KDE e.V. foundation.

This week in KDE: it’s gonna be amaaaaaaaaaaazing

Features and polish are coming in hot and heavy for Plasma and KDE apps! But have you heard about KDE’s wallpaper contest for Plasma 5.18? We held one of these for Plasma 5.16 and it resulted in the fantastic “Ice Cold” wallpaper, by Santiago Cézar. Now’s your chance to enter a wallpaper for Plasma 5.18, which is an LTS release, so it will be seen by millions of people for years! There are fabulous prizes by sponsor Tuxedo Computers. Check out the rules here: https://community.kde.org/KDE_Visual_Design_Group/Plasma_5.18_Wallpaper_Competition

New Features

Bugfixes & Performance Improvements

User Interface Improvements

How You Can Help

If you’ve got artistic talent, rev up your digital paintbrushes and try your hand at getting your work seen by millions of Plasma LTS users for years to come in our wallpaper competition: https://community.kde.org/KDE_Visual_Design_Group/Plasma_5.18_Wallpaper_Competition!

More generally, have a look at https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved and find out more ways to help be part of a project that really matters. Each contributor makes a huge difference in KDE; you are not a number or a cog in a machine! You don’t have to already be a programmer, either. I wasn’t when I got started. Try it, you’ll like it! We don’t bite!

Finally, consider making a tax-deductible donation to the KDE e.V. foundation.