Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 at 20:16

Previously, we've written a customization guide for LXDE. Now we write about KDE customization. KDE is the most complex desktop environment among which we've written about here. But don't worry it is a basic guide to customize KDE starting from changing wallpaper until installing new theme. We use KDE 4.8.5 on Kubuntu 12.04 as a basis. We hope it helps everyone begins KDE. Enjoy.


  1. KDE has four different themes: widget (toolkit) theme, Plasma theme, icon theme, and window decoration theme. 
  2. The main difference between KDE and another desktop is Plasma theme (a special theme for the panel and Plasmoid appearance). 
  3. Plasmoid is KDE term for desktop widget (such as clock, CPU monitor, can also be placed at panel). 
  4. Plasma theme is theme for Plasma, it means theme for your Plasmoid and panel.
  5. Color theme is color settings for whole desktop i.e. change default silver-white-blue color based into blackened one or bumblebee-based color. 
  6. KDE customization is centralized in KDE System Settings. Basically no need to use Terminal.

Window Anatomy

Like another desktop environment, KDE has three essential visual components:

  1. Red box: window decoration (or window border). Controlled by window manager of KDE (named KWin). 
  2. Green box: widget toolkit (i.e. scrollbar, button, progress bar). It is controlled by widget theme (i.e. QtCurve and GTK). 
  3. Blue box: icon theme.

Change Wallpaper

To change wallpaper, right-click on desktop > Default Desktop Settings > select a wallpaper. To insert your own picture, press Open button.

Create Panel

To create a new panel, right-click on desktop > Add Panel > Empty Panel. We can move its position by right-click panel > Panel Settings > hold click on Screen Edge button > drag it where on the desktop you want it to be.

Add Widget (Plasmoid)

To add desktop widget (called Plasmoid, not to be confused with toolkit widget below), right-click on desktop > Add Widgets > widgets selection bar will appear > drag and drop one to desktop. To add widget into panel, just drag and drop it to panel.

Change Widget Theme

To change widget (toolkit) theme, open KDE System Settings > Application Appearance > Style > Widget Style: choose one. KDE default widget theme is Oxygen, but it gives some other options. Most noticeable among them are GTK+ Style and MS Windows 9x. 

Change Color Theme

To change color theme, open System Settings > Application Appearance > Colors > select one scheme. Picture above depicts blackened KDE by just selecting Obsidian Coast color theme. Simply we don't need any additional theme to achieve this. Picture below depicts bumblebee color from Honeycomb color theme. We may modify every detail of a color or create a new scheme by using tabs left (Options - Colors - Inactive - Disabled).

Change Icon Theme

To change icon theme, open System Settings > Application Appearance > Icons > select icon theme. On picture above, we enable Humanity icon after we've installed some icon themes.

Install Window Decoration, Icon, & Plasma Theme

To install any theme in KDE, we just need to open System Settings, open a theme section (e.g. Window Decoration), and press Get New Theme. We can install theme directly from it (of course it needs internet access). As example, to install a new window decoration, we open System Settings > Workspace Appearance > Window Decoration > press Get New Decorations > we selected a theme named "Windows 10" > select the installed decoration theme (Windows 10) > press Apply. Same there with another themes such as icon, desktop theme, wallpaper, and cursor theme. These awesome functionality source is where KDE downloads all themes from.