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Working with KDE

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Configuring the Panel

You can change the location, size, and other options of the Panel using the Panel configuration dialog box. Also, you can adjust the positions of the items on the panel or remove and add items on the Panel by accessing individual item context menus.

Panel Configuration Dialog Box

The Panel configuration dialog box is available on the Application Starter menu, under Panel Menu, Configure, Settings or on the Panel context menu, under Configure, Settings. Right-click an empty area of the Panel to access the Panel context menu. Finally, this menu is also available on the Control Center under Look & Feel, Panel.

The Panel Configuration dialog box, shown in Figure 3.8, enables you to select the location of the Panel, as well as the size of the icons in the Panel. Other options are available as well. This dialog box has five pages, which can be accessed using the General, Look & Feel, Menus, Buttons, and Applets tabs.

Figure 3.8
The Panel is at the core of the desktop and is highly configurable.


The General tab allows you to select the Location and Size of the Panel. The Tiny option uses small icons and shrinks the height of the Panel. The Normal and Large options use large icons, but with different Panel heights.

By enabling Auto-hide Panel, the panel will disappear whenever it is not in use. This is handy for gaining a little more screen real estate. To bring the panel back, move the mouse to the panel's edge. The Delay in Seconds determines how long the panel waits before disappearing.

The two hide buttons on either side of the panel are used to quickly move the panel off-screen. This is basically the manual version of Auto-hide Panel. If you are using Auto-hide Panel, you probably don't need the hide buttons, so you can uncheck the Enabled check box in the Hide Buttons section. If you do choose to have the hide buttons, they can be highlighted whenever the mouse is over them by selecting Highlight on mouse over. You can also change their relative size using the Size slider.

The Miscellaneous section allows you to set the Terminal application. This is the program that is used whenever KDE needs a terminal, such as when you select Run in Terminal from the Run Command menu.

Look & Feel

The Look & Feel tab generally makes selections from the General tab fancier. Enabling Hide Animation will cause the panel to "slide" off the screen when using the hide buttons (otherwise it just disappears). The sliding speed is controllable with the Speed slider.

Similarly, enabling Auto-hide Animation will cause the panel to slide off the screen when using Auto-hide Panel. Once again, the sliding speed is controllable with the Speed slider. Note that there is no problem with having both Auto-hide Panel and the hide buttons available simultaneously, though there is seldom a reason to do this.

In the Miscellaneous section, you can select Fade Out Applet Handles. This causes the handles (the two sets of vertical dots) to the left of each applet to disappear except when you place the mouse pointer over them. This gives you a smoother-looking panel that some people prefer.


The Menus tab enables you to control the various menus on the panel, including the K menu (Application Starter). The first option, Clear Menu Cache, allows you to determine whether (and by using the Clear After N Seconds slider, how often) the menus are re-read from disk. All panel menus are stored on disk as directory trees (for example, the K Menu is stored in ${KDEDIR}/share/applnk). To improve performance, these directories are read into memory the first time they are needed and cached. If you change the directory after it's been read, the panel will not reflect this unless the cache is cleared. Setting this option indicates how often this should happen. You can always manually clear the cache by restarting the panel (right-click the panel and select Restart).

Browser Menus configures quick browsers, which are cascading menus that give quick access to your directory (for example, the Quick Browser link on the Application Starter). The Show hidden files entry determines whether files beginning with a period are displayed. These files are usually considered "hidden." The Maximum Browser Menu Entries slider ensures that you do not overwhelm the browser by entering a directory with an excessive number of files.

The K Menu selections configure the Application Starter. The Merge Different Menu Locations option determines whether the personal and system menus are merged into one, or listed separately. The Show Recent Documents Submenu determines whether Recent Documents entry is available. Similarly, the Show Quickbrowser Submenu determines whether the Quick Browser is available on the Application Starter.


The Buttons tab configures the appearance of individual buttons on the panel. If you turn on background tiles, then each type of tile can be colored differently. For each type of tile, select whether it should be specially colored by clicking the Enabled check box. Then select the color from the drop-down list.


The Applets tab determines what applets are available for embedding in the panel and how they run. Applets are applications such as the taskbar, pager, and dock.

Applets can either run internally or externally. To the end user, there is little difference, except that internal applets run faster. The problem with internal applets is that if they are unstable or insecure, the entire panel can crash or be compromised. The panel is protected from external applets by a wrapper script. That way, if the applet crashes, the panel is unaffected.

You can choose one of the following security levels:

  • Load only trusted applets internal—Applets listed in the Trusted Applets list will be loaded internally. All other applets will be loaded externally. You can move applets between the Trusted and Available lists using the arrow buttons between the two lists.

  • Load startup config applets internal—Applets that are configured to run on startup are loaded internally. Applets started later are loaded externally. This is usually a good selection.

  • Load all applets internal—Trusts all applets. This will improve performance, but can decrease stability.

Adjusting Items on the Panel

To move an item on the Panel, or to remove an item from the Panel, use the options on the context menu for that item. Right-click an item and the context menu appears (see Figure 3.9). To move an item, select the Move option on this menu, and drag the item to the desired position on the Panel. Other buttons on the panel shift to make room for the item when you drop it. You can also move an item by clicking it and dragging with the middle mouse button. To remove an item, select Remove from the context menu.

Figure 3.9
The Panel item context menu pops up when you right-click an item on the Panel.

Adding Items to the Panel

Adding items to the panel is fairly simple. Just select Panel Menu, Add from the Application Starter. This will provide several classes of items to add:

  • Application—This provides a list of all the applications on the Application Starter. Selecting one will add a short-cut button to that application.

  • Applet—This provides a list of known applets. Applets include the taskbar, the pager, the clock, and the dock. Things in the dock such as klipper are not applets. The list of available applets is determined by the desktop files in ${KDEDIR}/share/apps/kicker/applets.

  • K Menu—This adds an Application Starter. You can have multiple Application Starters if you like. For example, you might put one on each side of the panel for easier access. You can also remove the Application Starter altogether if you would rather have the panel space. As with most things in KDE, everything on the Application Starter is available through other means.

  • Windowlist—This adds a button that provides quick access to all applications running on all desktops.

  • Desktop Access—This adds a button that, when pressed, temporarily hides all the windows on the desktop. This makes it easy to get to icons on your desktop (such as the Trash). Pressing this button again restores all your windows.

  • Quick Browser—This adds a Quick Browser, after asking you for the directory you would like to view. Quick Browsers give easy access to directories by making all of the directory entries appear as menu entries.

  • Legacy Application—This adds a non-KDE application shortcut. KDE applications will automatically add themselves to the Application Starter, so you can just select them from the Application list, but non-KDE applications don't do this. Selecting Legacy Application allows you to add these applications easily.

Using the Menu Editor

The menu editor, kmenuedit, modifies the main Application Starter menu. To open the menu editor, select System, Menu Editor on the Application Starter menu. Figure 3.10 shows the menu editor window.

Figure 3.10
The Menu Editor for the Application Starter menu.

To open or close submenus, click the box beside a name. To move a menu item from one location to another, drag it using the mouse.

To create a new menu item, select the submenu you want to add it to and select File, New Item (or click the New item button on the toolbar). On the General tab, the fields are as follows:

  • Name—Language-specific name of application. This is the name that appears in the menu.

  • Comment—Longer comment for application. This appears in the quick-tip for the application.

  • Command—Command to run.

  • Type—Generally this should be Application.

  • Work Path—Directory to change to before running application.

  • Run in terminal—If selected, application will be run in a terminal. The terminal will be started with the options listed in the Terminal Options textbox.

  • Run as different user—If selected, application will be run as user specified in the Username textbox. You will have to enter the password for that user whenever you execute this command.

  • Icon—The button beside Work Path allows you to select an icon for this application.

The Advanced tab allows you to set a short-cut key for this application. Click Change, select Custom Key, select your modifiers, and finally click the box to the right of Alt and then press the key you would like to use. Whenever you press that key, this application will be executed. To add a new submenu, select File, New Submenu, and enter the name.

Tip - Unlike older versions of KDE, you no longer have to worry very much about whether a particular desktop file is in the system directory or in your personal directory. If you try to edit a system entry, kmenuedit will automatically make a copy to your local directory. The two locations are merged in the Application Starter menu, so it all works transparently.

Restart Option

After making adjustments to the Panel or Application Starter menu contents, it might be necessary to restart the Panel program in order for the changes to take effect. To restart the Panel, select Panel Menu, Restart on the Starter menu, or choose Restart from the Panel context menu. Few changes, however, require restarting the panel.

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