Back to Basics with KDE 4

After our review of KDE 4.6, we received a great deal of positive comments, but not all of them were sparkling assessments of KDE’s functionality. For that reason, I have decided to get back to the basics this week with a little how-to guide for KDE 3 users who may be reluctant to switch to KDE 4, Gnome or other desktop users who avoid KDE because of certain usability problems, and anyone who might be new to the software and its unique desktop interface.

At the end of this quick training guide, you should be able to:

  • Add printers and print
  • Configure and use bluetooth devices
  • Attach and configure external monitors

Printing in KDE 4

In the past two years, I have probably used a printer twice, and one of those times was unnecessary. But KDE is for everyone, not just me, and many people still need to print important documents. Fortunately, KDE has an easy printer configuration utility.

If your printer is attached and powered on, there is a good chance KDE has already detected and configured it. If not, unplug the USB cord and replug it. KDE should detect it, start configuring, and eventually tell you it is ready for printing.

KDE printer ready notification

To configure the printer:

1. Start System Settings (Find “System Settings” in the menu or press Alt+F2 and type it in).

2. In the “Hardware” section, click “Printer Configuration”

3. Click on your printer’s name from the “Local Printers” list.

4. If, for some reason, KDE did not detect the correct model name and number, you can click “Change” under “Driver Details” and select the correct one. You can also provide a PPD file.

5. Click the “Options” tab to change media size, paper type, resolution, and other settings.

6. Click “Apply” when you are finished.

KDE printer settings

If you need to add a network printer, click “New Printer” and then “New Network Printer”. Then select the printer according to the appropriate protocol. Printers shared on other systems may appear in the list automatically.

To share your printer, click “Server Settings” and check “Share published printers connected to this system”.

Bluetooth Devices

Those who complained about problems with KDE 4 and Bluetooth had legitimate concerns. Kbluetooth seemed to be one of the last things ported to the new version. The good news is that KDE bluetooth configuration is now as easy as a few clicks.

KDE bluetooth discovery

For devices with built-in bluetooth adapters, you should already see the bluetooth icon in the system tray. For a USB adapter, the icon should appear when you plug it in. To begin:

1. Right click on the bluetooth icon

2. Click “Add device”

3. Click “Next” (Devices set to be discoverable should appear on the list)

4. Select your device and click “Next”

5. If you know your device’s pin, select “Custom” and enter it.  If you are sure it does not have a pin in the documentation, you can try “Automatic”

Once your device is connected, you can configure it by right clicking the bluetooth icon and clicking “Manage Devices”.

KDE bluetooth device management

External Monitors

Connecting external monitors or multiple monitors in Linux and other operating systems that use X servers can be tricky because of the various issues surrounding graphics cards. That is more of an X-to-driver relationship issue than it is a KDE-specific one. For graphics cards with proprietary drivers, you may have to use special configuration tools, such as nvidia-settings. For drivers that ship with X, however, KDE has built-in support.

1. In “System Settings” in the Hardware section, click “Display and Monitor”. KDE will list the monitors currently connected.

2. Select the monitor you want to use and choose the size (resolution). If you want to disable the other monitor, choose “Disabled” under size.

3. Click “Apply” for the changes to come into effect.

KDE also has a “Multiple Monitors” configuration that gives you extra settings for virtual desktops, screen maximization, and more. Many of these settings may work even with proprietary drivers.

KDE Multiple=

KDE also has a program called “Resize and Rotate” (KRandRTray) that resides in the system tray and makes it easy to change monitor configurations. Right click on the icon for quick changes. Left click to open the system settings monitor configuration.

More Basics

I touched on three topics in this basic guide, but I am sure there are more questions that we can help you find answers to quickly and easily. Sometimes, you just need to know where to look, and the rest is easy. If you have more requests, please feel free to leave comments. Hopefully, we have made your KDE tech a little easier.

Tavis J. Hampton

Tavis J. Hampton is a freelance writer from Indianapolis. He is an avid user of free and open source software and strongly believes that software and knowledge should be free and accessible to all people. He enjoys reading, writing, teaching, spending time with his family, and playing with gadgets.

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