KDE Plasma 5.21 Brings Low-latency Compositing, New Kickoff Menu, and Wallpaper

2 min

The KDE team announced the first 2021 update today (Jan 9) with many new additions to the Plasma Desktop. And some of them are going to fundamentally change your Plasma desktop experience.

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

Among many small under-the-hood changes and bug fixes, there are some major changes coming up in the KDE Plasma 5.21 – native fingerprint manager, default system startup, Krunner updates, etc. And the recent announcement brings more changes to KDE Plasma 5.21. Take a look.

KDE Plasma 5.21 – Updates

Kwin updates

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 change brings major chunk of code addition in KDE Plasma 5.21 and still in progress.

Overhauled Kickoff menu

Another major addition is a complete redesign of the main KDE Plasma Application Launcher (Kickoff menu). This is how it looks as per the new design.

New Kickoff menu in Plasma 5.21
New Kickoff menu in Plasma 5.21

The launcher brings two main panels from earlier one panel. The left panel shows the menu entries and the right panel shows the sub-menu items. Today with the existing design, you click on the menu item, and then the sub-menu items show with a breadcrumb at the top for navigation. Now with the new design, it is easier to browse the menu.

Also, the new launcher introduces a new item “All Applications” which is not available in the Existing Plasma 5.20 design.

In Plasma 5.20, the power options are accessible under the “Leave” option. In Plasma 5.21 the new launcher brings the power options at the bottom and it is always visible.

All-in-all users going to save couple of clicks and this changes promises better user experience.

And oh, if you do not like the new Kickoff menu, the old option is still available via KDE Widgets which you can install and add to the panel. This is why I love KDE – options for everyone’s need.

(side note: The launcher indeed looks like Windows 10 styled in a way).

Dynamic Audio Applet

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

New Wallpaper

Following the trends, a brand new Wallpaper is available with KDE Plasma 5.21 – named “Milky Way”. The wallpaper color palette is different than earlier KDE wallpapers. It feels more “Ubuntu” type color palette with a dark tint. However, it looks great.

Plasma 5.21 Milky Way Wallpaper
Plasma 5.21 Milky Way Wallpaper

Here is a link for a high-res version (~2MB) of the above wallpaper.

That said, KDE Plasma 5.20 Beta is expected by the end of January 2021. The final release should be on First week of February, 2021.

KDE Plasma 5.21 should be available with Kubuntu 21.04 Hirsute Hippo for Ubuntu flavor. Debian 11 Bullseye is likely to get the latest Plasma as well.


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