Easy Organization with KDE’s Plasma Shelf Widget

Balancing work, home, school, or any other component of your life can be hectic. Many people use computers with the intention to simplify their lives, but that does not always happen. One of the biggest obstacles to effective use of computers is file and application organization. File managers, docks, panels, task bars, and other similar tools are all designed to make file management easier.

KDE 4 offers an alternative to the traditional icons scattered all over the desktop with a Plasma widget called Shelf. Just like a shelf in a library, the shelf widget keeps files, folders, devices, and applications in order and easily accessible.

Creating a Shelf

There are several ways to create a shelf in KDE 4, providing maximum convenience and fluidity (Before beginning, make sure your widgets are unlocked – right click on the desktop and click “Unlock Widgets).

Add Widgets Dialog – The most basic way to add a shelf is to right click on the desktop and click “Add Widgets”. Next, type “shelf” in the search box. Finally, drag it to the desktop.

Plasma shelf widget on desktop

Using this method, the shelf will be empty by default, so click “Configure…” and then click “Add…” A menu will show you a list of various types of shelves available:

  • favorites
  • applications category
  • places
  • folder
  • removable devices
  • fixed devices
  • system tools
  • new documents
  • open documents
  • recent documents
  • online contacts
  • unread messages

After you select one and click “OK”, you are finished. The shelf will be populated with the icons you chose.

Add to Panel

To add a shelf to the panel, you can drag a desktop shelf to it, which creates an icon and accompanying menu. Alternatively, you can create a shelf directly by right clicking anywhere on the panel, navigating to “Panel Options”, and clicking “Add Widgets”.

Panel shelf widget

Drag and Drog

Yet another easy way to create a shelf is to drag any folder to the desktop or panel. A menu will appear giving you three options: Folder View, Shelf, and Icon. Choose “Shelf”, and a shelf showing the contents of the folder will instantly appear, with no further configuration necessary.

Lancelot Menu

If you use the Lancelot menu widget, you can drag any one of its sections directly onto the desktop or panel to create a shelf.

Shelf inside a Shelf

Any shelf can also hold other shelves. For example, if you wanted to have your “Places” shelf and your “Removable Devices” shelf in the same widget, simply drag one onto the other. You can also drag a new shelf onto any existing one, or add multiple shelves within “Shelf Settings”. The new shelf will be appended to the current one, allowing you to navigate through them.

To remove a shelf from a widget containing more than one, right click on the title and click “Remove This”.

Additional Options

Plasma shelf settings

By default, the shelf widget has a “no click” feature, which is displayed in the form of a tiny “extender” icon on the right hand side of each shelf item. Move your mouse over the icon, and the shelf item will open without clicking. If you prefer good old-fashioned clicking:

  1. Click the settings wrench icon
  2. Click the “Advanced” side tab
  3. Choose “Click to activate items”

KDE Plasma widgets also have shortcuts. For example, if you have a documents shelf icon on your panel, you can activate the menu using a shortcut. To use a shortcut, open the shelf settings and do the following:

  1. Click the “Keyboard Shortcut” side tab
  2. Click the button with the wrench icon that says “None”
  3. Enter a key combination (such as Meta+D)

Now, anytime you press that keyboard shortcut, the shelf menu will open.

Another useful feature is the “search box”, which essentially gives you the functionality of your application menu search feature inside of your shelf. In Shelf Settings, check “Show the search box”.

Plasma shelf search tool

The KDE Plasma Shelf widget is a versatile tool that will hopefully bring some order to your chaotic life. At the very least, it will give your desktop the appearance of organization, and that will put you step ahead of most others.

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.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox