KDE developer Nate G gave us insights from the recent development sprint with the May 2023 dev update.
The work for Plasma 6 started last year to port the entire codebase to Qt 6 with improvements and code cleanups. After completing the recent development workshop for Plasma 6, significant changes and improvements are now visible, which might land in the final release of Plasma 6.
In the transition from Plasma 5 to 6, the team recognizes the importance of making substantial changes to the default settings. To cater to users migrating from other platforms, KDE Plasma 6.0 will default to opening files and folders with a double-click instead of a single click. This adjustment ensures a more familiar interaction for newcomers to the KDE ecosystem.
Another notable change in KDE Plasma 6.0 is the strong push for Wayland to be the default session type. While the X11 session will still be available, the Plasma team highly recommends the adoption of Wayland as the go-to choice. However, distributions will be free to override this recommendation and continue defaulting to X11 if they find it more suitable for their needs.
Taking aesthetics into consideration, the default bottom panel in KDE Plasma 6.0 is planned to offer a default floating option. This addition will contribute to an overall improved visual experience, further enhancing the appeal of the desktop environment.
When the floating panel was introduced a year back, it received mixed reactions across the KDE user base. Some users felt that the “floating” concept might not look well in the Plasma’s overall look, but it allows customisation of the panel without adopting any dock. Although it’s not floating per-se, it’s just thick transparent borders.
During the lifespan of Plasma 5, the team made a switch to the Breeze Light colour scheme by default. While this change was well-received, there was persistent criticism regarding the ability to distinguish the active window at a glance.
For example, the window borders are exactly the same when in active or inactive mode. It’s difficult to distinguish them.
To address this issue, the team has decided to lightly tint the header area with the user’s current accent colour or the selection colour from the current colour scheme. This subtle addition of colour will make the active window stand out more without overwhelming the visual experience.
In response to user feedback and usability concerns, KDE Plasma 6.0 will introduce a new default task switcher called the “Thumbnail Grid.” This task switcher aims to eliminate the need for vertical scrolling, even with many open windows. The design also focuses on improving the experience for users who primarily navigate through app icons rather than thumbnails or text. These changes will ensure a more efficient and visually appealing user workflow.
However, I am not entirely sure whether the “show alternatives” would be applicable in the task switcher once this new switcher is in effect. I guess we will wait and see how QA decides.
To enhance customization options, the Plasma team has adjusted the Breeze Global Themes. When using a non-default global theme, switching between different themes will no longer reset the task switcher settings. This change eliminates the annoyance of reconfiguring the task switcher every time a global theme is changed, making it easier to switch between the Dark and Light appearances.
Furthermore, with the upcoming release of Plasma 6, the team plans to adopt a slower release schedule, aiming for two major releases per year. This adjusted timeline allows for stabilization and ensures that distros with a biannual release schedule can ship the latest version of Plasma promptly. Additionally, beta releases will be lengthened and updated every week, providing more time for bug discovery and fixes.
KDE Plasma 6.0 is going to be a major first release with improved default settings, enhanced Wayland support, and refined aesthetics. Although the overall look and feel, the usability of the desktop should remain the same. I believe more code cleanup, performance improvements and Qt6 port would be the focus point. There is no release schedule for Plasma 6 yet. Hence you need to wait for a testing copy of the new Plasma 6.