KDE has announced the first release of Plasma 5, a major reworking of the KDE desktop.

Plasma 5 is powered by Qt 5 and the recently released KDE Frameworks 5. While the update isn’t as jarring for users as the shift from KDE 3’s UI to 4’s Plasma Workspaces, it brings a slew of changes to modernise and streamline the KDE desktop.

New Features

Among the biggest features coming in Plasma 5 is a “converged shell” that, much like Canonical’s vision of a converged experience for Unity, allows Plasma’s UI to adapt to changes in your computing environment – e.g., switching from a tablet experience to a desktop when a keyboard and mouse are plugged in. KDE developers are currently working on both tablet and media centre interfaces as well.

A new ‘Breeze’ theme is the first step in giving the Plasma desktop a breath of fresh air. The stodgier greys already feel brighter, though the theme isn’t anywhere near complete. It’ll be a gradual shift over the next few releases as the developers and designers rework the rougher edges of KDE 4’s default theme, but should see everything from the icon theme to widgets updated.

Plasma 5 lock screen
New Plasma 5 lock screen

A new lock screen interface provides a quick and slick way to switch user sessions and perform everyday session management tasks while getting a quick glimpse at the time, date, and battery status.

If you’re grimacing at the disappearance of one of your favourite features from Plasma 4, you’re not out of luck yet. The Plasma team plans on reintroducing many missing features with an update in the fall.

And on the subject of missing features, today’s release includes changes to the compositor and frameworks in preparation for Wayland support coming in a later update.

Other new features:

  • Huge amount of visual refinement
  • Redesigned Kickoff app launcher
  • Cleaner notification area
  • Improved support for HiDPI displays
  • Hardware-accelerated graphics stack

You can see many of the included changes in the following videos:

Getting KDE Plasma 5

The easiest way to give Plasma 5 a spin is through the Ubuntu-based Project Neon, either with PPAs or the prebuilt live session ISOs.

Download Neon Live Session Image

The KDE wiki also lists other ways to get a shiny new Plasma 5 desktop if you’re looking to try it on Arch Linux or openSUSE.

Video kde plasma plasma5