Test Driving Linux/Customize Your Desktop

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Test Driving Linux

Visit any car dealership and you'll see rows upon rows of cars that all look the same except for the color. But looks can be deceiving—many of those cars are actually very different inside, in the way they're configured and the options they come with. Some cars have leather seats; others have cloth. Some have six-cylinder engines; others have four-cylinder. Some come with the mega-bass six-CD-changer stereo system; others only have FM radio. Buyers can decide what options they want based upon their practical needs, their aesthetic preferences, and their budget.

Linux and KDE have a lot of options as well. For example, you can configure your interface to look like Windows or the Macintosh. There are a hundred different icon sets you can use. Even the look and location of the buttons that control program windows can be changed. This customization is all built-in, it's all free (unlike the pricey options on cars!), and it's part of what makes using Linux such a fun experience.

However, having all these options can also be confusing. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of things that you can tweak on a Linux desktop. This chapter explores some of the most popular customizations that users like to make to KDE.


Basic Customization

Perhaps the first and most basic thing you'll want to do is change the desktop background picture. I discussed how to do this at the end of Chapter 1, but let's revisit the configuration window where you make the change. It has several other options that may be of interest.

To bring up the Configure Desktop window, simply right-click on your desktop and choose Configure Desktop. You'll see five icons on the lefthand side of the configuration window that appears. Clicking on one of these icons changes the configuration options displayed on the right side of the window.

See Section 1.7 for a review of the Background icon (Figure 8-1). The configuration panels of the remaining four icons—Behavior, Multiple Desktops, Paths, and Screen Saver—are described in the following sections.

Figure 8-1. The Background configuration window

The Background configuration window


The Behavior configuration screen, shown in Figure 8-2, contains an odd collection of settings. Feel free to go ahead and experiment with all of them, but the most useful ones are in the Mouse Button Actions section. The choices you make here affect how your mouse buttons behave when you use them to click on your desktop. Try making a change here and clicking Apply, and then click on the desktop to see if you like the change. I prefer the default settings for the Left and Right buttons, which make your mouse buttons act exactly like they do in Windows. But I like to change the Middle button to Custom Menu 1 and click the Edit button to add programs to the list. By doing this, I'm creating a quick way to launch programs that I use frequently but that I don't tend to run for very long, such as kdict (a dictionary), kcalc (a calculator), and ksnapshot (a screen capture program). Once you configure a custom list for the Middle button, you can launch the programs simply by middle-clicking on the desktop and choosing a program from the list. If you have only two mouse buttons, you can middle-click by clicking both buttons at the same time.

Figure 8-2. The Behavior configuration window

The Behavior configuration window

I tend to avoid the options that allow me to put a menu bar at the top of the screen, but if you're used to the desktop layout of the Mac you may like this option.

Multiple Desktops

The Multiple Desktop icon controls how many virtual desktops you have on your computer. The Move CD defaults to just 2, but by moving the sliding lever at the top, you can have up to 16 virtual desktops! In addition, you can give each desktop a name to make it easy to remember. Naming desktops also encourages you to use desktops for specific purposes, as I suggested in Chapter 1. The last option in this window gives you the ability to change desktops using the scroll wheel of your mouse when the cursor is over the desktop background. To set your changes to this window, just click Apply.


There are only four options available on the Paths window, and only one of them (Document path) is something you'll likely want to change right now. But let's look at all four options anyway:

Desktop path
Icons and documents you put in this directory will appear on your desktop.
Trash path
This is where KDE stores items until you delete them for good. (Refer back to Chapter 3 for more on the Trash.)
Autostart path
This is a folder containing programs or documents that run automatically when you log into KDE. If you place a link to a document or program here, it will load when you log in. You can do some very clever things with the Autostart folder, particularly if you know how to program. (You'll notice that the path includes a directory with a dot in front of it (.kde), which means this folder is inside a hidden folder. To view hidden folders, you need to click View → Show Hidden Files in Konqueror.) Try going to the Autostart folder and dragging an icon for a program, such as Konqueror, from your kicker panel to your Autostart folder. The next time you log into KDE, Konqueror should load automatically.
Document path
This is simply the default location used by the Save and Open dialog boxes in KDE applications such as KWrite or KMail. It might be a good idea to point it to a directory inside your Home.

Screen Savers

Now, click on the Screen Saver icon to open its configuration window (see Figure 8-3). You will see a list of available screen savers you can use.


People often get confused about the difference between desktop backgrounds (wallpapers) and screen savers. A wallpaper is the picture or color you see on your desktop all the time as you are using it. A screen saver appears after your computer has been sitting idle for a while, and usually hides everything on your screen and puts on an animated show for you. You've probably already noticed that if you leave Move sitting alone for more than five minutes, a screen saver kicks in.

To keep the list of screen savers tidy, Move places them in several groups. To open a group, click the plus sign once or double-click the group's name. You can then choose a particular screen saver by clicking once on its name. When you do that, the monitor to the right previews the screen saver for you.

Some screen savers have a lot of configuration options, which you can access by clicking on the screen saver name and then clicking the Setup button at the bottom of the list. Just to experiment, let's set up the Banner screen saver now. Expand the Banners & Pictures grouping, select the Banner screen saver, and then click on Setup.

Figure 8-3. The Screen Saver configuration window

The Screen Saver configuration window

The Banner screen saver simply scrolls some text of your choosing across the screen. You can use the Setup window to change the font, font size, and color of the text, as well as setting the text that you want to display and how fast it should scroll. The Move CD provides a lot of fonts to choose from, and if you don't like the font sizes listed, you can type in one of your own.

The first thing you want to do is pick the color of your text, so start by clicking the red bar. This opens the Select Color window shown in Figure 8-4. This window appears all the time when you are picking colors in KDE, so you might want to take this opportunity to familiarize yourself with it; you'll probably find it much better than the limited color selector available in some Windows programs. My favorite feature is the icon that looks like a medicine dropper. To see how this works, click on the icon and notice that your cursor changes to a crosshair. Position the crosshair over a color on your desktop that you like, such as a spot of color in your background image or an icon on the kicker. When you click your mouse, the color window captures the color you clicked on and makes it the selected color in the window. Click OK to accept this new color choice. By using colors common to other elements in your desktop, you can create a pleasing color scheme for all your programs. Later in this chapter you'll have the chance to experiment with this color selection window a little more.

Figure 8-4. The Select Color window

The Select Color window

Now that you have a color selected, you need to type some text into the Message field. You can also move the slider left or right to adjust the speed at which the text scrolls across the screen. After you've made all of your selections, click OK to apply them and close the window, and click Test at the bottom of the screen saver list to see the results. If you press any key while the screen saver is running, the test will close and you'll be back at the Screen Saver window.

In the Settings portion of this window, you can do things like disabling the screen saver by unchecking "Start screen saver automatically," or configuring it to run more or less often by changing the time interval. I usually uncheck the "Require password to stop screen save" option so that I don't need to enter a password to get back to work after the screen saver kicks in. If you check the box related to power management, you are telling the screen saver not to run if power management has kicked in. The Priority slider simply tells the screen saver how much of the computer's processing power to use while it's running. Some of the prettiest screen savers, found under the OpenGL grouping, require quite a bit of horsepower to run well.


Instead of using a screen saver with a password to secure my machine when I'm away, I use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Alt-L.

Customizing the Kicker Panel

Throughout this book, you've been making extensive use of the kicker panel at the bottom of your screen, but I haven't told you much about how you can customize it. Well, you shouldn't be surprised to find out that there is quite a lot you can do with this little panel, so prepare to be amazed. Figure 8-5 shows how I like to configure my kicker. As we explore the options below, I'll point out which ones I used to make my screen look like this.

Figure 8-5. My desktop after customizations to the kicker panel, taskbar, and KasBar

My desktop after customizations to the kicker panel, taskbar, and KasBar

Location, Location, Location

You can move the kicker panel anywhere you want along the edge of the screen. To do this, just click in the taskbar area and hold down the left mouse button while you move your cursor to another edge of the screen. Once you see an outline of the panel appear on the new edge, release the mouse button, and the kicker will appear in the new location. My preference is to put the kicker along the left side of the screen. I think it has to do with reading things left to right, so I consider the left side of the screen the location where I start new things, like launching a program.

On the edge of the kicker, near the clock, you'll see a small rectangle with a triangle in its center. When you click this, the whole panel slides away and hides. Click the button again to bring it back. The speed at which the panel hides itself can also be controlled, which I'll show you how to do in a minute.

If you don't like the positions of the various elements on the panel, you can move them around very easily by right-clicking on an icon and choosing Move to move it along the panel and drop it in a new location. Alternately, you can simply left-click and drag an icon to a new location. To move applets on the panel such as the clock or the virtual desktop pager, you need to click on the small bar next to the element that contains a dot and a triangle (let's call it a handle) and drag that to the new location. You'll know you're clicking the right part of the applet when the cursor changes to a crosshair. A handle is always to the left of the applet it controls (or above it if you've moved the kicker to the left or right edge).

Adding More Items to the Kicker

As I mentioned in Chapter 1, you can create quick-launch icons by dragging program icons from your K Menu and dropping them onto the kicker panel. Another way to accomplish the same task is to right-click the K Menu, choose Panel Menu → Add → Application Button, and select the program you want to add from the menu that appears. You can also choose to add the entire menu or submenu by selecting the Add This Menu choice at the top of each menu listing.

There are several other items on the Add menu, including Applet, Panel, and Special Button. Let's take a look at these options:

Applets are mini-programs that can be embedded in the kicker panel. These mini-programs have limited but often very useful functions. Two of my favorites are the Dictionary, which is a simple field that lets you query the kdict dictionary program, and the Klipper, a tool that remembers text you have previously copied. Click on the Klipper icon to choose from a number of past "copies" and select them for reuse. This is much better than the Windows clipboard, which limits you to only one item. To remove an applet, right-click on its handle and choose Remove. Most applets also have configuration options on this same menu.
The kicker is actually a parent program that holds several panels. And a panel's purpose is to show running programs, hold icons to launch new programs, or act as a container for other applets. I like to place an External Taskbar along the bottom of the screen, and remove the taskbar that is already inside the kicker. You can move the External Taskbar by grabbing its hide button and dragging it to a new location. My wife likes to use the KasBar because it shows small representations of her running programs. When I use the KasBar I place it along the right side of the screen.


If you've been following along and selecting the same options that I use, your screen probably looks pretty odd right now. Don't worry—as you complete the steps in the next section, everything will start to clean up.

Special Button
The choices in this menu add special function buttons to your kicker. Some of them, like Desktop Access and K Menu, are on your kicker by default. I like to add multiple Quick Browser buttons, which I configure to point to various directories. This creates a quick-access menu to the files in those folders so that I can load them with just a single mouse click.

Configuring the Kicker

It's now time to perform some serious customization of your kicker panel. This is where you'll discover just how customizable some parts of KDE can be. To begin, right-click on the kicker and choose Configure Panel from the menu. This will launch a new window with a lot of options, as shown in Figure 8-6. If you didn't add the External Taskbar and KasBar panels, as I suggest in the previous section's discussion on Panels, your Configure Panel window will look slightly different.

Like other configuration windows, the icons on the left side determine the available options on the right. For now, we're going to ignore the Taskbar icon and focus only on the Layout.

I have three items in my panel list: Main Panel, External Taskbar, and KasBar. The options for each panel are divided into several tabs and apply only to the active item in the list. Let's go through these tabs one by one.

The Arrangement tab

The Arrangement tab is pictured in Figure 8-6. The Position section allows you to place the panel in one of nine positions around the edge of your screen. This accomplishes the same thing as dragging the panel to a new location. The Length section lets you specify how much space the panel should take up and whether it should get larger as more items are added to it, and the Size section lets you specify how "thick" the panel is. The Screen section on the far right gives a preview of how your choices will affect the selected panel.

Figure 8-6. The Arrangement tab

The Arrangement tab

Let's start with the Main Panel, since it should already be the active item. To position your Main Panel the same way I have it, click the center screen position on the lefthand side and choose a length of 50%. To make the Main Panel icons a bit larger than the default set up in Move, choose a size of Normal. As always, click Apply for your changes to take effect.

Now, click the External Taskbar entry. To duplicate my setup, select the leftmost of the positions along the bottom of the screen, a length of just 15%, and a size of Tiny. Click Apply to see the results of these changes.

Finally, click the KasBar entry, put it in the top position on the right side, and give it a length of just 1%. This reduces it down just to the hide button when you don't have any applications open, but it will grow as you open more programs. Once again, click Apply.


If the box "Expand as required to fit contents" is unchecked, your External Taskbar and KasBar will get filled up very quickly with program icons and become pretty much unusable.

Your screen should now look considerably cleaner, but there is still much to be done—after all, there are three other tabs to explore in the Configure Panel window. The last two, Menus and Appearance, only apply to the Main Panel and the K Menu.


Once you start making changes to your kicker, avoid clicking on the Defaults button in the Configure Panel window. The Defaults button will reset everything pertaining to the active panel back to the default, not just the settings on the current screen. Of course, if you mess things up beyond recognition, the Defaults button is a good way to get back to square one.

The Hiding tab

The settings in the Hiding tab affect how various panels can be hidden (see Figure 8-7). I'm not a big fan of hiding panels, so I usually disable all these settings. However, many people like the extra screen space they can get by hiding some of these elements automatically, so I'll show you how to do that. Just like on the Arrangement tab, you have to select a panel from the list on the left to change its settings. Here's how to hide something automatically, using the Main Panel as an example:

  1. On the Hiding tab, click on the Main Panel to make it active.
  2. Click the radio button for "Hide automatically" and choose a delay time, which specifies how long the panel should wait to hide after your cursor is no longer over the panel.
  3. Uncheck the box next to "Show bottom panel-hiding button."
  4. Use the slider to modify the panel hiding speed. I slide it to "Fast," all the way on the right. If you want hiding to be instantaneous, uncheck the box next to "Animate panel hiding."
  5. Click Apply to apply your changes to the panel.

    Figure 8-7. The Hiding tab

    The Hiding tab

Your Main Panel will hide itself a few seconds after you click Apply. To get it back, move your mouse to the edge of the screen where the panel was, and the panel will appear. You can now select an item from the panel, move your mouse away, and the panel will hide again. Repeat this process to customize hiding behavior for your other panels.

The Menus tab

The Menus tab normally allows you to change the appearance of the K Menu and the items on it. Because of the way the Move CD is built, though, you can't actually configure any of the menus right now, so I won't cover these options.

The only thing I usually do on this tab is set the "Maximum number of entries" in the QuickStart Menu Items to 0. Doing this means that the programs I run will not show up at the top of my K Menu list in the Most Used Applications area. I don't find having program launchers in this part of the K Menu useful. If I run a program often, I just put an icon for it on my kicker so that I don't need to go hunting for it or hope that it shows up as a Most Used Application. This way, I don't clutter up the K Menu with the Most Used Applications area.

The Appearance tab

The Appearance tab is where you can put the final tweaks on the appearance of the Main Panel (see Figure 8-8). In the General section, you can specify whether icons on the kicker should grow larger when you hover your mouse over them (similar to the effect you see on the Mac OS X Dock, but not as nice) and whether icons should show a tooltip. Since I'm an experienced KDE user, I don't usually need tooltips, but you might want to keep them on for a while.

Figure 8-8. The settings on the Appearance tab affect only the Main Panel

The settings on the Appearance tab affect only the Main Panel

The Button Backgrounds section lets you specify a background look to your panel icons. I don't find the effect of multiple colors on my panel very appealing, so I always turn off all background effects.

My favorite part of this tab is the Panel Background section. Here, you can pick an image to display behind your panel icons. Any image with a gradient to it is usually quite nice, especially when you check the box "Colorize to match the desktop color scheme." Using this option really makes the panel seem to "belong" with the rest of the desktop. Another cool trick is to make your panel transparent by checking the box "Enable transparency"; in my opinion, this is even better than using a background image. Your Main Panel icons will now appear to float on top of your desktop.

I actually find 100% transparency to be a little bit disconcerting, but it's easy to change it to something a little more opaque. Click on the Advanced Options button and, in the window that appears, adjust the slider to the right and click Apply. Keep making adjustments until you get to a tint level you like. You can also select a color for the tint by clicking the Tint color bar. The transparency effect isn't complete until you make your virtual desktop pager transparent. To do this, right-click on its handle and choose Pager Menu → Show → Transparent.

External Taskbar

There are a few final tweaks you can make to your External Taskbar. Click the Taskbar icon in the Configure Panel window, or right-click the hide button of the taskbar and choose Configure Taskbar, to display the configuration window shown in Figure 8-9.

Figure 8-9. The taskbar configuration window

The taskbar configuration window

The taskbar displays a number of options; from top to bottom, they are:

Show windows from all desktops
With this option checked, the taskbar displays icons for windows running on any desktop. When it is not checked, the taskbar shows only programs running on the current desktop. I always leave this option checked.
Show window list button
With this checked, a small, rectangular button appears on the taskbar next to the hide button. You can click on this button to see a list of open windows and which desktop they are on. I don't find this information useful, so I always leave this option unchecked.
Sort tasks by virtual desktop
With this checked, programs are grouped on the taskbar according to which desktop they run on. Items running on Desktop 1 appear first, followed by items on Desktop 2, and so on. Within a desktop, icons appear based upon which program was launched first. If this option isn't checked, program icons appear in the order that they were launched, regardless of which desktop they're running on. I always leave this box checked because doing so means the programs I run all the time will almost always appear on the same place on the taskbar. This is because I always run specific programs on each desktop, and usually only one or two programs per desktop.
Show application icons
This simply means that a small icon representing the program appears on the window's button on the toolbar. I find this breaks up the monotony of the window names, so I always leave it checked.
Show only minimized windows
With this checked, the taskbar shows icons only for windows that are currently minimized. That means an opened window will not show up on the taskbar. I always leave this unchecked so that all my windows have icons on the taskbar, making it easy to see which programs are running on different desktops.
Group similar tasks
This means that windows related to each other show up as a single icon on the taskbar. When you click the icon, it will display a small menu of windows to choose from. Using this feature is a way to unclutter your taskbar, and it's similar to a feature introduced in Windows XP. You can test it out by setting the drop-down list to Always, clicking Apply, and then launching several instances of KWrite. I always set this drop-down to Never, because I find the grouping disruptive to my work habits, but I admittedly didn't give the feature much of a chance to grow on me.

The Actions section controls what your mouse buttons do when a button is clicked on an empty area of the taskbar. There are a lot of options to choose from, so it's probably easiest just to try out the different settings using one mouse button, see if you like what any of them offer, and choose which button should use which setting. Personally, though, I'm just fine with the defaults.


The final thing we'll configure here is the KasBar. This program really just duplicates the function of a taskbar, but it does so in such a cool way I would be remiss not to tell you about it.

Right-click on the KasBar's hide button and choose Configure Kasbar to bring up its very limited configuration window. There are two changes I think you should make. First, click on the Thumbnails icon and drag the Thumbnail-size slider about three quarters of the way to the right. Then click on the Behavior icon and uncheck the box next to Group Windows. Click OK to close the window.

Now the fun begins. Open up Konqueror and go to a web page, and then launch some other program. The KasBar now shows two icons that represent your running programs. Place your mouse over one of the icons, and a small "thumbnail" of the window of that program will magically pop up (see Figure 8-10). Cool, huh? This feature makes it easy to keep track of multiple open documents (very important when you're a book editor).

Figure 8-10. A thumbnail of a web page displayed in KasBar

A thumbnail of a web page displayed in KasBar

Changing the Look of KDE

The KDE Control Center is the granddaddy of configuration programs in KDE and contains hundreds of settings to control your environment. Click K Menu → Administer your system → Configure your desktop to get to the main window (Figure 8-11). As you can see from the list of icons on the lefthand side of this window, there are an awful lot of options to configure. We'll cover only the LookNFeel section here, but feel free to poke through all the other options. I would recommend, however, that you do this without the USB memory key. That way, if you mess something up, you can just reboot to get back to your normal settings.

Figure 8-11. The KDE Control Center with the LookNFeel grouping expanded

The KDE Control Center with the LookNFeel grouping expanded

Click once on the LookNFeel item to expand the grouping. There are fifteen items here, but we've already covered six of them in earlier sections. Here are brief descriptions of how to use the nine options that we haven't gotten to yet:

Set the colors used by the windows, menus, and widgets in KDE. ("Widget" is just a term used to describe things like buttons, scrollbars, checkboxes, and other standard elements of the GUI.)
Quickly choose which fonts and font sizes to use for toolbars, menus, and icons.
Select the icon set you want to use. An icon set is a group of icons that share a common look. By choosing a new icon set, you can quickly change the look of all the icons on your desktop and in program toolbars.
Launch Feedback
Control the type of notification you receive while a program is loading. The Busy Cursor selection lets you choose whether your regular mouse cursor should indicate that a program is loading. The taskbar notification controls whether there should be any indication that a program is loading on the taskbar.
Splash Screen
Determine what your login screen looks like. Simply select a screen from the list and click Apply. Click Test to see a simulation of what the screen looks like while loading.
Set the shape and size of buttons, scrollbars, tabs, lists, and checkboxes. (A style defines the way widgets look.) Styles can enable effects like transparency and fade for menus.
System Notifications
Determine how your programs will notify you of events. This is similar to the settings you configured for KMail in Chapter 6 (and those settings are here as well).
Window Behavior
Control how your windows behave under all sorts of different conditions. Among other things, you can define what happens when you double-click the titlebar of a window, how windows position themselves on-screen, and whether or not you can drag a window off one desktop and onto another. There are dozens of settings in this screen.
Window Decorations
Control how the decorative frame of a window looks; i.e., the size and shape of the titlebar; the icons to minimize, maximize, and close windows; and the appearance of the window's border.

Now let's look at some of these configuration panels in more detail. The Launch Feedback and Splash Screen panels are fairly simple, so I won't go into more detail about them or the System Notifications panel here. I will, however, cover the other panels.


The Colors configuration panel is divided into three sections (see Figure 8-12). The top part of the panel shows you various GUI elements and how they appear using a specific color scheme. The list on the left lets you choose a color scheme, and the Widget Color section on the right allows you to change the color of specific widgets. These tools give you everything you need to create your own color scheme.

Figure 8-12. The Colors configuration panel

The Colors configuration panel

First, choose a color scheme in the Color Scheme list. Try to pick a color scheme that's a big contrast with the current theme so that you can clearly see the difference between them. Dark Blue is a good choice. You can also use the Contrast slider bar in the lower right to modify the contrast for any color scheme you choose. Note how the top view changes to reflect your new colors, and click Apply to see the color scheme applied to all of your windows. To change back to the default Move colors, select the Galaxy color scheme.

Next, choose a widget from the drop-down list in the Widget Color section and click on the color bar to select a new color for the widget. The color bar opens a color selector window just like the one described in the "Screen Savers" section earlier in this chapter. Once again, as you select new colors for each widget, the view at the top changes. Once you're satisfied with your colors, click Apply to see them on your desktop. If you really like what you see, you should save it as a new color scheme. To do this, click the Save Scheme button and give the new scheme a name.

The checkbox at the very bottom of the Colors screen allows you to apply your color choices to non-KDE applications. However, Linux is made up of a lot of independent programs, and not all of them adhere to the suggestions made by the desktop environment. Checking this box means that KDE will attempt to change the colors of those programs that do listen to suggestions (which should include all the KDE applications), but there's no guarantee that you'll get a unified look.


The choices you make in the Font panel affect the look of the entire KDE desktop. Choosing fonts here is just like choosing fonts in other applications. Simply click on the Choose button to select the group you want to change, and select a font, style, and size in the window that appears.

The Adjust All Fonts button is a little more interesting. It opens a Select Font window similar to what the Choose button brings up, but the difference is that you have to enable a particular list before you can change it (Figure 8-13). This makes it easy to change only the font size for all fonts, for example, or only the font family.

Figure 8-13. The standard KDE font selection window

The standard KDE font selection window

You probably won't see a lot of font names that you recognize in these lists. Fonts need to be licensed from their creators, and few Linux vendors are willing to pay the fees necessary to include commercial fonts in their software. They also wouldn't be allowed to distribute their software at no cost over the Internet if they included licensed fonts. Instead, most distributions do what Mandrake has done with the Move CD, which is to include a lot of community-developed, free fonts. Some of these fonts are quite nice, but others leave something to be desired. My personal favorites are the Bitstream fonts, which used to be commercial but were donated to the open source community by the company that created them.

At the bottom of the Font Configuration panel are some options that control anti-aliasing of your fonts. Anti-aliasing is a technique to remove the jaggedness of fonts. The side effect is that at small sizes, some fonts look a little blurry. You can use the options in this screen to turn anti-aliasing on or off, and specify if some font sizes should not be affected. The sub-pixel hinting options may improve the quality of font display on LCD monitors and laptops. You have to restart KDE for changes to anti-aliasing to take effect.


The icons you've been using in Move are from the default KDE icon set known as Crystal SVG. KDE icon sets can contain anywhere from a few to several hundred icons in various sizes. You can easily change icon sets by clicking on the set's name in the Icon screen and clicking Apply. Just for fun, click on "Kids beta1" and click Apply. Now look at your desktop and notice how different the icons for your CD-ROM drive and Trash look. Not all the icons have been changed, however, because the Kids theme doesn't include all the fonts necessary to replace the Crystal SVG icon set.

When you install Linux on your hard drive, you can also install more Icons themes. The Section 8.5 section at the end of this chapter tells you where you can find these.


Your choice of style affects the look of most of the widgets you see on the screen. The Preview section of the Style configuration window (shown in Figure 8-14) shows you which elements of the GUI are affected by your style choice. Each time you select a style from the drop-down list, the Preview pane changes to show you how it will look. The default style on the Move CD is called Thememdk.

Figure 8-14. The Preview section of the Style configuration panel

The Preview section of the Style configuration panel

Let's now test out a couple of the features that are unique to some of the styles. Switch to the style called Plastik, and once it's loaded, click on the Effects tab. On this tab, you can specify which features of a style you want to use. Not all styles have all features, so you may not see any change, or you may be told that the feature is not supported. One feature that is supported by Plastik, and is enabled by default, is the Make Translucent option for the Menus. Click on the K Menu and notice how you can now see through the menu. The slider at the bottom of the Effects tab controls the opacity of the menus. Don't make them too translucent, or you'll have a hard time reading the menu text.

Another nice effect to enable is the Menu drop shadow. This adds a small shadow to each of your menus, giving them a slight 3D effect. Figure 8-15 shows you how these two effects look when applied to the Plastik theme. Note that you can read the Style tab label through the menu I've expanded in the upper-left corner.

Figure 8-15. Translucent menus with drop shadows

Translucent menus with drop shadows

Window Behavior

The options in the Window Behavior configuration panel control how windows behave when you click and drag them. As you can see in Figure 8-16, there are a lot of options available here, and the best way to learn about them is to experiment. I'll just point out a few of the most interesting ones in this section.

Figure 8-16. The Window Behavior configuration screen

The Window Behavior configuration screen

You might recall from Chapter 1 that if you double-click on a window's titlebar, the window rolls up into it. This is called "shading" the window (like a windowshade), and is a quick and easy way to get a window out of the way without minimizing it. To enable a useful addition to this feature, go to the Advanced tab, check the box "Enable hover," and then click Apply. Now, double-click the titlebar for the Control Center window; when the window rolls up, move your mouse off the titlebar and then back onto it. The window unrolls for you automatically; when you move your mouse away from the window, the window rolls back up. This is a great way to manage an application that you use occasionally but that you don't want hanging around when you aren't using it. I use this feature all the time for the dictionary program kdict. I keep it shaded just behind my main writing window and slightly above my current titlebar, so that I can easily get to it whenever I need it. Double-click the titlebar to make a shaded window behave like a normal window.

Another feature you might want to enable is the ability to drag a window from one desktop to another. To do this, check the box "Only when moving windows" on the Advanced tab and click Apply. Now drag the Control Center window to the right edge of the screen, and keep dragging. After a slight pause (which is controlled by the "Desktop switch delay" slider), the window will move to Desktop 2. This can be a very convenient way to place windows on different desktops.

Finally, I like to disable a couple of options that affect KDE's performance, particularly on computers with slow processors. On the Moving tab, you'll see two options: "Display content in moving windows" and "Display content in resizing windows." Before you disable these choices, try a little test on your computer. Drag the Control Center window around on your screen and notice how you can see everything in the window as you move it around. The same is true when you grab the edge of a window and resize it. Now, uncheck the two display options and click Apply. When you move the Control Center window now, you're moving only the outline of the window—the original window stays in place until you release the mouse button. The nice thing about moving a window this way is that it eliminates the jaggedness you see when you move a window with the default setting.

Window Decorations

I explained earlier how styles can change the look of widgets inside a window. Window decorations, on the other hand, change the look of widgets on the edge of a window. Making a decoration change is as simple as selecting a new decoration from the drop-down list in the Window Decorations panel. As you can see in Figure 8-17, the default decoration is Galaxy 2, which was developed by Mandrake and is used in the MoveCD. People usually match their window decorations to their style, but not always. For the past year or so I've been using the Plastik style and window decoration. When you select a new decoration, the preview image shows you what your selection will look like. As always, click Apply to make the actual change.

The Buttons tab lets you control the placement of the buttons in the titlebar. Not all window decorations allow you to move the buttons—the only way to know for sure is to try it out. Check the box "Use custom titlebar button positions," and then start dragging buttons around in the preview image below the checkbox. If you don't want a button to appear, just drag it off the titlebar completely. Click Apply to finalize your changes.

Figure 8-17. The Window Decoration selection screen

The Window Decoration selection screen

Creating Keyboard Shortcuts

Using the keyboard is often the fastest way to perform a function, and throughout this book I've made a point of showing you as many keyboard shortcuts as possible. The more familiar you are with shortcuts, the more you'll use them and the more efficiently you can get things done.

You can modify some of the keyboard shortcuts used by KDE, as well as assign new shortcuts of your own to launch and control programs. To modify and create shortcuts, click Accessibility → Keyboard Shortcuts in the KDE Control Center. This opens the Keyboard Shortcuts control panel, shown in Figure 8-18.

Figure 8-18. The Keyboard Shortcuts configuration screen

The Keyboard Shortcuts configuration screen

As you can see, this panel has three tabs along the top. The Shortcut Schemes tab allows you to control the keyboard shortcuts used by the KDE desktop. The Command Shortcuts tab allows you to add shortcuts to programs in the K Menu so you can launch them with just a keystroke. And the Modifier Keys tab tells you which keys map to which internal X Windows function. This is for informational purposes only, and you needn't worry about it.

If you go to the Shortcut Schemes tab, you'll see a long list of actions you can modify and the keyboard shortcut that performs each action. As you can see, most actions don't have shortcuts assigned to them, so we'll have ample opportunity to create them.

Let's modify a function that I find somewhat useful: Maximize a Window Vertically. To assign a shortcut to this function, click on the action in the list and click on the None button in the section below. This opens a small window in which you can "type" the shortcut you want to use. We want to assign Alt-Shift-M to the action; to do this, hold all three keys down at the same time, starting with Alt, then Shift, and finally M. When you release the keys, the window disappears and you're back at the configuration window, where the new keyboard shortcut should now appear in the Shortcut column. Press Apply to make KDE aware of your change.

Now let's see if it works. First, make sure the Control Center window is active and smaller than the screen. Then press Alt-Shift-M. Voila! The Control Center window should stretch to its full height.


Only the left Alt key works for these keyboard shortcuts. Using the right Alt key has no effect.

You can modify an existing keyboard shortcut by performing the exact same steps. You can remove a keyboard shortcut by clicking on the action, clicking the None radio button, and clicking Apply. You can modify more actions on the Shortcut Sequences tab, and you can also save your changes as a new scheme. (The Save button becomes active after you've made at least one modification.)

The Command Shortcuts tab lets you specify keyboard commands to launch programs in the K Menu in the same way you did in the Shortcut Schemes tab. Simply expand the groups in the Command column, select the item you want to create a shortcut for, and click None to open the window where you can type your shortcut. When you're finished, click Apply to make KDE aware of your new command.


Be careful when assigning shortcuts—you don't want to create a KDE shortcut that conflicts with a keyboard shortcut that's already in the program. For example, if you assign the shortcut Ctrl-Shift-N to launch Konqueror, you won't be able to use that shortcut to open a new tab in Konqueror (as you normally would).

Eye Candy on the Web

Eye candy is a term that computer geeks use for all the gee-whiz, pretty features of a software program that don't serve any useful purpose beyond making things look cool. Transparent kickers, fading menus, pretty icons, and wacky window decorations are all eye candy.

KDE is known for its eye candy, and I must admit, it's much of the reason I like it so much. Others in the Linux community feel the same way, which is why an entire web site, http://www.kde-look.org, has been created just to provide eye candy for KDE. This site has it all: wallpapers, styles, window decorations, icons, sounds, screen savers, and even add-on programs that enhance KDE in significant ways. All these things have been donated by users from around the world who are eager to show off their artistic skills or who just want to enhance KDE in whatever small way that they can.

Although you can't really do anything with the items on this site while using the Move CD (because you can't write any files to the CD), you can make use of them once you install Linux on your hard drive. In the meantime, browse around and look at the various contributions. Nearly every item comes with a screenshot showing you how your desktop will look if you use it. Take some time to browse the Screenshots section to see how people have put together all the different pieces of eye candy to create something truly unique.

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