The New KDE Plasma 5 Desktop Is Gorgeous — Here’s How To Try It

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For the last couple of years, the only desktop environment that has made any massive changes was Gnome due to its highly controversial switch from the classic Gnome desktop to the Gnome Shell design. However, now KDE has finally made some major changes when creating KDE 5 and has become the latest desktop environment to offer a brand new experience.

Have no fear, however. The change between KDE 4 and KDE 5 isn’t as severe as it was from KDE 3 to KDE 4. Instead, this new major version is all about an aesthetic refresh and a rebase of the whole KDE platform onto the new Qt 5 framework while reorganizing a few things. This should allow the desktop environment to be much more modern, less buggy, and provide a generally smoother experience.

While the KDE Frameworks 5 is considered to be stable, not all things KDE have been modernized. This is why the next wave of distributions such as Fedora 21, Kubuntu 14.10, and such won’t be shipping with it. Instead, it’ll likely come in the distribution releases after that, so it’ll be a while before everyone can enjoy it. Until then, you can use other methods to try out KDE 5 until it’s widely available.

Why Try KDE 5?

First of all, what’s the big deal about KDE 5? While the mechanics and general idea of the desktop remains virtually identical, KDE 5 uses newer technologies and fixes plenty of bugs during the move over to those new technologies. It also gets a face lift in the process, which I must admit is quite refreshing. The facelift is mostly complete, but there are still a few little details that need to be ironed out (such as the icon set).

Quick Tour Of KDE Plasma 5

Taking a quick look around the KDE 5 desktop, you’ll notice that there’s less silver and more flat colors and transparency. Everything is easier on the eyes, and even the little prompts that appear for each tray icon have been redesigned. However, everything else is functionally there and in the same place. The menu still acts the same way, and the system settings work the same way also. Again, the only major difference in all of this is the new look.

The new theme, called “Breeze”, is the new default in KDE 5. I personally love the theme a lot and would use it full-time if I could. For those who don’t like much change and would rather have the KDE 4 on the newer platform can still go back to the Oxygen theme.

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How To Try KDE 5

Interested in trying KDE 5 out? There are a few ways you can accomplish this. The first is the download the latest snapshot ISO from Project Neon, which is simply an Ubuntu-based image that runs the latest build of KDE 5. Project Neon creates a new ISO every week, so it’s a great way to test out the latest progress in the desktop environment. You can easily write it to a USB drive and boot off of it, or you can run it in a virtual machine — it works just as well in there too. I recommend using this method because it lets you try out KDE 5 without messing anything up on your production system.

The other way is to add a Project Neon PPA to your Ubuntu-based installation and install the needed packages by running the command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:neon/ppa && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install project-neon-base project-neon-kdeplasma-addons

Alternatively, you’re supposed to be able to install the project-neon-all package to just install everything related to KDE 5, but I was somehow unable to find it.

You can then log out of your user account, and then log back in and choose the Project Neon desktop instead of your normal desktop environment. This way, you won’t have to download an entire ISO image every time you want to try the latest snapshot of KDE 5, but then you’ll have it directly installed on your system. Of course, you might want this if you’re planning on using KDE 5 as your daily driver, but that’s your own decision. I didn’t tell you to do that. The only other problem that I had with this method is that it didn’t really work quite as well. It showed the KDE 5 loading screen, but after that it just showed the wallpaper and nothing else. I’m not sure if that was just my installation or if there was a bug that may need to be fixed.

Do You Like KDE 5?

There you go — a quick and easy guide to try out KDE 5 in more than one way. I really like the new look of KDE 5 and I’m sad that it’ll still take so long before it is finally adopted by distributions — but I suppose that’s a good thing. By that I mean the anticipation, of course, and not the waiting.

What are your thoughts of KDE 5? Would it make you move from your current desktop environment? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments (39)
  • Lee Berry

    Tried to set up plasma5 over the 4th long weekend and found it a complete waste of time. I’m still using kde4 with old kernels 3.13 & 3.18 I later saw on the boards that their are loads of hard ware issues with USB & video drivers not being “back ported” Logitech drivers are the most problematic. I finally got lots of pretty pictures on the KDE splash-screen but had not mouse or keyboard control. Now dropping to the command line to try and upgrade the kernel to 4.1.1 wish me luck. My firework pictures would look awesome if plasma5 was installed. :-(

  • Alan

    Plasma 5 won’t be ready until my beloved Earth Science Picture of the Day is once again available as a wallpaper.

    …just saying…

  • tekwyzrd

    The new plasma 5 desktop is pathetic. Wasted space and scroll bars in the cascading style app menu, simple widgets like quicklaunch missing, inconsistent and unreliable themes for qt4, qt5, and gtk apps… I could list dozens of ways the new version is inferior to all previous versions. KDE is driven by dev egos. They don’t care what users think and any user that states a conflicting opinion on the kde forums is often berated or censored.

  • kdemeneer

    Hey I found a new qt5 gui theme style that looks very good it is called: kvantum

  • John2000

    Combining the new Oxygen theme and Breeze (in several adaptations already!) made me change my mind about the “flatness”. However I believe that many seek to modify QtCurve, which is possible and want to add different shadows, graduation, transparency etc., and next change fonts and colors. Some guidelines on (relatively easy) “how to change” aspects of the GUI would certainly take away critique. Working with the interface on a KDE 4.9 base for several weeks (without any quirks) I even use DreamDesktop and animated Gif’s as background wallpaper with amazingly little CPU loads. A lot can be done to avoid “a too flat” GUI, which KDE5 appears to present at first when unmodified. We’ll see what KDE5 has in store when released!

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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