KDE Plasma 5.21 Released. This is What’s New

4 min

The KDE team does it again. We have a shiny new KDE Plasma 5.21 release. Here in this post, we take a look at what’s the new features and how you can get it right now.

The most popular, modern, and lightweight Linux desktop environment KDE Plasma arrives with its new release. Plasma 5.21 in a way is a major release considering the number of new features, adoption of new tech such as systemd, and more refined for user experience.

Although Plasma already provides more customization options which no other Linux desktop provides today – that too, natively. And on the top, it is super friendly on your hardware. For example, if you run the latest Plasma with KDE Neon in a 10-year-old system (such as with i3) – it runs perfectly fine.

With all these advantages, the KDE team continuously pushes Plasma for better user experience and overall performance. That said, lets’ take a look at what’s new in KDE Plasma 5.21 release.

KDE Plasma 5.21 Desktop (test)
KDE Plasma 5.21 Desktop (test)

KDE Plasma 5.21 Release – New Features and Enhancements

  • 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

For a complete list of changes, refer the change log.

Download KDE Plasma 5.21

If you are running KDE Neon 5.20, you should be getting the upgrade prompts using Discover. Launch Discover and check for updates. Then follow the onscreen instructions.

If you don’t get the upgrade prompt and still seeing Plasma 5.20.5, don’t “PaniK”. The mirrors takes some time to update across the world servers. So, wait for a day or two.

For a fresh installation, download the KDE Neon User Edition image from the below link and write it as a LIVE system. Then you can go ahead and install.

If you are using Kubuntu 20.04 LTS, then you can install it (probably) via KDE Backports PPA once it is available. However, it is not recommended. If you want to experience KDE Plasma 5.21 with an Ubuntu base, then you can get it via Ubuntu 21.04 Hirsute Hippo release.

For rolling releases like Arch Linux and derivatives, the Plasma 5.21 packages already updated. So, you can install it from scratch using this guide or just upgrade via your OS’s updater.

Closing Notes

A very good release from the Plasma team as always. At the moment, Plasma desktop probably the most advanced Linux desktop which is perfect for all use cases including mobile operating systems. The KDE team is the most active team today in terms of developments and the results speaks for itself.


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