KDE 4 brought some big changes to the desktop, including timesaving widgets that do everything from popping you into Twitter to keeping tabs on your servers to providing on-the-fly spell-checking. Jack Wallen runs through 10 of these handy little labor-saving apps .
If you've taken a look at KDE 4, you will have noticed significant changes to the desktop. Many people feel these changes have made the KDE desktop less usable. By default, I would say that is certainly the case. But with KDE 4 comes one addition to the desktop that helps it out significantly: widgets — tiny applications that reside on the desktop and serve one or more functions. Most new KDE 4 users have yet to experience what these widgets have to offer. But if you're not taking advantage of these added tools, you're not getting the full KDE 4 experience.
Quite a few widgets are available for the KDE 4 desktop. Some serve little to no function. Others, however, can make your day-to-day computing life much easier. Here are 10 widgets that will make you more productive.
Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.
1: Folder View
This is one of the default widgets. You will find this widget on your desktop upon installation. There is a reason why the KDE 4 team has placed this widget on your desktop by default: It makes browsing folders easy. Imagine being able to have your home neatly displayed on your desktop so that all of your files and directories are right there. Having such easy access that does not get in the way of normal usage is a boon to power users. The Folder View widget stays in the background of your desktop, never obstructing your work, and allows you quick access to all of your directories and files. You can configure this Widget to display whatever directory you want. You can also set up filters that can keep the window from displaying certain types of files. In addition, Folder View will display previews of files, such as images.
2: Konqueror Profiles
If you're like me, you haven't fully accepted Dolphin as your KDE 4 file management tool. Problem is, every time you open Konqueror, it opens in Web browser mode. There are ways around this, of course — and one of those ways is to use the Konqueror Profiles widget. This widget sits on your desktop and lists five profiles: File Manager, KDE Development, Midnight Conqueror, Tabbed Browsing, and Web Browsing. Clicking on any one of those entries will open Konqueror in that particular profile. You can even have more than one instance of Konqueror open in a different profiles. Each of these profiles is managed in the Konqueror Configure View Profiles on the Settings menu. If you add a new profile to Konqueror, that profile will automatically be added to this widget. So if you have a number of sites you use for your job, you can create a profile that will launch Konqueror with tabs containing all of those sites.
RSS newsfeeds are crucial to many types of industries. Seeing those feeds at a glance can make your work life that much easier. Instead of having to open another application or having the feeds fed to you by your browser, why not have them right there on your desktop? With the News widget that is exactly what you get. You an add as many feeds as you want, you can set News to update as quickly as you like, and you can configure News to display only the title or a full description of the news entry. By default, if you click on a news entry, Konqueror will open up to the full page.
If you've read me long enough, you know that I am a big fan of the Linux pager. This tool helps you keep your desktop organized in ways you may have never experienced before. The difference between the Pager widget and the standard KDE pager is that this pager isn't tethered to the Panel. Instead, you can place the Pager widget anywhere on the desktop. You can configure it in the same way that you can configure the standard KDE pager.
5: Twitter Microblog
Most of us Twitter. What would we do without being able to update the world, one micro-sentence at time, of our goings on? And how much time do you waste during the day opening up a browser, pointing it to twitter.com, logging in, and reporting the most important aspects of your life? Probably enough to warrant having a widget on your desktop that allows you to pop off microblogs in a nanosecond. For that, you need the Twitter Microblog widget. It's insanely easy to use, simple to connect to, and right there at your finger tips 24/7.
This little widget hardly needs any explanation. Once it's on your desktop, you can add simple notes. You can configure Notes with different colors, change the fonts, and even enable a spell checker. One nice little feature of Notes is that if you copy your note and paste it into OpenOffice, it will paste in not just as text but as a note as well. The copy/pasting goes both ways for this application.
7: Color Picker
If you do any type of design work, you know how important it is to be able to get certain values for colors instantly. With this handy little widget, you can pick any spot on your desktop, be it the wallpaper, panel, widget, or a color within any running application, and instantly see the hex value or the RGB value of the color. This widget also keeps a history of the colors you have chosen, so you can go right back and see what you've used before.
8: Plasmoid Spellcheck
If you use spell check religiously, as I do, you don't always want to have to fire up an app that contains a spell checker to see whether a word is correct. For that, you need the KDE 4 widget that serves that single purpose. With this widget on your desktop, you can either check on manually entered text or check the contents of the clipboard for correctness. Either way, it's far easier than firing up OpenOffice to get your spell check on!
This is one of those widgets that admins will be thankful for. It allows you to set up a log on your desktop to keep track of your systems. Sure, you can open up a terminal window and use the tail command to follow that particular log entry, but why not just have a widget available to do the job cleanly and within the confines of your desktop? This way the log won't get in the way of your everyday work, while at the same time it will be readily available for you to see just what is happening on your machines/servers.
10: Server Status
This one is exactly what it sounds like. You can use it to configure servers and have them respond to a ping check. As long as they respond to the ping check, they get a green light. The first time they don't respond, they get a red light (which means you better check out what is going on.) This is a simple way of keeping tabs on the availability of your servers.
These are 10 handy widgets to have on your desktop — though probably not all at once. Do take note that these widgets may or may not be found by default on your particular installation of KDE 4. If you don't find them, most likely you can get them at kde-look.org.
Have you found a particular widget that helps to make your work more productive? If so, share it with your fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.