Kubuntu 15.04, due later this month, will be the first stable release of the distro to ship with the new KDE Plasma 5 desktop environment as default.
Exciting stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.
More exciting than that, at least for a KDE newbie like me, is the announcement of Plasma 5.3 Beta, the next major version of the shiny new desktop environment.
The Sad Face Preface
Before we go any further I need to preface this article with an apology. If I go on to use the wrong naming conventions for KDE and its software stack, I’m sorry. KDE fans seem to be a passionate brood, but they should understand that there’s nothing intentional about any mis-labelling of KDE, the KDE Software Compilation, the Plasma desktop stack or its components, etc on my part. I am simply not hugely dialled-in (what with having tentacles in so many other pies) to the KDE community.
Therefore I politely ask any KDE fans who plan on commenting to think twice (and logically) if the thrust of that comment is to shout about illogically perceived conspiracies or bias. Instead, try to offer up some civil and constructive pointers. These kind of comments help us learn and will make us feel more comfortable/less scared about covering KDE developments, apps, etc in the future.
That (sadly necessary) ‘fess up out of the way, let’s chew over the meat in this beta flavoured kSandwich.
Plasma 5.3 Beta — New Features
The big news of the Plasma 5.3 beta is not that it’s out – development milestones are dropping all the time – it’s that it is out with an absolutely jam-packed roster of features and fixes.
Plasma 5.2, as found in the latest Kubuntu 15.04 Beta, offers a great end-user experience, with welcome updates to core KDE apps, under-the-hood refactoring delivering some much-needed cohesion, and a fresh new theme making things feel light and breezy.
Plasma 5.3 Beta… Well, it looks like it doesn’t just build on those foundations so much as erect an entire freaking house that’s also fully furnished.
Better Power Management
I work primarily from a laptop which means battery life and anything that so much as pretends to extend it catches my attention fully.
Which is precisely what this milestone has done.
Some notable new power management features are set to ship in Plasma 5.3 Beta, as highlighted by KDE developer Jonathan Riddell in a blog post, including the following changes:
- Ability to set different power management plans for specific activities
- View energy usage stats in KInfoCenter
- Battery monitor applet now shows which apps can inhibit power management features
- ‘Cinema mode’ (closing laptop lid with monitor connected) is now enabled by default
- Animated screen brightness changes (not all hardware)
- Keyboard button brightness controls now work on lock screen
Power savings are not the only significant change showing up in this release. The return of popular system stats plasmoids will appease power users and resource tracking fans, while the hugely improved bluetooth functionality will make connecting the ever-swelling crop of smartphones, speakers and the like a snap.
Other changes arriving in Plasma 5.3:
- A new touchpad configuration module
- Contact integration with the Application Menu
- Improved bluetooth functionality, including new applet, ObexFTP listing in Places panel
- Return of system stat Plasmoids (e.g. CPU load)
- KDE Activities powers Recent Docs, Recent Apps in Apps Menu
- Plasma Media Center tech preview
- Work towards running on Wayland
Trying Plasma 5.3 Beta
For more detail on this beta release you should check out this blog post or the following change-log, which details pretty much everything that has changed, in one giant list.
If you’re Interested to get a hands-on then you’ll want to try the live Kubuntu images let’s you take the entire (potentially unstable) software stack for a spin without needing to wipe your current set-up.
Head over to the KDE Snapshots page below to grab an .iso.