Experiment: Short Plasma HOWTO screencasts

Being an active member in the KDE Community Forums, I regularly see users asking how to do this and that in Plasma. My usual answer is something like “Click on cashewCashew -> [Unlock Widgets] -> Add Widgets… -> drag widgets from the “Add Widgets” dialog to desktop/panel”. Sometimes I also refer to the Plasma FAQ.

This works, but I’ve been thinking about a more… amusing way to give the answer (in lack for a better word). Inspired by the Plasma screencasts on blip.tv, I decided to make a few screencasts. In contrast to those on blip.tv, mine are very short, direct and without any text – they’re meant to simply answer one question.

This is just an experiment, so I’ve only done three so far. I decided to record them in GIF, since most web browsers can handle it out of box. (As a result, the quality isn’t the best – you can’t get everything, right?)

Click on a thumbnail below to watch the HOWTO.

Add widget to desktop

Move widget in panel

Add widget to panel

Yep, that’s it. Now I want to hear your thoughts:

  • What do you think about the idea?
  • Did you like the result?
  • Any suggestions on how it can be improved?
  • … Do you think I need to unlock the widgets every time? (Yes it gets tiring after awhile; I had to redo the recording a lot of times until I was satisfied).

I’m not very good with licenses, but Creative Commons BY sounds pretty good; that is, you’re free to share and modify. Note that the artwork in the screencasts belong to Oxygen.


26 Responses to “Experiment: Short Plasma HOWTO screencasts”

  1. James Hetfield Says:

    I think its a pretty good way of explaining a 2D idea in visual 2D terms. How do you record the GIF? More people should do this instead of terrible Youtube videos.

  2. Matija "hook" Šuklje Says:

    I like the idea in general. Short, no nonsense, no captions — I like it. Maybe it could be used in small tutorials e.g. in KDE itself!

    But, wow, I haven’t seen GIF animations for quite some time …it’s so early 90’s O_o …what about animated PNG, is that already supported enough?

    Well, I wouldn’t be a lawyer (or at least law student), if I didn’t notice the CC BY-SA and have a comment on it 😉
    Long story short, the SA clause could cause your work to be incompatible with GPL. I’d suggest you use CC BY-NC (non-commerial), or just plain CC BY.

  3. snirp Says:

    Please, do not point new users to the cashew. Right clicking the desktop is more intuitive and besides: there is a good chance that the distro he uses has already decided to get rid of the cashew.
    I hope and expect that others will follow.

  4. notmart Says:

    good idea, i even think they should be on some kind of rss feed that is added to the desktop by default

    @snirp: no, the whole concept of a right mouse button is not intuitive -at all-
    and if a distribution has removed the cashew is their problem, shame on them

  5. Luca Beltrame Says:

    The main problem with screencasts is that Plasma evolves too fast, and by every new version of KDE they’re alredy outdated.

  6. atomopawn Says:

    Wow. I’ve been using plasma since KDE 4.0 and I learned something from these. (I didn’t realize you could drag and drop widgets from the menu directly onto the desktop where you wanted to place them. I’ve been double clicking and then moving them by hand this whole time.)

  7. snirp Says:

    I am not under the illusion that i can change your point view, but let me say this:
    – As a consensus, users can change an object’s properties by right-clicking it. The same should go for the desktop properties (and it does)
    – Stemming from windows: right click allowed me to change the looks of the desktop. First thing I did after installing KDE. I guestimate some 70 % of new KDE’ers come from windows.

    These two points make me reach the conclusion that right click is the way to explain it. Excluding a good deal of users by holding grudge against their distro seems a bit unthoughtful.

    (Besides, the cashew is superfluous, inflexible, lacking choice and misplaced. Not very pretty either. I applaud openSuse for hiding it. But, this is not really the point here.)

  8. snirp Says:

    @ Luca Beltrame
    Come on man, if this screencast would have been teleported back 1 1/2 year, a KDE 4.0 user would have figured it out. As you say, it evolves. It does not change overnight.

  9. Hans Says:

    @James Hetfield:
    I used Byzanz to record it.

    @Matija “hook” Šuklje:
    “I’d suggest you use CC BY-NC (non-commerial), or just plain CC BY.”

    License updated. Thanks for the hint.

    “But, wow, I haven’t seen GIF animations for quite some time …it’s so early 90’s O_o …what about animated PNG, is that already supported enough?”

    Guess I hang out in the wrong communities then – [annoying] animated GIFs are still everyday food for me. 😛 (meh, WordPress won’t show my animated smiley)
    Animated PNGs would be very nice, but I don’t know how to record in (or convert to) that format.

    I don’t agree that right clicking is more intuitive, especially not in a screencast where the viewer can’t see if I left- or right-click.
    Distros removing the cashew is a problem – I only had vanilla KDE in thought. Hm. I’ll see what other people say about this.

  10. snirp Says:

    @ Hans:
    I guess “intuitive” will always be a matter of debate and I fully appreciate that a right-click is a pain in a screencast. Not that it cannot be solved.

    I also have a panel obscuring the cashew, but I guess by the time you have a different panel, you should have figured out how to place plasma’s 😉

  11. Hans Says:

    Something for the Welcome plasmoid? Is there a better way than GIFs? I would want better quality if it’s an “official” screencast.

    @Luca Beltrame:
    Heh, true that. However, with this “brand” thing going on, I don’t think we’ll see major changes like before regarding artwork.

  12. Benoit Says:

    This is plain wrong:

    “Well, I wouldn’t be a lawyer (or at least law student), if I didn’t notice the CC BY-SA and have a comment on it 😉
    Long story short, the SA clause could cause your work to be incompatible with GPL. I’d suggest you use CC BY-NC (non-commerial), or just plain CC BY.”

    I don’t know how these videos are intended to be distributed; if it’s just to view on blip.tv then it hardly matters, but there’s a big mistake here: it’s the NC clause, not the SA clause that is problematic in Free Software projects. For example, the NC clause means that a linux distro may not redistribute this file — indeed they are considered a commercial activity even if the distro is available for free! On the other hand I never heard of problems with the SA clause and it is definitely in line with the spirit of the GPL so I don’t know what is meant by “incompatible with GPL” here.

    Google found this link on how NC is bad:

  13. jee Says:


    recordmydesktop does a pretty fair job at recording in quality, ogg theora would be the format of choice as the videos could be shipped with any distro.

  14. Hans Says:

    Glad to hear. (Your comment was caught in the spam filter, that’s why it didn’t appear until now).

    This is why I don’t like licenses :D. Yeah, the license isn’t very important here – you’re free to redistribute and modify the content, that’s pretty much it.
    An example could be to link to a screencast when answering a forum post.

    Is it possible to play ogg in plasmoids yet? Last time (OK, it was a pretty long time ago) I heard anything about this it only worked with GStreamer as Phonon backend, or something like that.

  15. Matija "hook" Šuklje Says:

    You’re right about the NC. My bad. The NC clause also brings up bizzare incompatibility with real life situations, that skipped my mind :\

    The deal with the SA incompatibility is that this clause *foces* you to license all derivates as CC. Which is inacceptable in GPL (older then v3):

    Such things are my main beef with CC in the first place — they’re awfully hard to predict. Especially if you’re trying to befriend them with licenses that are as high-strung as GPL 😛

    Truth be told, GPL has gotten quite bulky and complicated. Lately I’ve read the EUPL and it’s a lot shorter, easier to understand and has some very nice solutions. It lacks one or two things that GPLv3 has, but excells at many other points. …just food for thought for anyone who likes licenses 😉

    P.S. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe that BSD/MIT licenses don’t give enough protection…

  16. Michael "CC" Howell Says:

    On the licensing discussion, maybe you could simply use CC-BY? I can hardly think of any situations where it doesn’t offer sufficient protection for these screencasts; it’s not like people are going to integrate them into Windows ;).

    Though I have to ask; are these screencasts derived works of the Plasma and Air/Oxygen artwork? If so, then the decision is already made…

  17. Matija "hook" Šuklje Says:

    CC-BY should be sufficient, unless you need any other restrictions.

    Apart from that you raise an interesting question. IP law is not only about licenses, so I’ll have to answer with a counter-question: do you own (all) the rights the photo of your girlfiend, dressed in various brands of clothing, standing before the Eiffel tower posing in the manner of a well-known statue? 😉

    The lawyer in me would need to get some research on to get the legally optimal solution (it’s probably GNU FDL, beh :P), but the voice of reason in me says “Don’t bother, there’s pretty much no chance you’ll have any trouble (legal or otherwise) over your license choice in this case.”

  18. Stefan Majewsky Says:

    “The deal with the SA incompatibility is that this clause *foces* you to license all derivates as CC. Which is inacceptable in GPL”

    Where is the problem? Pictures are no source-code. If you complain about some pictures on your system having a different license than some software on your system, you should quickly delete the OpenSSL package from your Linux, because OpenSSL uses a BSD license, while Linux is GPL.

    What I mean: The license itself is not the problem, the rules the license defines are. From this stand, one could use both GNU-FDL and CC, preferably with BY-SA.

  19. Hans Says:

    I knew I shouldn’t have put a license to begin with. ;D
    License changed to CC-BY.

    The reason I put a license was to tell people that “you can do pretty much anything with these screencasts”, not put up restrictions. Maybe I should just remove that part to not confuse people…

    With that said, it’s interesting to learn more about the topic of licenses.

  20. Aaron Seigo Says:

    love it 🙂 very cool and perfect for pointing people to. it’s not as fancy as perhaps a full video but it’s small and works EVERYWHERE i imagine. i’d love to see a whole library of these answering different things.

    @snip: besides what notmart already said about the toolbox, i’d just add:

    a) what do you think that thing on the panel is? and without it, it can be VERY hard to get to a right click menu on the panel (just the nature of having “stuff on panels”; kicker struggled with it until we added always-there handles to each widget which looked only so-so and were still too small for many people). the toolbox on the desktop keeps this consistent

    b) it’s fully possible (and has happened already) that an Activity plugin will not provide the standard right click menu; at that point the desktop toolbox becomes quite handy

    c) the desktop toolbox also calls “show desktop” in 4.3 which makes it a lot more handy for things that affect the desktop layer than just right clicking

    the desktop toolbox is not going anywhere.

  21. notmart Says:

    “Something for the Welcome plasmoid? Is there a better way than GIFs? I would want better quality if it’s an “official” screencast.”

    yes, and if there some sort of feed (as opposed to installing them) it would also solve the problem of plasma evolving and changing.
    i would concur with using ogg theora for that. video embedding in plasma may not work everywhere but one can always fall back to normal not embedded video windows

  22. Hans Says:

    @Aaron Seigo:
    Glad to hear that you like it. 🙂
    Seeing all the positive feedback here makes me motivated to continue the experiment. Stay tuned…

    Please poke me if you (Plasma devs) want to produce screencasts for this feed thingy. Seems like a good opportunity for users to contribute to KDE, and show the strength of the community.

  23. Luca Beltrame Says:

    @Hans – Time for another Kourse, I’d say.

  24. snirp Says:

    @ Aaron Seigo

    Thanks for explaining the rationale behind the cashew. I fully get your point now, but still the problem remains that things work differently for openSuse. Tricky.

  25. Hans Says:

    @Luca Beltrame:
    As said on identica – yep, that’s the idea. 😉

    Funny fact: I’m not a fan of the cashew either – I even have a guide on how to remove it on my blog. However, that doesn’t mean that I support distros which remove it by default.
    I prefer packages that are (close to) vanilla – I can do the customization myself.

  26. The experiment continues: Plasma/HOWTO « Who Says Penguins Can't Fly? Says:

    […] Experiment: Short Plasma HOWTO screencasts […]

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