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

Danny Stieben 27-08-2014

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 GNOME 3 Beta - Welcome To Your New Linux Desktop Read More . 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.


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 Linux Live USB Creator: Easily Boot Linux From Your Flash Drive Read More and boot off of it How to Change the Boot Order on Your PC (So You Can Boot From USB) Learn how to change the boot order of your computer. It's important for troubleshooting issues and tweaking settings, and it's a lot easier than you think. Read More , or you can run it in a virtual machine What Is a Virtual Machine? Everything You Need to Know Virtual machines allow you to run other operating systems on your current computer. Here's what you should know about them. Read More — 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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  1. Tech Man
    March 12, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    The link for the ISO image gives me an error 404 page.

    Does anyone have a fixed link?

  2. Uwe Dippel
    December 12, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    I *have* tried it, if you call that trying: I was on a later Plasma 4, kubuntu, perfect. Since the support won't run forever, I thought of giving Plasma 5, kubuntu 16.04, a shot.
    I shot my feet.
    Wow, eye candy-wise it is great. But the rest? What used to work properly, doesn't any longer. Yes, even the eye candy ... In Plasma 4 the panel icons were 2 classes better, more realistic, than what comes in Plasma 5. There, they look pixeled, a tad like Win 3.1 . If need be, I can demonstrate some examples.
    Activities are largely dismantled, I had used the notebook Plasma on my 24" with a lot of pleasure. It is gone. There are plenty of bugs in Plasma 5 that didn't exist in Plasma 4.
    Yes, lousy regressions. And the developers talk about Plasma 6.

    In the end, even the good-willing people, like my self, will run away, against my conviction. But after 15+ years on KDE, no need to break things and repair the same things all the time, to make the things break again, over and over.

  3. Anna Summers
    October 18, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    It would. I still use XP and I want my next move to be to Linux, but the desktops have always been garish to me - I don't think I could stand to look at them for long. KDE 5 is the first Linux desktop that I have found attractive and pleasant. When will this be available in Kubuntu?


  4. Rodrigo
    April 9, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Beautiful, but buggy.

    • anon
      November 11, 2017 at 4:16 pm

      It is beautiful just like my freshly painted white wall.
      My dad wanted to put a Rembrant picture on it, but i asked him not to ruin my "gorgeous" wall.

  5. Anonymous
    July 6, 2015 at 12:14 am

    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. :-(

  6. Alan
    May 1, 2015 at 7:13 pm

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

    ...just saying...

  7. tekwyzrd
    April 22, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    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.

  8. kdemeneer
    April 11, 2015 at 1:12 pm

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

  9. John2000
    March 23, 2015 at 5:57 am

    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!

  10. John
    March 16, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Why haven't they solve the font integration?... Linux Mint nailed it years ago!
    Firefox looks ugly under KDE 5.

  11. joeboe
    January 24, 2015 at 1:27 am

    breeze is just ugly - and I hope oxygen will be full available, also for Plasma themself

    • Jack
      January 25, 2015 at 11:36 am

      I agree. I hate the flatness GUI like Breeze or the similar one in Microsoft products like Windows 10 or Office 13.

  12. mutley dastardly
    December 23, 2014 at 9:32 am

    It's a common mistake that gui designers copy from other designers.
    Firefox had the good ole ibm-SAA menu - why did everything change to the user-unfriendly right? (Google started it, Microsoft followed and Firefox meant it had to make the same mistake).
    Stop immitating the mistakes from Apple and Microsoft - be yourself, stay yourself. If i want the look&feel from Apple i'll buy an iOS or OS-X machine - if i want windows i'll pay for it.
    I have a major dislike for startup-screens, i want to be in full control - so cut the crap - give me a good gui, a fast gui, and a gui that supports what is needed. Don't need 3D, don't need nice icons - and give me the old start-menu. I don't want to click, click, click, click and click to run one app.
    With every new OS-version with every new gui there's more that i need to turn off to be productive. Keep things simple - those that like the bells and whistles will find the specific gui's. I never ever putted 3D on my screen - i don't even use backgrounds. And i don't like what the devels are trying to do with the scroll-bar.
    It's due to the fact J.Ive changed the apple style - we all need to change habits? It wastes expensive resources that could 've been spent exterminating bugs.

    • Geek
      March 12, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      Xfce is fast, light and configurable, so use Arch + Xfce.

    • Geek
      April 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Or just use KDE 5 with Application Menu, not Application Launcher.

  13. Chris
    December 10, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    KDE Plasma 5 is so terribly ugly. The icons just dull recognition and poorly depict the associated action. It's lifeless, flat, dull, non-productive, impractical. The sad thing was previously they had an amazing icon set.

  14. kdemeneertje
    November 18, 2014 at 7:31 am

    the desktop breeze look is ok at first but then you will notice that the actual qt5 breeze theme in your programs looks horrible simple and dated almost as ugly as the simplest gtk theme .it has no gradiants !!and every thing is HUGE and with huge i mean it looks like it's meant for touch screens or something. changing font size does not change this enough. This is exactly what i do not want! it is a huge step back from oxygen. What were they thinking?

  15. mikkle
    October 24, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    I just tried out 14.10 final Tech Preview (Plasma 5) and find the new Breeze theme pretty ugly. I was surprised. It looks better in screenshots. The oxygen font is HORRIBLE. But even after changing that out, I had to change the widget theme and decoration to Oxygen. Unfortunately this makes a lot of apps look weird, like Kate and Dolphin. I have no idea what's going on with theming in Plasma 5. The icons are also not my favorite.

    I do like the animations and improved translucency though. Plasma widgets looks better too. I think it has a long way to go aesthetically, though.

  16. Dimitrios T
    September 29, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Love it. Will try it for sure.

  17. Debasish Patra
    September 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Great work KDE guys, breeze is awesome. And I like flat design by the way...
    This is coming from a long time xfce and gnome user. I never liked that bloat and metallish color in kde. Breeze looks beautiful in my arch. :-)

  18. Steve Wright
    September 3, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    I just get -

    Package project-neon-kdeplasma-addons is not available, but is referred to by another package.
    This may mean that the package is missing, has been obsoleted, or
    is only available from another source

    E: Package 'project-neon-kdeplasma-addons' has no installation candidate

    When I try to install?

  19. Dinika
    August 30, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    I don't understand what all the hate is about. The design is soothing and cool for the eyes. It's nothing too showy or very high-end. I like it.

    • Danny S
      August 31, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      I guess it's not everyone's taste. I really like it though.

  20. Jeannie
    August 29, 2014 at 7:44 am

    My first impression was: It's a flat design catastrophy, the color choice of the new beeze theme is awful, ( standard light blue/lightgray, I have hated that already since windows 98 days), the symbolic icons are boringly ugly andwhen I tried it in project neon I thought: Is this windows 7.5 for tablets?
    The problem with teh first impression is that it will create some kind of opinipn in the user that is extremely hard to change.
    Sorry, KDE, your team of 'professional designers' has spoilt it, cause it imitates all the awful, dumb, uncreative UI elements that are trendy.
    Breeze ha got teh connotation of something fresh, relaxing, but this is neither fresh nor relaxing, it's just another ugly example of flat design combined with boring colors and symbolic icons, things people design when they are not creative but copy from androiosxphone 8.x UIs.

  21. Tim Vels
    August 29, 2014 at 3:58 am

    Looks cool to me, will wait for it to come on the next release of Mint :)

  22. Bob
    August 29, 2014 at 3:43 am

    Still like Mint 17 Qiana with Cinnamon. It looks good and it just plain works. That is IMHO. But KDE 5 (Plasma) is not bad.

    • Danny S
      August 31, 2014 at 8:23 pm

      I can definitely understand that. I'm using LM17 with Cinnamon as my daily driver right now. I did opt to use the Numix theme, however.

  23. Frosch P
    August 28, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    The KDE Plasma 5 is just 'okay'... as some of the other commenters have noted it's too 'flat'. I prefer the Mate desktop. However, to each his/her own... whatever suits your computing environment is best!

  24. DonGateley
    August 28, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Way too "flat." I'll be so glad when that stupid fad dies and we get back to creative graphics. It's been pushed on us by the OS folks to lower the barrier to entry for apps to move more of their product. It levels the playing ground for developers 'cause anybody can design a flat UI. No taste or creativity required. They've killed graphic design (and the associated cost of graphics designers) within user interfaces and the ability for apps to distinguish themselves based on visual aesthetics.

    The wheel will turn.

    • Vernon O
      August 30, 2014 at 8:31 am

      Hey DonGateley,

      I see your point, but I think the reason for a majority of people going to different desktop environments because of windows and mac's resource-demanding esque. So I think this why they are going from a more... "Simplistic" design :)

    • David
      August 30, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      Well, the whole point of flat design is that it puts content and information, instead of the interface, front and center as the focus of an application. Also, with far less bevels and textures, application UI elements have a much smaller footprint, so less to load, download, cache, etc. This trend started when we had smaller screens to push apps to, and when skeumorphism ceased to be relevant.

      I welcome the change. There's not much point in a user interface having texture.

    • Danny S
      August 31, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      I have to agree that I do enjoy the flat designs because they are simplistic and don't make the screen too busy.

  25. bshah
    August 28, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Great article but, it is not named as KDE 5 but Plasma 5.. If you willl correct it, it'll be awesome.. Thank you! :)

  26. jymm
    August 28, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I have found KDE to be cumbersome and bloated. If KDE can change that I will give it a try. I was a Gnome user, but hate the new Gnome. I am using Mate now, but also find Cinnamon good. I admit to being traditional on my desktop choice. Why change what works?

    • Danny S
      August 31, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      That's very true! If something works well for you, there's no need to switch. However, it doesn't hurt to check other things out to see if they'll work better than your current solution.

      I do think that KDE is getting a little less bloated with this rewrite, but I suppose we'll find out for sure once distros start offering it.

    • Dann
      November 30, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      Your opinion is valid, but the "KDE is bloated/slow" argument is a bit unfounded I find.

      Some distros don't do it justice of course, but it is blazing fast for me. If you mean memory usage, then yes, KDE uses more to enable it to be responsive.
      I can boot up to a KDE desktop in 7-8 seconds w/ SSD on Gentoo and things are fairly instantaneous. For the functionality you get, you can't go wrong with KDE.
      My 2 cents.

  27. miri
    August 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    I find it very ugly.

    • Danny S
      August 31, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      What do you not like about it? I've always been curious whenever someone says they don't like KDE.

    • Dann
      November 30, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      I am an adamant user of KDE; the only thing I don't like about the screenshots is the Flat look. OS X Mavericks did it and I think it's a step backwards. Win8 also went more flat and lessened dependence on Aero, which increases the ugly factor. As you mentioned though, it's just a theme change.

    • Craig
      April 7, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      On the other hand, I've always found KDE to be pretty repulsive: it's the text field padding and the way everything's spaced, I think...

      But I really like the feel of Breeze, it's tipped the scale for me and I'll be switching to Kubuntu 15.04.

  28. Edward K
    August 27, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Its so gorgeous

  29. Mario
    August 27, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    You have an error in the comand line, it should be:

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

    • Danny S
      August 31, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      Whoops! Silly typo. I'll get it fixed right away.