Those of you who read me here at Linux Addicts will have noticed that, although I move more than Willy Fog with a bus pass, I usually opt for operating systems that rely on the KDE desktop. I like it because it is light, customizable and its applications are full of functions. I also liked it 7-8 years ago, but KDE 4, at least on my Lenovo which now works perfectly with Plasma 5, kept showing errors. Now we have access a Plasma 6 Beta 1, and it seems that history is not going to repeat itself.
I have read in the blogosphere that the jump from v5 to v6 of Plasma will not be as big as the jump from v4 to v5, and to be honest it is something I don't know. I didn't spend enough time in KDE 4 to notice the changes when I started using Kubuntu 19.04. I can assure you that by then failures were no longer part of my daily life, and here I am. I have recently been spending time using Plasma 6 Beta on Kde neon and it seems more stable to me than KDE 4, which left me with that bittersweet feeling.
Plasma 6 Beta is "usable"
KDE's Nate Graham wrote an article a while ago saying that Plasma 6 could already be used, and he did it months ago, when they were still in Alfa (or not even that). Many of the problems he encountered, he said, were in third-party applications. Months later anyone can verify that what he said is true. If you are not used to KDE neon, or if you start with a fresh installation, many of the problems you will encounter will be related to the operating system and its philosophy or to starting without things to our liking. Of course, if we have touched up something because it was not working well after installing 0, starting over we will run into the same problem.
The jump from v4 to v5 had to be huge to say that the jump from v5 to v6 will not be as pronounced. As he commented, if this is true KDE he had to change practically everything, something that, having seen what he saw, did not hurt him. Using Plasma 6 Beta one Yes, you notice changes, and not a few.. But the truth is that yes, to a large extent, it seems that we are facing something that could be Plasma 5.30, that is, there are changes, many improvements, but nothing that could not have been achieved in a year or 3 more versions.
The change in number is not due to the number of improvements
The change in number is not due to the amount of improvements. The one who takes the lead in this is Qt Company. KDE uses its libraries for the interface of its software, among other things, and usually numbers its desktop and Frameworks based on the version of Qt they are using. Currently, the most recent stable versions are Plasma 5.27.9 and Frameworks 5.112.0, and the version of Qt that is present in most Linux distributions is 5.15.x. Everything is fives, and soon everything will be sixes.
But there are changes, and some are very noticeable. The most prominent is one that is not seen, not in the sense of noticing shapes or better designs. It is the step to use Wayland default. I've been using it for months in Plasma 5, and right now I only have one complaint: there are applications, like GNOME Boxes or any of my own in Python that use Qt, that show the Wayland logo in the bottom panel and not the application logo . There are also problems with software like GIMP, which, being based on GTK2, I've even had to unpin it from the bottom panel so that there aren't two icons when I open the program. It is a delight to make gestures on the touch panel, so we move on to another of the most notable new features of Plasma 6.
In Plasma 5, the General View… is not very general. And the gesture to reach her is not the best either. There are three different gestures:
- 4 fingers up will show all windows and desktops (grid view). It is functional, but not very aesthetic.
- 4 fingers down show all windows. That's fine, and it's what I use to find whatever window is on whatever desktop it is on. But together with everything else it is redundant.
- By making the close gesture with 4 fingers you enter what would be the newest overview. The problem is that not all the desktops are visible and it could improve.
These improvements will arrive in February and can now be tested in Plasma 6 Beta. KDE is not ashamed to say that they have relied on others to improve their software, and although in this case they have not said that they have relied on GNOME, the General View of the next version of their desktop is somewhat reminiscent of the desktop they use Ubuntu or Fedora in their main editions.
The previous image is the one that appears if we only have a virtual desktop. But seeing the thumbnail with rounded edges already makes us think a little about GNOME. If we add a desktop, it will appear on the right.
The gestures will be simplified, and with four fingers up we will see this general view and, at this point, with four fingers up again we will see the grid view. GNOME also has 2 points of 4 fingers up, but the exact behavior depends on the distribution, whether it is more faithful to GNOME or its own philosophy.
Plasma 6 beta: what is not seen, but felt
It must also be kept in mind that there are changes that are not seen, but felt. It is the way I have chosen to refer to those small visual tweaks that are actually visible, but not as much as those in the General View. Many of these improvements are related to Qt6, and what we are going to feel is something similar to what GNOME users feel when moving from an application in GTK3 to one that goes up to GTK4.
In addition, KDE has also been responsible for making changes to the interface to improve consistency, and will do more so that in February we have something reliable. It already seems so in Plasma 6 Beta, it will be more so in three months and even more so when the different Linux distributions adopt it. In February KDE neon will use it and a few others, especially if they are Rolling Release.
The future of KDE is promising. New features, better productivity and more visual appeal. Let's hope nothing goes wrong.
If you are interested in getting a taste of what the future holds, it is best to go to the KDE neon download page, download the Unstable ISO and use it in a Live Session; It is not recommended on virtual machines.