Switch to specific activities with keyboard shortcuts

Update February, 2015: Updated commands for newer versions.

Update August 17, 2013: In newer versions it’s possible to set the keyboard shortcut directly in System Settings → Shortcuts and Gestures → Global Keyboard Shortcuts → KDE component: KDE Activity Manager.

In my last post about switching between activities in KDE Plasma Workspaces I had the following on my wishlist:

  • The possibility to set a keyboard shortcut for each activity, for example Meta+F1 for the first activity, Meta+F2 for the second one etc.

This is actually already possible in 4.6, although it isn’t very straightforward for those of us who aren’t D-Bus wizards. However, since I know that there are other people who want this, I’ll share what I figured out today. After reading this post you’ll be able to set keyboard shortcuts (such as Meta+F1, Meta+F2 etc.) to switch to specific activities.

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7 ways to switch activities

One common complaint about activities in KDE Plasma Workspaces is that it’s hard to switch between them. With virtual desktops you have many alternatives – you can use the Pager widget, desktop effects, keyboard shortcuts, switch desktop on screen edges etc. But what about activities? I counted the methods that I know and ended up with 7 different ways to switch activities (depending on how you count), all of which I’ll share in this post. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new favorite?

Continuing with activities after a hiatus, this time how to switch between them

Note that I’m using Plasma Desktop 4.6.x – some of things described might be different in earlier versions (for example different locations in System Settings), and some might not work at all.

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Activities – A change in workflow?

Ever since the introduction of the activity concept in KDE Plasma Workspaces, it has caused confusion to many people. To spread some inspiration I wrote a blog post some time ago with examples of how I used activities. It ended up, much to my surprise, to be one of my most popular posts. This seemed to suggest that many still didn’t know what to use activities for.

Back then I often explained activities as ‘similar to virtual desktops, which are groups of windows, but instead activities are groups of desktop widgets’. However, in 4.6 they have evolved past this stage – now windows are also associated with activities. Therefore I wanted to write a blog post about the current state of activities, but someone beat me to it; a few days ago Jason Lim Yuen Hoe posted a very nice article on activities that brought up most of the points I planned to talk about. I found that the post reflected my own thoughts very well, and if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend giving it a read.

In this post I’ll instead write about my personal vision of how I hope activities will change my workflow. It’s based on my own experience and what I’ve read about activities. Note that it doesn’t necessarily coincide with the vision of the Plasma team, but if there are any inconsistencies I would appreciate if a Plasma developer could point them out in a comment below.

After reading this I hope that you will get a better understanding of what activities are and start to think about how you can benefit from them. I will also try to answer the frequently asked question “Why should I use activities instead of virtual desktops?” and explain when I think you should use what.

Translations: Portuguese | Russian

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What has happened to the Dot, the KDE Forums and the KDE wikis?

Some of you might see a message if you visit dot.kde.org, forum.kde.org or try to edit a page in one of the KDE wikis and wonder what it’s all about. There’s no need to worry though, everything is proceeding fine.

The sites are being moved to a new server, and it might take some time for your ISP to update their DNS (up to 72 hours). If you see the message, it means that you still try to access the old server. To avoid losing content, the forums etc. have been disabled until the DNS propagation is complete.

New Plasma HowTo version is up

It’s a bit late, but the 4.5 version of Plasma HowTo is now available on UserBase. This is a page for people who wonder how to do things in Plasma Desktop but don’t want to read too much text. It’s also useful to direct someone to a specific animation, for example in a forum, if he/she doesn’t know how to perform a common task in Plasma Desktop. It can look like this:

Plasma HowTo - Resize Widget

The program I used to record these (read more about it here), byzanz, has also been updated. The new version improves the quality in some parts, but unfortunately some other things end up looking horrible. There seems to be a problem with colors regardless if I have composite enabled or not (example here). If you have any ideas how to fix this, please drop a message in the comments section. When the problem is solved I’ll probably redo some of the animations.

Another problem I ran into is that UserBase didn’t create any thumbnails for the GIF files, so if you land on a page looking like this you just need to click on the link under “No higher resolution available.” Again, we’re looking for a solution to this.

Anything else? Feel free to leave a comment about Plasma HowTo – feedback is much appreciated!

A short note about installing plasmoids in 4.5.1

As probably most people running KDE Plasma Desktop/Netbook 4.5.1 know by now, it’s not possible to install widgets from “Get new Widgets” in this version. I’ve answered questions regarding this a few times over at the forums, and something hit me today – why isn’t it described on UserBase?

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More [time] is less

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything here – the last post was published in the beginning of May 2010. This time I can’t blame it on lack of time though. In fact I’ve had a lot of free time this summer, which is quite rare, but I chose to spend my days away from the computer for a change.

In this post I will write about some of the things that have happened in the period since I last posted till now, both KDE-related and general nonsense.

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KTips in 140 characters or less

Sometimes you have these ideas floating in the back of your head, and suddenly one day, BAM, they turn into something real. But before we get to the story, let me introduce you to KTips.

KTips is a new group on identi.ca for KDE users to share tips and tricks. If you join the group, you’ll see tips from the KDE community in your timeline. You can also share your own tips by adding !ktips to your messages.

KTips – A new place to share tips about KDE Software

Now some of you might wonder, why another group instead of posting to the existing KDE group? The reason is simple: !kde has all kind of KDE-related topics, and some find it too noisy. If you only want those nifty tips, !ktips is for you. Members of both groups can always crosspost if they want.

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Hide window border for maximized windows

Work with Userbase is progressing nicely. I wrote some suggestions based on user feedback and my own opinions, and a few days ago there was a small discussion about the future of Userbase on IRC.

However, this post isn’t about Userbase – I hope I’ll find some time to summarize the plans for the wiki here in a few days. Today I want to share another tip that I’ve found and need to remember to add to Userbase: Borderless Maximized Windows.

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New Klassroom course: Krazy fixes 2

A new course is now open for participation over at the KDE Community Forums. This time the students will use a KDE utility called Krazy Code Checker to improve the code quality of a KDE application of choice, mentored by our own administrator (and System Settings maintainer) bcooksley.

The course requires basic C++ knowledge and a KDE development platform (kdelibs) >= 4.4 (self-compiled or distribution packages). If you want to get a feel of how it’s like, you can take a look at the previous krazy course.

Interested? Head over to the forums and read the course description. If you want to participate, post a reply with the subject you want to work on. Have fun!

Klassroom – Krazy fixes 2 »