Plasma 5 with long-term support


Plasma 5.8 finally puts an end to the problems that existed in earlier Plasma versions with controlling multiple monitors. The same applies to the use of projectors or docking stations. On the software side, Plasma now uses Spectacle instead of KSnapshot for creating screenshots (Figure 2). Plasma Discover, a tool for targeted searches for applications, has been newly developed in line with the specifications of the Kirigami framework (Figure 3).

Figure 2: Spectacle has replaced KSnapshot as the screenshot application.
Figure 3: Muon Discover provides structured information about available applications.

A few improvements to the Save dialog in Spectacle would be helpful: The dialog does not include the Places display in Dolphin and requires several mouse clicks more to access frequently used storage locations.

Major upheavals unnoticed by users have been taking place under the Plasma hood for some time now. These changes mainly concern the KWin window manager, which the developers have been preparing for the new Wayland display manager [6]. For example, the KDE window manager under Wayland already supports all the common features found in X11.


The KDE developers are still working on bringing the full KDE4 functionality to Plasma 5.X, but a quick look at KDE developer Sebastian Kügler's plans [7] reveals that, for example, the global menus are set to return in a contemporary form as early as January 2017 with Plasma 5.9. This change will mean that application menus will appear outside of the application window, as in Ubuntu's Unity: at the top of the screen or in the system tray.

Additionally, just three Plasma releases per year are planned for the next two years. The developers hope for a better balance between development work and stabilization phases between the releases. Plasma 5.9 is set for release January 31, 2017, and the next LTS version is scheduled for August 2018 in Plasma 5.14. The next LTS version will correspond with another LTS version of the underlying Qt framework, which is planned for the summer of 2018.


KDE still faces one problem: The PIM suite Kontact and KMail have fallen even further behind the general development and are still fraught with many errors. Back in KDE4 days, two new technologies were introduced to KDE that caused many problems for Kontact and KMail: the Nepomuk semantic desktop and the Akonadi datastore, which provide PIM applications such as email and calendar programs access to uniformly managed data and metadata. Nepomuk has now been tamed by the new index and search framework Baloo, but Akonadi is still having problems, displaying complexity that does not fit well with the ambitions of an intuitive PIM suite.

Gnome and KDE have shifted increasingly away from each other in recent years, with Gnome becoming more simplified, leaving out tried and trusted features of the past. The fifth generation of KDE continues to polish its claim of being configurable throughout, but usable with the defaults. KDE has sacrificed nothing of this vaunted configurability in Plasma 5. On the other hand, the default configuration meets most requirements, without confusing or missing too much.

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