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How to enhance the KDE Plasma desktop with widgets

By adding widgets to the KDE Plasma desktop, you give it more functionality and even make it interactive. Find out how.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
Woman working on laptop
Tony Anderson/Getty Images

KDE Plasma is an outstanding desktop that can be used by anyone of any skill level. 

However, there are features that most new users probably won't work with, either because they aren't aware of them or they are too unfamiliar. 

Also: KDE Neon gives you the latest and greatest KDE Plasma desktop 

There is one feature that most users won't have a problem understanding, simply because they've become so accustomed to mobile devices that include widgets. 

What are widgets?

Simply put, a widget is a tiny application you can add to the desktop that either adds an interactive component or displays at-a-glance information. 

Widgets can be clocks, dashboards, application launchers, calculators, clipboard managers, calendars, dictionary tools, system information, input method selectors, notifications, weather reports, and more. 

You can add multiple widgets to a desktop and organize or resize them to fit your needs.

KDE Plasma comes with a number of built-in widgets and even allows you to download more or contribute your own widgets.

Also: Try these Linux app equivalents if you're interested in making the jump

Out of the box, the KDE Plasma desktop doesn't include any widgets, but they are quite simple to add. Let me show you how this is done.

How to make the KDE Plasma desktop even more interactive by adding widgets


The only thing you'll need for this is a running instance of the KDE Desktop, which can be found in a number of Linux distributions, such as KDE Neon, Kubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora KDE, and Manjaro KDE. I'll demonstrate with the Testing Edition of KDE Neon, which ships with the latest and greatest version of KDE Plasma, but the process for adding widgets should be the same, regardless of which distribution you use.

Also: The best Linux distributions for beginners

Ready to get your widget on? Let's go.

1. Log in to KDE Plasma

The first step is to log in to your KDE Plasma desktop. 

2. Open the widget panel

Right-click any blank spot on the desktop and click Add Widgets.

The KDE Plasma desktop right-click menu.

You can add a number of items from this right-click context menu.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Locate the widget you want to add

From the widget sidebar, locate a widget you want to add to the desktop and click it. The widget will be added to the desktop and you can either add more or close the sidebar.

The KDE Plasma widget sidebar.

You'll find plenty of widgets to choose from.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

How to edit a widget

When you add a widget to the desktop, it will be randomly placed and ready to use. You might, however, want to edit it. If the widget includes an edit option (not all of them do), you will be able to rotate, resize, and configure the widget. 

Also: How to choose the right Linux desktop distribution

To enter Edit Mode, right-click the widget, and then select Enter Edit Mode.

The KDE Plasma widget right-click menu.

Access the Edit Mode by right-clicking the widget.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Once in Edit Mode, hover your cursor over the widget to see the grab handles that allow resizing. You can also click either the rotate button (which is at the top of the vertical bar) or the configure button (which is below the rotate button). Each widget will have different configuration options available.

The KDE Plasma analog clock widget in edit mode.

Each dot is a grab handle that allows you to resize the widget.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

When you're done editing the widget, click the X in the bar at the top of the display.

How to download new widgets

If you don't find a widget that you like from the default listings, open the widget sidebar, click Get New Widgets in the top right corner, and then click Download New Plasma Widgets. In the resulting window, locate a widget you want, click it, hover your cursor over the listing, and click Install. Once the widget has been installed, it'll be available to add to your desktop from the widget sidebar.

The Download New Plasma Widgets menu entry.

Downloading new KDE Plasma widgets is a couple of clicks away.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

And that's all there is to adding widgets to the KDE Plasma desktop. These handy little applications add functionality to your desktop you wouldn't otherwise have. You might find some of these widgets an indispensable addition, whereas others might simply add a bit of fun. 

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