How to Better Manage Your Application Windows in KDE

Organize Desktop With Kde Featured

One of the best features of KDE is that it allows you to set up rules that define how an application window appears on the desktop. With those you can, for example, have a specific window always appear maximized on your primary desktop or send all the windows of another, not-so-important application, to your second monitor on a secondary virtual desktop. Learn how you can better manage your application windows in KDE.

We are using Kubuntu for this article. The steps will be the same for any distribution that runs KDE desktop.

Set Up Your Workspace

Since KDE, like most desktop environments in Linux, supports virtual desktops, it is best to use them to create a logical workflow for window organization.

Find the entry for Virtual Desktops. Type “desktops” or “virtual” in the search field to filter down the menu’s contents to it and run it.

Organize Desktop With Kde Find Virtual Desktops Entry

Click on the button with the pencil icon on the single virtual desktop entry and give it a less generic name that will help differentiate it. We used “Primary.”

Organize Desktop With Kde Configure Virtual Desktops

Add more virtual desktops, depending on how you want to organize your application windows, by using the “Add” button with the plus symbol on the top right. We added two more virtual desktops: one for keeping our task management, calendar, and notes, named “Organize,” and one for media-related applications we almost always have running that we creatively called “Media.”

Organize Desktop With Kde Add Virtual Desktops

As is the norm in Linux desktop environments, an applet will appear on your toolbar for jumping between the virtual desktops with a click.

Organize Desktop With Kde Virtual Desktop Applet

Arranging the Application Window

In our case, Firefox consistently dominates our desktop, so we wanted to give it the utmost priority over everything else. We wanted it to always appear on our primary screen, on our primary desktop, fully maximized.

Organize Desktop With Kde Run Firefox

To create rules for any application in KDE, right-click on its title bar and select “More Actions -> Special Application Settings …” You can also create rules for specific windows by choosing the “Special Window Settings …” menu entry instead.

Organize Desktop With Kde Special App Settings Menu

KDE will inform you about how useful the options are. Enable “Do not show this message again” to avoid having that window pestering you in the future and click OK. Move to the “Size & Position” tab.

Organize Desktop With Kde Special App Settings Info

To have a window cover the whole screen, enable both “Maximized horizontally” and “Maximized vertically,” and change when this should be applied in the “Apply Initially” drop-down menus next to them. Make sure “Yes,” right next to each drop-down menu, is enabled, or the rules will stay inactive.

Organize Desktop With Kde Maximize Window

Enable the “Desktop” rule and also change it to “Apply Initially.” Choose which virtual desktop you want the window to appear on from the last drop-down menu on this row.

Organize Desktop With Kde Virtual Desktop Selection

If you want complete full-screen coverage, with the contents of a window covering even the desktop toolbar (like a maximized media player), use the “Fullscreen” rule.

Organize Desktop With Kde Fullscreen Mode Setting

Accept any changes by clicking on OK, close the application, and then re-run it to check out your new rules. In our case, Firefox’s “New Tab” blank page appeared, covering our whole screen.

Organize Desktop With Kde True Fullscreen Mode

Arranging the Rest

Theoretically, you can set up each windows’ position and size with pinpoint accuracy from the same spot. Revisit the same group of options, enable the “Position” and “Size” rules, change them to “Apply Initially,” and then enter the desired width and height and horizontal and vertical positions in pixels for your window.

Organize Desktop With Kde Specific Coordinates

It is great for placing windows on their own in specific spots but not for setups that combine multiple windows. We found ourselves fighting with pixels when we tried to arrange two windows side by side without them overlapping. There was no reason to spend time counting pixels for such a trivial problem when there’s a shortcut.

Organize Desktop With Kde Remember Position And Size

Instead of trying to define a window’s position and size with pixel-perfect accuracy, change the rules mode to “Remember” from the pull-down menu next to it.

Organize Desktop With Kde Move To Secondary Virtual Desktops

Make sure to also change which virtual desktop you’d like each application to appear on.

Organize Desktop With Kde Apps Side By Side

With “Remember” enabled for the size and positioning rules, move the application’s windows wherever you wish them to appear, resize them to your desired size and then close them.

When you re-run the application, its windows will appear where you left them the last time.

By creating rules like those for the applications you use every day, you’ll have turned your by-default chaotic desktop into an organized workspace for your needs. Doing it for every single piece of software would be too time-consuming and achieve the opposite, as well as add to the complexity of using your desktop. However, creating around a dozen window-placement rules for the applications you use every single day can make a world of difference in how “clean” and organized your desktop feels.

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3 comments

  1. Which version of KDE are you talking about? Doesn’t the distro KDE is running on have an effect on KDE options?
    I am using PCLinuxOS with Trinity DE and my KDE setup options look entirely different than yours. i.e. there is no mention of “Virtual Desktops”

    1. It can, but as luck had it, I just never come across a version of KDE that lacked support for Virtual Desktops until you mentioned it, so I didn’t consider such a possibility. I haven’t run into such a “problem” on (K)Ubuntu, or Mint, Arch, Gentoo, or even during the ancient days when I was using stuff like the-distro-until-formely-known-as-Mandrake. And the official documentation of KDE also talks about Virtual Desktops as if they’re a given.

      That said, I don’t know what PCLinuxOS does with its Desktop Environments. So, the answer is “could be”, but with an extra “but I can’t grok why someone would remove perfectly good and proven-to-be-useful functionality from it”.

      1. “but I can’t grok why someone would remove perfectly good and proven-to-be-useful functionality from it”.
        LOL. The computer landscape is replete with examples of “someone removing perfectly good and proven-to-be-useful functionalities”. I only have to mention Google removing perfectly useful services.

        Virtual desktops, as you describe, would have been a “nice to have but do not really need” feature. I would try PCLOS with Plasma but that is too much to handle for my old PC.

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