Testing Plasma Active

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 12, 2011

Yesterday when I introduced Plasma Active, I secretly thought to myself "oh no, so it's begun." See, I have this underlying fear that KDE is going to go the way of GNOME 3 and Unity and finding the removal of user choice in upcoming KDE software compilations sowed the seeds. Despite my biased first impressions, I booted the live ISO provided by open-six.

open-six used openSUSE as the basis for it's live CD. It was a bit slow to boot, but truthfully, I didn't really expect it to finish. Afterall, the list of known working devices is short and I was booting on my regular desktop machine with NVIDIA graphics and two monitors. Well, it did finish booting and it even started the Plasma Active desktop. (The desktop was cloned across the two monitors - which is really best-case scenario without proprietary graphic drivers.)

And darn it all, I really hate to admit this... but my first word, my first thought was, "Wow!" This Plasma Active thing might really be cool on a little netbook or tablet.

The default desktop opens with a shaded cover that is actually a desktop lock. You can drag that away to unlock and reveal these "plasma strips" that are for KDE widgets. One is an RSS feeds list and another is a weather widget. Clicking on a feed title opens the article or post in Firefox - one might expect Konqueror. You can drag the strips with your mouse cursor as a whole to reveal any additional strips that didn't fit on the display. You can add more widget strips by clicking the "plus sign" at the end of widget strips. On each strip is a configuration icon that can be clicked on to reveal another configuration icon and a quit icons. If you drag the original configuration icon to the newly spawned configuration icon that opens the configuration dialog for that particular widget. Using the handle at the bottom of the screen will drag the whole strip containment out of sight to reveal an almost normal appearing desktop.

The sorta normal desktop has a panel at the top with a removable devices icon, notification icon, Kmix, Klipper, bluetooth, network manager, battery monitor, and clock. Kmix and Klipper were hidden behind the window box at first; a bug I suppose. Left clicking the panel enlarges it making the applets useful. Clicking it again returns it to the small unobtrusive default. Right clicking on the panel brings the familiar add widgets dialog. I suppose all sorts of applets could be added to it.

Underneath that is a launchbar with Konqueror, Settings, and Dolphin icons. On the desktop itself is a search box that could be used to find files and applications. Beneath that is a main menu and clicking any category brings up the menu of applications. There's no way to back out of it except to open a program. But once choosing an application to launch, it reverts back to the main menu categories. There is a good selection of applications included in this live image. All applications open fullscreen, but the resize button has thankfully been preserved.

There's all kinds of handy little things already. One is that little box of windows up on the panel at the left. If you click off an application you're using, it disappears. Or if you minimize an application, it disappears. Oh no, where did it go? Well, click on that little box of windows and a preview of all your applications will appear on the desktop for you to chose by clicking.

Alt-F2 will bring up Krunner, but when you click into the textarea a little keyboard will appear at the bottom of the screen. At the right is another little handle. This one opens another menu of Activities. Multimedia, New Activity, and Web are listed there, and that changes the group of strips. There is a Help file provided, but details are still sketchy right now.

That's about it so far. At this early point some operations aren't as smooth as I'm sure they'll be someday. But for a proof-of-concept pre-alpha release, I was surprised at the functionity already. One can tell it really is geared toward devices with touchscreens, but I have to admit, it's fairly neato. I just wish I had a gadget to install it on.