How to Get a Dock-Like Taskbar in KDE with Icon Tasks

KDE has always given users the ability to add launchers to its panel, and it has always had a very usable task manager. Until recently, however, there has not been a comprehensive and well-designed merging of the two. The Icon Tasks widget has changed all of that. It is a robust plasma widget that includes support for task-oriented launchers and even the Ubuntu Unity API.

Once you start using Icon Tasks, you may never want to go back to the old traditional task manager, but until KDE 4.8 is released in January 2012, you may need some help getting it installed and working correctly. The following brief tutorial should provide some assistance and should also shine some light on the new features, even after they are merged into KDE’s task manager.

Fullscreen view of Icon Tasks

Icon Tasks is a binary plasmoid, meaning that it must be compiled from source before using it on your Linux or BSD system. The source code is currently available from KDE-Look.org. Alternatively, if you are using Kubuntu 11.10, you can install it from a PPA by doing the following:

You can also optionally install Firefox UnityFox support with this command:

And you can install Docky helper support with this:

To install from source on other distributions, do the following:

  1. Make sure you have the necessary Qt and KDE development packages installed. You can build against KDE 4.7. Check your distribution’s documentation if you are unsure about package names.
  2. Download the source package and extract the contents

From the terminal:

For full building instructions, see the Readme file included in the source archive.

After installation, you will need to remove your current task manager and (optionally) any launchers for single applications, since you can add those directly into Icon Tasks. Once you have removed the old task manager, place the new one on the panel wherever you want it to appear.

Any programs you start will appear as icons rather than the traditional taskbar entry (icon with text). Moreover, you can turn any task into a launcher by right clicking and then selecting “Show A Launcher When Not Running”. Alternatively, you can drag launchers from your Kickoff menu directly onto the Icon Tasks bar to instantly create new launchers.

Optional indicators in Icon Tasks

Icon Tasks has full support for standard KDE task manager functions, such as the Highlight Windows desktop effect, task grouping, and window preview popups. To change any features, right click anywhere on the widget, and click “Icon-Only Task Manager Settings”. There, you can enable/disable features such as progress bars over the file manager launcher during copy/move/delete operations, Unity feature support, recent documents, and media player controls in the preview popups of applications like Amarok.

Icon tasks with progress action

Icon Tasks is a game changer for KDE that once again demonstrates the flexibility of KDE’s Plasma desktop, which makes it easy for developers to introduce new features. It also increases the number of options KDE users will have, as those who wish to keep the traditional task manager will have that option. This only perpetuates KDE’s reputation for being one of the most flexible and easily customizable desktop environments.

6 comments

  1. Great post for a great KDE feature!
    Can you tell me what date/time widget are you using (on your desktop)?

    • It’s the Wallpaper Clock widget. You can install it through the normal Install widgets interface.

  2. Awesome! Thank you very much. However, I’m a newbie and at first it was difficult for me to figure out what I have to do after installing this app with those terminal commands as you’ve shown. Here are the steps for what to do after it’s installed, but not yet configured on the desktop:

    1. Right-click on the task bar, select ‘Unlock Widgets’ (if not unlocked yet)
    2. Right-click on the task bar, select Panel Options > Panel Settings — or simply click the icon on the very far right on the taskbar
    3. Hover/move with your mouse over the area where the tasks appear on the task bar — this is your task manager (which is nothing else than a widget).
    4. A popup/tooltip comes up (‘Task Manager’) which has a little close button. Click that close button. Now the default task manager has been closed/removed from the panel.
    5. Now click ‘Add Widgets…’ and a line of widgets to select from will show up. Look for ‘Icon-Only Task Manager’.
    6. Drag the ‘Icon-Only Task Manager’ widget to the task bar panel.
    7. Now you’re done. You can close the panel settings and lock the panels again.

    In order to configure the icon only task manager, just right click on the task bar area where your tasks are and select ‘Icon-Only Task Manager Settings’.

  3. The only thing I couldn’t figure out yet is how to get some indication if an application is running when it’s minimized. Would like to have an arrow or something, or just a highlighted icon.

  4. Ok, I found how to get indicators for running apps:

    1. Go to ‘Icon-Only Task Manager Settings > Appearance’
    2. Under ‘Style’ it says  ‘Use Workspace Theme’.
    3. Change ‘Style’ to: ‘Use Indicators’ or ‘Use Indicators & Colored Background’.

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