KDE WebWorld 2011: UserBase (day 1)

If you follow the planet you should know about WebWorld 2011 by now, but if you don’t this picture summarizes it quite well:

In this post I’ll write about what the KDE UserBase Wiki team has worked on during the first day – and it’s quite much in just one day! The wiki has always had much potential in my opinion, but unfortunately not too many contributors. We want to change that.

  • Everyone is a potential contributor. To lower the entry barrier further, we now allow non-registered users to edit pages. This is great news for those who just want to make spontaneous contributions. However, registering has many benefits and is still recommended.
  • Everyone can contribute. We have made small changes to the sidebar and the pages for contributors to make it clearer. Hopefully this will make it easier for new contributors to get started.
  • Details are important as well. It is awesome to have all these different people gathered here in the same place (and what a wonderful place it is). This has allowed us to quickly fix a bunch of small and some larger issues with UserBase. Those are issues the user shouldn’t experience in the first place so I won’t go into any details, let’s just say that it has improved the user experience of the wiki. There has also been improvements in the translation tools, small tweaks in the style and other nice stuff.

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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!

Nice subtle effect

Ever noticed this? I didn’t until today.

I remember reading about showing the file progress in icons some time ago and thought “that would be neat, but will probably take some time until it’s done.” Guess if I was surprised when I saw this today. I usually set the icon zoom level to 32×32 pixels, so maybe that’s why I didn’t notice until now. KDE rocks!

After a little search I found that this was done by Shaun Reich as part of a SoK (Season of KDE) project. There is also a Brainstorm idea about it. (Next question is, how did I miss that it was marked as Done?)

Now it would be nice if it was clearer for small icons, and if possible, showing the file progress would be incredibly neat.

Update October 4, 2010: More information can be found here:

How can I see this?

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