Linux has been an increasingly appealing alternative to Windows in the netbook space as consumers have recognized what it has to offer – efficiency without the price tag of a Windows OS. However, small screens always present a problem for delivering an optimal user experience.
The KDE desktop environment is one solution to that problem with an all-new netbook interface that implements the strengths of KDE’s Plasma technology. Arstechnica explains what Plasma adds to the mix:
“The individual desktop widgets that make up a Plasma-based environment are called plasmoids. They communicate with Plasma’s data engine backend to retrieve information which is then displayed to the user. Plasmoids are placed in “containment” objects which control how plasmoids are organized on the screen. Users can have multiple Plasma “activities,” which each have their own sets of containments and plasmoids. Plasma’s modular approach is advantageous because it makes it much easier for developers to build a custom desktop experience without having to completely reinvent the wheel.”
One specific example of the usability of KDE’s netbook interface is the special theme used for managing windows. The Plasma activity switcher displays notification area icons, and can be used to activate the Newspaper ‘plasmoid’ and an Applications launcher.
You can’t rotate and place the plasmoids in the desktop version, as you can with the desktop edition of the KDE shell, but the Newspaper organizes them into columns with scrollbars for access.
Here’s a picture of the Applications launcher:
Developer Artur Souza explained what exactly KDE hopes to bring to the netbook space with this new interface:
“We want to create a new user experience on these devices. KDE is not about a specific project anymore, it’s all about the user experience: starting on the desktop shell and going far away on social interaction, media, etc,” wrote Souza. “I really hope that the community and also vendors can see the potential that we have in our hands and start helping us on this journey and to believe that it’s possible.”
KDE’s strong architecture combined with the creative implementation of Plasma could add never-before-seen usability to netbooks, where screen space is hard to come by. Be sure to check out Souza’s paper about KDE and netbooks if you’d like to know more.