I can’t help but think how the Plasma team seems to have an incredible sense of momentum behind the project. Every update has been nothing but smiles and happy dances. At the time of writing, I am using 5.18.1 which rolled down recently and although you can read all the cool new features from the horses mouth here, I’m going to tell you all the things that make my experience just a bit better.
GTK Theme Integration
First and foremost, the GTK theme integration is tremendously improved. Really, this is a little thing but many of the GTK applications just look better now. Specifically, Gnome-Recipes and Virtmanager have a nicer look about it. Some applications don’t seem to look quite right, like Audacity and Firefox are only pulling some of the correct colors but over all, it is an improvement. From what I can tell. If the application is GTK3, it looks right. If it is GTK2, not quite as right.
From what I can tell, the color information is being pulled from the Plasma theme. The GTK2 theme doesn’t seem to do the same but I am sure it is a work in progress.
It should also be noted that the shadows underneath GTK applications match the rest of Plasma. It is a very subtle thing, really and not that big of a deal to not have but overall, this does look a lot better.
Gnome recipes is still lacking on the button preferences I would rather have at the top but this is better, overall than it was. Some applications, like Virtmanager look as though they are like any other Qt based application. It should be noted that there are some color issues with Firefox and Audacity. The accent color does not match the rest of my desktop.
The Night Color controller, which was given to us in Plasma 5.17, now has an icon that is in the system tray. Version 5.16 and before, I was using Redshift, which was well enough but having something a bit more integrated into the system is preferred. The only issue was that there wasn’t a tray indicator and occasionally, there would be issues with Redshift, nothing horrific, I would just have to toggle it or the “GeoClue” service would runaway and have to be killed. Night Color doesn’t seem to have any bugs but was introduced without a tray icon or indicator. Now there is a nicely sized icon in the tray that allows for quick activation / deactivation and access to the configuration options. Not that you are going to adjust it but a quick click on the icon and it will return the temperature to the cooler default when you disable it. Truthfully, I seem to much prefer the warmer look of the screen these days.
I have a couple low specification machines and what impresses me is how the memory resources have further been reduced. This is completely colloquial and should not be taken as absolute for all cases as I have read more than once that Plasma will take advantage of extra memory when available. Regardless, Plasma, on my low-spec multimedia machine not hovers at about 370 MiB of RAM but doesn’t go beyond 420 MiB on a machine with 4 GiB (well… 3.8 GiB after being gobbled up by the GPU). It should also be noted that after many hours of use, there was not perceivable memory leak or weirdness. Not that one would expect it today, but I do think it’s worth noting and nice to see that there do not seem to be any issues.
A feature that is touted that looks cool in the pictures but not so useful in my setup is the emoji picker. I think my issue is that I am running with a dark theme and the icons being chosen are just as you see but it would be nice if it had the more traditional, multi colored emojis. Truthfully, I don’t use emojis much at all but on those rare instances, I would much prefer to have something more… colorful.
I don’t know if I care enough to even file a bug report or feature request.
Default Audio Device
If you are like me, and I hope not, you have multiple audio devices you connect and disconnect at any time. I have become quite the fan of using Bluetooth devices on Linux as it works very reliably. What is nice is the ability to tell Plasma that when it sees a device, to make that one the default and switch to it when connected.
In my case, I have a Bluetooth headset that when it connects, I want it to be the default device so that when I press the volume up/down keys on my laptop, the headset is what adjusts volume, not some other device. This works 100% of the time, so far.
With every release of Plasma, I have been quite pleased and happy to get the latest and greatest that they have to offer. I truly believe that this is how software updates should be. The steady progress of better performance, feature refinements and improved memory usage has made using Plasma a continual joy. I do admit, these are small refinements and tweaks, but that is a welcome method of introducing changes. There is nothing radical or earth shattering in Plasma 5.18, just refinements.
I very much welcome these improvements and look forward to the next round. Personally, I am hoping for further refinements to the GTK integration. Currently, I am quite pleased with the changes that were made for client side decorations. I am also hoping that this course of performance and resource utilization improvements continue. I do realize that it is likely “we” are bumping up against realistic limits but I do recall a time when Plasma 4 could run quite nicely on a machine with 512 MiB of RAM, so… that’s something.
If you haven’t tried Plasma in a while, 5.18 is not likely to disappoint. Running Plasma on openSUSE Tumbleweed is a great experience, not necessarily for the defaults as they closely follow upstream and a dark theme should be default. I haven’t had any of the glitching or strange behavior that Plasma has been known for in the distance past, Plasma runs great on 14 year old hardware as well as modern hardware. Most important to me, none of the changes in 5.18 are irritating. Sure, that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement but for me, there is no greater statement that can be said about a desktop as the changes are not irritating.
There are some Linux distributions that have a wide audience and there are others that focus in on a specific customer or user. If I were asked to describe who I think ElementaryOS is targeting, I would certainly say, not me. The reason being, ElementaryOS goes for a particular look and they have a specific design for how they intend that you use the interface. Straying from the interface guideline is not recommended. I reviewed this distribution as a part of the BigDaddyLinux Live Challenge.
This is my biased review as an openSUSE Tumbleweed, Plasma Desktop user that values shaping his environment to suit his needs. Bottom Line Up Front, ElementaryOS has a clear design intent with a goal on user experience. It is a principled project that has a vision of what a human to machine interface should be and how applications should also interact and present information to the user. These guidelines, however clean they may be, are not to my liking. Although I do appreciate the work and the stubborn adherence to an ideal it does not agree with me. I prefer an interface that I can make my own and shape to my needs as they change. ElementaryOS is far too rigid and the lack of system tray makes it a non-starter and a lack of minimize button makes it annoying. There is not dark theme (but it is coming) and no option for double-click. It is almost as if Qt based applications were not even a secondary or tertiary consideration so applications that I must use are encumbered. All that said, this is me, I would never steer you away from trying ElementaryOS. I have my requirements and they may not be the same as yours.
I installed ElementaryOS in VM and on actual hardware. Most of my time was on actual hardware but I also wanted to test it in VM so for the demonstration of a simple installation. If you want anything more complex, I will not be the one to demonstrate it. What I will tell you is that setting up is… elementary.
When you start the media, you are given two options, right out of the gate. I appreciate that you can “try or buy” it and not have to start a mandatory live session. Your next task is to set the keyboard layout.
Next you are requested your preference on downloading updates and to install third party repositories. I select both because I prefer having my system up to date and third party repositories generally pull in all that multimedia goodness required for a “full-featured” desktop experience.
Quite nicely, you are given a “sanity check” before beginning the installation process. It tells you the consequences of your actions. For this VM installation, not a big deal but putting it on the test hardware, this is more important as I am not interested in blowing away the data on my home partition that moves from distro to distro.
Next will be your user preference and from what I can determine, no root preference. Though, it is typical in Ubuntu land to rely exclusively on the “sudo” for any root level actions. Both ways have their positives and negatives.
The installation process continues, surprisingly without any of the typical distribution specific propaganda. Once complete, you are asked to remove the media and and press any key to restart the system. This process is pretty quick, but of course, your results are dependent on your hardware performance.
That’s all there is to it. It’s really very easy and I will refrain from making another “Elementary” joke.
First Run and Impressions
There was much hype around the login screen, so I was expecting something pretty spectacular. I guess, I was, yet again a victim of they hype-train as I didn’t really see anything particularly exciting about the login screen.
I know that each user tile is representational of the user’s session and maybe that is really cool for some but I didn’t see the grand appeal. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the unique touch but it doesn’t exactly do anything for me. I’ll chalk that up to me just not getting it… whatever “it” is.
In order to get going with Elementary, I decided to install my needed applications. Installing Telegram, I was greeted with a warning about this application being “non-curated” and may give you problems. Specifically, that it may not receive bug fix or feature updates and may access or change system or personal files without permission. When actually running it, the version was out of date as well which was a bit annoying.
I am going to try to stay open minded here but this warning just seems a bit over the top. The whole reason for open source software is that the code can be audited by the community and if there are issues, it would be taken care of and the idea of having software in official repositories of these distributions is in a way an honor and usually go through some kind of vetting process. At least, on openSUSE they do and I can look at the change log and see who has last touched it. I tend to trust members of the [openSUSE] community anyway. If I were more involved with the Ubuntu world, I would tend to trust that community in the same way so I sort of feel like this is a bit insulting.
It should also be noted that due to the lack of dark theme in Elementary, my dark theme preference in Telegram looks a bit odd juxtaposed to the light Elementary OS theme. It should also be noted that this version is far behind too at 1.2.17. Not sure if that is due to it being on an Ubuntu LTS or not. It works so I can’t complain much.
Multiple screens on Elementary works pretty well. No complaints there. I am grateful that the second screen doesn’t get the top bar as well as the the dock along the bottom.
Obviously, the screens are of different size and resolution.
I do appreciate that the firewall configuration tool is available by default. It is, however, disappointing that it is not activated by default. I do realize that makes it less friendly to configure network devices for normal users but I’d rather the complaint be concerning lack of ease in connecting to things as opposed to your machine getting compromised.
In my time of using Elementary to do some of the tasks I set out to do, I needed to download and use an AppImage of xlights. This was my first practical usage of the file manager. To make the file executable, it was as easy as a right-click and setting the permissions. Tho, the file name font excessively large for the size of the dialogue box so it looked a bit rough.
The lack of double-click made for some other usability issues. I inadvertently launched more than one instance of xlights. I also want to note that unlike Plasma, I didn’t get an automatic option to launch from the menu (or krunner) after launching xlights once in Elementary. Not really a big deal, but it is yet another reason why Plasma makes life very convenient. Elementary also didn’t give me an easy way to add a menu entry either, so that was unfortunate. Really, there wasn’t any way to, by default, add this AppImage in a convenient manner to my desktop, outside of navigating to it each time.
I found it rather disappointing that I was not able to change the single-click to double-click in Elementary. There is an option to change the double-click speed but not to actually employ double-click. No idea about this discrepancy but none the less, this is not what I would call a positive in the usability experience.
I was very happy about the ease of adding a network printer to ElementaryOS. It was an incredibly easy and straight forward process.
To prevent from dragging this on too long, I will only mention a few other things. Installation of another browser, outside of Epiphany is a must. I, of course, went with Firefox. The main reason, I was unable to stream media from my local Emby server or Netflix. I didn’t look into the reasoning for its difficulty with multimedia but it’s there.
The process of using Flatpaks on Elementary was also less than ideal, from my perspective. The “sideload” process was not my favorite. I wish it was more like other distros but instead it is a very age-old Windows style of downloading and installer and running it. I can see that it can be easier for some users but I would prefer just using the terminal or even Discover on Plasma.
This process does work but the application didn’t appear in the Applications menu until after I restarted the user session. That is also an unfortunate user experience hit but it isn’t the end of the world either. Just another little papercut.
It should also be noted that I did have some issues getting Syncthing to work but once I was able to get it to connect once, the first time, it was smooth sailing from there. Adding Syncthing to the Start up process was as easy as searching for “Start Up” in the Applications Menu and adding the entry.
The biggest usability hit that basically makes ElementaryOS… not usable… for me is the lack of a system tray. I have heard the reasons for not having one but I think they are all rubbish. Is it a potentially dated method? Perhaps but I happen to really like the system tray. It is such a fantastic place to keep track of the applications running in the background. The lack of system tray on Elementary makes using Discord less than stellar, combine that with the lack of minimize button makes using some applications unenjoyable.
Although I didn’t really address it, a nice feature of ElementaryOS is the “Do Not Disturb” feature. If you are doing something, like, say, live streaming, recording audio or perhaps in a meeting giving a presentation, it’s nice to have a “do not disturb” feature to just shut off the notifications. That is well done.
The App Center gives this great ability to pay for applications to support developers. I am glad that ElementaryOS has pioneered this sort of business model and I hope that this will propagate outside of just the ElementaryOS ecosystem. The ability to easy contribute to an open source project is a fantastic thing.
The simple, almost pre-school like interface. Now, I just ragged on the interface for a bit but I do want to say that this interface is incredibly simple and easy to get along with for those that just don’t need the controls.
It is often touted that ElementaryOS is the nicest looking or highest polished desktop. I can see why people say that but I don’t agree with that statement at all. There are far too many paper-cut issues that negatively affect usability of the system. It’s the little things like lack of double-click, lack of system tray, lack of menu editing function, menu entries not automatically populating from Snaps and Flapak unless you restart the session, AppImages you launch are not remembered as a recent application and with the lack of menu editing functionality, combined with the inability to add links to applications on your desktop just makes it frustrating.
I will say, there could be a way to fix all these things but that requires doing some digging and seeing how other people fixed ElementaryOS to make it more functional. You can install MenuLibre or AppEditor. Here is an article on how to fix this.
Firefox not installed by default, Epiphany does not have feature parity with Firefox. I know that Epiphany fits the look better but it is just a subpar web browser. Many distros will install Firefox by default and that would be preferred. The main issue I had was my inability stream video content on Epiphany from Emby server. This is quite surprising because every feature reduced browser I use can stream video content.
The dock doesn’t display additional windows when there is more than one of the same application. For instance, if you have more than one full screen window open, like Firefox, a click on the dock button opens all the instances up. In order to select which instance, you have to right-click and select it. Plasma has a far more sensible tool that allows you to select the appropriate. Another option would be some kind of hover pop up that would show you your options. Essentially, the dock is very lacking so I don’t care for it.
Lack of minimize button is somewhat aggravating. Sure, I can click on the dock button but that time to search for the appropriate icon is far slower than just clicking the minimize button on the corner of the window. Super+H is a good alternative but that keystroke does take my hands off of the mouse, which again slows me down. Alt+Tab is an incredibly linear way of getting to other applications. It wouldn’t clutter the window at all to add the feature.
Flatpak setup is not what I would consider ideal. The workflow to download a .flatpakref and “sideload” is fine but it would be nice if they just had the Flathub activated by a flick of a switch. I see that it WORKS but it is just more frustrating to use than not. It could be a me problem but I have seen better solutions implemented elsewhere. I will concede that if this is the better way to do it I still don’t like that the Flatpak for Syncthing GTK is fairly out of date and has one of the irritating multiple entries bug going for it. This version of Syncthing’s auto discover on the network was not working either. That is not a ding on ElementaryOS.ElementaryOS Home Page
Filemanger is a bit anemic. It is incredibly basic and doesn’t have some of the nice features you would see on other file managers like Dolphin, specifically split view so you can see two directories side by side. The work around is to use the tiling feature of ElementaryOS and put two file managers beside one another but that is also less than ideal. The Properties tool has the font size so large that the name is unreadable. So, that needs some work too.
Although I have a long list of things I do not like about ElementaryOS, it is really not a bad experience. There just happen to be a lot of paper cuts and the lack of built in ability to tweak the issues. Many, many desktop environments may have these small paper cut issues that gnaw at you but they also give you the ability to smooth them out by giving you access to tools to do it. I am sure, with enough time and effort, installing the right tools and tweak packages, I could have fixed all the irritations that I had with the interface. However, it is quite clear, that is not what the designers want you to do. They want you to not have certain features to fit their vision. The issue is, as I see it, ElementaryOS is targeted for those that like a specific way to work with their computer. Since I am unwilling to give up the efficiencies provided by Plasma, Elementary OS does not fit. It is too far of a step back in time for me to be comfortable here.
Keep in mind, this is my opinion. These are my irritations and they may all be nonsense to you. I would never discourage you from trying ElementaryOS. It is unique in its style and flair with an incredibly stubborn design intent and I don’t think that should change their course at all. Whatever it is that they are trying to accomplish, I hope that they achieve those goals. Computers are supposed to be personal and developers are making it personal, as they see fit.
I do think you should give ElementaryOS a spin, at least in a VM, maybe on a spare laptop you have laying around. See what you like about it or don’t like about it. If you think my observations and impressions are wrong, feel free to leave a comment or send an email. I only spent a couple weeks on ElementaryOS so there is a lot I don’t know. I will not continue to run it, for the time being. I will certainly give it a try again in the future.
Ubuntu is, without any dispute, the most prolific Linux distribution today. You can look at any metric and you will see that Ubuntu is number one. How did they rise to this level? I can only speculate, perhaps it has to do with the charismatic and enthusiastic visionary of Canonical’s founder Mark Shuttleworth that made Linux more approachable and attractive by the masses. Regardless, Canonical does a great job with Ubuntu. Despite any of the controversies or blunders the company makes, they are risk takers and regardless of what distribution you use, it should be applauded.
As part of the BigDaddyLinux Live challenge, we are testing the various Ubuntu flavors but for this article, I am going to focus on Ubuntu Proper, the mainline from which all the other flavors are derived. At one time, Ubuntu had their own desktop, Unity, of which they have discontinued development and now use GNOME as their core desktop.
This is my admittedly biased review of Ubuntu (Proper) as an openSUSE Tumbleweed user that prefers Plasma to all other desktops. It should also be clear that I am not a fan of GNOME at all and to use it is an absolute chore to use for me. Bottom Line Up Front, Ubuntu is pretty great and I would feel good about giving it to anyone. Regardless of my bias and preferences, Ubuntu is just a great, rock solid distribution that is a bit heaver on resources than I like but if you run a reasonably modern system, this is not an issue what so ever. If you haven’t tried Ubuntu, which would be odd that a Linux user hasn’t, or if you haven’t tried it in a while and have that restless itch, Ubuntu is worth taking around the block and maybe even on the highway to stretch it’s legs a bit.
Feel free to bail here.
One thing I can say about Ubuntu without any reservation is that it is incredibly easy to install, especially when you have a fairly straight forward installation. When the ISO boots up, you can “Try or Buy” as it were and since I don’t see a whole lot of use with a VM in just trying it without the installation process, I wanted to Install Ubuntu. The first decision is to set your keyboard layout.
The next in a line of easy decisions to make is to set your preferences for Updates and additional software. For my purposes, testing an installation, I like to see what software they bundle with the distribution. I am finding more often than not that distributions seem to be skimping out on basic computing software. It amuses me continually how people clammer for a minimal installations, especially on a desktop system where you need basic installation but maybe I don’t get it and am not Linux-ing correctly. I also selected to download updates and to install third-party software. This is one feature I do like about Ubuntu. Although adding such things in openSUSE isn’t complicated, clicking one checkbox is by far much simpler. The next page is to instruct the installer how you would like to utilize your disks and before you continue, a final sanity check will take place.
Your location in the world will be required as well as your name, computer name and if you would like to log in automatically or require a password to log in. For a VM and how I am using it, an Automatic login would not be an issue but I still chose to require a password to log in.
The installation will commence and very nicely, you can watch the details scroll by as you watch the fun highlights of the distribution like you would your uncle Fred’s vacation Slideshow during a family reunion…
The installation doesn’t take long and when complete, just a quick reboot for a fresh and exciting Ubuntu Proper experience was unleashed.
First Run and Impressions
The Ubuntu log in screen is simple and elegant with a purple field, white writing and a single user log in selection. There is nothing to detract your eyes away from the mission at hand, log in. Simple elegance.
Your first time logging into the system you are given four pages of initial preferences. You would start off with setting up any online accounts you have. For my case, I am not going to use those. Next will be an option to help improve Ubuntu. This is a nice feature and although I am a bit dubious about having anything “phone home” I am absolutely in favor of letting distribution creators know any information to help them improve the product.
Next is to set allow applications to determine your geographic location and lastly you are ready to go with some recommended applications to try out with a button to get to the Ubuntu “Software” application.
After the short guided setup, you are left with a very pleasant and release-unique desktop with a great wallpaper. I am also pleased to see you can indeed have icons on your desktop. Well done Canonical!
Next, I just wanted to click around and interact with the desktop. Just see how Ubuntu Proper does the basics like the applications menu, the system menu that contains the network, sound & session actions and the Activities features.
This is totally a personal preference thing and completely opinionated but I kind of don’t like that three basic desktop functions in different corners of the screen. I have only tested this on a single desktop VM but I can’t help but wonder how this would feel to work with on a multi screen setup. It would be annoying to have to go to different screens to get to those bits and it would also be annoying to have the title bar on all the screens. That is certainly worth further investigation.
The software center is great but a feature that I think stands out with Ubuntu is how you can tweak the software updates to your liking such as what updates you want and the frequency of checking for updates.
Since I prefer the rolling distribution model best, this wouldn’t be particularly useful to me but I really like this concept and I applaud this sort of easy access to updates as what would suite your personal preference.
The system settings is the typical GNOME settings so it is without the customization abilities as you would see on most of the other desktops. This is one of those irritating “features” of GNOME, the lack of organic ability to customize and the interface to suit your specific needs.
If you really want to customize GNOME and make it your own, you will have to install GNOME Tweaks. I find this to be less than ideal but does open up the ability to make GNOME more to your liking.
This is what basically makes GNOME the worst desktop when it comes to the mess that is the system settings. The groanings that some may give about Plasma pales in comparison to the mess that GNOME has made of their system settings. I wished that Ubuntu would fix this, just for their release but alas, they have not. I don’t know what it would take for GNOME to include the tweaks tool directly into the system settings but the fact it has been a buried (not included by default) feature for quite some time now is depressingly unfortunate.
Really, once you select Yaru-dark, this is a premium GNOME visual experience. Now it looks good and doesn’t give me a headache. Sure, if you are using LibreOffice, you still have to deal with the white block in the center but it is not nearly as painful to look at as the all white version.
Not only is LibreOffice with Yaru-dark very pleasant to look at, it also makes for a nice focus or framing of the document too. I do appreciate the the work that was done into Yaru-dark, very much, and I wish that would be an easy default to select.
Just a thing…
I noticed that Zypper was in the Ubuntu repositories and I wanted to see what would happen if I installed it. I really should have played around with it longer to see if I could get it to successfully manage the Ubuntu repositories but I didn’t get very far with it.
Having Zypper on an Ubuntu could almost push me over the edge in using Ubuntu more regularly but Ubuntu is still missing the cohesive YaST Control Center for managing system settings and such. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have become very dependent and accustomed to that suite of tools and it is kind of expected on anything that I intend on managing.
Although I did a lot more with Ubuntu than these few things, this is where I am going to leave it. This is at a length that a typical reader will just start scrolling through to see how much more nonsense is stuffed to the article and just look at pictures to see if anything grabs attention.
What I Like
Ubuntu does a great job at polishing GNOME into something much nicer than what you get from the upstream. They really take into account user experience and do the little things that count, like a functional desktop where you are allowed to place icons, even if this is something that becomes messy and unwieldy. At least you have a choice and a place to put folders to other locations in your desktop for convenience sake.
The Yaru-dark theme is fantastic. Sure, it takes a bit of digging for the un-GNOME-initiated to turn this lever but once you install the GNOME Tweaks tool and unlock the “control of your desktop achievement,” you can keep the headaches at bay and make for a more relaxing and enjoyable desktop experience. Granted, I know this is an opinion of the author and just a quick reminder the heading of this section is “What I Like”. This is a biased review, I am not a journalist!
The update control options on Ubuntu is simply fantastic. If you were to set up a system that had to remain in an unchanged state for an extended period of time, this is the place to make it happen. I can see having this adjusted for something that needed to be treated as an appliance where the system doesn’t change, outside of what would be needed for security purposes. This is an appreciated feature.
What I Don’t Like
GNOME… As much work as Ubuntu puts into GNOME, it is still frustratingly aggravating to use and adjust to suit user preferences. The lack of easy switch to the Yaru-dark theme without having to jump through hoops (okay, not really hoops) to do simple improvements is just maddening. Also, GNOME quite possibly has the worst settings of the desktops with the separation of the Settings from the GNOME Tweaks. I would be less irritated by this if Ubuntu would just include it as a subset of the Settings but the way it stands, the need to go to two different places to find what you need is just silly.
Try as I might, I do not like the top and side bars, the Unity layout, for my desktop. I find the top menu combined with the side menu an unacceptable extra use of screen real-estate. Reference my previous LibreOffice images, there is this thick bar of overhead at the top of the screen before you even get into where you do any document creation. Now, I will admit, that it is no worse than my preferred layout of having all that “admin overhead” at the bottom of the screen It is the same total loss of vertical real estate. I don’t see the value in having the icons along the side as well as the information along the top. I can’t even say for sure why you even have that “LibreOffice Writer” drop down in the top bar. Sure it’s a place to get some information but why couldn’t that be integrated into the side dock? You also can’t make the top menu bar auto hide which would be a nice feature too. I would actually prefer the top bar go away entirely and just put everything to the left side of the screen MX style as I don’t see any other practical purpose of the top bar at all. It’s just there. Perhaps it is just to what I have grown accustomed but the split of information along two sides of the screen just doesn’t work well for me.
Ubuntu is, in my estimation the best Ubuntu experience you are likely to have. Though, as I can remember, Pop!_OS is pretty great too but I haven’t given that a spin in quite a while. I do appreciate the work that Ubuntu has done to improve the desktop look and feel. It’s a great improvement from the the stock GNOME experience. They give some color and a much needed modern touch to the icons that GNOME desperately needs. The Yaru theme has a premium look to it and GTK applications should test specifically against this theme as it is likely the dominant GTK theme in Linux today.
Would I give up openSUSE for Ubuntu? No, absolutely not but I do appreciate the technology, the time and effort that goes into the polish of this distribution. I appreciate all that Canonical has contributed, the technology, the run times for Steam and Snaps but the underlying operating system is not for me. Canonical’s gift of Snaps is a technology which I use pretty regularly on openSUSE. In my estimation, Ubuntu is more of a consumer distribution that is targeted to the mass market. It is a fine product but just doesn’t provide that same comfort that I get from my tried and true openSUSE where I feel like it is more mine to work with and on.
I highly recommend, if by some off chance you haven’t tried Ubuntu in a while, to take it for a spin. Just because GNOME annoys me, doesn’t mean it will necessarily annoy you and these are just the ramblings of a Linux user that likes what he likes.
Regolith is a very interesting distribution based on Ubuntu that uses the i3 Window manager. In this case, you get all the benefits of the Ubuntu distribution with the unique i3 interface with predefined shortcut keys. The creator of this fine distribution, Ken Gilmer, has put a lot of time, effort into really making this a fine demonstration of i3.
This is my first i3 experience and overall it has been quite enjoyable. For those that are less familiar with what a Window Manager vs a Desktop…. I really can’t say, to me, it is a desktop environment I’m sure there is some nuance that distinguishes a “desktop environment” to a “window manager” but that debate and discussion is outside of the scope of this blathering. For my purposes, anything that allows me to interact with my computer in a holistic fashion is a Desktop Environment. So what is holistic in this context?
This is my impression of using Regolith as a deeply entrenched, content openSUSE Tumbleweed User that thinks using anything other than Plasma keeps my fingers hovering just over the bail-out button. Bottom Line Up Front, Regolith was a challenging but educationally enjoyable experience. My trip through Regolith sparked my imagination as to some specific applications and uses for this user environment. As cool as the interface is for Regolith (i3) is, it is not enough to push me off the openSUSE Tumbleweed Plasma mountain. This is my biased impression after running Regolith as a my interface into my computer.
Since this is Ubuntu based, the installation is really quite trivial. The team at Canonical have done a fantastic job of giving us a low barrier of entry into the Linux world. When Regolith boots, out of the gate, you are asked to select your Language. The Grub Boot menu pops up where the second option will put you immediately to the “Installation Process.” Thumbs up there! Anytime I get that option right from the beginning, I am just pleased I don’t have to hope that the Installation Icon is not hidden, bypassing my need to hunt around for the one function I came here to do.
Choosing this option, it looks like Regolith boots up a basic desktop and you are immediately greeted with the installation application. To start out, you are welcomed and asked for your language preference… again… perhaps just a verification that you do indeed speek the language you previously specified. Then you selet your Keyboad Layout.
Next you are asked to select whether or not you would like to install updates and 3rd Party Software. The Installation Type I have chosen for this is to erase the entire disk as I am running this in a virtual machine
Before committing to the drive modifications, you are given a sanity check and that makes this the point of no return, in a manner of speaking. After that, you are required to select your location.
The last step is going to be to set your user information. Here you can determine if you want to log in automatically or not here too. I find, even in VMs that will have no chance at having sensitive information, I still won’t select to automatically login.
The installation process occurs as fast as any other Ubuntu installation and you are given a slideshow of information as you would expect to see. I didn’t notice any differences in this installation sequence than Ubuntu proper.
Once you are given the installation completion message, select the Restart Now button and you are off to the Regolith races.
First Run and Impressions
Since performance was not going to be an issue with this distribution as it is not something loaded with extra bells and whistles. I wasn’t conserned with any lagging due to running this in a virtual machine, and the reality is, there wasn’t any issue at all.
To start off, you are given the Ubuntu Welcome Walkthrough that once again sets up your system.
The walkthough then allows for location preference and cloud services. Once that is complete you are done and ready to i3 to your hearts content.
One of the beauties of having a machine with muliple monitors is that I can dedicate one monitor to a full screen virtual machine and very much get the feeling of bare metal. Doing this, I used Virt-Manager with KVM/QEMU.
The desktop (window manager, I know but I am calling this a desktop, feel free to send condescending comments or emails on this point) has instructions plastered to the background to get started with navigation. I found this so handy that I took a screen shot and used this as a reference.
I was muddling my way through a bit on Regolith but I didn’t get into my groove until I watched this demonstration by Eric Adams on YouTube. Watching him go through and show some other features that weren’t on this page, and see how he navigated it very quickly, I mimicked it a bit and I started to see the real power.
I started to see how I could use this very nicely with any terminal based applications and tile them quite quickly and nicely, ready make things happen. Used it to do many of my terminal and web browsing functions. I could easily modify the boarder size with Super+ + or Super+ –
I really liked the ease of opening new terminals and browsers into new work spaces or into new pane on the existing screen. I think, if I were to use this regularly, I would probably end up with many, many virtual desktops in order to manage similarly what I do in Plasma. I think in some ways it could be better and perhaps more effective. I then wondered what would happen if I went more than 9 Virtual Desktops…
Being forced to use keyboard shortcuts to force me to jump into different virtual desktops for a while on Regolith started to become second nature. Consequently, I now use the default keystrokes for virtual desktop switching with Plasma. I am tempted to change them to the Regolith shortcuts but I think I have those mental profiles for switching in Plasma locked in now and I must say, way better than moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen.
What I Like
The minimalist feel of the window manager. The speed of which to lay out the panels is really fantastic. Managing all aspects of the window are done with the need to move my hand from the keyboard is really quite minimal. Combine that with a laptop pointer mouse you would see on a business class Dell or Lenovo, you could potentially do a lot very fast, so long as it wasn’t an artsy thing.
Using Regolith reminds me of the days of old using DOS based applications but layered in a fantastically intuitively manner. Being able to switch between, resize window panes and dig through menus on a keyboard alone feels like a nerd superpower.
The location and status information in the bottom panel is almost just right. If I took the time to tweak it just a bit to give me just a bit more information, I would almost call this perfect.
What I Don’t Like
There seems to be a lack of being able to customize the color scheme. Although the color scheme is fine, I would like to tweak it a bit. I am sure that I could install Gnome tweaks but I am what you would call a proponent of the extension system. Therefore, I am not installing such a thing.
Related to my previous dislike. This is Gnome based, currently, and this could change, I have limited confidence in Gnome as a whole. GTK appears to be a wonky and broken tool kit when used by Gnome, although it is fine in Plasma, I have experienced mixed results with GTK in Gnome. I also don’t like that Gnome is a single-threaded process. I would prefer something Plasma based where the environment is multi-threaded. To further contradict myself, since i3 isn’t exactly doing a lot, this might be a silly and moot point.
I don’t really run Ubuntu, not for any technical reasons, I just don’t prefer Ubuntu, so I think I would prefer using i3 or something like it on an openSUSE base. After all, this is my biased review and having that familiar set of terminal tools that I greatly appreciate would make for an even better experience. I think what might happen next is taking i3 for a spin on an openSUSE machine and comparing the keyboard input schemes of the two different systems.
Regolith is a very interesting distribution using the i3 Window Manager by default. Although you can essentially just add i3 to any Ubuntu distribution, this will make the end goal of an i3 environment on Ubuntu much easier. It has a real raw, strap yourself in with a 5-point harness, this is going to move fast, feel to it. The very way you interface with the system is speedy and feels ultra productive. I can appreciate the design and thought of i3 and especially the time that Mr. Ken Gilmer has put into Regolith.
The biggest take away of using i3 was that it forced me learn and use the keyboard in such a way that when going back to Plasma, I wanted the same kind of productivity enhancements. This forced me to learn the bindings in Plasma to better navigate my desktops and a few other functions.
After dabbling around with i3 and modifying my Plasma desktop usage, I have decided Regolith or i3 for that matter wouldn’t make my Linux life more efficient on my primary machine. The keyboard shortcuts are very awesome for doing very rapid switching between applications and tiling them around on the screen. The reality for me is, I don’t see this as enough of an enhancement that I would gain more than I would lose from moving away from Plasma on openSUSE… but then this had me thinking… where I could most certainly see this being used is in a more server or systems monitoring application where a full desktop is not necessary. The awesome nerd-value of i3 is strong and for some sort of persistent system where I can have it monitoring logs and activity is exactly where I would use this.
Regolith might be one of the greatest experiences I have had in Linux for a long time. Not so much that I have radically changed anything about what I am doing but that I have taken what I have learned from the productivity enhancements and assimilated them into my own workflow to make my work more efficient. For that, I am extremely grateful.
In full disclosure, Plasma is my Desktop Environment of choice, it is very easy to customize and to make my own with very little effort. As of late, there isn’t a whole lot of customizing I do, it’s all pretty minor. A couple tweaks to the the visuals, make it dark, change some sound effects to make it more Star Trek The Next Generation, add a couple Plasmoids and set up KDE Connect. Then I am ready to go.
Since KDE 3 and later Plasma, each release adds and refines existing features, all of which seems as though they are doing so in a sustainable fashion. New releases of Plasma are always met with excitement and anticipation. I can count on new features and refinements and an overall better experience. I didn’t look anywhere else but then, Xfce wondered into my world and although slow to change has become that desktop too. Historically, Xfce has been [for me] just there, nothing particularly exciting. It has held the spot of a necessary, minimal viable desktop… but not anymore.
Previous Xfce Experiences
Using Xfce was like stepping back in time to an era of awkwad looking computer innocence, where icons were mismatched and widgets were a kind of grey blockiness with harsh contrasting lines. Such a great time… While KDE Plasma and Gnome moved on, working in new visuals and staying “modern,” Xfce did it’s own thing… or nothing… I don’t really know but it, in my eyes, became the dated desktop environment. It was always rock solid but wasn’t much to look at. To be fair, there were some examples of real decent looking expressions of Xfce but I unfairly dismissed it.
New Experiences with Xfce
I started to do a little distro and desktop hopping, not to replace my preferred setup, openSUSE Tumbleweed with Plasma, but to see what else is out there and to play with some other examples of desktop design and experience. One such example that I really enjoyed was MX Linux.
It is a clean and pleasant experience that doesn’t scream 2002. The configuration options are plentiful and easy to understand. Not to mention the Dark theme looks simply fantastic. Then there is Salient OS which has a slick and modern look. It didn’t look Plasma but looks like the present and doesn’t make you think of the traditional Xfce environment.
Then came Endeavour OS where, for just a moment, I thought I was using Plasma. It is truly a slick Xfce environment with some great choices for appearance.
Although, 4.12 was released in 2015 and some speculated the project as being dead, new breath life came to the users of this project and just recently (Aug 2019), version 4.14 was released.
Xfce’s latest release didn’t take away features or trim out functionality. It only added new features and refined the the whole desktop. Most notably, a complete (I think) move to GTK3 from GTK2 which allows for better HiDPi support (great for those with the hardware), improvements to the window manager to have a flicker and tearing free experience. A “Do Not Disturb” feature was added to the notifications and many, many more things but these stand out the most to me. More can be read here at the official source for Xfce News.
Xfce on openSUSE
It was announced that Xfce 4.14 landed in openSUSE Tumbleweed. I wanted to see how that experience shaped up. A Telegram friend Mauro shared his Xfce desktop with me and I was blown away by how it looked. I sure didn’t think, Xfce, in the traditional sense.
Then, I wanted to see, how does Xfce on openSUSE look, right out of the gate, just as you log in for the first time. What is my vanilla experience. I installed Xfce direct from the YaST installer on a fresh disk but in case you want to try it on your openSUSE Tumbleweed instance, just run this:
sudo zypper in -t pattern xfce
After booting it up, it looked really quite respectable. I appreciate the new welcome screen, right out of the gate. This is a welcome re-addition to openSUSE. Something that drifted away about 4 or 5 years ago.
I wanted to see what themes were built in. How I could tweak it just a bit and make it my own. I must say, I am pleasantly surprised; ecstatic, really.
After adjusting the theme to something dark, I came to the conclusion that Xfce is fantastic, it is simply fantastic and I take every bad thing I have ever said about GTK back. Xfce is, in my opinion, the premier GTK based desktop. It is fully functional, easy to customize and respectful or system resources and incredibly responsive.
Everything about is easy to tweak to make my own. There wasn’t a special “tweak tool” that had to be installed not part of the regular settings, it was all there. The boot up time on an a Xfce only system is a break neck speed. I don’t know what they have done at openSUSE to make this happen but just wow and Thank You!
I didn’t make much in the way of tweaks to Xfce to make it the way I prefer. Like when playing Monopoly® with my kids, I like to have my cards laid out a specific way and as such, I made some slight changes to the panel along the bottom and added just a hint of transparency because, why not. I also did a bit of a tweak to color theme to make it to my liking, and I was ready to go. The adjustments took me all of 4 minutes and I was grinning from ear to ear. Like an 8 year old on Christmas morning, staring at the tree with presents beneath it, I was excited from my finger tips to my toes just ready to tear into the gifts I have yet to uncover.
Xfce is the GTK desktop environment that seems to have all the necessary elements, clean interface and the ease of customization that rivals KDE Plasma. This is “not your father’s Xfce” as it were. This is an Xfce that doesn’t “just get out of the way” it says, I am here, I am ready to give you a great desktop experience and I won’t mess a single thing up. It says, I am down to business but if it’s play time, I mean business about play time too.
I have now used Xfce 4.14 on top of openSUSE, MX Linux, Salient OS and Endeavour OS. They are all great examples of how Xfce should look, the crisp and immediate sense of responsiveness that insists on productivity. In my observation, Xfce is the model GTK desktop, the standard to which all others should be measured against. It’s stability, efficiency, easily customized and makes the desktop truly a personal experience.
I haven’t been able to do one of these in a while but it is always fun to try out other distributions and experience another example of how to answer that user experience question. As part of the BigDaddyLinux community. I have given Feren OS a spin to see how it goes for me, the biased, well entrenched openSUSE user.
The installation is done by what looks to my poorly trained eye to be the Calamares Installation Tool. This is, in my opinion, one of the most user approachable installation tools I have used. Clean, not clumsy and but yet not so basic that you can’t configure it to your liking.
Feren gives you one option when it starts. Live Media mode. You can play around with it or go right into the installation.
The installation is straight forward and works quite well. When the installation tool starts up you get an animated wheel while it “warms up” or whatever, presumably detecting bits about your system and starts you off to select your language.
Next you need to select your location and keyboard layout. This auto detected my location and keyboard layout.
For the partitions I used to erase the entire disk because for this purpose, erasing the disk works fine. Next, I entered my user information. There isn’t an option to add multiple users and I am unsure if you were to do an upgrade if you would be able to pull in previous user information or not.
The installation process provides an installation summary that includes everything you just selected, Location, Keyboard Layout and partition layout. After you select “Install” it will give you one final opportunity to bail out.
During the installation you aren’t given a slideshow of distribution propaganda, just one image to stare at. I would have liked to have had details fly by the screen during this process. Not that most people would care about that sort of information but I happen to like it. When the installation is complete, selecting “Done” will have the system reboot.
I really meant to nab the Plasma version of Feren OS but instead seem to have snagged the Cinnamon version and in keeping true to my form… I just went with it. Cinnamon is a fantastic desktop environment and since I haven’t played around with it during my last Linux Mint journey, this was a good refresher.
My overall impression of this spin of Feren OS is that it is a kind of re-imagining of the Cinnamon desktop, set aside the technical shortcomings of Cinnamon as it is based off of Gnome Shell and is encumbered with the single thread process limitation, it just looks fantastic. The Cinnamon developers have done a great job of mashing up the visual capabilities of Gnome into a more familiar desktop paradigm with which many are familiar. No one can argue that that Cinnamon (or Gnome for that matter) don’t have a kind of pleasant, well polished smoothness to it with the right level of desktop effects as to not distract you but also give you that plush Corinthian leather interior feel.
The package selection of Feren OS is undoubtedly satisfactory. There will always be the debate as to what should be default as part of the installation but I am not going to belabor this point. It has all that you need to do the basic computing tasks, a browser and LibreOffice.
Theme switching is much like you would expect in Cinnamon but with Feren OS you get a nice dark spin on that GTK theme that is much needed. I still wonder why light themes exist…
An interesting feature is this very user friendly browser selector application. If you are not satisfied with having only Vivaldi or Firefox, you can try another by selecting the install button
What I Like
Feren OS is a good looking desktop. Cinnamon seems to work very well and I like the theme customization options provided. The key selling point to Feren OS is the theme configuration settings. It is truly effortless and
The Browser Manager is a great tool that gives you a great tool to select additional browsers as you desire. I like the ease of which you can install and uninstall them. Well done!
The installation process is seemingly painless and I appreciate any installation that is painless. I can’t say that any of my hardware is odd enough to cause issues with any any distribution I have tried as of late.
What I Don’t Like
I didn’t dig into it enough to find things I didn’t like about it. Aside from the default choice being Cinnamon which is GTK and Gnome Shell 3 based and my personal preference is to shy away from GTK and Gnome, it is quite nice. I did have some issues with Cinnamon launching and going into a “fallback mode” but this is in a beta stage and from my understanding, a known issue.
Since this is based in Linux Mint, it does use APT for the package manager which is not my preference. That is a nitpick issue but also saying, I would like to see a Feren OS with an openSUSE base, specifically on Tumbleweed.
In testing these various distributions of Linux. I have come to a loose conclusion that what makes a distribution for me, at least initially, that what makes it appealing is not so much the default theme and appearance but rather, how quickly I can modify the theme and tweak the interface to my liking. Cinnamon, especially the Feren OS Cinnamon is very close to my liking and with a few clicks, I can modify the theme to not trigger a headache.
Feren OS is easy to install and the provided applications make it easy to get along very quickly. It looks nice and the defaults appear to be sane. The only thing in which I struggle a bit is trying to understand the the unique selling point and ultimate goal of Feren OS but I can certainly see that the theme chooser is probably it’s greatest selling point. After seeing how the “classic” version of Feren OS is set up. I will be checking out the Plasma version in the coming months. If the developer can make GTK sing a Qt version will be even better.
In the end, would I leave my beloved openSUSE for Feren OS? No, I would not. I did enjoy my time in Feren OS, I enjoyed the way the desktop is customized. I do hope that this one-man show keeps going with it. It will be interesting to see how he continues to develop his distribution.
My virtual Linux Users Group, as it were is the BDLL community. As part of a community challenge we were to live a week in Gnome. In full disclosure, I didn’t quite make it a full week on Gnome. Even though I was told I had to really give it a chance, really get used to the work flow to appreciate it, I tried, I read the documentation and I just could not find it an enjoyable experience for me. So, thanks for stopping by, if that is all you wanted to know, that is the bottom line up front.
Just because my experience in Gnome was not enjoyable, that doesn’t mean yours will be the same. It may work splendidly for you and you may find the work flow a perfect fit for your personal computer usage. I highly recommend that you do give it a try, regardless of my biased opinion.
This test was done on my primary machine, my Dell Latitude E6440. This machine had no trouble with Gnome. I didn’t see any performance issues there were occasional glitches but nothing distracting.
The beauty of openSUSE is the package management but beyond the package manager, the organization and simplicity of installing software. In this case, to install an entire Desktop Environment, Gnome in this case can be done by running this simple command in the terminal:
sudo zypper install -t pattern gnome
In summary, this is what the result of installing the Gnome Desktop from the openSUSE defined pattern.
432 new packages to install.
Overall download size: 177.7 MiB. Already cached: 0 B. After the operation, additional 660.9 MiB will be used.
Truly, not much more storage space was required only 660.9 MiB for the “standard” installation of Gnome.
Scope of Evaluation
For the purpose of this evaluation, I am going to ignore any little hiccups from the Desktop Environment. I am not going to be critical about any little glitches or bugs. I will ignore any rough edges of it, largely because I know this is the openSUSE, somewhat vanilla presentation of Gnome. In order to keep this Gnome experience similar to my time using Fedora with Gnome, I will not install any extensions. I am going to use it the way the developers and architects intend.
After installation, I rebooted my machine. I wanted to be sure I was starting my Gnome experience from a freshly updated and rebooted system. The familiar SDDM (Default Plasma Display Manager) interface appeared with the familiar menu of options. I initially chose Gnome with Wayland but since I wanted my tools that require X11, I did switch to X for the majority of my time on Gnome.
Gnome felt stable to me. I didn’t have any strange behavior or crashes. It all worked as I expected. The interface is clean and tidy and has the familiar openSUSE look about it. I did notice that the settings I used to configure GTK apps look and appearance within Plasma carried over to Gnome. For that I was grateful as my preference has the right dark theme. Gnome is very smooth and the simple desktop animations look fantastic. From my perspective, Gnome didn’t feel heavy. I would go so far as to say that it didn’t feel any heavier than any other desktop environment.
What I Like
I started to get used to the Super Key (Windows Key) as an application switcher. It was a bit of a muscle memory alteration from how I have Plasma configured but it did seem reasonably efficient. Could I make Plasma do the same thing, yes, but the method I have set up to do the same thing in plasma is just to move the mouse in the upper-left corner of the screen and I will have all the applications display themselves in a similar fashion.
A rather neat feature is the very intuitive color calibration per device settings. Although I don’t have a need to color calibrate my screens, as they are all Dell monitors and seem to have the same general feel to it, I can see where this would be very, very valuable.
Notification settings configuration is quite nice and intuitive. The fact that I can shut of notifications, very easily to one or two applications or all of them is fantastic.
When you scroll down a menu and reach the end there is a slight ambient glow. It is just a really nice user experience touch that I appreciate. That same effect is in GTK apps on Plasma but it is specifically a GTK (3… I think) thing.
The hardware information was organized in such a way that is a very user friendly, easily digestible manner. How much a user will dig into that, I am not sure but it appeals to my inner geek.
What I Don’t Like
Gnome Tweaks is required to make Gnome a non-terrible experience. The positive is, openSUSE installs it by default. That is not so with some other Gnome versions I have used. Having Tweaks installed by default is really the only way to use Gnome.
The bar at the top is unwelcome. The “minimize” button which generally points down has an animation that goes to the upper-left corner of the screen
Gnome is not nearly as friendly to Qt applications as Plasma is to GTK applications. GTK applications look great on Gnome. Qt feels like an afterthought. The highlights are a mismatch and although blue and green look fine, it is just a lack of visual consistency within a single Qt application.
Configuring Gnome is quite literally the most confusing process. If you can’t find it in the Gnome Settings, you have to look in the Gnome Tweaks to find it. It would be nice if Gnome Settings folded in the features of Gnome Tweaks. Take this to another level, if you didn’t know about Gnome Tweaks, and it wasn’t built into the distribution making Gnome your own would essentially not be possible. This makes the Plasma System Settings far, far less confusing than Gnome’s offerings.
The default sound applet is basically useless, especially when compared to the built in Plasma applet. You have to have Pulse Volume Control open to do anything meaningful with your sound, especially if you have multiple input and output devices.
There is a lack of desktop icons, not even an option. You have this unusable workspace for which you can do nothing but stare at a wallpaper. I like to have shortcuts to specific places from my desktop and Plasma gives me the option to have different folder views on the desktop as well.
There is no system tray for things like Syncthing-GTK, Teamviewer, Variety and so forth. They are running but if I close the window. I can’t access them again. Supposedly there is an extension for that but I am not about to go hunting the internet for extensions that will likely break at the next Gnome upgrade.
Without Gnome Tweaks, Gnome is rubbish as far as usability is concerned. I am not going to learn all the shortcuts in my first week with Gnome so to expect a new user, without any kind of guide is absurd. Distributions like BunsenLabs Linux have a Conkey on the background to show you what you need to do to interact efficiently with the Desktop. Sure, that layout isn’t my favorite either but the desktop is way more user friendly.
Gnome culture is to use the computer their way, change your ways and thought process to match the designers. Plasma Culture feels more like a recommendation but feel free to change whatever you want. This is the culture I prefer.
Another issue I found, Qt applications feel like a second class citizen. They just don’t look right or at least they look out of place. If you try to tell me there is an extension to fix it, please don’t bother as I have no desire to play extension roulette next time Gnome updates. It communicates to me that the intention of Gnome is to only run GTK based applications, specifically, GTK3.
At the end of my Gnome journey, it really further cemented my preference for Plasma. Gnome itself is a very nice looking desktop, that is undeniable. If you like the prescribed Gnome workflow and don’t use Qt applications, it just may work fine for you. Ultimately, you need to use what works best for you.
This is my opinion and you may not agree… and that is okay. I really don’t expect you to agree.
I might be pushing it just a bit by saying I “created” a scheme as I just took two color schemes, Breese Dark and openSUSEdarkalternate, and created one [subjectively] better theme based on those two. I happen to like the green accents in the openSUSE Workspace Theme and the Breeze Dark Theme looks pretty good but the mix of blue and green accents makes me less happy. I have been using the openSUSEdarkalternate theme for quite some time until I discovered an issue with one application.
Why take the time?
A couple reasons. For starters, the Breeze Dark GTK theme has been using blue highlights, which has been fine. The tipping point was when I was trying my hand in doing video editing with Kdenlive, I sort of bumped into a problem. The dark color scheme, openSUSEdarkalternate, did not play well so I had to switch it with the built in Breeze Dark scheme in order to be able to see all the icons and things. As nice as the stock Breeze Dark theme is, I really want those openSUSE green highlights and now more of my desktop was a mixture of themes. I was now compelled to unify the appearance of my desktop, especially after noodling around with ElementaryOS and seeing how much emphasis was put on its appearance. I wanted my choice of desktop to have a more unified but not exactly vanilla Plasma look to it. I wanted a unified openSUSE Theme.
First was to ensure that all my KDE Plasma applications had a unified look. My first step was to take screenshots of the different green RGB color-values used in the openSUSEdarkalternate scheme. The green in that theme is just the hue and vibrance that is subtle and pleasant so it was imperative that I used the same colors. The absolutely fantastic feature of KDE Plasma as well as the related desktops preceding it is the ability to customize it to your hearts content. The tools are already there and ready for you to tweak. A testament to what makes Plasma great.
To start, open the KDE Plasma SystemSettings, then the Colors module under the Appearance section.
The Application Color Scheme tool has several schemes from which to choose. My first step was to open the openSUSEdarkalternate theme and take note of the RGB values of the different green colors used. I cheated and used the screenshot utility Spectacle to accomplish this. There were a total of four different green colors used.
I then opened the Breeze Dark theme and started changed all the relevant blue colors to the equivalent green colors.
I only had to adjust the Common Colors section. It seems that any of the other sections are using the same Color Identifications. When I was complete, I saved this scheme as openSUSE Breeze Dark and applied the changes.
It looked good, but then I was still left with the GTK theme to change. I planned to do similar in Plasma as I did for GTK. Unfortunately, customizing color schemes in GTK is not baked in like it is Plasma so it was time to do some searching and I came upon this application called Oomox. There is no official openSUSE package but the fantastic openSUSE community maintains the package and it can be installed from here:
Choose whichever community member maintained package you wish. Oomox does require one other package in order to run: gdk-pixbuf-devel
sudo zypper in gdk-pixbuf-devel
I was not able to import the Breeze Dark GTK theme so I just had to create what I wanted manually. It should be noted that such a feature has been requested. Good bad or otherwise, GTK color schemes are easier to create from scratch because there are fewer color in a theme.
Not pictured but there is a Roundness theme option so I modified that to match about what the Breeze theme is and set that parameter to 3. I thought that was an interesting setting to have and I quite enjoyed playing with it. Ommox is a very interesting piece of software and I recommend you to play around with it, just for fun.
It took four iterations of playing with the theme to get it right. I tested using Gnome-Recipes and Firefox to see that the scheme looked correct to my untrained eye.
My only criticism at this point is the GTK2 Theme is a bit blocky looking. I am not sure why, exactly. It just looks somewhat out of place against the Qt and GTK3 widget. I don’t think it’s a big deal but if anyone has any suggestions on that, I am open to anything you can offer.
Since I am happy with the theme and added to my openSUSE Linux page to download. I will eventually create a package hosted on OBS when I can take the time to do that properly.
Having exact color schemes hasn’t really been a thing for me, so long as it was close enough. Due to playing around with Elementary OS and seeing how everything is so well thought out, I started looking a bit more closely my desktop and thought, how can I make things look more deliberate? I am exceptionally pleased with the results and I think I may have also decided to go all in on Breeze Dark + openSUSE green. I even retired the Oxygen Window Decorations in favor of the Breeze Theme so that it better matches the GTK widgets. Everything seems nicely coherent. This is the most satisfied I have ever been with a desktop environment, ever.