KDE Plasma 5.5: The Quintessential 2016 Review

Written by Ken Vermette in Software on 8 January 2016. Page 7 of 9. 75 Comments

Core Applications

Plasma 5.5 comes bundled with several core applications and as exciting as Plasma itself has become those applications seem almost stagnant in comparison. For users of Plasma 4 wondering what dramatic difference and new applications will be brought with an update, I have both good and bad news for you. The good news is that it will be familiar. The bad news is that it will be very familiar.

Developers have been focusing on being porting their applications over the Frameworks 5. In terms of features, interface, and functionality you'll find applications are still firmly rooted in older standards and there have been no significant changes.

Compared to Gnome applications, core KDE applications feel less like a unified whole and more like a collection of random applications of varying quality and goals. This in turn means that extra applications being written for KDE don't really have functional examples to imitate. This is one thing Gnome developers and designers do very well, as they express a clear goal and chase it ferociously. Core Gnome applications look good, feel consistent, and serve as a template for what applications built with the kit should look and act like.

This doesn't mean KDE applications are bad, far from it, it really just means they haven't changed and are being conservative. Dolphin still stakes itself as a pack-leading file manager, KMail continues to have more features than Systemd, the good is still very good. But the bad is present and applications like Gwenview continue to be awkward, while things like Dragonplayer 3 which were teased years ago are a no-show.

KDE Applications are still very good where raw functionality is important, and still weak where experience is important. If you want powerful applications able to rock any job you throw at them these apps are some of the best. But I can't say that the majority of applications are especially pleasurable to use, and it's a very stark contrast to Plasma Desktop which is becoming more refined with every release.

KInfocenter Sports Power Usage Information

KInfoCenter showing some power usage stats.

Why is your laptop chewing through that battery at breakneck speeds? KInfoCenter will now present you with information on what's using power under the “Energy Information” section. Depending on your machine and peripherals, it may show you various graphs, bars, and charts. This can be useful to really see what's eating your battery.

Spectacle Replaces KSnapshot

Spectacle is a new addition to KDE Applications and serves as a slightly more souped up version of KSnapshot, able to take composite shots of windows and their children. Eventually this will be the tool able to take Wayland screenshots, but this is very early days for the program and Kwin is not yet supporting screenshots through the new display server.

Applications Verdict in 2016:

This is the one area which I hate to say things feel stagnated, which is unfortunate as there's a great deal of effort going on under the hood. KDE Applications are focused on porting right now and several applications have been moved to the new frameworks with each successive release - but it's not something I can say users will see an appreciable difference with. I'm very glad to report the fact that there aren't significant breakages as applications are ported, and there hasn't been any feature loss which I noticed. It really feels like business as usual, like no major toolkit shift was going on.

Related Articles