KDE Plasma is my preferred desktop and I am a heavy user of its Activities1 – I tend to have one to two dozen Activities on each computer (see below for examples).

Any project2 that would take me more that a day or so to complete, typically gets its own Activity.

Original problem

With such a frequency of spinning them up and winding them down, I developed a preference on what a new Activity should consist of, to be as quick as possible as useful as it gets. And this blog post is my first step towards trying to create a Plasma template for when a new Activity gets created, to optimise this process.

So what I would like to achieve is that whenever I start a new Activity, it has the following settings/functionality:

  • the desktop has Desktop view (instead of current default Folder view)3
  • a Folder view Plasmoid is put on the desktop
  • that plasmoid is set, so it shows all files and folders associated with that Activity (i.e. activities:/current)
  • (bonus: the desktop gets a random image assigned for background)

Documentation gathering & early try

The kind people on Plasma’s Matrix channel helped me a lot with gathering documentation. But in the end I still got stuck.

Global theme

First I tried the Creating a Global Theme Package (in connection with the Unity theme for Plasma example).

The two resources are pretty good for theming, but when I saved my theme using the Plasma Global Theme Explorer (lookandfeelexplorer) and later re-applied it as my Global Theme (incl. layout) in System Settings, two unfortunate things happened:

  • it overrode all my existing Activities
  • it did not apply to a new Activity

So that falls short of what I need.

Plasma desktop scripting

Next I tried the Desktop Shell Scripting Console (plasma-interactiveconsole).

This ended up in a mess, and I needed to pull ~/.config/plasma-org.kde.plasma.desktop-appletsrc from a backup.

To try it out I simply copy-pasted the Unity theme example and applied it. So I blame mostly myself. But it would be much more user-friendly if the tool would have an “Undo” button or a way to switch between the state that is stored in the settings and the script in the console.

I admit, I did not find the time to go through all of the Plasma scripting documentation yet, but I am at the stage of getting lost a bit in all the information.

One thing that makes me scratch my head is that the Plasma scripting: Configuration keys page is full of headings that say “BUG”, which I am not sure what to make of.

Call for help

Since I am not much of a coder, let alone a KDE dev, at this stage I feel a bit stuck. Any guidance would be warmly welcome.

If you would like to help, I opened a topic on KDE forums.

Example activities and reasoning

For example on my home laptop I have the following right now:

  • Communication – e-mail, IRC, IM, web browser’s default profile4, often music
  • Organise yourself – calendar, ToDo list, web browser with GitLab, GitHub etc. issue trackers
  • Quick documents – when I just need to concentrate on a simple document, that does not need its own Activity
  • Gaming – also mainly to have special Battery and power settings
  • Blog – text editor session with all blog post drafts, web browser with blog and article-relevant pages
  • System – terminal emulator(s), web browser with documentation, loads of system view desktop widgets
  • Finances – finance software, bank statements, invoices, etc.
  • and then about a dozen specific Activities for projects that are spun up when they pop up and get deleted when the project is completed (e.g. complex analysis document on topic A; same for topic B; slovenian ergonomic keyboard layout; activity-aware firefox; FOSS licensing presentation at faculty, restore your old disks; …)

The trick is to try to stay as little as possible in the Communications Activity. As that is most often not pro-active, but re-active work.

Keeping projects in separate Activities has several benefits for me:

  • it is easier to concentrate on a task, if all the others are hidden away – I try to stop Activities I do not currently use
  • when you need to come back to a task, having a familiar wallpaper and all the documents, web pages and sessions present when you re-start its Activity helps a lot to get back into the groove
  • a stopped Activity does not consume any processing power or memory

hook out → I recently tried Georgian tea. Cool stuff!

  1. As an aside, Activities really deserve, and frankly need, a more up-to-date and user-friendly explanation on a more prominent page. 

  2. With a project I mean any complex task that consist of either a long-term committment or several sub-tasks, especially if they demand research and use of more than one tool/window. 

  3. Although this might be due to a bug that is being worked on? 

  4. For how I set up and use Firefox to play nicely with Plasma Activities, see my Introducing Activity-aware Firefox blog post. 

Related Posts


Plasma & Activity template

  • Part 1: Template for KDE Plasma Activity – research & call for help