KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS features a bunch of new functionality and general improvements, and in this post we share the key changes with you.

Released February 2020, KDE Plasma 5.18 is the latest long-term support release of the KDE Plasma desktop. It follows on from KDE Plasma 5.12 LTS released back in 2018 (and features in Kubuntu 18.04 LTS) and is supported with updates until 2022.

Overall, the Plasma 5.18 release sports a varied change-log. There tweaks affecting almost every part of the desktop experience.

From app notifications that are easier to understand to better integration of GTK applications — there’s lots more to hear about in this release, so scroll on to learn more!

KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS: Key Features

KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS developers who worked on this release describe the update as being: “…easier and more fun, while at the same time allowing you to do more tasks faster.”

Let’s take a look at what they mean…

Emoji selection is a breeze in Plasma 5.18

Remember that new emoji selector we mentioned back in December? It’s included here.

Emoji aren’t for everyone but those who make heavy use of these little glyphs will appreciate the ease with which they can now be accessed. Just hold the super key and press . to open the emoji selector in Plasma 5.18 LTS.

The new ‘global edit’ mode

Another change we covered before: the global floating “cashew” icon on the desktop (to open the “desktop toolbox”) is now gone. It’s replaced by a new global edit bar that can be found when right-clicking on an empty portion of the desktop.

GTK apps now look much nicer when running on the Plasma desktop. Apps that make use of Client Side Decoration (CSD; i.e. any modern GTK app) gain window drop shadows and resize grips. GTK application fonts and icons now respect your Plasma settings for improved visual integration.

A ‘low power’ notification

The feel and function of notifications continues to be refined, building on the reworked notification system introduced in Plasma 5.16.

The timeout indicator on alerts now surrounds the whole ‘close’ button, and ‘File Downloaded’ notifications gain drag-ability (so you can quickly drag the file elsewhere without opening the file manager).

The Plasma 5.18 desktop also displays a notification toast if a connected Bluetooth device is running low on power.

Discover features many improvements

The search field in KDE Discover, the go-to app store for the Plasma desktop, now gets default keyboard focus when you open it (meaning it’s very easy to open > start typing the name of an app).

The app also boasts various interface and layout tweaks, including improved formatting of comments.

The new KDE system report tool will help KDE Plasma developers learn more about what features folks use. The feature is entirely opt-in.

Switching theme is made easier by large thumbnail previews in the Application Style panel, while window animations can be now be adjusting using a slider (left is slower, right is faster).

Large theme previews

Other KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS changes include:

  • Fractional scaling on X11 is less ‘glitchy’
  • Improved touch-friendliness for Kickoff app launcher
  • System Tray toggle for the Night Color feature
  • Application launcher user icon now circle shaped
  • Option to hide the lock screen clock
  • NVIDIA GPU info in KSysGuard
  • Redesigned Audio Volume System widget
  • Windy conditions shown in weather widget

For even more detail check over the changelog for this release.

KDE Plasma 5.18 Video

Changes From Plasma 5.12 are more substantial

Users who upgrade to Plasma 5.18 from Plasma 5.12 LTS will naturally find that a lot more has changed than what’s listed above.

This is because there have been several interim releases between the last and latest LTS update, with changes including:

  • New notification system
  • Web browser Integration
  • New lock screen
  • Redesigned system settings panels
  • Display management improvements
  • Flatpak support in Discover
  • Night Color feature
  • Thunderbolt device support

All that plus lots of smaller quality-of-life improvements, bug fixes, and performance tweaks.

Install Plasma 5.18 LTS

KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS source code is available to download from the KDE website. Most users, however, will want to wait for their distro to package and release the update.

When will that be? That depends on the distro.

Those running Manjaro, Arch, or KDE Neon User Edition can upgrade to Plasma 5.18 shortly after its release in early February.

Kubuntu 20.04 LTS is due for release in April and will ship KDE Plasma 5.18 as the default desktop.

Status in other distros may vary so if in doubt, do ask in a KDE support channel.

Upgrade to Plasma 5.18

The (community maintained) Kubuntu backports PPA makes it possible to upgrade to Plasma 5.18 LTS on Kubuntu 19.10 only.

To add the PPA, run:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:kubuntu-ppa/backports

Then either run apt full-upgrade on an existing Kubuntu system or apt install kubuntu-desktop on a system without KDE Plasma already installed.

Images: KDE

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