Catching up with KDE 5.5 and Plasma Mobile

A long-overdue look into KDE's new features.

KDE 5.5 Plasma Mobile Linux news reviews
Credit: Plasma

It's been what feels like an eternity since I've spent any real, significant time with KDE. In fact, it's been over a year; I last focused on KDE 4.13 back in August of 2014.

Version 4.13! That's practically pre-historic now! 5.4 is already available! And the KDE crew is now talking about what to expect in 5.5. Plus, they've been talking about Plasma Mobile – something I haven't even tested out yet on a real phone! I have some serious catching up to do in KDE-land!

Let's start with Plasma Mobile. Because – holy moly – this could be amazing.

Plasma Mobile is, for all intents and purposes, the logical extension of the KDE Plasma Desktop to mobile devices. Imagine looking down at your cellphone and noticing that it is running something that feels a lot like a streamlined KDE. That's KDE Plasma. 

And that, all by itself, is cool. But there are a few other bits and pieces that make it even more interesting.

If you go to the Technology section of the Plasma Mobile site you will find the following words in a big, bold font:

"Proudly not invented here"

There's no sign of a custom, in-house developed display server in Plasma Mobile. Instead, the team has opted to go with what is widely considered to be the "Linux industry standard" future display server: Wayland. Clearly, the Plasma Mobile crew are looking to draw comparisons to Canonical's approach (with Ubuntu Touch) of ditching both Xorg and Wayland and, instead, developing a brand new display server from scratch (in the form of Mir) for Ubuntu.

They even make a point, right on the front page of the Plasma Mobile site, that not only are Plasma Applications (and Widgets) supported… but so are Ubuntu Touch apps. Since both platforms utilize Qt, this makes a fair bit of sense. If Ubuntu Touch gains traction (in terms of application development) this provides a distinct benefit for Plasma Mobile.

The one downside to Plasma Mobile, for me, is that I'm not currently running it anywhere. The only two devices explicitly supported are the Nexus 5 and the Oneplus One. Neither of which I have.

But, enough with mobile-shmobile. Let's look at everything I'm missing out on in the latest versions of the KDE Plasma Desktop.

Since I last lived in KDE Plasma 4.13, they've added (in no particular order): 

  • A new graphics stack on top of OpenGL – supposedly beefing up graphics performance.
  • Lots of new artwork.
  • Enhanced UI for handling Bluetooth devices and Power consumption.
  • Wayland display server support (technology preview).
  • Improved support for High DPI displays.
  • An optional, full-screen application launder.
  • And a boatload of new features and improvements to various applets and applications.

Plus other stuff. Lots of other stuff. So much other stuff that I'm not even sure where to start. And this only brings us up through version 5.4. Version 5.5 is right around the corner, promising to bring a focus on polish, along with new user switching UI and some other goodies. 

All of which means one thing: Next week is going to be KDE week in the Lunduke house.

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