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KDE Plasma 5.17: Thunderbolt, X11 Night Color and Redesigned Settings

Image of Plasma 5.17

KDE Plasma 5.17

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Plasma 5.17 is out! Plasma 5.17 is the version where the desktop anticipates your needs. Night Color, the color-grading system that relaxes your eyes when the sun sets, has landed for X11. Your Plasma desktop also recognizes when you are giving a presentation, and stops messages popping up in the middle of your slideshow. If you are using Wayland, Plasma now comes with fractional scaling, which means that you can adjust the size of all your desktop elements, windows, fonts and panels perfectly to your HiDPI monitor.

The best part? All these improvements do not tax your hardware! Plasma 5.17 is as lightweight and thrifty with resources as ever.

Read on for more features, improvements and goodies, or go ahead and download Plasma 5.17.


First of all, Plasma now starts even faster! Among many other optimizations, start-up scripts have been converted from Bash (a slow, interpreted language) to C++ (a fast, compiled language) and now run asynchronously. This means they can run several tasks simultaneously, instead of having to run them one after another. As a result, the time it takes to get from the login screen to the fully loaded desktop has been reduced significantly.

Once your Plasma desktop has loaded, you'll notice changes on the notification front, down in the system tray. One of those changes, as mentioned above, is the ability to avoid interrupting presentations with pop-up notifications. To achieve this, the "Do Not Disturb" mode is automatically enabled when mirroring screens. The Notifications widget has also gained new abilities, and now shows a ringing bell icon when there are new notifications, instead of a circle with a number. This makes the meaning of the icon clearer and its appearance cleaner, as the previous icon tended to get cluttered when the number of notifications went up.

Still in the system tray, you'll discover much better support for public WiFi logins. You will also find that you can set the maximum volume for your audio devices to be lower than 100%.

We improved the widget editing UX, making it easier to move them around and resize them particularly for touch. There's something new in the Task Manager, too. We added a new middle-click behavior to the Task Manager. Middle-clicking on a task of a running app will open a new instance of the app. But if you hover with your cursor on the task and the thumbnail pops-up, middle-clicking on the thumbnail will close that instance of the app.

Improved Notifications widget and widget editing UX

Improved Notifications widget and widget editing UX

Both KRunner (Plasma's floating search-and-run widget you can activate with Alt + Space) and Kickoff (Plasma's start menu) can now convert fractions of units into other units. This allows you to, for example, type "3/16 inches" into the text box, and KRunner and Kickoff will show "4.7625 mm" as one of the results. Also new is that Kickoff's recent documents section now works with GNOME/GTK apps. The Kickoff tab appearance, which had issues with vertical panels, has now been fixed. As for sticky notes, pasting text into them now strips the formatting by default.

KRunner now converts fractional units

KRunner now converts fractional units

Your desktop's background is more configurable in Plasma 5.17, as you can now choose the order of the images in the wallpaper Slideshow, rather than it always being random. Another cool feature is a new picture-of-the-day wallpaper source, courtesy of Unsplash. The Unsplash pic of the day option lets you choose the category you want to show, too, so you can pick anything from Design, Christmas, Beach, Cars, Galaxy, and more.

<a href=''>Unsplash</a> Picture of the Day

Unsplash Pic of the Day

System Settings: Thunderbolt, X11 Night Color and Overhauled Interfaces

Modifying the wallpaper is not the only way to change the look of your desktop in Plasma 5.17. The Night Color feature, implemented for Wayland back in Plasma 5.11, is now also available on X11. Night Color subtly changes the hue and brightness of the elements on your screen when it gets dark, diminishing glare and making it more relaxing on your eyes. This feature boasts a modernized and redesigned user interface in Plasma 5.17, and can be manually invoked in the Settings or with a keyboard shortcut.

Night Color settings are now available on X11 too

Night Color settings are now available on X11 too

Speaking of color settings, SDDM's advanced settings tab lets you apply Plasma's color scheme, user's font, icon theme, and other settings to the login screen to ensure it is consistent with the rest of your desktop.

The Settings interface itself has been overhauled in general, and the user interfaces for the Displays, Energy, Activities, Boot Splash, Desktop Effects, Screen Locking, Screen Edges, Touch Screen, and Window Behavior configuration dialogs have all been improved and updated.

We have also added new features to System Settings, like the new panel for managing and configuring Thunderbolt devices. As always, small things also count, and provide a better user experience. An example of that is how we have reorganized and renamed some System Settings dialogs in the Appearance section, and made basic system information available through System Settings.

Thunderbolt device management

Thunderbolt device management

Plasma 5.17 will be even easier to use thanks to the new accessibility feature that lets you move the cursor with the keyboard when using Libinput. To help you save power, we've added a 'sleep for a few hours and then hibernate' feature and the option to assign a global keyboard shortcut to turn off the screen.

Improving the look-and-feel of Plasma 5.17 across the board was one of our priorities, and we've made a number of changes to achieve this. For instance, we have made the Breeze GTK theme respect your selected color scheme. Active and inactive tabs in Google Chrome and Chromium now have a visually distinct look, and window borders are turned off by default. We have also given sidebars in settings windows a consistent, modernized appearance.

Window borders are now turned off by default

Window borders are now turned off by default

System Monitor

Plasma's System Monitor - KSysGuard - helps you keep an eye on your system, making it easier to catch processes that eat up your CPU cycles or apps that fill up your RAM. In Plasma 5.17, KSysGuard can show CGroup details, allowing you to see container limits. You can also check if a process is hogging your network, as KSysGuard shows network usage statistics for each process.

CGroups in System Monitor

CGroups in System Monitor


Discover, Plasma's software manager that lets you install, remove and update applications easily, has also been improved. It now includes real progress bars and spinners in various parts of the UI to better indicate progress information. We have also placed icons in the sidebar, and added icons for Snap apps. To help you diagnose potential problems, Discover comes with better 'No connection' error messages in Plasma 5.17.

Discover now has icons on the sidebar

Discover now has icons on the sidebar

KWin: Improved Display Management

One of the main new features of the Plasma 5.17 display manager is that fractional scaling is now supported on Wayland. This means you can scale your desktop to suit your HiDPI monitor perfectly -- no more tiny (or gigantic) fonts and icons on 4K screens! Other features landing in Wayland include the ability to resize GTK headerbar windows from window edges, and improved scrolling behavior (the mouse wheel will always scroll the correct number of lines).

A feature making a come-back in Plasma 5.17 is the ability to close windows in the Present Windows desktop effect with a middle-click. You will also have the option to apply screen settings to the current screen arrangement, or to all screen arrangements.

If you are using the X11 window system, you can now map the Meta (“Super” or “Windows”) and some other key as a shortcut to switch between open windows, instead of Alt + Tab which has been the default for years.

In Memory of Guillermo Amaral

The Plasma 5.17 series is dedicated to our friend Guillermo Amaral. Guillermo was an enthusiastic KDE developer who rightly self described as 'an incredibly handsome multidisciplinary self-taught engineer'. He brought cheer to anyone he met. He lost his battle with cancer last summer but will be remembered as a friend to all he met.

Guillermo Amaral

Guillermo Amaral

View full changelog

Package Downloads

Distributions have created, or are in the process of creating, packages listed on our wiki page.

Note that packages of this release might not be available on all distributions at the time of this announcement.

Package download wiki page

Supporting KDE

KDE is a Free Software community that exists and grows only because of the help of many volunteers that donate their time and effort. KDE is always looking for new volunteers and contributions, whether it is help with coding, bug fixing or reporting, writing documentation, translations, promotion, money, etc. All contributions are gratefully appreciated and eagerly accepted. Please read through the Supporting KDE page for further information or become a KDE e.V. supporting member through our Join the Game initiative.

About KDE

KDE is an international technology team that creates free and open source software for desktop and portable computing. Among KDE's products are a modern desktop system for Linux and UNIX platforms, comprehensive office productivity and groupware suites and hundreds of software titles in many categories including Internet and web applications, multimedia, entertainment, educational, graphics and software development. KDE software is translated into more than 60 languages and is built with ease of use and modern accessibility principles in mind. KDE's full-featured applications run natively on Linux, BSD, Windows, Haiku, and macOS.

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