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2.3. Customizing KDE

Fedora's KDE defaults are altered from the original upstream developers' versioneven more so than GNOME is modified from its upstream version. For this reason, some die-hard KDE fans don't like working on a Fedora system.

Like GNOME, KDE can be tweaked, fiddled, and configured to look and work just the way you want.

2.3.1. How Do I Do That?

Most KDE configuration is performed through the KDE Control Center, which is found on the K menu. The Control Center is shown in Figure 2-9.

If you do not have KDE installed, you can install it; see Lab 5.3, "Using Repositories."

Figure 2-9. KDE Control Center

Along the lefthand side of this window, there is a collapsible menu of configuration categories; each category contains several subcategories, which can be revealed or hidden by clicking on the +/- icon in front of the category name. Each subcategory is handled by a separate configuration module. When you click on a configuration category, the configuration module for that category is shown on the righthand side of the window.

You can also configure some desktop components by right-clicking on them. For example, right-clicking on the desktop and selecting Configure Desktop will bring up a subset of the Control Center options, which is useful for changing the appearance of the desktop.

Unlike GNOME, KDE settings are not usually automatically applied; you must click on the Apply button before your changes take effect.

An alternative, express way to change basic KDE desktop settings is to select SettingsDesktop Settings Wizard (or enter the command kpersonalizer), which will walk you through the process of setting the most common desktop options. Customizing the desktop appearance using themes

To configure KDE themes, select Appearance & ThemesTheme Manager in the Control Center (Figure 2-9). You can select a theme from among the options listed by clicking on it and then clicking Apply.

To install a new theme, click the "Get new themes..." link in the upper-right corner to open the Konqueror web browser with the kde-look home page ( Select a theme that is packaged into a .kth file and download it to your system. Click the Install New Theme button within the KDE Control Center and open the downloaded file to install it into the list of available themes.

Relatively few themes are packaged in the .kth format required by the Theme Manager. Themes supplied in source format cannot be installed by the Theme Manager and must be configured manually. Customizing the panels

KDE panels are configured in much the same way as GNOME panels.

You can add a new panel by right-clicking on an existing one and selecting Add New PanelPanel. You can move the new panel to any edge of the screen by dragging it with the mouse.

The Add New Panel facility can add special panel types that are pre-populated with specific tools; for details, right-click on a panel and select Help.

To delete a panel, right-click on any panel and select Remove Panel, and then select the panel you wish to remove. It is not possible to remove the original panel. If the panel contains anything, a confirmation dialog will appear before the panel is deleted.

To add items to a panel, right-click on the panel and select "Add Applet to panel" or "Add Application to panel"the difference being that applets run within the panel, displaying information or performing useful actions, while applications are simply buttons that launch programs.

To delete an application from the panel, right-click on it and select "Remove application." To delete an applet, place your mouse cursor over it, which will cause a small bar to appear beside it; right-click on this bar, and select "Remove applet."

To move a panel object, middle-click on the object (or on the bar beside the object if it is an applet) and drag it to the desired location. To push other objects around, hold down the Shift key while dragging; to move between bars, left-click and drag.

To set a panel's properties, right-click on a panel and select Configure Panel, which displays the window in Figure 2-10. You can also start the KDE Control Center and select DesktopPanels, in which case the window arrangement is modified slightly to fit into the design of the Control Center.

Figure 2-10. KDE panel configuration window

In either case, you will have buttons or tabs for Arrangement, Hiding, Menus, and Appearance.

The Arrangement section contains these settings:


The location of the panel on the screen. There are twelve buttons, enabling you to place the panel in the center or either corner of any edge of the screen (for example, if you place the panel on the bottom edge of the screen, you can place it in the left corner, the center, or the right corner). The position along an edge has no effect if the panel length has been set to 100%.


The percent of the screen edge that will be occupied by the panel. The default is 100%, where the panel fills the entire length of one side of the screen. The checkbox labeled "Expand as required to fit contents" makes the specified length the minimum.


The thickness of the panel in pixels. The Fedora default is rather big, so I usually set this to Small or Tiny.

The settings affect the panel selected by the "Settings for" drop-down menu. As you adjust the settings, the preview in the Screen section is updated to show your changes.

The Hiding section contains three settings:

Hide Mode

Configures the panel to be displayed all the time unless manually hidden, to hide itself after a period of time, or to be coverable by other windows. To reveal an automatically hidden panel, place the mouse cursor along the edge of the screen where the panel would normally appear.

Panel-Hiding Buttons

Allows you to add buttons to the left and right (or top and bottom) ends of the panel.

Panel Animation

Configures the animated sliding of the panel when it is hidden or revealed. The panel animation is a cute effect, and it serves the practical purpose of helping the user understand what's happening to the panel.

Like the Arrangement options, the Hiding options are applied to the panel selected with the "Settings for" control.

The Appearance section lets you configure icon mouseover effects (which include really big, animated tool tips), tool tips helps, colored or patterned button backgrounds, and a pseudo-transparency effect for panels. Customizing the desktop background

The background image or color is adjusted using the Appearance & ThemesBackground option in the Control Center. You can get to the same configuration module by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting Configure Desktop, then selecting the Background button. Figure 2-11 shows the window that appears.

Figure 2-11. KDE desktop background configuration

You can individually configure the desktop background for each virtual desktop. This can make it easier to identify which virtual desktop is currently displayed, but it can use a lot of memory and increases the amount of time it takes to switch desktops. The "Settings for Desktop" control selects the desktop to be configured; use All Desktops to use the same image on all of the virtual desktops.

In this configuration module, there are two sections:


Selects a picture or slideshow to use for the image background.


Sets the background image position, scaling, and tiling (repeat) options; background colors, patterns, and gradients; and blending between the background image and background colors/patterns.

There are also two special buttons:

Advanced Options

Permits you to use a program to draw the desktop background (such as kwebdesktop, which uses a web page for the desktop background), to set the color and shadow for the desktop icon text, and to set the size of the background cache.

Get New Wallpapers

Provides a simple way to download wallpapers from, using the window shown at bottom right in Figure 2-11. A list of available wallpapers appears (you can use the tabs to change the sort order); clicking on one will present a preview, and clicking Install will add that wallpaper to the Picture list in the KDesktop Background window. Customizing the window manager's behavior

To configure window-manager behavior, right-click on a title bar and select Configure Window Behavior. Figure 2-12 shows the window that appears. You can access the same options through the Control Center using the Appearance & ThemesWindow Decorations, DesktopWindow Behavior, and the DesktopWindow-Specific Settings options.

Figure 2-12. KDE window-manager behavior configuration

The KDE window manager, kwin, offers extensive configuration options:

Window Decorations

Enables you to select the window-manager theme and the buttons that will be placed in the title bar. Some themes have additional customization options, such as adjustable border width.


Configures the actions performed when the various mouse buttons are clicked on the title bar and active or inactive windows. The Titlebar Actions tab contains settings for the action that will be taken when the user clicks on the window title bar, frame, and maximize button.


The window with focusalso called the active windowreceives keyboard input. This section selects the focus policy:

Click to Focus

Click on a window to give it focus.

Focus Follows Mouse

Place the mouse cursor over a window to give it focus. You can also change focus with Alt-Tab or Shift-Alt-Tab.

Focus Under Mouse

Same as Focus Follows Mouse, but Alt-Tab/Shift-Alt-Tab does not change the window focus (though it will raise other windows to the top), and new windows will not receive focus.

Focus Strictly Under Mouse

Same as Focus Under Mouse, but moving the mouse pointer over the desktop background (not over any window) will unfocus all windows instead of leaving the last window focused.

If you select a focus policy other than "Click to Focus," you can configure a delay between when a window receives focus and when it raises, as well as whether focused windows are raised at all (placed in front of other windows). The Navigation section enables you to set options related to keyboard navigation between windows (Alt-Tab/Shift-Alt-Tab).


Configures behavior when windows are moved. For best performance on a slower system (or a remote connection), disable the options "Display content in moving windows," "Display content in resizing windows," and "Animate minimize and restore"but on a fast machine, these options can provide useful user feedback. The Snap Zone settings make it easier to align windows with other windows or with the edge of the screen.


Configures Shading (window roll-up) animation and automatic unrolling when under the mouse; Active Desktop Borders, which permit you to move off the desktop onto an adjacent virtual desktop; and Focus Stealing Prevention, which attempts to eliminate unpleasant surprises when you're typing and a new window appears (which in normal circumstances would automatically get focus). Right-click on the control and select "What's This?" to see a detailed description of the options.

Window-Specific Settings

Enables you to configure kwin to handle some applications differently than others. To create special settings for a window, ensure that the window is presently on the screen, and then click New in that window. A window labeled Edit Window-Specific Settings will appear; click the Detect button, and then click on the window you wish to configure. You can then use the provided tabs to configure your desired settings, such as specific window geometry (size and location) or preferences (e.g., causing the window to stay above or below other windows).


Enables transparency and shadow effects for windows. This uses the COMPOSITE capability of the X server, which requires a modern graphics card for good operation; you can then use these settings to configure the transparency, shadows, and fade effects. To enable the COMPOSITE extension, see Lab 2.4, "Fine-Tuning Your Display Configuration." Customizing Konqueror

Since Konqueror was designed as both a web browser and a file manager, it offers many options for customization. You can access these configuration options by selecting SettingsConfigure Konqueror from within Konqueror, or within the KDE Control Panel by selecting KDE ComponentsFile Manager. The arrangement of the configuration options is slightly different, depending on the route you take get there; Figure 2-13 shows both layouts.

Figure 2-13. Konqueror configuration window; Control Panel version (left) and Konqueror Settings version (right)

Here are some of the most useful customizations:

  • On the Behavior tab/button, the checkbox "Open folders in separate windows" enables a mode similar to the Nautilus spatial mode, which displays each folder separatelybut, unlike Nautilus, window locations are not remembered on a per-directory basis by Konqueror.

  • Also on the Behavior tab/button, the checkbox "Show 'Delete' context menu entries which bypass the trashcan" enables you to directly delete files without the two-step process of moving them to trash and then emptying the trash (two-step deletion gives you a chance to review deletions before finalizing them but does not free up disk space right away).

  • The Previews tab/button configures the types of files and the maximum size of files for which previews will be generated. Setting the maximum size to a lower value will speed up the display of large directories of big files. Enabling "Show file tips" and "Show previews in file tips" on the Behavior tab/button will make Konqueror display an extended preview whenever you hover the mouse pointer over a file icon.

  • The Quick Copy & Move tab (Control Center only) enables "Copy to" and "Move to" options on context menus. This is a useful feature that offers recent and common directories as copy/move targets. Customizing keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are configured using the Control Center option Regional & AccessibilityKeyboard Shortcuts, shown in Figure 2-14. To add or change a shortcut, double-click on an action in the list of actions under the Shortcut Schemes tab or a command under the Command Shortcuts tab. Enter the new shortcut (such as Ctrl-Shift-H) and click OK, or click on the whisk-like icon beside the Shortcut field to clear it.

Figure 2-14. KDE keyboard shortcut configuration

2.3.2. How Does It Work?

KDE configuration options are stored in text files in ~/.kde/share/config. The format of these files varies slightly, but most take the form of name and value pairs divided into sections denoted by section titles in square brackets:


[HTML Settings]

[KonqMainWindow Toolbar Speech Toolbar]



Since these are text files, they may be copied from one account to another.

2.3.3. What About... ...setting the defaults for new users?

The directory /etc/skel acts as a template, or skeleton, for new account creation. Any KDE configuration files placed in /etc/skel/.kde/share/config will get copied to new user accounts automatically.

2.3.4. Where Can I Learn More?

  • Start with the KDE online manual, accessed through the Help option on the K menu. The first time you access the KDE online manual, you will be asked if you wish to create the index; select the Application Manual and click Build Index to create the index (this takes only a minute or two).

  • KDE home page:


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