Kubuntu 23.10 strikes a perfect balance of form and function

The latest release of this official Ubuntu spin goes a long way to prove that KDE Plasma is one of the best desktop environments on the market.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The defaul Kubuntu 23.10 desktop.

The KDE Plasma desktop should make you feel right at home.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

I've been exploring KDE Plasma since back in the day when KDE stood for K Desktop Environment and it never ceased to feel like it would crash any minute. Fortunately, those days have long since passed and KDE Plasma is one of the more stable, efficient, elegant, and user-friendly desktops on the market.

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Don't believe me? Well, if Ubuntu 23.10 has any say in the matter, you will believe it because the latest release of the official Ubuntu Spin makes a very strong case for that very thing. Kubuntu 23.10 offers a beautiful desktop that makes using Linux as easy as possible.

At the heart of Kubuntu 23.10 is KDE Plasma 5.27.8, which might not include any brilliant new features (since version 5.27.0 was released) but it does offer plenty of polish, the usual bug fixes, and even a 23-year-old feature request to hide application temp files within the Dolphin file manager.

Besides KDE Plasma 5.27.8 (and the included KDE App updates), there are software updates, including LibreOffice 7.6, Firefox 117, Thunderbird 115, Python 3.11.5, PHP 8.2, GCC 13.2, GlibC 2.38, Ruby 3.2, Golang 1.2, Qt 5.15.10, and Kate 23.08.1. As far as the kernel goes, Kubuntu 23.10 ships with version 6.5 (after an update, my version read 6.5.0-9).

The UI is where it's at 

Most users aren't really going to care about what lies underneath to make Kubuntu 23.10 run. Instead, they want to know what it looks like and how it behaves. One of the great things about KDE Plasma is that, the second you look at the desktop, you know exactly how it works. There's zero guessing. You click the "K" menu and open applications. You interact with various services from the system tray, and you add quick launchers to the panel for quick access to applications. It's all so familiar.

The KDE Plasma menu.

The KDE Plasma default menu makes it easy to find the apps and files you're looking for.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

At the same time (because it's KDE Plasma), it's also very elegant. There's just enough eye candy to make this desktop stand out among the plethora of Linux desktops, such that it's equal parts form and function. I seriously cannot imagine anyone logging into this desktop and staring blankly, with a confused look across their face.

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And that's part of the problem with reviewing such a distribution…it's just so familiar that all you can seem to say is that "It just works." Everything. Out of the box. It's smooth and simple…just as a desktop environment should be.

As far as the UI is concerned, the only problem I had was trying to configure the panel and menu to follow the lighter theme (I'm not a fan of dark modes or themes).

A surprise in the Multimedia menu

For me, one of the only surprises with Kubuntu 23.10 was found in the Multimedia menu. Now, I'm not sure when this change came about, but instead of the usual media players (such as Amarok and VLC). you'll find Elisa (music player) and Haruna (video player). This change actually happened some time ago. 

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The only caveat I found to using Elisa is that it doesn't support either m4a or ogg files out of the box. What it does play are m3u8, m3u, and pls Playlists. Fortunately, you can always install my favorite music player client, Clementine, from the Discover app store. Once you have Clementine installed, you should be able to play all the music files you're used to playing.

The Clementine music player.

I've always had a soft spot for the Clementine music player.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Outside of that little caveat, you shouldn't expect any other surprises in Kubuntu 23.10, as everything is right where you need it, runs flawlessly, and makes using Linux as easy as any operating system on the market. 

Thanks to the stability and user-friendliness of its Ubuntu base, Kubuntu 23.10 is a brilliant release that'll have you forgetting that you're using Linux and remembering what it's like to work with a reliable operating system that doesn't fail you.

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If you've been itching to give Linux a try, I would highly recommend you download an ISO of the latest Kubuntu release, install it, and leave behind that other operating system (you know, the one that's been causing you grief for years).

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