KDE and GNOME are the two leading desktop environments, so each new release is met with great anticipation and excitement.
However, the newly released KDE Plasma 5.26 brings a few interesting functional improvements but will probably not cause another “wow” effect among users. And that is, of course, completely normal.
KDE, as we all know, is about unlimited options for customization. So, let’s take a look at another dosage of those that Plasma 5.26 brings us and give our honest thoughts on them below.
What’s New in KDE Plasma 5.26
Resizable Panel Widgets
KDE Plasma widgets are small GUI apps that act as building blocks, allowing you to build a desktop suited to your needs and requirements.
Until now, you could only resize widgets that “float” on your desktop. Plasma 5.26 changes this by allowing you to resize those on your panel – for example, the clock, calendar, volume control, etc.
A handy functionality in various cases, such as when the widget has too much information, and you want to view it more eye-friendly way.
Another feature that the KDE developers focus on in this release is animated wallpapers. But we have something to add here.
We’re sure many Linux users find moving things around on their desktops funny. And they certainly are. However, in our opinion, this is a needless feature that we would even describe as annoying. And to the “Simply don’t use it” statement, we’d say, “We haven’t even considered doing that.”
So, we don’t know how much effort the KDE developers spent building this “functionality,” but we believe they could have put energy in more useful directions.
Adaptive wallpapers are yet another new feature introduced by KDE Plasma 5.26. Previously, when switching from light to dark themes or vice versa, only the color of the window decoration changed.
The wallpaper now adjusts its color spectrum to match the mode, similar to the functionality introduced in GNOME 42.
We can only admire this feature, which provides a much more complete look and feel to the entire desktop environment. Furthermore, it is significantly easier on the eyes in purely practical terms.
The Kickoff menu has received a lot of attention in this release. And, of course, it can be resizable like the other panel widgets too.
In addition, you also get the “Use compact list item style” option, which, as the name implies, rearranges the items in a more compact form, allowing you to see more things at once.
Furthermore, users can use an alphabetical index to find the application they need quickly. This is especially useful if you have many apps installed and need to scroll until you find the one you’re looking for.
And, unlike the previous, the option in KDE Plasma 5.26 to add text in place of the Kickoff widget icon or even remove it completely has no practical value and is purely for fun.
The Discover app allows you to manage software from multiple sources. But now, you may choose how frequently it reminds you of new updates. The available options are “Daily,” “Weekly,” and “Monthly.”
Furthermore, it now displays app content ratings and allows you to change the name used when submitting a review. Finally, we can’t leave out that Discover now includes a “Share” button on each app’s information page.
Other KDE Plasma 5.26 Improvements
This release includes several improvements to System Settings. For example, it’s now easier to preview wallpapers: click on them, and the desktop will change to show you what the wallpaper would look like.
In addition, when you type in the Overview effect, it now filters windows that match the search text and perform a KRunner search if no open windows match the search phrase.
Wayland support has also been improved in Plasma 5.26 in certain ways. For example, it is now possible to adjust how a graphics tablet’s input area maps to your screen coordinates. Moreover, it’s now possible to disable middle-click paste.
In conclusion, we will add that we have purposefully avoided focusing on Plasma Bigscreen, an open-source user interface for TVs, because it is outside the scope of desktop functionality and thus outside the scope of this review.
As always, you can refer to the official announcement for more information about all changes in the new version.
How to Get KDE Plasma 5.26
The easiest way to test it is with KDE Neon. It is a Linux distribution developed by KDE based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS.
Users of rolling-release Linux distributions, such as Arch Linux, openSUSE Tumbleweed, Void Linux, etc., are expected to be among the first to receive the upgrade to KDE Plasma 5.26 in their distro’s repositories.