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May 20, 2008

Must-Have Plasmoid: QuickLauncher

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KDE4 is great. I've always enjoyed the idea of widgets, ever since I discovered Konfabulator back on Windows. However, in the journey from KDE3.x (with panels) to KDE4 (with optional panels and plasmoids), one key component was lost: the quicklaunch menu.

For most plasmoids, you either get it with the default plasma installation, or you can install the extragear-plasma package. (As of Kubuntu Hardy Heron) Neither one of these has a replacement for the quicklaunch menu. The QuickLauncher plasmoid is available from the plasmoids section of KDE-Look.org. The author currently offers a source tarball as well as packages for Kubuntu Hardy (x86) and Mandriva (x86, amd64, and "source-RPM").

The plasmoid still has some quirks that require you to edit configuration files. Add it to your desktop, and it is initially empty, with no indication of its existence. I haven't tried using it with the panel, perhaps someone can enlighten me on that point. To initially populate it, open up a file manager to /usr/share/applications. This will have a bunch of .desktop files which link to various applications. It may also have one or two "kde" directories, which contain KDE3- or KDE4-specific applications. Choose your initial quicklaunch application and copy the .desktop file's path (like /usr/share/applications/kde/konqbrowser.desktop for Konqueror). Open a text editor, such as Kate, and open the file ~/.kde4/share/config/plasma-appletsrc . Don't edit it yet. Press Alt+F2 to bring up the application runner, type "kquitapp plasma", press the Launch button, and don't panic. This will shutdown the plasma desktop (causing the plasmoids and panel to disappear), but your windows (and window manager) should stay where they are. Click inside the Kate window, and Kate should tell you that the plasma-appletsrc file has changed. Choose to reload it.

If you haven't removed the "invisible" quicklaunch plasmoid yet, you should see a section near the bottom of the file that looks like this: [Containments][1][Applets][85] geometry=169,520,24,48 locked=false plugin=quicklauncher Note the plugin=quicklauncher line, telling you that this section controls the parameters for the QuickLauncher plasmoid. Paste the path to your .desktop file a couple of lines below this section, and add "iconUrls=" before it, like so: iconUrls=/usr/share/applications/kde/konqbrowser.desktop Copy the first line of the section you located, and paste it one line above the iconUrls line. Then add "[Configuration]" to the end. The final section should look something like this: [Containments][1][Applets][85][Configuration] iconUrls=/usr/share/applications/kde/konqbrowser.desktop Save the file, press Alt+F2 again, type "plasma", and click Launch. Plasma should load, and you should have the Konqueror icon sitting on your desktop, waiting to be clicked.

To add more shortcuts to QuickLauncher, simply re-open Konqueror to /usr/share/applications , and drag-and-drop any .desktop files on top of the existing icon(s) in the QuickLauncher. You can also drag-and-drop to re-organize the icons within the launcher. To remove an icon, right-click the icon and choose "Remove Icon" from the menu.

The configuration dialog for QuickLauncher allows you to choose how many rows it has and how many visible icons it shows. For a single-row quicklauncher, set "rows" to 1 (obviously enough). For a one-column quicklauncher (my current preference), set "rows" equal to or greater than the number of icons you have.

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