Plasma has released its first Beta for version 5.15, which focuses on fixing papercuts and usability issues, as well as improving integration with GTK applications, and Firefox, and largely improving Discover, Plasma's App Store. I think it's time for me to dive back in the KDE / Plasma world !
Plasma 5.15 release notes: https://www.kde.org/announcements/plasma-5.14.90.php
The Desktop and Widgets
A lot of improvements have been made to the desktop itself, with the ability to download walpaper plugins from the config dialog.
The filenames displayed on the desktop now handle tiny icon sizes better.
Krunner has been improved to handle duplicate bookmarks or entries, only showing one entry per item.
On the widget side of things, bluetooth devices will now show their battery level in the "power" widget, if you have the latest versions of upower and blueZ.
Widget improvements include the device notifier, which now can prevent you from unmounting the root partition to avoid locking your system, the Notes widget can now be made transparent if that's what you like, padding and appearance of notifications has been improved, and the virtual desktop pager can now wrap around when scrolling over it.
Speaking of virtual desktops, the config panel has been totally revamped, it's now much more consistent with other settings panels.
Text labels, icons and button placement have been standardized all over, it's especially noticeable with the "Get New" buttons, which are now placed more consistenly through most settings panels. Other improved panels include the Desktop Effects settings page. In this particular panel, new desktop effects you downloaded from the "Get new" button will now appear on the list immediately.
The login page settings also have received a bunch of improvements, with the preview of the Breeze theme reflecting its current appearance, and the background color of the preview now displays the color scheme you have selected.
It has been largely enhanced and tweaked to be more coherent and more usable. Discover can now show you a notification to upgrade your distribution to its latest version, complete with a restart button if one is needed after the upgrade.
Updates can now be checked or unchecked all at a time, to make selecting the ones you want or not easier.
Discover also handles packages better, with support for Flatpak app extensions, and local packages now show their dependencies and present a "launch" button to immediately start them after installation. Application and Plasma add-ons will now have their own category on the update page, to make them easier to locate.
Plasma has been working on better integrating applications using other toolkits than Qt. For example, Firefox 64 can now use the native KDE open / save dialogs, by installing the xdg-desktop-portal, and xdg-desktop-portal-kde packages AND by setting GTK_USE_PORTAL=1 in firefox's .desktop file.
They now support the settings portal, which means that Flatpak, and Snap apps can now respect your Plasma configuration, including your icon, widget, and color schemes, as well as your fonts. This should help make these apps better integrated in your system.
On the GTK side oif things, display scaling works better with these apps running on Plasma, IF the scaling is an integer (so no fractional scaling support yet), and the Breeze-GTK theme has been improved to solve consistency issues between light and dark variants of the theme.
Improvements don't stop here ! Window management options also have been improved, with keyboard support in the alt tab switcher, better focus implementation for plasma configuration windows, which should let them get to the front when focused, and the application of the window closing effects to dialog boxes that have a parent window, such as open/save dialogs.
Wayland support has been improved all around, with more protocols being implemented for pop-ups and decorations, and it now supports virtual desktops as well as touch drag and drop.
In the network settings, you can now mark a connection as metered, to avoid using all your data quota.
All in all, these changes won't shock regular Plasma Users, but the attention to detail and consistency is extremely welcome. KDE Plasma sometimes inherits a reputation for being too complex and not user friendly, but these improvements should silence a bunch of these comments. I'm glad to see Plasma moving as fast as it is, and streamlining all its settings panel.
Plasma 5.15 should ship in about 3 weeks, and the beta is already available on KDE Neon Developer Stable edition. I'm sure other repositories will include these packages as well pretty soon.
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