KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS: refinements and improvements, but nothing game changing

KDE Plasma has a new release out: Plasma 5.18 LTS. As its name indicates, its a long term support version, which will be supported for 2 years. It should be included in all major distros that ship a KDE variant, and it comes with a bunch of new stuff, so let’s take a look !

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The Plasma desktop has seen a bunch of improvements to its general usability in 5.18. The first thing is the disappearance of the top right “edit” menu. It was honestly pretty confusing and annoying to have it present at all times, so it’s been replaced by a simple right click on the desktop, and selecting “Customize layout”. This action brings up Global edit bar, on top of the screen, and it lets you access your widgets, your activities and the whole desktop layout options.

The system tray widgets have received a lot of love. A new one allows you to toggle night colour, which shifts the tones of your screen from blue to red to avoid too much blue light emission at night. It supports keyboard shortcuts as well if you want to set some.

The audio volume widget has been redesigned to be more simple and make it easier to change the audio source, and applications playing audio now sport a volume indicator in the task manager. Clicking on it allows you to quickly mute the app.

Smaller adjustments have been added all around, like in the weather widget, which now shows the wind speed as well, or the Kickoff menu, which has been made more touch friendly and uses circular icons for profile pics.

More notifications are now available as well, for example when a bluetooth device get to the end of its battery life, or file download notifications which allow you to quickly drag the file from the notification to where you want to store it.
The big one here is the new user feedback. Don’t worry, it’s all disabled by default, it’s an opt-in way for plasma users to give some feedback to the developers. It’s very granular, and lets you choose how much data you’re willing to share. In all cases, no personal information is ever sent to the plasma team, so you can crank that up all the way without risking any of your privacy, and the collected feedback will be used to improve plasma and identify the areas the developers need to focus on.

In the settings, the application styles window has been revamped with the grid view that permeated most of all the appearance settings. It makes it easir to look at the various themes and select the one you want to use. The grid view has also been applied to the global themes browser, so when you’re looking to download global themes to change your whole desktop’s look, you’ll be able to see a lot more accurately what the result will be.

Window animations are also now easier to tweak, with a slider allowing you to control the animation speed.

The search feature in the settings has also been improved, since it now filters as you type. This is a very nice improvement: KDE has often been roasted for offering too many options and making the settings unreadable, but this basically negates that concern: typing what you’re looking for is more intuitive than browsing through a list of categories trying to guess where the setting you want to tweak is located.

The major improvement is how KDE integrates with GTK applications. It now correctly supports client side decorations, which is about every GTK app using a headerbar these days. These didn’t display shadows before and the resize handles were inconsistent. It’s all in the past now, and these apps should look a lot more at home on a plasma desktop, apart from the fact that KDE apps don’t tend to use headerbars and sport menus and toolbars.

GTK applications should also inherit the plasma desktop’s settings for their theme, the icons they use, the mouse cursors, so they will be a lot better integrated with the system. It’s nice to see a bit more interoperability, since consistency in a desktop is important, and it’s not the user’s job to know which toolkit an application uses and if that toolkit is well supported on their desktop environment or not.

In Discover, Plasma’s package manager, the search field is now focused by default, so once you open it, you can immediately start typing and looking for what you need. It’s a small improvement, sure, but all in all, discover has outgrown its infancy issues and is shaping up to be a lot more reliable and user friendly than it once was.

Plasma should also perform better while using your GPU, and fractional scaling will now cause a lot less visual glitches. Nvidia GPUS are also included in the system monitor, so you can check a few stats on your graphics card.

A new emoji picker has also been added. You can bring it to front pressing Super + period.

24 thoughts on “KDE Plasma 5.18 LTS: refinements and improvements, but nothing game changing

  1. I like it.
    Wonder how well KDE Plasma would work with the Pop OS?
    The UIX of KP is damn nice and "Windows-like", while Pop's strength is providing necessary stuff for gamers etc, out of the box, so I'm curious how well these two could mesh together.

  2. I penta boot, KDE manjaro, Neon and KDE Fedora with two win 10 partitions. Manjaro for it's package selection, Neon for it's more ease of getting Davinci and latest Kdenlive working, and Fedora for it's great 4k hidpi support. Pity I have to use 3 Linux distros. By far manjaro is the slowest and least polished. Cifs shares don't always work, out-of-date AUR esp with AMD GPU s etc, stuttery gaming. But either way it's always KDE. Fedora and Neon just feel better, animations, no stutter with gaming, often later versions than what Manjaro has, icons and cursors don't disappear, better rdesktop scaling. Etc. Point is if want the best KDE experience go for Neon and Fedora. Neon for it's better balance of security for home users, Fedora a bit tedious always asking for root permissions just to mount local drives

  3. I'm really liking the feature richness of Plasma and KDE apps, but I just can't leave the workflow of Gnome. I can't really clone Gnome's workflow on it, at least as far as I know.

  4. YAY! After only TEN YEARS work, they finally gave Dolphin an option to hide "Search" and "Places", and made the default terminal colours black & green. Well done.

    Bloody Millennials! (disappointed face and slow clap).

  5. I love KDE but since over a year on Arch they have been packaging it as a Snap which diminishes the performance. Now when you start typing on the desktop to type into Krunner it takes 0.5-1 second before the windows of Krunner appears and it doesn't capture any input before that the window of Krunner appears. That is a big performance problem for a keyboard-focused user. I don't know who is to blame: the Arch-repository packager or KDE. I hate it and it makes me look for another DE (possibly a tiling WM with some extras if I can get it to look good).

  6. Tell you what pisses me off with this release. Although I've only tried 5.18 out on a KDE Neon live USB, not my Manjaro KDE install, but I don't see the animations speed slider in the display settings. I always make the animations globally faster which makes everything really snappy. Am I wrong, or has this option indeed disappeared, because I couldn't find it anywhere? If they've done that, that's a really
    "Gnomeish" piece of idiosy.

  7. aww shuks i really want to switch to kde and linux but my current laptop's configuration having problems with the audio and nvidia gpu heating up while doing nothing:(

  8. After using Cinnamon for the past 4 years I've switched to KDE and have been very happy. It's taken them a long time to get it to it's current state, but I'm sure KDE will keep getting better from here.

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