First Big Plamsa 6 Changes!

First Big Plamsa 6 Changes!

Just last week the  KDE Plasma Sprint happened in the Tuxedo headquarters and that was a great occasion to sit together and decide what we want Plasma 6 to look like; and one thing we discussed a lot about is defaults, because if there's a releate where we can change lots of defaults, it's this one. We took a lot of decisions, so let's start right away.

Floating Panel

We decided to try out the  floating panel by default. When I say "try out", it's because we're not all 100% sold on the idea so we want to give it a shot before the release and, if all goes well, we keep the change.

I've seen a lot of comments regarding this change, and I do want to address lots of criticism, because we don't do stuff randomly;

Firsty, fitts law. If  you just throw the mouse pointer to the border of the screen, you should always be able to just click and interact with the panel. We cannot drop this feature for the floating panel, which is why I spent a looot  of time actually making sure that floating panels still intercept all mouse events that happen near the floating panel. This preverses accessibility completely.

Secondly, "it's ugly when a window touches it".  Now, it has to de-float when a window touches it, otherwise no way the floating panel would ever be used as a default. However, currently the de-float makes the panel much thicker compared to the usual, which is not something most users like.  Which is why I spent months, months, making sure that in Plasma 6 the panel will de-float with no extra margin whatsoever.

So, yes, please keep in mind that these kind of changes are not done just like that but there's actually a lot of QA that goes behind it and makes sure that complaints from users are actually addressed before making it the default.

Double Click By Default

It is official.  We will switch to double click by default. Now, we have to talk about this change. The thing is, almost everyone in that room - if not everyone - really thought that single click is a better option compared to double click, and probably most of us will  change that option as soon as we start using Plasma 6. However, we have to recognize that sometimes what's best for us is not best for everyone, and single click by default has a giant issue:  most of the big distributions using KDE Plasma actually change the default such that double click is the default. And distributions are really close to users, so if all the major ones start patching that default away it means that we, as KDE developers, might be a bit out of touch with a significant portion of the userbase.

The change is obviously also due to the fact that basically any other desktop plaftorm still uses double click to open folders. I still firmly believe this will change in the future, and even Windows and macOS will convert to single click; but until then, we have to keep in mind that lots of users are switching from those platforms and they are seemingly annoyed by having a single click default.

Of course, we users of Plasma can still tweak this setting to our liking and it's front and center in the main page of system settings; personally, I'll do that, as I firmly believe single click is much better and I also thing that we will eventually get back to using it.

Wayland by Default

We also decided, as a community, to do a strong push to have Plasma 6 use Wayland by default. Note that distributions can still change that default if they deem it appropriate, and users can also still use x11 just like now, but we would like to formally say: from now on, the default is Wayland.

During the sprint there has been work on reducing the number of showstoppers for the switch to Wayland,  and some of the things that were previously considered showstoppers are now considered annoyances, rather than showstoppers, especially considering that it's not like x11 hasn't any issue either, you're just trading a set of issues for a different set of issues. Now, many of the issues that are holding off Wayland for Plasma are in prograss with a clear path towards resolution, so hopefully everything's gonna be ready in time for the release.

Accent-Colored Titlebar By Default

This is another task that's currently being discussed, a lot. So don't take anything as certain and already set in stone, not at all. But we do want to experiment with slightly tinting the header area using the accent color. It will look something like  this, which is actually just a mockup, so again, nothing set in stone.

Currently you have some options that are similar to this one, but not exactly this one. You can slightly tint the entire window - not just the header area - using the accent color, or you can straight up use the accent color for the header (which is a bit too strong to have that as a default, for obvious reasons).

Personally, I had also proposed to directly tint the whole window using the accent color and also  to turn on "pick accent color from the wallpaper" by default, meaning that whenever you change wallpaper the best color will be picked and your windows will only sligtly blend in with the overall look of the system; much to my sadness, both ideas were actually shot down by the other developers.

Still, I'd be really happy to see some more colors at least in the header area and I think that's going to look real good.  This is however not just eyecandy, as it has a major accessibility goal: only the active windows header area will be tinted, which should make it even easier for the user to recognise which is the currently active application.

New default Task Switcher

Historically, Plasma has always used this  task switcher, which looks good, okay, but has some issues. After some discussion, we decided that we actually preferred the task switcher called  "big icons", which simply puts the big icons of your apps in the center of the screen. This, however, still has issues: you don't have thumbnails, making it much harder  to actually tell apart different windows of the same application. After some discussion, then, we decided to create a whole new task switcher using "Thumbnail Grid" an a base but adding big icons on top of the thumbnails too.  This makes it super easy to tell apart any kind of window, and it's - in my honest opinion - also much prettier compared to the status quo.

As a part of this work, we also deleted a bunch of infrequently-used Task Switchers in the kdeplasma-addons git repo that were simply worse versions of other ones. And finally, we made our Breeze Global Themes no longer have an opinion about what they want the Task Switcher to be, so if you use a non-default one, you can safely switch Global Themes without having it reset your Task Switcher all the time!

Please note that the above paragraph is a direct quote of Nate Graham blogpost, because I was too lazy to write my own. Moving on...

Scrolling on desktops to switch them, off by default

Basically this is the feature where if you  scroll on the desktop, you'll switch to a different one. This feature is not particularly loved, and instead users are really prone to using it accidentally; even worse, there are mouse devices that simulate inertia scrolling by providing scroll events even when you're done scrolling, meaning that if you move the mouse on the desktop even seconds after scrolling, you'll still end up in the wrong desktop. This feature is quite sensitive, that is, even a very small scroll amount on a touchpad or such will send you at lightspeed through the desktops, making you end up in some random desktop.  And, even worse yet again, sometimes you start scrolling, and then end up in a desktop where there is a maximized window, and that window will block any further scroll event, basically leaving you stuck.

For all of these reasons, we decided to turn off the feature by default. If you liked the feature, though, don't worry, you will still be able to use it; it's just disabled by default, so you'll have to tick a box before being able to enjoy it. I'm not sure how you would "enjoy" it, but I don't kinkshame here.

Clicking on the scrollbar

Ok, I don't really care about this one, but hey, it has been discussed. Basically, wherever there's a scrollbar, clicking on a random spot  currently has the behaviour of moving the scrollbar slightly towards that position. We instead decided to change that default into:  when you click somewhere, the scrollbar moves to that position, instantly. I'm not sure how important of a change this one is, but I mean, who actually clicks on scrollbars anymore? Come on.

New Overview

Well, I've just done an entire video about it, but if you missed it, KDE Plasma 6 will have a whole new overview effect with different gestures and a completely redesigned look.  In fact, I consider the new overview basically a very good copy of GNOME's overview effect, and I can say that because I've implemented it myself and I know what I used as an inspiration. Plasma's Overview does some things differently, though: firstly, it does not show applications or the application grid, as we prefer to leave launching applications to the panel or the application launcher. Secondly, we allow a vertical set of desktops, which will be shown on the left instead of on the top; and we also allow a grid of desktops. To support all of these usecases, the Overview has two different views: one where you see mostly the current desktop and then a desktop bar, and another that's more like a desktop grid. It's really easy to switch between them, so hopefully the new effect will cover the usecases of most people.

By the way turns off light if I'm working on KDE Plasma it's only really thanks to all of you supporting me; and I really need your help to reach my donation goal every month, which pays the editor of these videos, the equipment I'm using to record (believe me, it's expensive), and of course my food and time. So if you have some spare change, I'd absolutely love if you could throw it at me. I do offer a sort-of podcast and private blogposts for the patrons. Sometimes. When I'm not too busy. Anyway...

Less Updates

We also decided, for Plasma 6, to release updates less frequently. However, that's not going to happen immediately, as probably the first 6 versions will need to be updated quickly to iron out any possible issue; but as soon as we feel it has stabilized enough, we'll stop doing three release a year and we'll only do two. This has many, many benefits:

It aligns us better to the schedule of distributions, meaning that you'll get always the latest Plasma version in your preferred distro instead of having to wait months beacuse we released Plasma just a few days after the distributions' freeze.

It gives us more time to test out the latest version; there will be a longer beta period to make sure all the bugs in each release are fixed.

It also gives the promotion team a bit more time to actually prepare for the release; we can only start working on an announcement as soon as we know what's going to be inside of it, and usually that's barely a month before the release. With a longer beta period, we'll be able to provide better announcements by knowning what to work on with more time to spare.

The wallpaper settings page

We decided that we would ideally really like to have  wallpaper settings in System Settings instead of just by right clicking the desktop; and I know lots of users asks for this, but you have to remember that it's actually super complex to implement, because you can set wallpapers for each monitor and for each activity.  In fact, the core Plasma dev Marco decided to check out Windows 11, during the KDE Plasma sprint, to see how they were handling the wallpaper settings. Funnily enough, Windows 11 decided to bug out and make all icons in the taskbar disappear whilst we were testing it. So, yeah, "KDE Plasma is buggy, Windows 11 is stable", sure.

Now, it's still not completely clear how this system settings page would look, but there has been some work on it and it's something we'd probably like to see implemented in 6. So, don't be surprised if it appears, you know.


These are the biggest changes, but of course there's so much more; in fact, there's a good six to seven months before the release, mening we have all of the time in the world to start implementing lots of things. Development has just started, but I gotta say, 6 sounds like a super exciting release already doesn't it?