KDE Plasma Desktop Guide [A Beginner’s Manual]

6 min

This comprehensive article gives you a getting started guide with KDE Plasma desktop.

KDE Plasma is the most popular and widely used Linux desktop today. If you plan to switch to Linux from Windows, this is a perfect desktop to start with. If you are a student – planning to start your Linux journey with KDE Plasma desktop, you are at the right place.

This overview article gives you easy-to-understand pointers on using the KDE Plasma desktop while referring to the basic functionalities and activities. This guide is heavily inclined to the absolute new users starting their Linux Journey with KDE Plasma desktop. Furthermore, we explained most of the topics via the GUI method to help the newbies.

Let’s begin.

Kubnutu 21.04 running with KDE Plasma 5.22
Kubnutu 21.04 running with KDE Plasma 5.22

KDE Plasma Desktop – Beginner’s Guide

Installation of Kubuntu with KDE Plasma as Dual Boot

KDE Plasma desktop is available with Kubuntu, Fedora Linux, and other Linux distributions. So, to install KDE Plasma Desktop on your computer, you need to download a Linux Distribution.

I would recommend trying Kubuntu or Fedora Linux KDE Edition for a beginner. Link for downloading those, present below. I believe Kubuntu LTS editions are perfect and stable for new users.

The installation is not part of this article. However, if you are using Windows, you can install using this guide as a dual boot. If you have a spare Laptop or desktop, you can create a bootable USB stick via this nice tutorial and boot from it.

Then follow the on-screen instructions to install Linux with KDE Plasma desktop.

Desktop Overview

When you first experience the KDE Plasma desktop, you should see a nice desktop with a default bottom panel which includes a standard shortcut of primary applications and a system tray. This desktop follows the traditional menu-driven user interface principles, which requires little to no learning for people migrating from Windows. You do not need to learn tweaks, gestures, or other special features to start using this.

KDE Plasma Desktop Showing Basic Items
KDE Plasma Desktop Showing Basic Items

The Application Menu can be launched from the very left icon of the Panel. The icon might be different for Ubuntu or Fedora. But you get the idea.

On the right-click context menu of the desktop, you have all the necessary actions, such as changing wallpaper, settings. They are pretty self-explanatory.

The Application menu gives you all the necessary application names to start your work on this desktop. If you don’t know which application is needed to perform a specific task, you can find out by typing some text in the search bar.

Connecting to Internet

Perhaps the most important first task is to connect to the internet. If you have Wi-Fi zones, you can easily find that out from the icon in the system tray. Then click on the name of the connection, enter the password. And you should be connected.

KDE Plasma System Tray Showing Wi-Fi Networks
KDE Plasma System Tray Showing Wi-Fi Networks

If you want to configure more, you can search System Settings in Application Launch and open it. Then under Connections, you can further configure your Wi-Fi or wired network.

How to change the look and feel – wallpaper, themes, etc.?

Obviously, you may need to change the default wallpaper, themes, and colours – right? Changing those are super easy in KDE Plasma. Hit the Application menu, open System Settings. The default first page should allow you to change the wallpaper, as outlined in the below image.

You can select your favourite one and press Ok. You can also choose any other image using the Add Image button at the bottom.

Changing Wallpaper is Easy in KDE Plasma Desktop
Changing Wallpaper is Easy in KDE Plasma Desktop

How to update your system and install/uninstall software?

The KDE Plasma desktop has a utility called Discover to manage the installation and removal of software in your system. It supports almost all popular package management formats – apt, dnf, Flatpak, Snap and AppImage. To open this application, search for Discover in Application Menu.

The user interface of Discover is straightforward to grasp for novice users.

Discover Showing Various Options
Discover Showing Various Options

On the left side, you have options to view the installed application from the “Installed” button. The “Updates” button gives you details about the update available in your system. Usually, Discover checks automatically for updates. However, you can still force check updates using the “Check for Updates” button.

And when you hit the “Update All” button, Discover downloads and applies those updates. No further action is required from your end.

Furthermore, the search button at the top left corner gives you the option to find any application you want for installation. It searches the application in your software sources defined. The software sources are present in the settings of Discover.

Discover also gives you the ability to browse the application catalogue via their type from the “Applications” button on the left of the window.

And with just a click on the “Install” button, installs any application. To uninstall any application, click on the Installed button on the left, giving you the list of installed applications with a “Remove” button.

File Manager or File Explorer

The heart of any desktop is the file manager. Perhaps, this is the most used application in any system. KDE Plasma’s file manager’s name is Dolphin. Dolphin is one of the best Linux File managers today. It comes with almost all the required settings and features needed for your work. If you compare this to Windows Explorer, Dolphin is far smarter than Windows Explorer.

Here’s how it looks. Drive, network path, and folder shortcuts are present on the left side. Search, view options and the additional menu are present at the top.

Dolphin File Manager Showing Options
Dolphin File Manager Showing Options

Perhaps Dolphin’s most crucial usability feature is the Split view and tabbed view. Most file manager, including Windows Explorer, lacks these two features.

Learn About KDE Ecosystem and Applications

KDE Plasma desktop brings many in-house standalone desktop applications to help you with your day-to-day work. They are specially designed to work well with Plasma desktop with better integration and performance.

A few of the apps are installed by default. However, you can install several additional KDE native applications via the Discover Software catalogue. Another way is to go to https://apps.kde.org/ and learn more about KDE Applications.

apps.kde.org gives you one stop shop for all KDE App Info
apps.kde.org gives you one-stop shop for all KDE App Info

Be productive using KRunner

The default launcher of KDE Plasma desktop is called KRunner. It is a program designed to search and launch any applications, quick calculation, search inside files and many new features.

You can launch it anytime, during any workflow situation on the desktop. Launch it via ALT+F2 and type anything.

Open any program using Krunner
Open any program using Krunner
calculate using Krunner
calculate using Krunner

How to watch movies, Netflix and other streaming services?

If you are just a casual user and plan to adopt KDE Plasma desktop as a daily driver, it’s a perfect choice. For example, watching YouTube, Netflix, or other streaming services are easy and well-supported by this desktop with any Linux Distributions. Usually, these are browser-based activities, which can quickly be done using the default Firefox browser. So, open the Firefox web browser and play your favourite streaming services without any issues.

What happens if you run into errors or need help?

If you are a beginner, there will be times when you are stuck or run into some errors. So, the first option I would suggest is to do a Google search to find out the details about your issue on the KDE Plasma desktop.

You can also take help from the helpful community using the below forums:

What’s Next?

Now that you learned about the basics of the KDE Plasma desktop, I would recommend you to arm yourself with more features and tricks of this desktop using our following exclusive guides.

Top 10 KDE Plasma Hidden Feature That You Didn’t Know About

Top 10 KDE Applications That You Didn’t Know About

What is KDE Connect? How Do You Use It?

Top 10 KDE Plasma Tips to Make You Super Productive

Closing Notes

I hope this KDE Plasma guide helps you get started with this awesome desktop within minutes. And remember, the KDE Plasma desktop can be customized to a great extent. You can transform this desktop into anything. It is loaded with many options, tweaks – that is impossible to memorize together.

As you get started, you should start exploring more options, tweaks in this awesome desktop. And say goodbye to Windows.

What do you think about this KDE Plasma guide? Does it help? Let me know in the comment box below.


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