Periodically, I like to gush over my operating system and desktop. Since I move back and forth between systems running both of my distributions of choice, Leap and Tumbleweed, I can see how Plasma is advancing as well as see what a static view of it is like over the course of a year or so. For starters, Plasma on Tumbleweed and Leap are both great experiences and nicely polished but the progression of Plasma is very noticeable.
I have previously reviewed the progress of Plasma and my experiences on it. Looking back, the good things continue to be true.
Since the latest and greatest of Plasma is always available to me on Tumbleweed, I get to enjoy the fruits of of the work of so many talented developers and I am very grateful for it. I appreciate the continued progress I see Plasma many of which, as of late, are polishing off rough edges or making general “quality of life” improvements. Although there are a lot of improvements, I am going to highlight a few key features of note and compare it to Plasma 5.18, which is the version on openSUSE Leap 15.2. Why this version of Leap? Because it is easy to do for me, it is an option that many are likely to be using today and I basically live in openSUSE land most of the time.
For another, perhaps better review of 5.21, check out this article by Michael Tunnel on Front Page Linux. I also recommend you read the release announcement here. Both of these articles have some very good information on Wayland that I am not going into.
I haven’t really been a huge fan of the Application Launcher of Plasma for some time. I go with the menu, typically but the new launcher is pretty fantastic. It is much more enjoyable to use. My only real criticism of it is that it isn’t resizable and does require scrolling through the longer lists. I am not a fan of scrolling through my menus.
Although this application launcher is many times superior to the old version. I still prefer my application menu. it’s simpler and I don’t have to scroll through anything to get what I want. I also generally start typing what I want anyway so there is an argument somewhere for not nesting application menus… but that is a debate in of itself.
The new system monitor provides a great visual snapshot of your system’s main vitals that allows you to quickly see your system resource usage. This is a fantastic new overview that was missing in the Plasma desktop world.
The default four pages basically tells you what you would like to know but there is a feature that also allows you to add a page with the information of your choosing. This would be worth playing around with further.
There are just little improvements here and there but the one that is most noticeable is that the window close “X” button is now red instead of white. The color de-saturates just a bit when you hover over it indicating it recognizes and is notifying you of the location of your pointer.
This is a visual tweak that has an affect on usability. Since I do quite a bit of my Linux life on a laptop and I do plug into different screens at different times. I see the display settings very often. The change in the monitor orientation Icon here is a small but very important bit of communication to the user. The icon previously used didn’t really make sense, visually. having an image of a monitor makes so much more sense and makes it far easier to understand, intuitively.
I am a fan of dark themes but I do have to recognize the fact that not everyone is at the same place I am when it comes to how they prefer their desktop appearance. Some people like a lighter theme, especially since some applications, specifically GTK applications, are not properly designed to be usable with the darker color scheme. That encumberement is a whole other discussion and I will leave it there.
The Breeze Twilight is essentially the Breeze Dark Plasma Style with the Breeze Color Scheme. It is a pleasant combination that isn’t too bright and has a nice mixture of darker accents that really makes for a modern looking and feeling desktop.
Since I do know of many people that would prefer the Breeze Twilight desktop appearance, I have sort of replicated it but with the openSUSE green look that I prefer. You can download that color scheme here or from your Plasma SystemSettings. The openSUSE Breeze Dark Plasma Style can be downloaded from here.
What I Like
I like the little enhancements to the desktop. Everything from the new application launcher, the new system monitor and even changing the Window Close button to being red instead of white. Though, I can take or leave the last one. You even have the option to get rid of the circle entirely if you so choose.
In general, the improvements are all nice and an acceptable improvement but at the same time, if you are not happy with what is default, you can very easily change it to whatever you want. Everything from adding the scroll arrows back to reordering the button placement of the window controls. The visual theme addition is just that, an addition. If you like your dark theme or for whatever peculiar reason a light theme, that is up to you as well. If would prefer the hotdog cart inspired theme, you can even build that for yourself. The choice is yours and that is what makes Plasma such a fantastic and personal experience. There is no desktop environment as customizable that can be made as uniquely you as you would like.
I get the very distinct impression that Plasma development has been on the right trajectory and is continuing to accelerate. I love where this is going and I can’t wait to see where this goes in the next release. My guess, better refined and better system resource management and all around a better experience.
What I Don’t Like
The new system monitor is great but the one thing that bothers me is that I can’t just start typing to search once it is launched. It just requires some extra clicking and I don’t particularly care for that. Though, I will say, the enhanced layout is worth that one minor annoyance.
The whole KDE Wallet thing has been a bit of a sore spot for me in getting new users on openSUSE with Plasma. I have had more than one user get annoyed by having to enter passwords multiple times, just to do standard user tasks. This could be cleaned up quite a bit. I am sticking with my general advice to either not enable the wallet subsystem or use the classic blowfish with no password. I really think, once you are in your desktop, you should not have to enter a password again just to connect to a wireless network. It is just NOT a good user experience.
This is a nitpick and I am sure that there will be security minded folks that are now screaming awful things at me and this part of my blathering, and you may be right.
The Plasma desktop is, by far, the best desktop experience on any operating system I have ever used. Sure, some desktops may have some features that are not on Plasma that are indeed better but all the features in aggregate are just better in Plasma. The memory usage footprint is generally light on resources but has the capability of being heavy on features. Plasma is forward leaning but not so forward leaning it leaves anyone out. It is truly a personal desktop for anyone. I would say that there are some usability features that need to be enhanced to make new users more comfortable but once that initial bump is traversed, it is pretty much smooth sailing. At least, that is my experience with the last few bunches of people that have giving it a whirl and continue to use it today.
Plasma on Tumbleweed continues to be a fantastic experience and I may even say, the best Plasma experience on Linux today. Others are good, but something about the speed and reliability I enjoy on Tumbleweed with the theme integration bits already activated makes for an experience that is not rivaled on other distributions. The care that is taken to making sure all the underpinnings are just right for your experience does not go unnoticed.
If you are considering trying out the latest Plasma and like to hop around and try new distributions of Linux, give openSUSE Tumbleweed a spin with the KDE Plasma desktop. Not only do you get a great Plasma desktop but you also get the fantastically reliable openSUSE infrastructure keeping you continually rolling forward.