Restarting KDE’s Plasma Shell via Konsole (command line)

As much as I love KDE as my desktop environment (on top of Ubuntu, so Kubuntu), it does occasionally happen that the Plasma Shell freezes up (usually when I’ve been running my computer for quite a while then boot up a game and begin to push the graphics a bit. Often, I just shut down when I’m done and that resets everything. However, there is a quick way to shutdown and restart the Plasma Shell that will bring everything back up.

In KDE Plasma Shell 5.10+, the command to kill the Plasma Shell is:

kquitapp5 plasmashell

In KDE Plasma Shell 5.10+, the command to restart the Plasma Shell is:

kstart5 plasmashell

In earlier versions of KDE 5, the commands were:

killall plasmashell
kstart plasmashell

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KDE – Adjusting the Look and Feel of the Desktop and Application Windows

I love how configurable KDE is as a desktop.  However, adjusting the look of the desktop is something of a nightmare.  There are five different options to adjust different aspects of the desktop and application windows, each of which does different things, but the labels given to these don’t always reflect what the customizations will be.  Here’s my best attempt to explain what each of these does.

When you open “System Settings,” at the very top is a set of five icons under the label “Appearance.”  These icons are titled: “Workspace Theme,” “Color,” “Font,” “Icons,” and “Application Style.”

look1

Workspace Theme

If you click on “Workspace Theme,” you’ll get the following options: “Look And Feel,” “Desktop Theme,” “Cursor Theme,” and “Splash Screen.”  Here’s what each of these settings adjusts.

Look and Feel

Up until Kubuntu 16.04 (my preferred Linux distribution at the moment), there was always just one option in here – the default “Breeze” option.  However, the latest version ships with two options: Breeze and Breeze Dark.  Basically, Look and Feel is kind of a one-click change to the entire theme of your desktop.  From this color scheme in Breeze:

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To this color scheme in Breeze Dark:

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This one-click option for changing the color scheme is nice for simplicity, but it doesn’t allow for detailed customizations of the various aspects of your desktop environment.  There also isn’t a way to add new options here, which is kind of disappointing as it would be nice to have additional one-click options for changing the entire look and feel of the desktop environment.  For now, we’re stuck with two options.

Desktop Theme

Here’s what you’ll see when you first click on “Desktop Theme”:

look4

The options in here primarily just change the KDE panel color scheme and look.  The panel with the default theme, Breeze, applied, looks like this:

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Clicking one of the alternatives here, like “Oxygen” leads to this look:

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Basically, this allows you to customize the panels and the KDE windows as well as the quick start window (Alt-F2).  There is the option to “Get New Themes,” which is nice here as there are many to choose from.  But keep in mind that this is basically just for adjusting themes on the desktop (the panel and those items attached to the panel), but this will not change the color schemes of the applications windows (e.g., Dolphin, or the various other programs).

Cursor Theme

This is actually an option that is pretty clear – you can adjust your cursor options here.  I’m not very particular with my cursor, so I don’t usually mess with the default options.  But Kubuntu 16.04 ships with three options as you can see on this screenshot:

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You also have the option of downloading additional cursor themes.

Splash Screen

The last option within Workspace Theme settings is the Splash Screen.  At present, you can either have the Breeze theme or None.

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Not a lot of options and no way to add additional ones at this point.  Granted, this is something you look at while your OS boots, and if your OS boots quickly, what’s the point?  But it would be nice to have more than one option here and the ability to add other options.

Color

Scheme

Scheme is where you can change the colors of the application windows (at least those that use the Plasma desktop environment settings, which isn’t all the programs that you might run).  Here’s what you’ll see when you open these system settings:

look10

The default Scheme is “Breeze” again, which looks like this with Dolphin:

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Here’s how it changes when you apply the Obsidian Coast theme:

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(Icky!)

There are a number of themes available and more can be downloaded.  But the important thing to remember here is that the themes in this system setting only affect application windows that utilize the Plasma desktop environment.  Some applications, like Google Chrome, don’t change at all with these settings. Other applications that use the Plasma desktop environment will, like Kate, Konsole, and even LibreOffice 5, as seen here:

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Kate with the Breeze application window theme.

Kate with the Obsidian Coast theme.
Kate with the Obsidian Coast theme.

There are three other tabs under the Application Color Scheme: Options, Colors, and Disabled.  These allow for more fine tuning of the application windows.

Font

Font is also pretty self-explanatory – here is where you can adjust your fonts.

Fonts

The Fonts set of options are where you adjust your system wide set of fonts – those that appear at the top of windows, in menus, etc.  Again, this isn’t something that matters all that much to me, but it is nice to have these options:

look14

Font Management

In Font Management you can add and delete the available fonts on your system.  I do occasionally adjust this when I’m editing images and need specific fonts (’cause everyone should have a Star Wars font installed on their system).  But, again, this is pretty self-explanatory:

look15

Icons

The next set of system options for adjusting the appearance of your desktop environment are for icons and emoticons.

Icons

There are a number of options in the Icons window that ship with the stock version of Kubuntu, as you can see here:

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Here is how the Breeze icons look in Dolphin:

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And here is how the Oxygen icons look in Dolphin:

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There is the option of installing additional themes for icons as well.  These settings change the icons in Dolphin and in the KDE panel.

Emoticons

The emoticons are used for the built in chat software that ships with KDE.  Since I don’t use it, I won’t spend much time on this.  Basically, you can adjust the default emoticons and install new ones:

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Application Style

The final set of options, Application Style, have a somewhat confusing title.  If you recall, to adjust the color of application windows, you do that by going to Color->Scheme (not at all intuitive).  In Application Style, you don’t adjust the color of application windows, you adjust the shapes, angles, transparency, etc.  Here’s what you see when you first open this option:

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Widget Style

Under Widget Style, you adjust the overall “look” of application windows by adjusting lines, radio buttons, boxes, etc.  There are a number of pre-installed “Widget styles”.  Here’s what application windows look like with the default style, Breeze, applied (again, using Dolphin to demonstrate):

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And here is what Dolphin looks like with MS Windows 9x applied:

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(FWIW, what an awful Widget style. So glad it’s not 1998 anymore.)

Window Decorations

In Window Decorations, you can adjust the coloring of active and inactive windows as well as the maximize, minimize, and close buttons for application windows.  Here’s how Dolphin looks with the default Theme, Breeze, installed:

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And here is how it looks with the Plastik theme applied:

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This is another system setting where you can download a whole bunch of additional themes.  Also, on the second tab, “Buttons,” you can customize the buttons that appear on each application window.  One that I like adding is “Keep above,” as I use that regularly.

GNOME Application Style

The last appearance option you can adjust is the GNOME Application Style menu.  Basically, this determines the styling for GNOME desktop environment applications that do not utilize the Plasma desktop environment.  I don’t use a lot of GNOME applications, but one I like is gprename, a batch renamer that comes from the GNOME desktop environment.  Here’s how it looks with the default style, Breeze, applied:

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And here is how it looks with the Breeze-Dark theme applied:

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This is another setting that includes the option of downloading additional themes.

Summary

The reason why I put this list together was primarily because there are (1) so many options for customizing your workspace in KDE and (2) the names of the various options aren’t always that intuitive.  Hopefully these descriptions will make it easier for you to customize your workspace how you want it in the future.  For me, I prefer a darker themed desktop environment as it seems to be a little friendlier on the eyes.  The rest of the options are less important to me.  But one of the great advantages of running KDE (and some other Linux desktop environments) is the amazing amount of customizability that is included right out of the box.  Have fun modding!

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Linux – Kubuntu 16.04 with Plasma 5.5.5 – unable to change file associations

I just upgraded my laptop (Lenovo ThinkPad T540P) to the latest version of Kubuntu – 16.04 with Plasma 5.5.5.  Everything was running great until I had an issue with Ark, the archiving program that comes with KDE.  It was having an issue unzipping an archive.  It seemed to unzip the archive, but the resulting file should have been a directory and instead was being recognized by the operating system as a PDF file.  In the process of trying to get the extracted zip file open, I set Ark as an option for opening PDF files using the standard approach: right-click on file, select Properties, click on File Type Options, and then add the new option – Ark.

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Step 1 – right-click a PDF file

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Step 2: click on File Type Options

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Step 3: adjust the Application Preference Order or add/remove applications

This didn’t solve my archive problem, but did introduce a new problem with Kubuntu 16.04.  Ark became the default program for opening PDF files, which is absolutely not what I want both because Ark can’t open PDFs and because I prefer Okular for this.  I tried a dozen times or so to change the file association using the same method I had used to add it above (right-click on a PDF, select Properties, click on File Type Options, etc.) and then deleting Ark as an option or moving it down so it isn’t the default option.  Every time I would try this, Ark would re-appear as soon as I hit “Apply” or “OK.”

Since this didn’t work when I was using the quick and easy method of right-clicking, I tried changing the file associations in System Settings.  Open up System Settings and click on “Applications”:

ark4Then click on “File Associations” and add PDF in the search bar:

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I tried doing the same thing here – delete Ark as an option or moving it down in the preferred order list, and it would just reappear when I hit “Apply.”  This is definitely a bug in the new Plasma/Kubuntu version.

I knew there was another location to change these default settings – a txt file that could be edited using something like “kate,” the built in KDE text editor.  From a terminal/Konsole, type:

sudo kate /home/[user]/.local/share/applications/mimeapps.list

Once you open that file, you can see some default settings as well as my attempt to remove Ark as a program for opening PDFs:

ark6

The information in my mimeapps.list file was correct, but it was still having the same problem of Ark being called as the default program to open PDF files.

After a little searching on the internet, I found a different solution that actually worked (again, suggesting this is a bug in KDE/Plasma/Kubuntu).  Apparently, the mimeapps.list in that location is user-specific.  There is another mimeapps.list in a different location that is universal for the operating system and not user specific that is located here:

/home/[user]/.config/mimeapps.list

I opened this file using kate:

sudo kate/home/[user]/.config/mimeapps.list

And removed the Ark connection with PDF files by deleting it so the current version looks like this:

ark7

After I did this, the system settings took effect and Ark was no longer the default app called when I tried to open PDF files.  This seems like a serious bug in Plasma/Kubuntu that the developers need to fix.  It seems as though the operating system wide options are over-riding the user-specific options for the mimeapps.list, which means you cannot change the default file associations in KDE using Kubuntu 16.04.

If you run into this problem, please report it to the Kubuntu/KDE/Plasma developers.

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Linux: Getting “Find” working in Dolphin on KDE (Linux Mint and Kubuntu)

One of the reasons I switched to KDE from Gnome was Dolphin, the file manager that ships with KDE.  When I made the switch a couple of years ago, the Find feature in KDE worked really well.  But some time in the last couple of years, the two distributions I’ve been using – Kubuntu and Linux Mint KDE – haven’t had the Find feature working from the base install.  I’ve muddled along without that feature for about two years (I don’t always need it, but there have been a few times when I really did need it and it didn’t work).  I finally figured out how to get it working.  It has to be one of the most ridiculously broken elements of Linux I’ve ever discovered as the solution is convoluted and counter-intuitive.

To begin with, from the base install in Dolphin, here is the Find button:

enabling find function in Dolphin in KDE

If you click it, it will open a find dialogue in the location bar at the top of Dolphin:

enabling find function in Dolphin in KDE
(click for full size)

If you try to find something, you’ll get an error message that says, “Invalid protocol” that looks like this:

enabling find function in Dolphin in KDE
(click for full size)

Dolphin has done that for the last two or three years or so, which means I haven’t been able to use this very basic feature of the file manager.

If you look around for advice on how to fix this, you’ll get mired in a bunch of forums that suggest different things about “baloo,” the new search program in KDE (that replaced Nepomuk, the failed, processor-hungry semantic search engine that no one really liked).  Here’s the problem with “baloo”: it’s not installed by default in Linux Mint KDE or Kubuntu.  That’s actually fine if you don’t need this search feature.  But, and here’s the convoluted part of this, you don’t actually use baloo for the search function in Dolphin.  However, you have to install it in order to enable the search function in Dolphin to work, but then turn baloo off.  Seriously!  It’s rather absurd and broken at the moment.

Here’s what you have to do.  First, install baloo4 from synaptic:

enabling find function in Dolphin in KDE
(click for full size)

If you try the search function now, it still won’t work.  Dolphin won’t give you the error message anymore, but it also won’t find anything.  It just gives you an empty page of results, regardless of what you search for.  But, installing baloo does something that makes enabling the Find feature possible.  If you open up System Settings, you’ll see a new icon that wasn’t there before – Desktop Search:

enabling find function in Dolphin in KDE
(click for full size)

We’ll return to that System Setting option in a minute.

Next, go back to Synaptic and install the following packages: kde-baseapps, systemsettings (probably already installed), and kfind (also probably already installed).

enabling find function in Dolphin in KDE
(click for full size)

You can still try searching in Dolphin after you’ve done this, but it won’t work.  There is one more completely counter-intuitive step.  Once you’ve installed kde-baseapps (and the other two packages), go back to the System Settings window and click on the new Desktop Search icon.  There is a check box below the window where you can exclude locations that says “Enable Desktop Search.”  Uncheck it and click “Apply”:

enabling find function in Dolphin in KDE
(click for full size)

Now, try searching in Dolphin and, voila, it works:

enabling find function in Dolphin in KDE
(click for full size)

This fix for the Find feature in a basic program in KDE is completely counter-intuitive.  In sum, in order to turn on the “search” feature, you have to install a package that you aren’t going to use, install another package that you are going to use, and then turn off the first package (baloo).  Why?  Why?  Why?

KDE programmers – I love your software!  I really, really, do.  But this makes no sense.  Can you please decide on a file/folder search solution, install it by default, and then make it a simple click of a button to turn it on or off?  This should not be anywhere close to this complicated!

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