KDE Neon gives you the latest and greatest KDE Plasma desktop

KDE Plasma is the ideal desktop environment to introduce new users to Linux, and KDE Neon is one of the best distributions for that purpose.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
Woman using laptop
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Although KDE Plasma is not my desktop of choice, I cannot deny the power, beauty, and ease of use it offers. 

It really is an elegant, user-friendly desktop that anyone, regardless of skills, can start using with very little explanation. 

And even though it does offer quite a number of configuration options that could easily overwhelm new users, those features aren't necessary for the day-to-day usage of the desktop. 

The beauty of KDE is that it allows users to grow as they use the desktop. 

At first, you may only consider a small percentage of the configuration options available. 

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Eventually, you may find yourself exploring Workspace Behaviors, Window management, Shortcuts, Backups, the Firewall, KDE Connect, Online Accounts, and more. 

So, instead of having to add third-party software to achieve some of the things KDE can do, it's all built-in and ready to go… whenever you are ready.

The default KDE Plasma desktop on KDE Neon.

KDE Plasma offers an elegant desktop.

Image: Jack Wallen

The truth is, there's a lot to be found with KDE, but not all of it is necessary.

With that said, what's the best way to get, test, and enjoy the latest version of KDE Plasma? The answer is KDE Neon.

What is KDE Neon?

KDE Neon is a Linux distribution that is developed by the KDE team and is based on Ubuntu. KDE Neon offers two different versions of the operating system:

  • User Edition, which is the stable version for everyday usage.
  • Testing Edition, which is for testers and those who want the latest and greatest release of KDE Plasma.

The distinction between the two is significant because one is stable and one is not. The Testing Edition will include bugs, which means it's not suited for daily use, and the User Edition doesn't include the latest release of KDE. However, if you want to see what's in store for the next stable KDE Plasma release (and you don't mind dealing with a bug now and then), the Testing Edition is a great option.

For instance, recently, I wanted to see what was in store for KDE Plasma 5.27 (which is officially available on Valentine's Day), so I downloaded the Testing Edition ISO and spun up a virtual machine. Yes, I knew there would be the random issues involved, but I was okay with that to experience the latest version of the desktop.

My first impression was "Wow!" I've used KDE Plasma before and knew just how elegant a desktop it was. But this latest version is just spectacular. If I weren't so entrenched with GNOME and used System76 hardware, I would seriously consider making the switch to KDE Plasma… that's how good this upcoming release is.

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Now, before you get too excited, KDE Plasma 5.27 isn't filled with a host of new features. It's still the same KDE Plasma it has been for some time. But the combination of a few new features, the bug fixes, the performance enhancements, and all of the features that have been added in previous releases, make this new version a thing of beauty. From the desktop menu transparency, background blur, animations, and a beautiful default theme, the look and feel of KDE Plasma is absolutely wonderful. And what's best about KDE Neon is that it doesn't monkey with those defaults. Other distributions that ship with KDE Plasma tend to give it a unique spin with themes and behaviors that are not default. With KDE Neon, you get KDE Plasma exactly as it was meant to be, and that's a good thing.

That Ubuntu Base

KDE Neon is based on the latest LTS (Long Term Support) release of Ubuntu. However, there are some variations to be found. For instance, if you happen to prefer using the command line to update and upgrade software, you'll find out very quickly that sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade were replaced with sudo pkcon update. However, you can still use sudo apt-get dist-upgrade or sudo apt-get full-upgrade. Or, you can go with the recommended process and do it all with the single sudo pkcon update command. 

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Even better, simply do all of your software updates and upgrades through the Discover application, which makes the process very user-friendly. In fact, with distributions like KDE Neon, there's no need to ever touch the command line (unless you prefer to go that route).

The KDE Plasma Discover update section.

Updates are easy with KDE Plasma Discover.

Image: Jack Wallen

Pre-installed software

One thing to keep in mind is that KDE Neon doesn't come with a lot of pre-installed software. You'll find the likes of Firefox, Okular (document viewer), Gwenview (image viewer), KDE Connect (to connect your Android phone), VLC media player, and the Kate text editor. Fortunately, you'll find thousands of free and open-source applications available to install in Discover. Need an office suite? Install LibreOffice. Need an image editor? Install Gimp. 

You'll also find that the Discover app store has built-in Flatpak support, which means you can easily install the likes of Slack, without having to use the command line.

Installing Slack via KDE Plasma Discover.

KDE Plasma Neon edition includes support for Flatpak in Discover.

Image: Jack Wallen

Who is KDE Neon for?

This is a simple answer… everyone. As long as you stick with the stable version of the distribution, KDE Neon will serve you quite well. It's as beautiful as it is simple to use, highly configurable if you need it, and is instantly familiar. 

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I've watched KDE from its early days (back when it was unstable and boring) to now and am absolutely blown away with what the developers have produced. If you're looking for a new desktop operating system, you simply cannot go wrong with KDE Neon. Just remember to stick with the User Edition for everyday usage and you'll find the experience to be a delight.

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