Back in the late 1990s,when the KDE and GNOME desktops were getting started, KDE had the reputation of being the most suitable choice for new GNU/Linux users, especially those migrating from Windows. Whether this generality is still true is debatable (personally, I could never see much difference between the two desktops), but KDE remains one of GNU/Linux's most popular graphical interfaces, as well as one of the most easy to learn.
Still, whenever you're dealing with a piece of software as large as a desktop, some features are going to be hard to find. To help new users get up and running, here are twelve tips for getting more out of KDE. Many are available from the KDE Control Center, a centralized configuration window with a daunting array of options, but others are located elsewhere.
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Similarly, if you're read my earlier article, "12 Tips for GNOME Users," some of these features will be familiar to you already. However, KDE has its own unique take on many of these shared features, as well as one or two advantages that are all its own.
Among the many configuration settings in the KDE Control Center, you'll find the Add Printer Wizard at Peripherals > Printers > Add. Designed for use with the Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS), which nearly all modern versions of GNU/Linux use for printing, this wizard is the best printer installation tool I've seen on any operating system. Starting with the selection of the printer's location -- whether it is on a network or attached to your workstation via a parallel, serial, or USB connection -- the wizard steps you through selecting your printer's manufacturer, model, and driver. You then have the option to test the results, set limits to the resources users can devote to printing, or restrict some users from printing altogether. Once you are finished, the printer is available to any other program on the desktop.
If you work with languages other than English, KDE is particularly easy to configure. From the list of options under Regional and Accessibility in the KDE Control Center, you can set the language, currency, date format, and other characteristics of a locale using a series of well-organized, instantly understandable tabs.
After setting the locale, you can move down the menu another couple of items and set the keyboard options, including the mechanism and configuration settings for switching between languages. However, these options are probably less obvious for the uninitiated, so chances are you'll need to click the Help button before you make your choices.
While in the same menu of the Control Center, you may also want to take the time to customize the keyboard shortcuts, so that your hands don't leave the keyboard as you work. You can choose from nine saved schemes for shortcuts, including one that imitates Windows' settings.
Alternatively, you may prefer to Input Actions, and configure mouse gestures. Although many users are unaware of them, mouse gestures are combinations of minute mouse movements -- up, down, left, right -- that perform a command that you would otherwise have to type or click. Mouse gestures are especially useful for those with impaired coordination, since they reduce the effort required to make a choice, but anyone can appreciate their efficiency.Next page: virtual desktops and customizations