Look out world, KDE is coming for your desktop. That’s right, the tortoise in the desktop race is slowly creeping up on the leaders. And in what some might call a giant leap forward, KDE has not only caught up to the competition, but surpassed them in some ways.
Okay, let’s back up a bit from those bombastic claims. Considering how far along the Linux desktop has come over the past five years, it should go without saying that every available option has drastically improved. And that claim could be considered fair. GNOME, Pantheon, Mint, Cinnamon — they’ve all don’t spectacular jobs of making serious headway in the desktop race. But recently, KDE has added a few dashes of elegance the competition has neglected.
Did you see that coming? Yes, I’m talking about aesthetics here. But come on, it’s an issue that has plagued the Linux desktop for some time. GNOME caught wind of this a few years ago and began a push to dig deep into the details of the look and feel of their desktop. Pantheon’s modus operandi is elegance and simplicity. So it should come as no surprise that KDE broke out a serious case of polish for their latest update. And, wow, does it shine.
I’m talking about KDE Plasma 5.13. And once you feast your eyes on this latest release, all bets are off on you remaining with your current desktop. It’s that good. But what could they have done to make KDE so much better? I could talk about performance and new features that make the desktop slightly more efficient, but that would be boring. Don’t get me wrong, they have further refined the performance and efficiency of the desktop and it now responds as quickly (if not more so) than the competition. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear KDE 5.13 was one of the many lightweight desktops available. It’s not. In fact, KDE Plasma is still very much a full-blown DE (Desktop Environment).
Instead of discussing those drole bits, I want to talk about what KDE has done to bring an added layer of elegance to the desktop.
It’s all about the blur
I think it’s safe to say we can thank Apple for the blur—or at least putting it front and center. And macOS (and iOS) use that Gaussian blur to great effect. Outside of Compiz (which was an amazing desktop tool in his heyday), desktop blur has been MIA in Linux. Until now. KDE Plasma 5.13 has done a remarkable job of bringing this feature to the desktop.
But how do you make this happen? First off, if you’re going to do this with VirtualBox, make sure you install the guest additions (right after you install the operating system). Without the guest additions, you’ll have trouble getting much in the way of visual effects. You also need to enable 3D Acceleration (in Settings | Display | Screen). Second, you need the latest version of KDE. The best way to get that is with KDE Neon. Once you have those pieces in place, and KDE Neon installed, you then must know how to enable and configure the blur feature. Let me show you how.
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Blurring the lines
There are a few configuration options to take care of. The first is enabling and configuring transparency. To do this, open up the KDE Settings tool and go to Appearance | Application Style | Widget Style. In the Applications tab (Figure A), click the Configure button associated with Widget style.
In the resulting window, click on the Transparency tab and move the slider to your desired transparency level (Figure B).
Back to System Settings, navigate to Workspace | Desktop behavior | Desktop effects | Blur. Click on the Configure button associated with Blur. In the resulting window (Figure C), adjust the Blur and Noise strength to suit your tastes).
Finally, you can even give the terminal window a blur effect. To do that, open Konsole and click Settings | Edit current profile. In the resulting window, click the Appearance tab and then the Edit button. In the next window (Figure D), click to enable Blur background and then adjust the Background transparency to taste.
At this point, you should now have an elegant blur to your KDE desktop. The end results? Take a look at Figure E.
Should you care?
Okay, so desktop blur won’t help you be more productive. Should you even care about it? To be honest, some won’t. But for those that do like their desktops with touch of beauty, KDE Plasma 5.13 will certainly please. And even if this is all in the name of vanity, it does help to put the prowess of the KDE designers and developers on display. As for me, I say kudos to team KDE for making their desktop one of the most beautiful on the market.