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cleanup confusing sections and fix sections which contain a todo
Plasma is one of the key technologies of KDE, and coincidentally one of the most visible to a normal users. Its nature is different than what a normal user would expect with his/her workspace (desktop and associated elements), therefore there may be confusion on what Plasma is, on what it does, and how to perform common tasks.
This document attempts to address the problem by providing answers to most common questions.
Question. What is Plasma?
Plasma is one of the core technologies of the K Desktop Environment, also known as one of the "Pillars of KDE", alongside with other, less user-visible ones like Phonon and Solid.
Q. What does Plasma do?
Plasma is the component that is "in charge" of displaying the desktop, the taskbar, and related elements. However, such a definition is highly reductive. The aim of Plasma is to change the desktop paradigm, a concept that has not changed a lot since its original inception.
Q. What is wrong with the current desktop technology?
Today's desktops are essentially static. Mostly, they are tied to a folder in which one can find icons (application launchers), or user-placed documents and folders. Aside that (and a background, should the user want one) there's not much more. Plasma aims to redefine such an approach, by creating a dynamic and highly customizable environment.
Q. I don't think it's such a good idea...
Plasma enables you to use your desktop as you are used to. However, it can do much more.
Q. How does Plasma work?
Plasma's components are applets, also called plasmoids. Those have many different functions, ranging from displaying your desktop and associated wallpaper, showing your laptop's battery level, displaying your plugged in devices, and drawing the taskbar. Applets can be grouped together in "containers" called containments.
Q. It doesn't sound too new... other operating systems have done that.
The key difference here is that plasmoids can interact together. You want a better view of your laptop battery in order to find out when you are running low? You just drag it away from the taskbar and put it on the desktop. Also, applets can be resized and rotated at will, thanks to the use of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVGs). As you can see, the desktop becomes interactive all of a sudden. The user is now able to control how it behaves and what it displays, in a visually pleasing and user-friendly manner. Also, the desktop itself is a widget, and therefore can be moved everywhere with respect to the windows (back and forward). It is no longer rooted behind everything, and it's actually a layer you can interact with.
Kicker and Kdesktop were working fine in KDE 3! Why did you have to change that?
Especially regarding kicker, there was the important issue of maintainability. The code was in place since the KDE 2 days, and it was difficult to add new features without breaking others. In the end, to proceed forward, the only viable option was to start anew from scratch. <Add more of Plasma's goals>
Q. My <insert feature here> is not working anymore!
Don't forget that Plasma is still in its infancy (it's brand new, after all) and that KDE 3 was an extremely polished codebase: it took seven years to get to that, while Plasma had about 18 months to get to its current status. With time, the Plasma developers plan on reintroducing features that have been missing and fix regressions. As KDE progresses through the KDE4 cycle, Plasma will improve with it.
Q. The default desktop has no icons. Can I place them?
Of course you can. Dragging an icon from Dolphin or Konqueror to the desktop should work. There is also legacy support for the existing Desktop folders.
Q. Why on earth did you decide with no icons on desktop?
The idea of a Desktop folder is fundamentally a broken concept. TODO add explanation
Q. I am using two screens, and I used to have kicker over the two displays. Can I do that with Plasma?
No. TODO add explanation
Q. What's the deal with the K menu? It's big and ugly!
During the development of KDE 4.0, different approaches for a K menu (application launcher) were tried. Some projects, like Raptor, were ambitious but there was no way they could be completed on time. At the time, one developer ported the SUSE Linux's application launcher (Kickoff) to the new KDE architecture. As it was the most ready and feature complete (not to mention the product of usability testing) it was chosen to be the default menu in KDE 4.0. However, this does not mean that there aren't alternatives: projects such as the aforementioned Raptor or Lancelot are being actively developed. There is also a "traditional" K-menu available.
Q. I heard that you can use OS X's widgets with Plasma. Is this true?
There is some code in place already, however as widgets rely on WebKit, it won't be available until Qt 4.4 (which incorporates it), and therefore unlikely before KDE 4.1.
Q. My widgets are hidden under the windows. How can I show them?
You can bring all the widgets to the front by pushing Ctrl-F12, which will bring the Plasma Dashboard to the front.
Q. How can I lock the positions of the widgets?
TODO (my SVN snapshot is outdated)
Q. What is the Zooming User Interface (ZUI)?
TODO (get information from the TechBase page?)
Q. How does the ZUI work?
Daniel Laidig & Simon St.James - thanks for the umeet IRC logs!