This week in KDE: Better Samba sharing and remembered window positions

This week I implemented a much-requested feature: KDE apps now remember their main window positions when closed and re-launched! They even remember their positions (and soon their sizes too) on a per-screen-arrangement basis.

However, there are two important caveats here:

  1. Right now this only affects QWidgets-based KDE apps, and only their main windows.
  2. This feature only works on X11.

These limitations will be improved upon over time. On X11, QML-based apps and auxiliary non-dialog windows in QWidgets-based apps will get ported to use it over time. And on Wayland, an even better implementation is in progress that remembers positions for all windows at the window manager level–KDE and non-KDE apps alike! That’s some good stuff. The X11-only version that I already landed will show up in Frameworks 5.74, while the work-in-progress Wayland version will land in a Plasma release once it’s finished. Likely Plasma 5.21, but maybe 5.20 if we’re really lucky. 🙂

But wait, there’s more…

Other New Features

When you try to create a Samba share but there is no appropriate Samba user configured, you’re now warned of this and prompted to fix it, rather than share creation just failing silently (Harald Sitter, Dolphin 20.12.0)

Implemented the Wayland input-method-unstable-v1 protocol, which opens the door for proper virtual keyboard support on Plasma Mobile, among other benefits! (Aleix Pol Gonzalez, Plasma 5.20)

Bugfixes & Performance Improvements

Clicking on the title of the currently-playing song in Elisa once again takes you to the “Now Playing” view (Stef Lep, Elisa 20.12.0)

Fixed a bug that could cause KDE apps to fail to launch under certain circumstances (Harald Sitter, Frameworks 5.74)

Fixed a crash in System Settings when installing new items using a “Get New [Thing]” dialog (Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen, Frameworks 5.74)

Lyrics metadata for audio files encoded over 20 years ago on a pre-OS-X mac OS version are now displayed correctly throughout KDE software making use of the KFileMetadata framework, such as Dolphin and Elisa (me: Nate Graham, Frameworks 5.74)

Fixed a crash in KRunner when there is no Firefox profile (Fabian Vogt, Plasma 5.20)

User Interface Improvements

Kamoso’s folder picker dialog no longer has blurry pixelated icons when using a fractional scale factor (Matej Mrenica, Kamoso 20.08.1)

The Samba Sharing dialog now displays a warning if you try to configure a share such a way that it would be mostly broken (Harald Sitter, Dolphin 20.12.0)

The Device Notifier applet now displays a combobox in the main UI that lets you choose what it displays: only removable devices, only non-removable devices, or all devices (me: Nate Graham, Plasma 5.20)

Discover’s “Add Source” dialog now opens with the text field focused by default (me: Nate Graham, Plasma 5.20)

When switching virtual desktops using the Desktop cube Effect, any windows pinned to all desktops now float above the cube by default (me: Nate Graham, Plasma 5.20)

The options available for desktop icons sizes now follow a more regular progression; there’s no longer such a big difference between the two biggest sizes, nor such a small difference between the two smallest sizes (me: Nate Graham and Manuel Jesús de la Fuente, Plasma 5.20)

Discover’s “Task Progress” sheet now closes automatically if it’s still open when the last task completes (me: Nate Graham, Plasma 5.20)

There is no longer an unnecessary horizontal scrollbar in Okular’s settings window or the Power Management settings window (David Hurka, Frameworks 5.74)

The Global Menu applet’s menus now have adequate visual padding (Noah Davis, Frameworks 5.74)

How You Can Help

Have a look at https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved to discover ways to 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: Highlight changed settings and much much more

This week a big new feature landed for Plasma 5.20: the System Settings app now has the ability to optionally highlight any settings you’ve changed from their default states! This required a ton of engineering throughout the stack which will pay many dividends down the road. For example, it opens the door to a global “reset to defaults” button now that all of the pages know what their default states actually are and take into account distro default settings, rather than always using KDE upstream defaults. Big thanks to Kevin Ottens, Benjamin Port, and Cyril Rossi, who made this happen.

But that’s not all we have for you this week; in fact, there’s a gigantic amount more:

New Features

Konsole now has an option in the Profile > Appearance tab to display a vertical line at a user-specified position (defaulting to 80 characters) which can help you when typing text that should be manually line-wrapped (Tomaz Canabrava, Konsole 20.12.0)

The System Settings Autostart page has been rewritten from scratch and now features a much better user interface (Nicolas Fella, Plasma 5.20)

The System Settings “Global Shortcuts” and “Standard Shortcuts” pages have been merged into one, which is now called “Shortcuts” (David Redondo, Plasma 5.20)

The medium-term plan is to obsolete or collapse the “Custom Shortcuts” page into this one as well so that we will finally have only one “Shortcuts” page and we won’t need a group to hold multiple shortcuts pages

The Battery & Brightness applet now shows a quick link to the Energy Information page (me: Nate Graham, Plasma 5.20)

Added a small command-line utility program that can be used to inhibit screen locking, power off, etc. For example: kde-inhibit --screensaver --power sleep 100 (David Edmundson, Plasma 5.20)

Bugfixes & Performance Improvements

Okular’s document bookmarks feature now works even when a document is opened via a symbolic link (Okular 1.12)

Dolphin now notices and updates the view when files are added or removed from a Samba share (Harald Sitter, Dolphin 20.12)

Pasting a file on the desktop when a folder is selected now pastes it into that folder, as expected (Grégoire Duvauchelle, Plasma 5.20)

The arrow keys now work for navigation through the default task switcher (Igor Grkavac, Plasma 5.20)

When executing commands with KRunner, prefixing the commands with environment variables now works as expected (Alexander Lohnau, Plasma 5.20)

On Discover’s settings page, the “Add Flathub” button only appears when the Flathub repo isn’t already there (Aleix Pol Gonzalez, Plasma 5.20)

Kate and other KTextEditor-based apps are now up to 40% faster to open large files (Tomaz Canabrava, Frameworks 5.74)

When you connect to a Google account using the System Settings Online Accounts page, the dialog that asks you which features of the account to access is now readable when using a dark theme (Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen, Frameworks 5.74)

ToolButtons using the older PlasmaComponents2 UI library are once again displayed at the correct size (Noah Davis, Frameworks 5.74)

The Get New [Thing] dialogs no longer erroneously always show the first item as selected when using Icons view (Alexander Lohnau, Frameworks 5.74)

User Interface Improvements

When attempting to create a Samba share, any errors encountered during the process are now displayed so you can troubleshoot the issue (Harald Sitter, Dolphin 20.12)

Spectacle now lets you take a screenshot on Wayland without needing to click first to confirm it (Méven Car, Spectacle 20.12)

Elisa now has an option (off by default) to immediately resume playback on launch. The last playback position is still always remembered of course (Stef Lep, Elisa 20.12)

In Elisa, the “previous track” action now returns to the beginning of the current track the first time you hit it and only goes to the previous track if the current track’s playback is within the first two seconds, just like how most other music players do it (Step Lef, Elisa 20.12)

The print queue window now makes the “Hold” and “Resume” actions mutually exclusive so only one is visible at a time (Jan Paul Batrina, Print Manager 20.12)

Toolbar buttons with text which display drop-down menus when clicked now display little arrows next to the text so you can tell this (Arjen Hiemstra, Plasma 5.20)

The Kickoff Application Launcher now uses a standard-looking background area for its header area (Carl Schwan, Plasma 5.20)

Pinning an app to Kicker or Kickoff no longer subsequently closes it (Alexander Lohnau, Plasma 5.20)

The System Settings Cursors page now uses the “pending deletion” paradigm used in other grid view pages, rather than showing you a “confirm deletion?” dialog box (David Redondo, Plasma 5.20)

The Energy settings page accessible from the Battery & Brightness applet no longer has an unnecessary scrollbar (Alexander Lohnau, Plasma 5.20)

Un-connected Bluetooth devices in the Bluetooth applet no longer show a pointless “disconnected” emblem in the corner because they’re already grouped in a separate section (me: Nate Graham, Plasma 5.20)

Centered notification pop-ups are now a little less wide. They’re still wider than they were in Plasma 5.18 and before, but not quite as wide as they were in Plasma 5.19, which was considered just too wide. Man, the word “wide” is a strange word. Don’t you agree? (Riccardo Robecchi, Plasma 5.20)

Header text for pages in System Settings is now always the same size no matter if the page’s user interface was written in QML or QWidgets (Ismael Asensio, Frameworks 5.74)

Creating a new file or folder with spaces in the name no longer briefly shows an annoying message warning you that the name ends with a space every time you type the space between words; instead, it simply automatically removes all trailing spaces (me: Nate Graham, Frameworks 5.74)

ToolButtons throughout Plasma that currently retain focus when clicked on no longer do so, mirroring the behavior seen with ToolButtons in apps written with QWidgets or QML with the desktop style (David Redondo, Frameworks 5.74)

Removed the superfluous “Details…” button on the tile items for the Get New [Thing] dialogs because clicking on the tile itself already did the same thing (Alexander Lohnau, Frameworks 5.74)

How You Can Help

Have a look at https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved to discover ways to 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: window thumbnails on Wayland

This week we got tons and tons of stuff done, including window thumbnails on Wayland! This much-awaited feature brings our Wayland session ever closer to parity with the X11 session. But wait, there’s more:

New Features

Konsole now lets you configure how dark inactive terminals become when using the “darken inactive terminals” feature (Tomaz Canabrava, Konsole 20.12.0)

Task Manager window thumbnails now work on Wayland! (Aleix Pol Gonzalez, Plasma 5.20)

Discover can now be used to perform updates of content downloaded through the Get New Stuff dialogs (Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen, Plasma 5.20)

Plasma applets now feature an “About” page in their settings windows (David Redondo, Plasma 5.20)

Kate and other KTextEditor-based apps now show a zoom indicator in the status bar when the current zoom level is not 100% (Jan Paul Batrina, Frameworks 5.74)

Bugfixes & Performance Improvements

Opening an audio file from the filesystem in Elisa from Dolphin or KRunner or another app now works (Matthieu Gallien, Elisa 20.08.0)

Switching screens while in Okular’s Presentation Mode now works (David Hurka, Okular 20.08.0)

Fixed a case where KWin could crash when logging out of a Wayland session (Andrey Butirsky, Plasma 5.20)

In a Plasma Wayland session, XWayland no longer brings down the whole session when it crashes; it just restarts normally (Vlad Zahorodniy, Plasma 5.20)

Changing the list of active KRunner plugins now takes effect immediately rather than requiring KRunner to be restarted (Alexander Lohnau, Plasma 5.20)

The Search widget now respects the current list of active KRunner plugins (Alexander Lohnau, Plasma 5.20)

The mouse cursor no longer sometimes gets stuck when using screen rotation on Wayland (Aleix Pol Gonzalez, Plasma 5.20)

Edge swipe gestures and showing a hidden panel by tapping the screen edge now work on Wayland (Xaver Hugl, Plasma 5.20)

Adding a new network interface no longer messes up the display in the Networks system monitor (David Edmundson, Plasma 5.20)

Changing the systemwide scale factor now invalidates the Plasma SVG cache, causing SVG-based user interface elements throughout Plasma to be re-drawn with the correct scale, which should fix a wide variety of minor graphical glitches seen after changing the scale factor (David Edmundson, Frameworks 5.74)

The Baloo file indexer now skips files that repeatedly fail to index rather than repeatedly trying to re-index them anyway and failing in a loop that trashes your CPU (Stefan Brüns, Frameworks 5.74),

User Interface Improvements

When applying a tag to a file in Dolphin, if the tags menu only had one item in it, it now automatically closes after applying the tag (Ismael Asensio, Dolphin 20.08.0)

The current date is now shown in the Digital Clock applet by default (Claudius Ellsel, Plasma 5.20)

Animation speeds throughout the Breeze Widgets and Decoration themes now respect the global animation speed (Martin Sandsmark and Marco Martin, Plasma 5.20)

It’s now possible to do multiplication in KRunner using “x” as the multiplication operator, not just “*” (Alexander Lohnau, Plasma 5.20)

KRunner now shows tooltips for entries that don’t entirely fit, so you now have a way to read the dictionary text (Alexander Lohnau, Plasma 5.20)

And yes, multi-line output is coming soon as well 🙂

Minimizing a window no longer puts it at the very end of the Task Switcher; it now moves to the next position and there is no special handling (me: Nate Graham, Plasma 5.20)

Made various fixes and improvements to the Breeze GTK theme: Sidebars in GTK Assistant are now readable, floating status bars are no longer transparent, the window shadow now matches that of KDE apps, and pop-up shadows now look nicer (Carson Black, Plasma 5.20)

The Get New [Thing] Windows now display more appropriate icons for their Update and Uninstall actions (me: Nate Graham, Frameworks 5.74)

How You Can Help

Have a look at https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved to discover ways to 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.

The structure of KDE, or how anarchy sometimes works

KDE is a funny beast. In a lot of ways, it’s an anarchic society that actually works!

Engineers and designers work on KDE software and websites, but none of them are paid by KDE itself. Most are volunteers but some (myself included) are paid by 3rd-party companies. These people work on what they want or what they are sponsored by their company to work on, not what anyone in KDE tells them to work on.

KDE has a board of directors, but they are elected by KDE’s membership rather than stockholders (there is no stock lol), and they do not control KDE’s strategic direction as in a corporation. Rather, they mostly take care of financial and legal matters, sort out copyright claims, help to organize the yearly Akademy conference, and so on.

There is no formal “upper management” or even “middle management” layer. We have the “gardening team” whose members are in essence volunteer managers, but we mostly do things like triaging bugs, following up on stuck merge requests, performing QA on unreleased software, and so on. We support the people doing the work, rather than telling them what to do.


So how does anything get done around here?!

Well, just because KDE is an anarchy, does not mean that there is no organization and coordination! It’s just all done on a voluntary basis, with slightly unusual motivation techniques. Anarchy is not the absence of governance and decision-making, it’s just different from how it’s typically done.

In a corporation, managers motivate their employees by offering them them money, benefits, bonuses, promotions, and internal social perks. Bad work or bad behavior is punished by reprimands, demotion, or being fired.

But in KDE, most people are unpaid volunteers, so KDE has no financial leverage over them. Those who are paid are hired by 3rd-parties rather than KDE itself. Neither the carrot nor the stick will work!

Instead, motivation within KDE uses the currency of excitement. When a project is cool and its contributors publicly demonstrate its coolness and their enthusiasm for it, other people want to join in and help out! This turns out to be a very effective way to motivate free people to work on something: you make them feel like they want to be a part of something big and special, and you organize the discussion in a way that makes them feel like they can be included.

KDE’s design team (the VDG group) does a lot of this, constantly churning out astonishingly beautiful mockups and organizing discussions about important topics. People gravitate to the VDG’s proposals because they seem cool and there’s buzz and excitement surrounding it. The promo team works to generate that buzz and excitement. Other teams do similar things. You have to keep people excited and happy or else they will drift away.


This leads to an important point: you have to minimize negativity! For most people, conflict destroys energy and motivation. Internal arguments and politics need to be minimized and driven towards a consensus rather than simmering forever. Even if you have to bend a bit and give up some of what you want, that’s a better option than getting nothing because everyone is burned out by endless arguing. And new contributors in particular must be treated with kindness, given the benefit of the doubt, and made to feel welcome.

Similarly, if you’re a user who’s frustrated with the lack of progress on something you care about, insulting the developers or KDE itself in the bug report is the worst thing you could do: it will damage the motivation of the people in a position to do the work, reducing the chance that you will get what you want. Gently pinging people without negativity is the way to go–or even better, work on it yourself! Like all FOSS projects, KDE encourages self service. 🙂

In essence, KDE’s little anarchic digital utopia works because we all voluntarily agree to treat each other with respect and kindness and become stakeholders in the project, and this greases the wheels of all the work we do. Somehow, it all manages to work!

This week in KDE: better handling for grouped tasks in the Task Manager

This week we got a big improvement in how the Task Manager handles grouped tasks: by default, it activates the last-used task and then cycles through other tasks if you continue to click on it. There are also some more welcome improvements for the “Get New [Thing]” system, as well as a nice smattering of miscellany. Take a look:

New Features

MP4 video files now show the embedded cover art image when it’s available and previews are enabled (Heiko Schaefer, Dolphin 20.12.0)

The Task Manager now defaults to cycling through child tasks when clicking on a grouped task, and always display the most-recently-used one when switching to a task from an app that’s different from the current one. All of this may sound awfully complicated, but hopefully it’s exactly what you wanted it to do all along. 🙂 (me: Nate Graham, Plasma 5.20):

Discover now shows updates for add-ons installed via the “Get New [Thing]” windows (Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen, Plasma 5.20)

The System Settings Accessibility page is now available on Wayland (Michael Weghorn, Plasma 5.20)

Bugfixes & Performance Improvements

Fixed a weird bug in Elisa whereby the backgrounds of volume and track progress sliders were drawn in the wrong places (me: Nate Graham, Elisa 20.08.0)

Elisa’s album art displays are no longer downscaled and pixelated for albums where the art is integrated into the music files themselves (Matthieu Gallien, Elisa 20.08.0)

Fixed the “Windows can cover” panel setting on Wayland (Xaver Hugl, Plasma 5.20)

Fixed a few visual glitches that can appear when downloading items using the Get New [Thing] dialogs (Dan Leinir Turthra Jensen, Frameworks 5.73)

User Interface Improvements

Using Konsole’s --new tab argument now brings the existing instance into focus as well (Martin Rys, Konsole 20.08.0)

When opening a file from a Flatpak app like Dolphin and there is no locally-installed application that can handle it, the app now directs you to Discover and filters the list of apps shown by MIME Type, so only relevant options are displayed (Harald Sitter, Plasma 5.20)

More of the built-in entries in the System Settings Global Shortcuts page now have sensible icons (David Redondo, Plasma 5.20):

The file overwrite dialog now tells you when the two files are actually identical (Méven Car, Frameworks 5.73)

How You Can Help

If you are an experienced developer who would like to make a gigantic impact very quickly, fix some recent Plasma regressions or longstanding bugs. Everyone will love you forever! No really. Sometimes people will mail you beer and everything. It’s happened before!

Beyond that, have a look at https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved to discover 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.

PSA: try turning on WebRenderer in Firefox

This is a new rendering backend for Firefox that’s not yet on by default. Presumably there are some edge cases where it makes things worse or causes some instability, but so far I have not experienced anything bad. On the contrary, without it, I and some other people get terrible flickering in Firefox on Wayland. With it enabled, not only is the flickering gone, but scrolling performance becomes buttery smooth and CPU usage decreases noticeably on both Wayland and X11, resulting in increased battery life! Win-win-win.

To turn it on, visit the about:config page in Firefox, search for “gfx.webrender.all”, and set it to true. That’s all there is to it!

This week in KDE: screencasting and shared clipboard on Wayland

This week has seen more fixes and improvements to the Get New Stuff system, as well as speeding up Discover. But they may be overshadowed by Major Enormous Exciting Amazing new Wayland features such as screencasting and Klipper/shared clipboard support!

Oh and two Ryzen-powered KDE Slimbook laptops were released! I wrote a review of the 15.6″ model here. It’s really good.

New Features

Screen recording and screencasting now works on Wayland for compatible applications (e.g. OBS Studio and more to come) (Aleix Pol Gonzalez, Plasma 5.20)

Klipper now uses the Wayland clipboard and works as you would expect in a Wayland session (David Edmundson, Plasma 5.20)

The Task Manager and Icons-Only Task Manager now offer you options for what visualization you want to see when clicking on a grouped task: window thumbnails in tooltips, the Present Windows effect, or a textual list (me: Nate Graham, Plasma 5.20)

There isn’t yet an option to bring forward all windows for the grouped task, but this is coming too!

Bugfixes & Performance Improvements

Spectacle’s --output option now works again (Nazar Kalinowski, Spectacle 20.12.0)

Discover is now radically faster to present a usable user interface after being launched, especially on openSUSE distros (Aleix Pol Gonzalez, Plasma 5.20)

The last-used keyboard layout is now remembered on Wayland (Andrey Butirsky, Plasma 5.20)

On a rotatable device, maximized windows now remain maximized when the device is rotated (Aleix Pol Gonzalez, Plasma 5.20)

The OK and Cancel buttons in the network hotspot dialog no longer overlap the password field (Rijul Gulati, Plasma 5.20)

Fixed the inline button display for Tiles view in the Get New [Thing] dialog (Alexander Lohnau, Frameworks 5.73)

The first entry in the Get New [Thing] dialog is no longer always misleadingly selected (Alexander Lohnau, Frameworks 5.73)

It’s now possible to delete an entry that’s upgradeable in the Get New [Thing] dialog (Alexander Lohnau, Frameworks 5.73)

The old QWidgets-based Get New [Thing] dialog now lets you choose which thing to install when a thing lists multiple installable things in its thing (so you can thing while you thing) (Alexander Lohnau, Frameworks 5.73)

The old QWidgets-based Get New [Thing] dialog no longer changes the width of the main view after you start searching for something (Alexander Lohnau, Frameworks 5.73)

User Interface Improvements

Spectacle no longer includes the mouse cursor in screenshots by default (Antonio Prcela, Spectacle 20.08.0)

KInfoCenter no longer shows useless “Defaults” “Reset” and “Apply” buttons at the bottom of the window (David Redondo, Plasma 5.20)

Line and bar charts used in system monitor widgets now display grid lines and Y axis labels (David Redondo, Plasma 5.20)

The “Add Widgets” sidebar has been subtly improved with a third column and a better top layout for the controls (Carson Black, Plasma 5.20)

Dolphin’s context menus now locates the extra actions to open other applications in the base level of the context menu rather than a sub-menu, so long as there are three of them or less (me: Nate Graham, Frameworks 5.73):

Wow, this menu is getting pretty huge; I guess we should do something about that next

How You Can Help

If you are an experienced developer who would like to make a gigantic impact very quickly, fix some recent Plasma regressions or longstanding bugs. Everyone will love you forever! No really. Sometimes people will mail you beer and everything. It’s happened before!

Beyond that, have a look at https://community.kde.org/Get_Involved to discover 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.

The superfast Ryzen-powered KDE Slimbook

I’ve had the privilege of testing and using the brand-new 15.6″ Ryzen-powered KDE Slimbook laptop for the past month. During that time, I worked with the Slimbook developers to perform QA and polish Plasma for this laptop. They’re awesome people who hosted our Plasma+Usability & Productivity Sprint last year at their offices. I’d like to share my impressions of their latest laptop.

Full disclosure: this laptop was sent to me for free for testing and development, so I have no financial skin in the game. They haven’t asked for it back yet, but I plan to either send it back, or purchase it, if I want to keep it. My configuration retails for 930€ (roughly $1,075), which is a steal for what you get. Regardless, what follows is what I believe to be an honest, unbiased review.

Performance and battery life

Here’s what I know you’re all waiting to hear about, so I’ll just start with it: performance with the 8-core/16-thread Ryzen 4800H CPU is unbelievable!

I can compile KWin in five minutes, compared to over 11 with my top-of-the-line Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga with a 10th generation Intel i7 processor. Everything feels smooth and fast. The power of this machine is awesome, and the Ryzen CPU makes it heaven for people who need to perform processor-heavy tasks on a regular basis.

Despite this, case temperatures remain cool and the fan remains off when the machine is not under heavy load. The thermal management is excellent–far better than on my ThinkPad.

Additionally, battery life is amazing. The machine idles at around 3 watts and goes up to only about 7 or 8 with average tasks that don’t involve compiling KWin. 🙂 Because of this and the positively enormous 92 watt-hour battery in the 15.6″ model, I get about 12 hours or more of real-world, actual usage battery life.

OMG WTF

This level of battery life is just incredible. I’m honestly jealous, as my ThinkPad gets barely 4 hours with average use and never appreciably cools down. In practice, it means that I can work with the Slimbook from any room in my house without having to worry about where the cord is, while with my ThinkPad, I’m always tethered to the nearest plug and it’s always toasting my lap. The Slimbook is a clear winner for travel, obviously. There’s no compromise between power, battery life, and cool temperatures. It’s pretty impressive, really.

Case and ports

The KDE Slimbook’s understated magnesium case is lovely. Medium silver is my favorite case material/color as it strikes an excellent balance between not showing fingerprints and not showing dirt.

The whole machine is incredibly thin and light for a 15.6″ screen laptop: 17mm (0.67 inches) thick and weighing exactly 1.5kg (3.3 pounds). Despite this, it is nice and rigid, without much flex. It definitely feels durable enough to throw in a backpack and travel the world with.

I generally prefer small and light laptops and for this reason I usually go with 13.3″ and 14″ laptops–but the 15.6″ KDE Slimbook is actually barely larger: it fits into the same compartment in my travel backback that I slot my 14″ ThinkPad into.

The lid opens with one hand–no need to hold down the bottom. This is a nice touch.

The case has a good assortment of ports, including two goodies that are becoming increasingly rare on thin-and-light laptops: full-sized ethernet and HDMI ports! In addition you get 3 USB-A ports, one USB-C port, a MicroSD card reader, and obviously a headphone/microphone combo jack. The laptop supports WiFi6. It includes a fairly hefty 90-watt power adapter with a right-angle barrel jack plug which weights 0.49 kg, but the USB-C port supports charging just as you would expect.

Here’s what it looks like under the hood:

Access is super easy. You just remove nine philips head screws and then the bottom cover pops right off.

The RAM, wifi card, and SSD are all upgradable. My unit came with a single 8GB RAM stick in single-channel mode. I asked the SlimBook folks about this and they said that the 8GB configuration ships in single-channel mode like this, but all other configuration options (16GB, 32GB, and 64GB) will include two sticks and support dual-channel mode.

Despite the enormous battery, there is clearly room for an even bigger one if some of the internal components were rejiggered a bit. There’s a big empty space to the left of the right-most fan that’s just empty right now. Obviously you wouldn’t want to put a battery right next to the heat pipes, but potentially the speakers could be moved closer to the top of the case and made upwards-firing, which would leave enough room at the bottom of the case for the battery to be even wider.

Display

Overall the laptop’s screen is perfectly nice.

It’s a 1080p 15.6″ (197mm) matte non-touch panel with 100% sRGB coverage, the combination of which results in everything looking roughly the right size on screen. However I find myself wishing it were a 4K panel. The pixels are a bit big for my tastes and double the pixel density on a screen of this size would make everything so much more sharp and crisp looking, especially text. This would of course reduce the battery life a bit, but the machine’s cavernous 92 watt-hour battery would surely be able to handle it. I personally would be willing to go down to only 7-10 hours of battery life in exchange for a higher resolution screen, and I wish it were at least an option.

There is no visible ghosting, and the refresh rate is just fine.

The maximum brightness level is fine for indoor use, but a bit dim for outdoor use. It’s usable, but not as nice as if it got about 100 nits brighter, as my ThinkPad’s screen does.

Colors look good, but they do feel a little bit washed out and de-saturated to me, and the black level is not as dark as I would prefer. This is a function of the display surface being matte rather than glossy, and it’s why I personally prefer glossy screens. Yes, you get more reflections and glare with a glossy screen, but in exchange you get richer colors and darker blacks, and glare can be offset with a brighter backlight. Now, if you’re a fan of matte screens, obviously, this is all a feature, not a bug. 🙂 However those of you who are willing to accept the trade-off of glossy screens are out of luck, as the laptop only comes with a matte screen.

There is no option for touch or 2-in-1 functionality, which should not be a problem as a 15.6″ touch laptop is kind of a silly idea in the first place.

Keyboard

Text and symbols on the final keyboard will be using the Noto Sans font, breeze icons for the function keys, and the Plasma logo for the Meta key! My unit did not have this yet, but the final shipping units will.

The keyboard is a bit of a mixed bag from my perspective.

The keys themselves have a satisfying feel and bottom out firmly. However the activation force could be a bit higher for my tastes, and the larger-than-average keys initially caused me to accidentally press adjacent keys more often that usual. I got used to it eventually though. Overall, the typing experience is pretty good, but not amazing–at least when compared to a ThinkPad keyboard! Keep in mind that I’m a keyboard snob who spends most of the day typing, so the KDE Slimbook’s keyboard would probably it would be considered excellent by most people. It’s certainly leagues better than those horrible low-travel “maglev” or “magic” keyboards plaguing certain high end laptops.

However the keyboard does have a real drawback: the fact that the keys themselves are silver with dark gray text. This makes the text a bit difficult to read under dim-but-not-dark lighting conditions. Black keys with white text would be far superior, and in fact the older KDE Slimbook laptop already had this setup! This version should do the same, so I find it a bit odd that it does not. Unfortunately the keyboard backlighting is dim and uneven, and often makes things worse:

I generally keep the keyboard backlight off except in very dark conditions where it actually helps. In comparison, the text on my ThinkPad’s keys are more visible, and the backlighting is more useful in more lighting conditions.

In the end it’s not a huge deal as my old HP Spectre was afflicted with the same problem and I lived with it for four years. Still, higher contrast would be better.

On the plus side, the keyboard layout is very good. You don’t have any bizarre departures from normalcy like putting the PrintScreen key between Alt and Ctrl and the Fn key in the bottom-left corner as on ThinkPads, or replacing the right Ctrl key with a fingerprint reader in in newer HP laptops. There’s none of that nonsense here! You get a conventional layout with a few real improvements, like the inverted T arrangement of the arrow keys, rather than having smooshed up and down arrow keys. And I really like the a column on the right side of the keyboard with Home, End, PageUp, and PageDown keys:

Having the Home and End keys close to the arrow keys makes efficient text processing a snap, and it’s easy to hit Ctrl+PageUp/PageDown with one hand for fast tab navigation. This is present on the 15.6″ model that I have, but not the 14″ model. It would be nice to have it on that one, too.

Unfortunately, the function keys are annoying. They behave as F keys (F1, F2, F3, etc.) when pressed; to access the secondary functionality, you have to hold down the Fn key in the corner, which makes it irritating to do things like quickly adjust the volume or the brightness. I wish these features were triggered by default without having to hold down the Fn key, which is how most laptops seem to have it set up these days, or at least they offer it with a function lock feature. Unfortunately there is no option for this with the KDE Slimbook.

Additionally, a minor annoyance concerns how to toggle keyboard backlight: there is one key to increase the keyboard backlight’s brightness, and another to decrease it (there are two brightness levels). This is unnecessary fiddly, and I wish there was a single brightness level and a single function key that toggled the keyboard backlight on and off, or cycled through the modes if there have to be multiple brightness levels.

As one final nitpick, I would prefer play/pause, back, and forward media keys, and a microphone mute key. However the lack of these is a pretty minor thing as it’s easy enough to assign them yourself them in the System Settings Global Shortcuts page.

Oh and one more really final thing, this time just for Americans: a US American layout is offered, complete with wide Enter and Shift keys. My unit has an ISO English keyboard layout, so that’s what the photos depict, but a US American layout is available. Not to worry. 🙂

Touchpad

The touchpad is serviceable. Usable. But not amazing.

The physical feel is fine–not wonderful, but fine. It doesn’t have a glass surface, but the plastic surface is smooth, not rough, and will probably become smoother over time. So that’s good. However there is a small amount of play in the touchpad such that you can press it down a tiny bit and hear a low but audible click without it actually clicking. By contrast the touchpad on my Thinkpad is rock-solid, and does not move or emit any sound until you click it.

Tracking is fine, but the resolution could be a bit higher to make cursor movement feel smoother.

Overall there is room for improvement, but it’s not terrible. It’s notably not as good as my ThinkPad’s touchpad, but it’s usable. In practice I suspect that only very picky people or those who have used Apple hardware will be disappointed, while people who have only ever used typical crappy PC laptop touchpads and think all touchpads are terrible will just plug in a mouse like they always do. 🙂

Speakers

The KDE Slimbook’s speakers are surprisingly good. I was honestly not expecting much from them as they are just two small downward-pointing stereo speakers, but they produce good sound with a high maximum volume and even a bit of bass. At the high end, the sound becomes a bit tinny, but they are just laptop speakers, after all. 🙂 Listening to music on the SlimBook is pleasant and enjoyable overall. A very good showing in my opinion.

Camera

The KDE SlimBook’s camera is also surprisingly good! Its picture quality is adequate and the responsiveness is excellent. This is a welcome change from the camera in my ThinkPad, which is visibly laggy. Maybe this is a driver issue, but the SlimBook’s camera is just better to use.

Software integration

The KDE Slimbook ships with KDE Neon as the operating system, which runs like a top. Boot is very fast; pressing-power-button-to-login-screen is about 11 seconds. Everything works just like you would expect. The hardware’s features are all fully supported out of the box–except for the infrared facial recognition camera which we in KDE haven’t managed to add support for yet. So boo us! It’s an omission we’re hoping to address in the future. One final thing is that the volume up/down keys on my unit send double events, so pressing them increases or decreases the volume by 20%, not 10%. This is a firmware bug that the Slimbook folks are tracking down and hopefully it should be fixed soon. In the meantime, you can change the volume step value to 5% in the Audio Volume applet.

Otherwise the hardware-software integration Just Works™, exactly as it should.

In conclusion

There are very few compromises with the KDE Slimbook. You get a thin, light, rigid, and durable laptop with a nice screen, a powerful CPU, and crazy battery life. It’s nice to type on and its speakers sound good. The price is reasonable, starting at 930 € (roughly $1,075) for the 8GB RAM 250GB SSD configuration.

I have no reservations recommending this laptop. You should buy it. Heck, I feel like I should have bought it!

In some ways, this is the machine I should have gotten instead of the ThinkPad X1 Yoga I wound up with–had it been available a few months ago! It’s better than my former HP Spectre x360 laptop in virtually every way, and a straightforward upgrade. Had I not gone with the ThinkPad, I never would have been spoiled by the pleasures of a 4K screen and the amazing ThinkPad keyboard. True, it doesn’t have a touchscreen, but I could have kept my old laptop for testing touch support.

Verdict

The good:

  • Outrageously amazing performance
  • Incredible battery life
  • Runs cool and quiet
  • Keyboard has a sensible layout
  • Speakers are surprisingly good
  • Built-in camera is surprisingly good
  • Case is very thin and light despite large screen size; super portable
  • Includes full-sized HDMI and ethernet ports and WiFi 6
  • Very attractive machine overall
  • Great integration with KDE Plasma

The okay:

  • Screen is fine, but I would prefer at least an option for a brighter glossy 4K screen
  • Keyboard is fine but I would prefer smaller keys and firmer activation force
  • Touchpad is fine but the physical feel and resolution could be improved

The bad:

  • Keyboard keys are silver with dark gray lettering, so text is hard to distinguish in many lighting conditions, and backlighting often makes things worse
  • Function keys’ secondary functionality is annoying to access

But as you can see, those negatives are pretty minor in the scheme of things–mostly just little annoyances, nothing dealbreaking. It is an amazing computer overall. So what are you waiting for?! Go buy one!