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KDE Plasma's KRunner is a handy tool: How and why you should be using it

The KDE Plasma desktop has a lot of tricks up its sleeve, one of which makes using the KDE desktop even more efficient.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
penguin running
Persefoni Photo Images/Getty Images

KDE Plasma is exactly what you would expect from a desktop. It contains all the pieces and parts any Windows user has come to know and depend on. 

It includes a taskbar, system tray, clickable desktop icons, a desktop menu, and all of the usual items that help make interacting with your computer a breeze.

Also: Here's another reason why Linux is way cooler than your operating system 

Of course, KDE Plasma has a few more tricks up its sleeve than Windows. One such trick is called KRunner.

KRunner is a handy tool for running commands (without having to open a terminal) and much more. In fact, KRunner can do quite a bit more than you might think. It can:

  • Start and stop applications.
  • Install applications.
  • Run commands.
  • Open web pages and bookmarks.
  • Search for (and open) files and folders.
  • Switch sessions, windows, desktops, and activities.
  • Access contacts (for easy sending of emails and more).
  • Play music from the default music player.
  • Calculate short equations.
  • Display the time and date.
  • Check the spelling of words.
  • Manage your computer settings.
  • And more.

KRunner is the tool you didn't know you needed but once you start using it, you'll wonder how you got on without it. This handy application is installed by default but, depending on the version of KDE you're using, might need a bit of tweaking to get it working as expected. 

Also: How to use KDE Plasma Places for a much more efficient desktop

I'm going to demonstrate this on the testing version of KDE Neon, which ships with KDE Plasma version 5.27.6. If you're using a version other than that, you might have to enable the file/directory search feature (which I'll show you how to do).

How to use KDE Plasma's KRunner

What you'll need: The only thing you'll need is a running instance of Linux that uses the KDE Plasma desktop. 

1. Open KRunner

The first thing to do is log into KDE Plasma. Once you've logged in, you can open KRunner with the [Alt]+[Space] keyboard shortcut. This should open a drop-down application from the top center of your display.

KRunner open on KDE Neon.

KRunner is easily accessed with the Alt+Space keyboard combination.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

2. Open a file

Let's say you want to open a previously opened file without having to either open the file manager or the application used to create or edit the file. There are two ways to do that. You could either type the explicit path to the file, such as file:/home/jack/Documents/test.txt or (if the file has previously been opened) just type the name of the file. 

Also: Kubuntu shows off how reliable and user-friendly KDE Plasma really is

If you type the name of the file, you'll probably see more than one entry, such as Recent Files, Windows (which indicates the file has been opened before and with what application), and Locations (websites). Click either the Recent Files or Windows entry to open the file with the default application.

A sample file search with KRunner.

Searching for a file on your home directory is simple with KRunner.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Open a website

Let's say you want to visit ZDNET.com. Open KRunner, type zdnet.com, and Locations should appear. Click the entry and your default web browser will open the ZDNET site.

Opening ZDNET.com from KRunner.

URLs will open in your default web browser from KRunner.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Check the spelling of a word

We all have that "one" word that trips us up every time. KRunner can help you with that. Open the tool and type spell WORD (where WORD is the word you want to check). KRunner will give you the correct spelling for the word in question.

Spell check with KRunner.

That's right, bureaucracy trips me up every time. 

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

5. Calculate

KRunner can also act as a calculator. This one is simple. For example, you could have KRunner multiple 3.14 by 3.14. 

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

Open KRunner and type 3.14*3.14 to find the answer.

Multiplying Pi by Pi with KRunner.

Using KRunner as a calculator is a game-changer.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

How to enable File Search

Depending on the version of KDE Plasma you are using (and the distribution it's running on), you might have to enable indexing, so the KRunner file search feature works. Here's how to do that.

1. Open System Settings

You should see a launcher for System Settings in the default panel. If not, you'll find it in the desktop menu. Open that app. In the search field, type file search and click the entry in the left pane.

The KDE System Settings tool.

Locating the File Search feature in System Settings is simple with the search feature.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

2. Enable File Search

In the resulting window, make sure Enable File Search and Also index file content are both checked. You can also add specific directories to index in the bottom pane. 

Also: How to simplify Flatpak app installation on the KDE Plasma desktop

Once you've taken care of this, click Apply. You will then be prompted to restart the machine, so indexing can properly start. 

The KDE Plasma File Search configuration page in System Settings.

If you have specific directories to index, make sure to add them here.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Once the machine restarts, log back in, open KRunner, and run a file search. It should now work as expected.

KRunner is a very handy tool to have, especially if you like to work with a level of efficiency that other desktop operating systems don't offer.

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