KDE's Panel Vacuum

KDE's Panel Vacuum

I’m quite amazed by how technologies which I used to discard as ‘hype’ (like, Solid or Phonon or so) actually seem to work. For real. Maybe I should feel a bit of shame but I don’t since this reflex of being sceptical of projects which have a fancy code name but not visible code base has proven quite useful in the past – helps to avoid working on vapourware.

Anyway, one of the KDE features of which I didn’t see anything other than mockups yet is KDE’s new panel framework thing dubbed Plasma. I was aware of the fancy web page for some time now (now that I view that page again – what the heck is ‘Appeal’? appeal.kde.org redirects to www.kde.org – is that an omen already?) but still, I didn’t actually *see* it yet. Of course, it’s listed as some integral part of the KDE4 architecture, but that’s pretty much all the information I could get out of KDE’s tech base regarding Plasma.

Okay, not quite. There’s the Plasma project page in the techbase. Unfortunately I can’t claim that it made things any less shady for me. Call me a pessimist but I don’t think that it’s a good sign the Raport Menu Plasmoid has a fancy logo but no code. Maybe I’m lacking vision or professionalism but I prefer to have something before I give it a logo or a name. And something means something which I can compile and run and fix.

Well, I’m not trying to be a naysayer here but I think that the situation around Plasma is kind of… shady. My impression is that it’s –> <– this close to dieing the dreaded buzzword hype death. On the other hand, this is maybe not such a bad thing…

I can imagine that, in the case parts of the Plasma/Appeal vision would be dropped, there would be a vacuum in KDE – we don’t have a functional panel, but we need one. This would be a pretty good opporturnity for new developers to chip in and just come up with something fancy (if you ask me, it can be pretty experimental and doesn’t have to look like a panel at all). If you had something which more or less reproduces the functionality of Kicker, then it wouldn’t be too hard to defend its place in KDE given that there are no alternatives. And with a bit of luck, your software will be part of the KDE 4.x releases – a pretty visible piece of software, too.

So, since I’m always a fan of new experiments on the desktop, I was wondering how such a replacement might look like. My latest crazy idea was to replace the dull K-Menu with some Serenity-style orb. This doesn’t have anything to do with Serenity the movie (which is a bit of a pity, I like Morena Baccarin), I’m referring to a World of Warcraft (yes, I’m addicted to it) addon with the same name.

The basic idea is to hide a lot of features (which are composed into some sort of hierarchy) into an orb which is surrounded by other smaller orbs. You can get a rough idea of what it looks like by looking at this screenshot. For the K-Menu replacement, the idea is that by default the large circle in the middle shows a big ‘K’ icon (or a clock maybe) and it’s surrounded by a few other icons like ‘Programs’, ‘Settings’, ‘Favorites’ and such. After clicking on any of the icons, they move to the middle and get larger, so that they replace the ‘K’ circle. Now, a new set of icons shows up around the larger Programs icon (one icon per application, for instance).

You can navigate back up in the hierarchy by right-clicking on the middle icon. Even better, if you manage to not have too many items in one layer (for instance, not more than eight icons visible at once for any given menu) then you could use the WEDCXZAQ keys to access any of the eight buttons (clock-wise). Combining that with Backspace (which means ‘navigate back up’), you can zoom through menu hierarchies very quickly. And you always need the same amount of screen space (which is nice if you look at how large some KDE menus become – and if you are unfortunate enough to move the mouse off some menu, then all menus collapse again).