How to customize your KDE desktop with KDE-Look.org

KDE-Look.org is part of a family of desktop websites, all under the umbrella of OpenDesktop.org. With each release, KDE is moving closer to complete integration with OpenDesktop.org, where the installation of new themes and visual improvements are seamless.

There are already several visual components of the K desktop environment that are already integrated. Among them are: desktop wallpaper, Plasma themes, KDM themes, KSplash, color schemes, icon themes, emoticons, and widgets (plasmoid scripts). What this means is that a user can open the dialog to change one of these elements, download new themes, and apply them without ever having to leave the window.

Installing themes

KDE Desktop wallpaper dialog

For example, to install a new wallpaper for your desktop, follow these simple steps:

1. Right click on the desktop.
2. Click “Desktop Settings”. (The shortcut for these steps is Alt+S+D).
3. At the bottom of the settings window, click “Get New Wallpapers”

By the default, the source will be KDE-Look.org. In the future, there may be other sources.

4. Find the wallpaper you want and click the “Install” button to the right of it. You may install as many as you want while the window is open.
5. Click “close”
6. Select the new wallpaper from the “Picture” dropdown menu.
7. Click “OK”

Installing new wallpapers in KDE

Changing a plasma theme is a very similar process.

1. Right click on the desktop.
2. Click “Desktop Settings”
3. Under “Desktop Theme” select “New Theme…”
4. Install the theme you want, and select it from the dropdown menu

If you ever decide that you do not like a particular element within the Plasma theme, you can replace that element with one from another. To do this:

1. In “System Settings” click the “Advanced” tab.
2. Click “Desktop Theme Details”

Here you can change single elements of the Plasma theme and then save it under a new name. You can also download themes directly from here.

3. To change the Kickoff (menu) theme, for example, click the dropdown menu and select a different theme.
4. Click “Apply”.

Plasma theme customization

With this feature, you can also import your own files to create your own new theme. To save your own custom theme, check the “More” box at the bottom and add the name, author, version, and description.

To change KDM (display/login manager) themes, KSplash (the open splash screen in KDE), color schemes, icon themes, or emoticons:

1. Select “System Settings” from the K-menu.
2. Under “Look and Feel” click “Appearance”
3. Select the appearance feature you want to change.

As of KDE 4.3.4, you must still download styles, window decorations, and fonts manually, but since all of these are present on KDE-Look.org, it stands to reason that integration may follow in future releases.

Installing widgets

There are currently two types of plasmoid widgets: binaries and scripts. For the binaries, you must either compile them from source or download pre-built packages from a website or distribution repository. For plasmoid scripts, you can install them directly from KDE-Look.org. To install one:

1. Right click on the desktop or click the Plasma Toolbox (Cashew)
2. If your widgets are locked, click “Unlock Widgets”
3. Click “Add Widgets”
4. At the bottom of the new window, click “Install New Widgets”
5. In the menu, click “Download New Plasma Widgets”

KDE-Look.org will only show you the scripts and not the binaries.

6. Find the widget you want to install and click the “Install” button.

As you can see, all of this is very easy, well-integrated, and seamless. On occasion, you might find a particular theme that will not download. This is usually due to the creator using a download service that requires user input (like a captcha) or has a download timer for non-paying users. Those of you who wish to offer your script for download should find a free alternative.

Applications such as Kopete also have KDE-Look.org integration, and you can expect to see this in many other applications in the future, particularly Amarok, which already has themes and widgets. The system that KDE has established will make it easy for new software developers to create applications with this themability built-in, allowing its users to create and distribute customizations all from KDE-Look.org.

Furthermore, other OpenDesktop.org features can be integrated into KDE, GNOME, XFCE, and others. This includes many of the social media features that the website has adopted. The future for Unix-based desktop environments appears to be one of well-integrated and virtually connected desktops, making mobility easier and the visual experience more pleasing to the eyes.