Ade Malsasa Akbar contact
Senior author, Open Source enthusiast.
Friday, March 29, 2019 at 14:57

(Plasma with panel layout similar to Unity Desktop Environment)

This simple customization tutorial explains how to make Plasma to look like Unity desktop environment on GNU/Linux. You will have a working global menu on the top panel, including System Tray, and, a vertical panel with start menu where you put your favorite app shortcuts there. You will be able to save your final configuration to import it on another computer with same KDE Plasma so you do not need to re-configure it every time. I use Neon OS with Plasma 5.15 as my system to practice this tutorial and it's very easy to do. I hope you will enjoy it. Happy tweaking!

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See also about Plasma: KDE4 on KDE5 | Plasma ala OS X | KDE OS for Graphic Designers | Kvantum | The 5.15 Availability

Result talks first

Here's how it looks like on latest Plasma:

Running Inkscape vector image editor with global menu and left panel:

(Inkscape AppImage version for GNU/Linux)

Running GIMP bitmap image editor with global menu:

(GIMP AppImage version for GNU/Linux)


  • No Head's Up Display (HUD).
  • No Unity Dash menu.
  • No Unity Ambiance theme.
  • No running application name displayed on left side of global menu.

1. Create vertical & global menu panels

  • 1. Click control button on right side of bottom panel
  • 2. Drag the Screen Edge button to left side of screen
  • 3. Drag the Width button so left panel has 40px size
  • 4. Click control button again and make it Bottom oriented > resize the panel height a bit
  • 5. Right-click desktop > Create new empty panel > you got a blank top panel
  • 6. Right-click top panel > Add Widgets
  • 7. Find Global Menu from widget selections > drag and drop it to the top panel

Now you got one vertical panel on left and one global menu on top.

(The basic look, but top panel is still empty and left panel still shows System Tray widget)

2. Change start menu layout & add widgets

  • 1. Right-click start menu > Alternatives > Application Menu > Switch.
  • 2. Open start menu > right-click Firefox > Add to Panel > Firefox added to panel.
  • 3. Repeat above part for other applications such as System Settings, Dolphin, and so on. 

Now you got a left panel similar to Unity's.

3. Remove widgets & add widgets

  • 1. Remove all other widgets from left panel
  • 2. Add System Tray widget to the top panel.
  • 3. Add Digital Clock to the top panel right after System Tray.
  • 4. Add Logout widget right after Digital clock. 

Now you should have a basic Unity look for your left and top panel.

4. Add spacer to surround the Global Menu

Click control button on right side of top panel > click Add Spacer 2x > drag with your cursor the first spacer to left side of Global Menu > drag with your cursor the second spacer to right side of Global Menu (right before System Tray) > now you have two Spacers surrounding Global Menu.

(Adding space to before the Global Menu)

(Adding space to after the Global Menu)

5. Hide toolbox button & lock widgets

  • 1. Right-click desktop > Configuration > Tweaks > uncheck Show toolbox button > OK > you got the hamburger desktop button is now disappeared.
  • 2. Right-click top panel > Lock Widgets > all widgets are now locked. If you want to move, delete, or add anything, unlock it first.

6. Switch to dark theme

Go to System Settings > Workspace > select Breeze Dark > OK. Now you will have your desktop looks dark.

7. Save your configuration

After doing all those, your configuration is saved automatically in several TXT files under ~/.config. Filter (Ctrl+I) plasma keyword there and you will find 5 files like below. Copy them all into a safe folder as backup.

To reuse your configuration:
  • 1. Prepare the 5 files.
  • 2. Copy 5 files and paste into ~/.config and accept Replace All.
  • 3. Logout and login. 

Now you got your Plasma looks exactly like what your configuration says.

(The configuration files after you did instructions above)

That's all. I hope this small customization can increase your productivity. Happy tweaking!

This article is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.