KDE Plasma 5.21 BETA Released. Download and Test Now.

4 min

The KDE team announced the release of KDE Plasma 5.21 BETA and it is available for download and test. KDE Plasma 5.21 brings many new features such as a new kickoff menu, low-latency compositing, Wayland updates, new apps, and more. Here’s what’s new and how to download & test.

KDE Plasma 5.21 is released on 16 Feb 2021. You can read our release coverage, download details here.

KDE Plasma 5.21 BETA is loaded with new features and this is one of the big releases in KDE Plasma’s history. The beta version is now available for testing and not recommended for serious usage until the final release. The final KDE Plasma 5.21 releases on Feb 16, 2021. Download links for beta images are here.

KDE Plasma 5.21 Beta – what’s new

  • KDE Plasma 5.21 includes Qt 5.15 and KDE Frameworks 5.78.
  • A new theme is introduced as Breeze Twilight which is a combination of light and dark themes. And it is available as a Global theme as well.
  • A new app for system monitor is introduced in this release, named “Plasma System Monitor”. In the future, this utility would replace the current KSyssguard. This new app provides a nice and clean UI with graphical indicators for various system resources.
  • More Wayland changes lands in this release as well following the trends of prior releases. The team is pushing KDE Plasma to be the best Wayland supported desktop environment in the future, whereas other desktops are still lacking decent Wayland support.
  • Plasma 5.21 officially uses Systemd at startup when available. This enhancement comes with various underlying benefits. For general users, they feel the startup time is much faster in KDE Plasma 5.21. Under the hood, this change avoids process race conditions during startup, better session clean up – both eliminates possible system hangs. Also brings better resource management between OS processes using control groups (cgroups).
  • Systemd startup will be turned on by default when available.
  • The system settings shortcut page now shows which shortcuts you have changed since opening up the settings dialog – when clicked on “Highlight changed settings feature”.
  • VPN-related notifications and network authentication dialogs now use clearer and more consistent terminology
  • It is possible to choose one Accent color for the current color scheme in the Plasma desktop.
Accent Color - Plasma 5.21
Accent Color – Plasma 5.21
  • KRunner now allows you to pin a command (probably something which you use frequently) – so that you can be faster in your workflow. This is a super handy feature.
Sticky Commands KRunner - Plasma 5.21
Sticky Commands KRunner – Plasma 5.21
  • KDE Plasma 5.21 shows the frequently used system settings option under the context menu of the settings itself. This allows you to quickly go back to your favorite settings.
  • The media controller in the notification now has shuffle and loop controls directly for your media player.
Shuffle and Loop controls - Plasma 5.21
Shuffle and Loop controls – Plasma 5.21
  • Plasma 5.21 allows you to choose the first day of the week – Sunday, Monday, Friday, Saturday, or region defaults. This is very useful for people using different timezones.
Change First day of week - Plasma 5.21
Change First day of week – Plasma 5.21
  • The main window manager and compositor of KDE – Kwin sees a major uplift. The compositor now provides an option for you to choose between more ‘smooth animation’ or a ‘lower latency‘ experience. This major work also brings the mixed-refresh-rate display setups on Wayland. If you have a multimonitor setup with a variable refresh rate then you get better performance while running Plasma under Wayland.
  • The default Kickoff menu is completely changed. The UI now consists of two panels. The left panel contains the transition menu items and the right panel shows the sub-menu items from the left panel. Also, the power options are visible at the bottom and not hidden under the “Leave” option as it is in Plasma 5.20. Here is how it looks.
New Kickoff menu in Plasma 5.21
New Kickoff menu in Plasma 5.21
  • Brand new wallpaper land in KDE Plasma 5.21 – named “Milky Way”. It’s a KDE version of the Milky Way galaxy. A “Kool” wallpaper indeed. Here’s how it looks.
Plasma 5.21 Milky Way Wallpaper
Plasma 5.21 Milky Way Wallpaper
  • A Native fingerprint manager lands in KDE Plasma 5.21 as well. If your device contains a fingerprint scanner and if the current kernel supports it, then you can assign, register your fingerprints using this native dialog.
KDE Plasma 5.21 - Fingerprint Manager
KDE Plasma 5.21 – Fingerprint Manager (image credit: KDE)
  • The Audio volume applet includes a visualizer and it is dynamic. For example, the mic control shows the recording volume with a visualizer.
Audio Applet in Plasma 5.21
Audio Applet in Plasma 5.21

Download KDE Plasma 5.21 BETA

You can download the beta version with KDE Neon Testing Edition Live images. You can download the released BETA .iso from the below link. Visit the link and download the testing edition. Once downloaded, you can run it off a USB drive.

Or, you can always to a fresh install by writing it to an USB using utility like Etcher.

As I said earlier, this is a BETA release and there will be bugs. So, refrain from using it in production systems.

Please download and test this release as much as possible. This helps the team to squash bugs before the final release.

Changelog is available here.


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