KDE basics with some Tips and Tricks
Copyrighted 2003 flw/Dan Last updated 07/16/03

Some of the information is from kde.org under the GNU Free Documentation License

First the main three parts of the KDE desktop:
A typical KDE desktop consists of several parts:

A panel at the bottom of the screen, used to start applications and switch between desktops.

Among other things, it contains the Application Starter, a large K icon or RedHat which displays a menu of applications to start when clicked.

A taskbar, by default embedded in the panel, used to switch between and manage currently running applications. Click on an application on the taskbar to zip to the application.

The desktop itself, on which frequently used files and folders may be placed. KDE provides multiple desktops, each of which has its own windows. Click on the numbered buttons on the panel to switch between desktops.

Title bar buttons
KDE windows have some pretty standard buttons on their title bars which give you fast access to some common operations. The default button layout looks like this:

On the left side:

A menu button. This usually shows a mini icon for the application. Click on it to get a window operations menu. Shortcut: Alt+F3 opens the window menu.

On the right side:

An iconify button.

A maximize button.

A close button. Shortcut: Alt+F4.

Switching between windows

Now that we know how to deal with windows, we encourage you to open some other windows using the panel, since we will now discuss how to switch between different windows. Since this is such a common activity, KDE offers several ways to do it; pick your favorite!

Many window systems require you to click the mouse in another window to begin using it. This is KDE's default behavior, termed ‘Click To Focus’ focus policy. But you can also configure your desktop in a way that moving the mouse pointer on to a window will activate it. This is called ‘Focus Follows Mouse’. If you select this policy using the KDE Control Center, the window under the mouse pointer is always the active one. It doesn't necessarily come to the front automatically, but you can still click on to the title bar or the border of a window or, a KDE special, you can use the Alt key and click the middle mouse button anywhere on the window to raise it.

Alternate method of switching windows:

Hold down the Alt key and press Tab to cycle through the windows.

Details on just the Task bar

The taskbar displays a list of small icons, one for each window on the desktop. In the default KDE setup the taskbar is located inside the panel, but it can also be located at the top or the bottom of the screen.

The taskbar is very powerful. In the default configuration, if you have more than one window from the same application open, they will be “grouped”, so that you see one icon per application in the taskbar.

A simple left mouse button click on the taskbar button will pop up a list of the open windows for that application and you can choose the window you want to use. Choosing one of these entries with the left will bring you to the selected window immediately. Click on a taskbar entry with the right and you will see a menu allowing you to operate on all the windows grouped under that icon, or each window individually.

You can choose to see all the windows on all the desktops in your taskbar, no matter which desktop you are currently viewing, or to only see the icons for the desktop you are looking at.

You can also choose to ungroup the icons, so that each open window will have it's own icon in the taskbar. These and many more options are available simply by right clicking on the taskbar handle (the small textured bar at the left hand side) and choosing Preferences.

The icons on the taskbar resize themselves to make room for applications, so you can fit many more applications than you might think. Making the panel wider, will let the taskbar icons take on a row and column layout, but they will still resize to fit more icons.

Details on using Virtual Desktops and the tack or sticky button

It may happen that you have more windows open than space on your desktop. In this case you have three possibilities:

Leave all windows open (cluttered desktop)

Recommended: Do what a real operating system does if there is not enough physical memory: Use virtual memory, in this case virtual desktops.

The third option is the way to go! KDE can handle several different desktops, each with its own windows. The default configuration provides four desktops. You can switch between the virtual desktops easily with a click on one of the desktop buttons on the panel. Also Ctrl+F1...F4 will
send you to the corresponding desktop immediately, or Ctrl+Tab will cycle through the desktops.

Virtual desktops are very nice. But sometimes you want a window to be present on every desktop. This could be, for example, a small chat window, an alarm clock or whatever. In this case you can use the above mentioned “sticky” button which will pin the window on the background so that it will appear on every virtual desktop.

The sticky button can also be used to move a window from one virtual desktop to another one: push the sticky pin on the window, switch to a different desktop, and release the pin by pushing it again. You can achieve the same result by using the context pop-up menu of the window's entry in the taskbar (menu item To Current Desktop) or the To Desktop option on the window operations menu.

Working with Archives and Networks

KDE supports a technology called “Network Transparent Access” (NTA) which allows you to work with files on the other side of the world as easily as those on your local hard disk.

For example, to access files on an FTP server, just choose Location->Open Location from a Konqueror menu, and enter the URL of an FTP server. You can drag and drop files to and from the folders on the server just as if they were on your local disk. You'll even be able to open files on the FTP server without having to copy them to your local disk (KDE does it for you when necessary).

Note: Konqueror uses anonymous FTP access, which may restrict your access to files on the FTP server. If you have an account on the server, you can supply your user ID as part of the URL, like this: ftp://userid@server/directory

Konqueror will prompt you for your password, and if the login succeeds, you will have full access to your files on the server.

If you are used to the WinZip utility on Windows, then you will be happy to hear that KDE can look into tar archives, too. It treats such archives just like a normal folder, and you can browse into the archive, open files, etc. In general, accessing files on the Internet and in archives should look and feel just like accessing files on your local disk, except for delays imposed by the network and extracting the archive.

Using Konqueror the file and direcory mangager

The first time you start KDE, a window with lots of icons in it appears. This is a Konqueror window displaying the files in your home directory (the area where your personal files are stored). The pathname of the folder is displayed under the window's tool bar. If you don't see such a window now, click the icon on the panel that looks like a folder with a picture of a house.

To open a file or folder, simply click it once with the left mouse button. You can also choose Window->Show Sidebar from the menu to display the folder hierarchy for more direct navigation. Or you can edit the path displayed under the toolbar to get to a specific directory quickly.

Opening Files
KDE comes with a set of applications to view and edit files of many common types, and when you click a file containing, say, a document or image, Konqueror will start the appropriate application to display the file. If it doesn't know what application to start to open a file you clicked, Konqueror will prompt you for the name of the application to run, and when you have chosen, Konqueror will offer to remember your choice for the next time you open a file of that type.

Note: Konqueror uses MIME types to associate files with applications.

Dragging and Dropping Icons

To copy or move a file, simply drag its icon to the desktop, to another Konqueror window, or to a folder icon. When you release the button, Konqueror displays a menu to allow you to choose to copy, move, or create a link to the file.

Note: If you choose to create a link, KDE creates a Linux symbolic link (not a hard link), so if you move or delete the original file, the link will be broken.

Most KDE applications also support drag and drop operations: you can drag an icon on to a window of a running application, or on to an icon of an application that is not started, to have the application open the file. Try it!

Setting File Properties
To change file properties, such as its name and permissions, right mouse button click the icon and choose Properties from the menu.

Using Templates to access Applications and Devices

In KDE it's easy to put icons on the panel or the desktop to access your applications. It's just as easy to add icons to access other items of interest. KDE has templates for shortcuts to:



Mountable Devices (e.g. floppy drives)

Internet resources (e.g. WWW documents, FTP directories)

Documents for some of KDE's KOffice applications.

You can add any of these items to the desktop by right mouse button clicking where you want the icon, and choosing Create New and selecting the item you want to link to.

Nearly every item in the Application Starter, on the desktop, and on the panel refers to a .desktop file on disk. The .desktop file specifies what icon to display, as well as specific information about what the icon represents (an application, device, or URL). You can drag any .desktop file to the panel to create a quick-launch button.

Mounting devices
Linux provides access to storage devices other than the primary hard disk through a process called mounting. KDE uses .desktop files to allow you to easily mount, unmount, and access files on secondary storage devices such as floppy drives and CD-ROM drive drives.

As an example, here are the steps needed to create an icon to access files on a floppy disk:

Note: Many systems require you to be logged in as root to mount and unmount devices.
Right click on the desktop and choose Create New->Floppy Device....

On the General tab of the resulting dialog, change the name to whatever you like, in the text box at the top.

On the Device tab, enter /dev/fd0 (or the path to the floppy device as it is named on your system) as the Device.

You can add a Mount Point here too. This should be an existing directory, but empty. Common mount points are /mnt/floppy or /floppy, but you can just as easily have floppy disks mounted on ~/mydisk if you want.

Click the Unmounted Icon and select the picture of a floppy disk without the green light.

Once you're happy with your choices, choose OK and you are finished!Now, place a properly formatted floppy in the drive and click the Floppy icon to have KDE mount the floppy drive and display the files on the disk. Before removing the disk from the drive, right mouse button click the Floppy icon and choose Unmount from the menu.

Using the KDE Control Center

Launch the KControl from the Application Starter. A window with two panes appears, displaying a list of modules in the left pane.

Open a module by clicking its name; a list of submodules will appear. Then, click one of the submodule category names to edit its configuration in the right pane.

Changing the configuration is fairly straightforward. A help button is available on each configuration panel to explain settings that are not obvious. Each panel has buttons labeled Help, Use Defaults, Apply, and Reset, which work as follows:

Displays a short help text in the left hand pane, including a link to a longer manual for the module in question.

Use Defaults
Sets all the options in the current module back to the default at the time KDE was installed.

Applies the current settings in the currently open module.

Resets the options to the state they were in when you opened the module. If you have already used the Apply button, then this button will reset the options to the state they were in when you pressed Apply.

Note: If you make changes on one configuration panel and move to a different module without clicking Ok or Apply first, KControl will prompt you if your changes should be applied first.

MIME Types

KDE comes with a number of MIME types predefined, but you can add your own MIME types by choosing Settings->Configure->File Associations in a Konqueror window.

KDE's handling of MIME types is very powerful, and very configurable. On the one hand, you can set a default action to be performed when you click on a file in Konqueror. Just as useful, you can add many more actions, which are then available with a right mouse button click menu on the file in question.

Make sure the application you want to start this file type has an entry in the Application Starter menu.

In Konqueror find or make a file with the extension you wish to link. Right click on the file, and choose Edit File Type from the context menu, or choose Edit->Edit File Type in Konqueror's menu bar.

Add file masks for the application by clicking the Add button, and entering the file pattern you want. Remember that Linux is case sensitive, so you may need to add variations - *.mp3 may need

*.MP3 added as well, for example. Add as many extensions as you like in this way.

Add a description if you like. This is optional.

In the section labeled Application Preference Order, press the Add button. A miniature copy of the Application Starter menu will open, where you can choose the application you want files of this type to be opened with.

Sometimes, you may want to use a different application to open this file type. For example, you might like to use Kate to open text files you wish to edit, and KEdit for text files that you just want to take a quick peek into.

You can add more applications in the same way as you did in the last step, and you can change the preferred order using the Move Up and Move Down buttons.

If you're satisfied with your choices, you can click the Apply button to save your changes without closing the dialog box. This gives you the opportunity to test in the Konqueror window that your file association is correct. You can choose OK to save your changes and close the dialog box, or Cancel if you have changed your mind and just want to close the dialog box.

Be sure to try your new association by opening a directory containing a file of the type you just selected. Click on the file, and the program needed to edit it should start.

Note: MIME types are a way of describing the contents of files. You may be used to using file extensions for that purpose, and you may know that on Linux systems the file extension often bear little or no relation to the contents of the file. On the other hand, it may be vital - for example, some implementations of gunzip won't operate on files that aren't named .gz.

MIME types naturally make use of filename patterns, but not necessarily the extensions - you can set up any filename pattern you like. For example, if you always want to open any files relating to a particular client with Kate, and you make a habit of naming the files with the client's name at the beginning so that they naturally group in the Konqueror window, Then you can set up a filename pattern that matches ^clientname*. Then any files that have clientname at the beginning (the ^ character means ‘starts with...’) and without any regard to the rest of the filename.

Customizing Kicker

If you use one application or tool very often, then you may want to have even faster access to it, of course. In this case, you can add a single application, or an entire sub-menu of the Application Starter menu, as a special quick-launch button, on to the panel. If you want to reach the KFind application directly via a launch button, simply choose Application Starter->Panel Menu->Add->Button->Find Files (By this we mean that you should first click the Application Starter, then select Panel Menu, where the small arrow to the right indicates that another menu will pop up. In this menu, choose Add, then Button, and in the next sub-menu, Find Files).

You can add an entire menu this way, or one of the K button sub-menus. For example, if you have KOffice installed and want quick access to all the KOffice applications, without having to navigate through the application starter, then instead of choosing an application, click on the Add this menu menu entry. Now you will have instant access to all the KOffice applications, without having to put an icon for each on the panel.

Note: You can move all items of the panel around with the move command of the context menu. Just click with the third mouse button (the third mouse button is normally the right button, but if you have configured your mouse differently, for example for left-handers, it might also be the left one). A menu will pop up where you can choose Move. Now move the mouse and see how the icon follows while still staying on the panel. When you are done, simply hit the first mouse button (by default the left one). As you may have noticed, there is also a menu entry Remove in case you are tired of a certain launch button on your desktop.

Right mouse button for using context menu's

Right click on almost anything to display a context menu with choices that are applicable to the item you clicked. It is therefore always a good idea to try out the right mouse button on something, if you do not know what to do with it. Even the background of the desktops has such a menu!

Other Panel features

There are other interesting things possible with the panel. One may be important if you have a low resolution on your monitor: it is the ‘hide-and-show’ function, activated by clicking on the small arrowed button, which is at one or both ends of the panel.

Perhaps you just don't like the panel extending the full width of the screen. That's easily changed! right mouse button on an empty space in the panel, and choose Panel->Preferences. In the KControl dialog that pops up, you can choose Panel Size on the General tab, and use the slider there to set the panel to less than 100% width.

If you're following along, and have that dialog open anyway, then feel free to play with all the options, and use the Apply to see the effect they have. You can easily reset everything to the default configuration, by simply pressing the Use Defaults button.

Note: if you are not sure what a certain button does in KDE, just move the mouse pointer over it and wait for a short while: KDE has a built-in mini context help, called ‘tool tips’, which explains the functionality of such controls in a few words.

Konqueror and the editor Kate can both display terminal windows, which behave just like Konsole.

In Konqueror, you can turn this on with the menu choice Window->Show Terminal Window. The embedded terminal will display at the bottom of your Konqueror window, and the really clever thing is that it will follow your clicks in the file manager view, changing directory as you do.

In Kate you can display a terminal with the menu choice Settings->Show Console.

Tips and Tricks with short how to's

To start an application, click on the K button on the panel (called the Application Starter) or the Redhat and choose an item from the menu.

To access file in your home directory, click the icon that looks like a folder with a picture of a house on the panel to access the files in your home directory using Konqueror, KDE's File Manager utility.

To start a terminal session, choose Application Starter->System->Terminal to get a Linux command prompt, or press Alt+F2 to get a mini command prompt window to execute a single command.

To configure KDE, choose the KDE Control Center item on Application Starter to configure KDE.

To access the context menus for KDE apps, Use the right mouse button mouse button to access context menus for the panel, desktop, and most KDE applications.

Move a windowDrag the window's title bar, or hold the Alt key down and drag anywhere in the window.

Resize a window:Drag the window's border, or hold the Alt key down and drag with the right mouse button anywhere in the window.

Maximize a windowClick the maximize button in the title bar (in the default decoration it is the square, next to the X) to make the window fill the screen, or if the window is already maximized, to shrink it back to its original size. Clicking with the middle mouse button maximizes the window vertically, and with the right mouse button, horizontally.

Iconify a window
Click the iconify button in the title bar (next to Maximize) to hide the window.

Restore it by clicking on the window's icon in the taskbar.

How to install a wallpaper

Open the KDE-Menu and start the Control Center
Click on "Look and Feel" and "Background"
Switch to the "Wallpaper" Tab
Select "Single Wallpaper"
Click on "Browse..." and choose your new wallpaper
Select the Mode you like and press "Apply"

How to install a theme/style

Install the Theme/Style by either extracting and compiling it, or installing an RPM.
Open the KDE-Menu and start the Control Center.
Select "Look and Feel".
Select "Style" if the package you installed was a style, or select "Theme Manager" if the package you installed was a theme.
Select your theme or style.
Click "Apply"

How to install a GTK theme

Open the KDE-Menu and start the Control Center
Select "Look and Feel" and "Style"
Click on the "Import GTK theme" button and install your new theme
Select your theme
Click "Apply"

How to install a IceWM Windowdecoration

Open the KDE-Menu and start the Control Center
Click on "Look and Feel" and "Window Decoration"
Select "IceWM"
Switch to the "Configure [IceWM]" Tab
Open konquerer by clicking on the "Open Konqueror..." Link
Move and uncompress your new IceWM theme file into the konqueror window
Close konqueror and select the new theme on the "IceWM Theme Selector"
Click "Apply"

How to install a new icon theme

Open the KDE-Menu and start the Control Center
Click on "Look and Feel" and "Icons"
Browse to the location of the new icon theme by clicking the small folder button
Click on "Install New Theme" to add the new icons
Click "Apply"

How to install system sounds

Browse to ~/.kde/share/
Create a folder called "sounds"
Extract your sounds to this folder
Open the KDE-Menu an start the Control Center
Click on "Sound and Multimedia".
Click on "System Notifications"
Click a desired action and click the folder to the right, below the list of actions.
Browse to your ~/.kde/share/sounds folder.
Click Ok.
Repeat the last 3 steps for each sound notification you wish to change

How to install a color scheme

Open konqueror
Browse to ~/.kde/share/apps/kdisplay/color-schemes
Move your new .kcsrc file into the konqueror window
Open the KDE-Menu an start the Control Center
Click on "Look and Feel" and "Colors"
Choose your new color scheme and press "Apply"

How to install a splash screen

Open konqueror
Create the directory ~/.kde/share/apps/ksplash/pics
Browse to ~/.kde/share/apps/ksplash/pics
Move and uncompress your new splash screen file into the konqueror window

How to install a X11 mouse theme

Create the directory ~/.icons/default
Place index.theme into ~/.icons/default
Place cursors into ~/.icons/default/cursors
Restart KDE

How to install a Karamba Theme

Run "karamba" or "superkaramba"
In the "Open Configurations" dialog find the *.theme file on your file system, select, and click "Open"

To add additional themes right click on the theme and click "Add Configuration", and repeat step 2 for the next theme.