Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 21:24

This guide will explain you how to use KDE desktop for daily usage. After our third MATE desktop guide, now it is our fourth about KDE. KDE is a traditional desktop for Linux which has similar appearance with Windows. KDE is very customizable, feature rich, and easy to use. This guide will not explain any of KDE technical or historical side. This article is written for those who never use Linux or KDE before. I use KDE 4.10 on Ubuntu 12.04 for this article.


KDE is very customizable. But there is a default visual appearance you can understand. 

  1. KDE Menu. A traditional menu like in Windows 95 or Windows Vista.
  2. Workspace Switcher. You change workspace with this.
  3. Shortcut icons. Same like Windows, you can place app icon on the taskbar panel.
  4. Taskbar. Same like Windows, your running apps will appear here. 
  5. System tray. Default KDE tray plus any tray app will appear here. 
  6. Date and calendar. 
  7. Panel Tool Box. It is a desktop controller where you can add widget, lock widget, change wallpaper, and so on here. 
Note: because KDE is customizable, every part of its desktop can be moved at anywhere. What you see above just common default layout. 


Basically, KDE has same concepts with Windows. They share same traditional desktop metaphor.
  • KDE has bottom panel, menu, and taskbar like Windows.
  • KDE calls its desktop as Plasma. So you will see many Plasma terms everywhere. 
  • KDE has its own Control Panel, same like Windows.
  • KDE desktop is distinguished into two components, panel and widget. KDE calls widget as Plasmoid.
  • KDE desktop has single-click behavior, while Windows desktop has double-click behavior.

Launch Apps

To launch an app in KDE, open menu then search your app name. Or, use category to find manually your app i.e. Firefox in Internet category.

Create Shortcut

To create desktop shortcut, you can do the same thing like in Windows. Choose one of these:

  • Right-click one app icon inside the menu > Add to Desktop. 
  • Drag one app icon inside the menu > drop on the desktop. 
  • Add widget > select Quicklaunch > drag it to the desktop > right-click on the widget > add new shortcut.


KDE also has window switching behavior, same like Windows. It uses Alt+Tab.

Spread Window

To do spread window, choose one of these methods: 
  • Push cursor into top-left corner of display (it is called hot corner). 
  • Press Alt+W or change the shortcut key by your own preference. 
KDE spread window (similar with GNOME and Pantheon) is another way to switch between app windows. It is an Alt+Tab alternative so you can switch what app visually and by overview. 

Multiple Desktop

KDE multiple desktop feature appears by default as Virtual Desktop icon on bottom-left panel near the menu. By clicking on it, you switch your focus into another workspace. 

KDE has multiple desktop (multiple workspaces) concept. You may have more than one desktop and you may switch to any desktop quickly. Multiple desktop is different with just a Windows Taskbar panel. In Windows, you have only one taskbar and one desktop. But in KDE, in multiple desktop, you may have many desktops and taskbars as many as your desktops.

Work with Workspaces

You can place Libreoffice in desktop 1, Firefox in 2, Amarok in 3, Terminal in 4, so you can give your focus to Libreoffice on current desktop while another apps don't disturb you in another desktop. To work with it, hold the key: Move to Workspace. Choose one of these methods:

  • Right-click on titlebar > Move To Desktop > select the number. 
  • Use Desktop Grid  > drag a window > drop to another workspace.
To switch your focus into another workspace, choose one of these methods:

  • Ctrl+Alt+Right/Left.
  • Use Desktop Grid.

Add Widget

You can add or remove desktop widget in KDE. To add a widget, click on Panel Tool Box (bottom-left button) > Add Widget > select one > drag it into the desktop.  To remove a widget, hover cursor on the widget > click close (X) button.

Lock Widget

You can lock all widgets on their position so no one can add, remove, or move them. To do that, click Panel Tool Box > More Settings > Lock Widgets. To unlock, do the same thing. 

System Tray

KDE system tray is very similar with Windows' one. The only one difference is KDE has Klipper as clipboard management tool. It is represented as scissor icon. But when it comes to network manager, KDE has a neat interface where it divided into left and right columns. Right column is the list of network available, while left column is the controller and statistic for the network being used.