Future Tech

It's desktop refresh season in the land of the Windowsalikes

Tan KW
Publish date: Mon, 24 Jun 2024, 07:24 PM
Tan KW
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Future Tech

New versions of two of the most popular "traditional" desktops are out, alongside a new release of one of the oldest and smallest.

KDE Plasma 6.1 is the latest release of the KDE project's flagship desktop environment, and alongside fixing a collection of small issues from the big 6.0 release which we looked at back in February it includes a new features, too.

Remote desktop sessions over Microsoft's RDP are now built-in, and can be found within the Settings app. There's an option to hide the mouse pointer after a period of inactivity, and rapid movement of the pointing device (mouse, stylus, or finger) highlights the pointer. Plasma can harmonize the desktop theme with RGB keyboard lighting on compatible devices, too. The Discover app store can now update Snap apps, and warn you about end-of-life Flatpak packages. The Edit mode for the desktop itself is now more visually obvious, with a scaled-down version of the desktop surrounded by controls.

It's noticeable that some of the new features focus on the environment's Wayland integration. For Nvidia users with the latest driver version 555, released last May, this adds support for the new explicit sync feature. This should result in a smoother display and the elimination of glitches, stuttering, tearing and other display artefacts. There's also triple buffering support. As per Intel's explanation, this was once just a feature for graphically intensive games, but now it's coming to desktops too. Wayland users now get the option to restore previously open windows from the last login, which until now was reserved for X11 users. To complement this, saving your session is now a visible choice.

It may yet be some time before Plasma 6.x supports the full richness of device control and handling that's still available today in KDE 5.x. An impressively in-depth blog post from graphic artist David Revoy last month went into fascinating detail about all the controls and options available in Plasma 5, especially for users of digitizing tablets and styluses. It's worth studying if you remain skeptical about the benefits of Wayland - the new display server still has some way to go in order to catch up with the now four decades old incumbent.

Not a KDE fan? There are other choices

The flagship desktop environment of Linux Mint, Cinnamon, also just got a new release, version 6.2. This will be the default desktop of the imminent Mint 22 "Wilma" release. As Cinnamon 6.2 is only a point release, it's not vastly different, but some highlights are already known. It has a new applet for integrating online accounts, can show profile pictures on the panel, and improved handling for virtual desktops including the ability to close a workspace with a middle-click. There are refinements to power management, network handling and VPNs, better Flatpak handling and more. Wayland support, though, looks very likely to still be at the preview stage. We will look at it in more depth when Mint 22 is released.

If these full-fat desktop environments are overkill for your needs, there's a fresh release of the venerable IceWM as well. In 2022, we noted that it had reached version 3.0 after a quarter of a century of development. This had led to a resurgence of effort and it's now got to version 3.6.

The latest version offers more methods to resize and maximize windows over just one axis, more internationalization and improved input handling. It can be used as a standalone window manager, or along with other desktops as well, and this release has improved support for GNOME. ®



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