Some Neon Artwork

BlaBlaGraphicsSoftware

Quoting from the announcement:
“KDE Neon is the intersection of these needs using a stable Ubuntu long-term release as its core, packaging the hottest software fresh from the KDE Community ovens. Compute knowing you have a solid foundation and enjoy the features you experience in the world’s most customisable desktop.”

This is pretty exciting for anyone who wants a stable core system with a setup of KDE Plasma software on to as recent as possible, setted-up and configured as good as possible, with hopefully less issues like “distro X has a slightly outdated version of kibrary Y which is know that makes app Z crash”.

Hell, I was so excited that during a sleepless night, I has been completely possessed by the Muse and I had to do this artwork based on a riff of its logo:
NEON by KDE

NEON written as a neon sign, how original :p It’s pretty tacky but it’s intended to be, here for your viewing pleasure at a typical wallpaper resolution.

A pager for activities

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One of the new useful tiny plasmoids that will be available in Plasma 5.5 is one called Activity Pager: you can find it in the kdeplasma-addons package of the release.
How does it look? well, not too exciting and very familiar, and that’s precisely the point:
activitypager
since people use activities in very different ways, it’s written as an aid for people that use it in a particular way, when the use case partly overlaps with virtual desktops.
It’s built to look like a pager, behave like a pager (including the mini previews of windows) but instead of beng based on the virtual desktop, it’s based on the activity, so each little desktop preview will represent the activity and the windows in it (dragging previews from one activity to another works too).

There is a Blur in my Wayland

Software

Over the last few days I decided to help Martin a bit with the ongoing effort on Wayland, since there are still many parts of work missing in order to have a full Plasma Wayland session to just work, but it’s impressive how fast it’s getting there.
It was just a tiny part but is worth sharing it as it brings pretty pictures! (and shows how easy is to contribute).
The popups of the plasma shell need custom positioning code as normal applications can’t position themselves anymore for security reasons, plus KWin uses its effects framework to do a couple of things on plasma panels and popups:

  • Shadows: the shadows are rendered by KWin, they aren’t really a part of the window, as the shadow must not count anything in the position and resizing phase, but just a visual effect on it, it’s also more semantically correct.
  • Background effects: both the panel and the popups have a blurred background plus a contrast/saturation effect, to make it more readable and prettier.

After hooking a protocol to control such effects into wayland, here’s the result, almost undistinguishable (there is still a pretty visible graphical issue, points for finding it) from your current X11 Plasma 5.4 session:

snapshot5

So, what needed to be done?

  • KWayland protocols: each KWin effect that can now be controlled with X properties need its own wayland protocol extension in order to achieve the same thing, I wrote one for blur behind and background contrast (shadow was already there). The good news here is that Martin is working on a tool to auto generate the binding code from the XML specification of the protocol.
  • KWayland-integration repo: The effects that had KWndowSystem API to control them, need a Wayland implementation as well, this goes in the KWindowSystem wayland plugin contained in the kwayland-integration.git repo.
  • Modify the KWin effect: then the kwin effect needs to read the data that the client wrote on the surface with the new kwayland protocol and control the effect, in a way that is behaviorally identical to the X11 way, that came from reading X properties from the window

As an “user” of the infrastructure, I’m very impressed about the work that went in the Wayland port of KWin and from the KWayland framework: it really makes using a very challenging and “peculiar” plain C API very easy and elegant in a way familiar with our cozy C++/Qt world.
I can say that is a learning curve soft enough for everyone to jump in and help the big scary transition if they feel to.

Plasma Theme Explorer

Software

In a while, together Plasma 5.3 will be released (independently) a new package: plasma-sdk, containing some very useful tools for development around plasma, some old KDE4 era ones will return, some are new.

  • plasmate: lightweight IDE for plasmoids (experimental port to KF5, work in progress)
  • plasmoidviewer: useful to test a single plasmoid, in different formfactors (like desktop, panel, and so on)
  • plasmaengineexplorer: test and debug tool for dataengines.
  • cuttlefish: tool for exploring icon themes
  • plasmathemeexplorer: tool used to explore Plasma themes, let’s talk about this one.

plasmathemeexplorer
Plasma theme explorer is a new tool that is targeted at designers of Plasma themes.
It can open any installed theme and preview it as a grid of thumbnails of the actual elements rendered.
The thumbnails all have a green or a red dot in it. The ones with a green dot mean that the theme directly provides that element, red means the theme doesn’t have it, so it will fallback to the default theme (currently Breeze). So it makes it very easy and fast to assess the completeness of a theme and to decide what elements to do in order to make the theme more complete.

plasmathemeexplorer1
A sidebar on the right will show a bigger preview of the theme element, together a short description of what the element is for, and an edit button (enabled only for themes installed locally in the user home).

Clicking the edit button, will open the SVG of the theme in inkscape, and will run a little sanitizing script on the file after inkscape is closed.
If the theme doesn’t provide the particular element (and we have a red dot in the thumbnail) the corresponding file from Breeze will be copied in your theme folder, and that one will then be opened in inkscape, making the job of completing a theme easier and faster.

Writing QML based apps, the KDE way

Software

This is an interesting transitional period in the Qt world for desktop applications. We are in the phase where QML is becoming better and better for the use in a Desktop context, even for full fledged applications.
We noticed that there were some bits derived from the many years of experience in Plasma that can be very useful for every application developer out there, that fall pretty much in those categories:

  • where to install and how to access QML files.
  • integrating KDE pieces, such as the translation system
  • how to write an application that is 100% QML and how to distribute it
  • how to write an application that is a mix between C++ and QML
  • how to write a KCM for systemsettings that is purely based on qml (and doesn’t even link to QWidgets)

KPackage

Years ago, with the need of having plasmoids implemented with scripted language, we had also the need of having a simple way to distribute those plasmoids around. They are in the end just a bunch of files, that can beany kind of data: the actual source code of the scripts or any needed data assets such as graphics and sounds.
This brought the class Plasma::Package in libplasma, that’s the way to both install/unistall the plasmoid and access any data file or script file from plasmoids.
The problem then posed itself almost identical for things like scripting support in any generic Qt application, like any pack of addons, such as graphics or souds themes.
Same thing for applications based upon QML, that ends up being composed by two parts: purely C++ parts with the central logic and the QML files together any asset that may be needed.
One interesting feature is also that the same files (QML, assets or whatnot) can have versions specific for a particular device, for instance an application may have 99% of the same code between the normal desktop version and one optimized for touchscreen, intended at tablets. Just the few, interested QML files would be duplicated between the desktop and tablet versions.
Since Frameworks 5.6, there is a new tier 2 framework: KPackage, that offers what Plasma::Package offered in libplasma, but with less dependencies and usable by any Qt application that can use a tier 2 framework.

KDeclarative

KDeclarative is the KF5 center for all things related to extending QML.
The framework provides several qml import plugins, such as imports specific of a particular KDE Framework.
It also offers two C++ libraries: libkdeclarative and libquickaddons.
libkdeclarative focuses on KDE related functionalities of the QML engine:

  • KDeclarative: installs things in the QML engine: such as a KIO-based networkaccessmanager and the 18n() transpations functions.
  • QmlObject: A class similar to QQuickView: in which you can just set the url of a QML file or a KPackage instance and it loads it, instances the QQmlEngine etc. The difference with QQuickView is that it’s not graphics based and is not a QWindow, you’ll just have the instantiated QObject *. Useful if your project is not graphic or if you already have a view, and you just want to instantiate a new thing for reparenting it into the view you have.
  • ConfigPropertyMap: it’s a way to access KConfigXT with QML: given a KCoreConfigSkeleton instance, you’ll be abe to read and write its config keys just like it’s a JavaScript Object.

The other one is libquickaddons that focuses on utilities related to QtQuick, the actual graphical components.

  • ManagedTextureNode: it’s a QSGSimpleTextureNode that will manage its own texture, making simpler to implement your own QQuickItem.
  • ImageTexturesCache: helps to manage textures by creating images and reference counts them, use it if your QQuickItem starts from QImage.
  • KQuickAddons::ConfigModule: the base to do KControlModules based on QML, without dependencies from QWidgets, more on that later :).

QML based applications: QML only

qmlpackagelauncher is a tiny command line tool provided by KDeclarative: it’s used to launch an application that is written in QML-only (no main application executable).
The application QML is intended to be distributed in a KPackage structure, with the QML engine initialized with KDeclarative, therefore having things like the i18n() functions available.

QML based applications: mix of QML and C++

The QmlObject class of KDeclarative can now load files from a KPackage, either by setting an existing KPackage instance to it or just setting the kpackage plugin name, making very simple to load a qml file from a plasmoid-like KPackage structure installed on the disk, such as in you main:

KDeclarative::QmlObject *qmlObj = new KDeclarative::QmlObject;
qmlObj->loadPackage("org.kde.example");

For a full application is recomended to use the component ApplicationWindow from QtQuickControls, that’s its own QWindow, so it’s not even necessary to create a QQuickView or QQuickWindow, having the really needed C++ part really just those two lines.

QML based KControlModules

An important part for the ongoing redesign of the Plasma Desktop by the VDG also passes trough writing (and rewriting) modules for Systemsettings or KInfoCenter in QML, to make easy making those franly often outdated UIs beautiful.
One important thing for a mass-migration like that,
ConfigModule has the same API as the old base for kcontrol modules, KCModule, but is a pure QObject, making possible for a future QML-only Systemsettings version.
Start with your old KCModule subclass, keep all the logic in it, but start to scrape off all the QWidget based UI bits and give the class a nice property-based, QML friendly API to read and set the values that will eventually go into the config files.
The actual load and save from the config file, will be done just as in KCModule, by reimplementing ConfigModule::load() and ConfigModule::save().
The UI, QML based part will be provided by a KPackage, with the same name as the component name of the KaboutData of the ConfigModule instance. The QML part will be able to access the configModule instance as the “kcm” global object, just as “plasmoid” is accessible from within the QML code of plasmoids, as well as the ConfigModule QML attached property.

Getting things back: Comics

Software

After the system monitor, today another neat little toy that was gone in the KF5 port returned in Plasma for 5.3: The comic applet.
xkcd
One thing that I really felt missing for the desktop to be really completed, is an XKCD always on the desktop: how can you live without an XKCD comic always there? I certainly couldn’t πŸ˜‰
It’s a pretty much straightforward port of the Plasma 4 version: the UI is identical and all options are still where you left them.
I’m pretty happy how it is and how it behaves right now, so personally I consider it in bug fix mode. However, if someone has big ideas on it (and wants to execute them) that would be awesome as well.
The neat thing is that since all the comic plugins were written in JavaScript, all the old ones that can still be downloaded with Get Hot New Stuff still just work(tm).

Getting things back: System Monitor

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In Plasma 5.3 some of the things that were lost along the way of the port to Plasma 5 due to the massive architecture change will be back.
Today just got back the system monitor widgets, that helps keeping an eye on the CPU load, disk usage, network traffic and so on.
sysmon1
Along the widgets, a nice reusable component to plot graphs is available to use:


import org.kde.kquickcontrolsaddons 2.0 as KQuickAddons
KQuickAddons.Plotter {
    id: plotter
    dataSets: [
        KQuickAddons.PlotData {
            color: firstcolor
        },
        KQuickAddons.PlotData {
            color: othercolor
        }
    ]
}

Then, (this will vary depending how your data source is implemented) every time a new data set will arrive, you can just do


plotter.addSample([value1, value2]);

You can have as many graphs painted together in the same plotter, depending how many KQuickAddons.PlotData you declare inside the dataSets property.

Yet another way to make your app support StatusNotifierItem

BlaBlaSoftware

Yesterday I was notified of this little neat project:
github.com/encharm/libsystemtray
(And yes its author would be very happy about feedback patches and so on πŸ˜‰

Basically it’s a pure C++ library with very few dependencies that implements the support for StatusNotifierItem enabling systemtray icons in KDE Plasma 5 and Ubuntu Unity.
recomonded to be used by C++ applications that don’t actually depend from Qt or GTK and want to keep their dependency footprint very small (it’s Mit licensed so should be ok to use it from an app based on any license)
So now there are officially no excuse to not use our new shiny system tray πŸ˜‰

Whops I didn’t mean to delete that

Software

This is a little sneak peek of a new feature that will arrive in Plasma 5.2 (OK, to be pedantic since frameworks has a separate schedule, you will be able to get it already next frameworks release a bit before Plasma’s)
Ever ended up deleting a desktop widget, panel widget or even an entire panel just to wish you hadn’t?
One solution may be littering everything with confirmation dialogs, but this quickly becomes annoying, besides the user becoming quickly trained to click “yes” without ever thinking about (I fallen too many times at this kind of dialogs).
So, what can be a better solution? Undo!

When the user deletes something, a notification pops up, notifying that an important thing has been deleted: it offers an action to undo the deletion.
If you click “undo” the widget or panel will instantly come back, if you manually close the notification, it will be irrevocably deleted.

Choose your Look and Feel experience

GraphicsSoftware

Plasma 5.1 will make way easier to fine-tune their workspace to their needs.While already very powerful, it was not always trivial, so now on one hand it will be possible choose between plasmoids that offer the same feature with a very simple UI.
On the other hand, ever wanted to set themes, look and feel of your desktop, but was discouraged by how many places you had to change themes to make the experience as you wanted? being icon theme, widget style, plasma theme, cursors etc…
Plasma 5.1 will support the concept of Look and Feel packages (or “mega themes” if you like) Basically an one stop place to set the look and feel of the whole desktop.
lookandfeel
To start, there will be a “Breeze” and an “Oxygen” experience, and in the future, let’s hope yours too πŸ˜‰

In the first release it will be very basic, but in the future it will grow more complete, allowing to more fine-tune individual components, downloading new “look and feels” from the internet etc.

Technically, Look And Feel themes are plasma packages, that contain two things: configuration files for defaults such as icons, colors, cursors etc
and QML files for certain parts of the workspace ui, such as the splashscreen, the lockscreen etc, allowing from very simple things (like a theme that just sets icon theme, widget style etc) to very comprehensive ones, that change completely the logout dialog, lockscreen etc.