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Customizing Kubuntu

A major feature of Kubuntu is the ability to customize almost anything and everything in the system. If you don't like the desktop background, change it. If you would like to remove the new Application Launcher and go back to the old Kmenu style, you can do that. Customizing Kubuntu to fit your personal preference is almost effortless.

Customizing Plasma

Continued improvements in KDE 4 have been made to Plasma, the replacement for Kdesktop. A great amount of customization can be done with Plasma, including the addition or subtraction of widgets. From the Plasma Web page (http://plasma.kde.org), Plasma is defined as "the component that is 'in charge' of the desktop interface; the desktop, panel (often referred to simply as the task bar), and related elements."

Widgets allow you to add and remove items from your desktop. A widget can be something from the Application Launcher, for example, or a clock showing a different time zone. Widgets can be added to the desktop only if the Plasma is unlocked by clicking on the Plasma icon on the top left and selecting Unlock Widgets. The default Kubuntu desktop has two widgets enabled, Microblog, and Folderview. The microblog widget allows you to connect to either identi.ca or twitter. Folderview provides a view into a local folder, by default setup to look at one's Desktop folder.

To add widgets, either right-click on the desktop and select Add Widgets or click on the Plasma Toolbox located in the top right-hand corner of the desktop (Figure 8-10).


Figure 8-10 Adding Widgets via the Plasma toolkit

Additional widgets are available through the extragears package (installed via Software Management) and also on kde-look.org under the Widgets section. In fact, in KDE 4, the Application Launcher and Task Manager are both widgets that can be added or removed for complete customization. If the old Kmenu is more your style, remove the Application Launcher widget and replace it with the Application Launcher Menu.

To change the background on the desktop, right-click on the desktop and select Desktop Activity Settings. This opens up the Desktop Settings > Plasma Workspace where you can change the Wallpaper, Activity, and Mouse Actions. New wallpaper can be added through Get Hot New Stuff.

In KDE 4.4, Plasma supports different types of activities; by default, the type is set for Desktop. Another activity type could be Folder View, which holds the contents of a specific folder. Two activity types that make up the Netbook view are the Newspaper layout and Search and Launch activity.

Choosing how the desktop looks can help give a personalized feel to Kubuntu. If the appearance seems lacking, you can make changes by choosing System Settings > Appearance. You can further customize things, such as color, icons, and style. Kubuntu is all about customization, something you may be sick of hearing about, and there are many ways to change the desktop's appearance, which almost guarantees that no two users will have identical desktops.

Get Hot New Stuff

Looking for the latest screen saver, desktop background, or other cool things for your Kubuntu installation? Kubuntu fully supports the Get Hot New Stuff (GHNS) framework of KDE. GHNS allows people to upload templates to a server and have other users download and use that template. In an interview posted on KDE News (http://dot.kde.org/1110652641), Josef Spillner describes exactly how the process works.

[U]ser A is using a spreadsheet application and modifies a template that comes with it. This template can then be uploaded to a server and eventually be downloaded by user B by checking the contents of the "Get Hot New Stuff" download dialogue.

The GHNS framework (Figure 8-11) shows up in several places throughout Kubuntu.


Figure 8-11 The GHNS framework at work

Different applications have the ability to download information from the Internet and from KDE sites. Throughout applications in Kubuntu, you will find references to Get More, which uses the GHNS framework.

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