Exploring KDE, the Default GUI for SUSE Linux 9.3

KDE (pronounced kay-dee-ee) is the default GUI for SUSE Linux 9.3. KDE stands for the K Desktop Environment. From your perspective as a user, KDE provides a graphical desktop environment that includes the Konqueror Web browser and file manager, a panel with menus for starting applications, a help system, configuration tools, and many applications, including the OpenOffice.org office suite, image viewer, PostScript viewer, and mail and news reader programs.

If you installed the KDE desktop, you see an initial KDE desktop with icons for your computer, trash can, home folder, and so on. The initial KDE session includes a window showing a helpful tip.

You will find that KDE is very easy to use and is similar in many ways to the Microsoft Windows GUI. You can start applications from a menu that's similar to the Start menu in Windows. As in Windows, you can place folders and applications directly on the KDE desktop.

You can move and resize the windows just as you do in Microsoft Windows. Also, as in the window frames in Microsoft Windows, the right-hand corner of the window's title bar includes three buttons. The leftmost button reduces the window to an icon, the middle button maximizes the window to fill up the entire screen, and the rightmost button closes the window.

Looking at the KDE panel

The KDE panel appearing along the bottom edge of the screen is meant for starting applications. The most important component of the panel is the Main Menu button — the one with the cute gecko logo — on the left side of the panel. That button is like the Start button in Windows. When you click the Main Menu button, a menu appears. From this menu, you can get to other menus by moving the mouse pointer over items that display a right-pointing arrow.

You can start applications from the Main Menu. That's why the KDE documentation calls the Main Menu button the Application Starter (the KDE documentation refers to the button itself as the K button).

Next to the Main Menu button, the panel includes several other buttons. If you don't know what a button does, simply move the mouse pointer over the button; a small pop-up window displays a brief message about that button.

Customizing the KDE desktop

KDE makes customizing the look and feel of the KDE desktop easy. Everything you have to decorate the desktop is in one place: the KDE Control Center. To start the KDE Control Center, choose Main Menu --> Control Center.

When the KDE Control Center starts, it displays the main window with a list of items on the left side and some summary information about your system in the workspace to the right

The KDE Control Center's left-hand side shows the items that you can customize with this program. The list is organized into categories such as Appearance & Themes, Desktop, Internet & Network, KDE Components, Peripherals, Security & Privacy, Sound & Multimedia, System Administration, and so on. Click an item to view the subcategories for that item. Click one of the subcategory items to change it. That item's configuration options then appear on the right side of the Control Center window.

To change the desktop's background, click Appearance & Themes, and then click Background. The right side of the Control Center shows the options for customizing the desktop's background.

If you want to change the background of a specific desktop, click the Setting for Desktop drop-down list. From the list of desktops, you can select the desktop whose background you want to change.

For a colored background, select the No Picture radio button. From the Colors drop-down list, you can select either a single color background or a variety of color gradients (meaning the color changes gradually from one color to another) or a picture (an image used as a background). You can then pick the two colors by clicking the color buttons that appear under the Colors drop-down list. After making your selections, click Apply to try out the background. (If you don't like what you get, click Reset to revert back to the previous background.)

The default KDE desktop uses a picture as the background. If you want to use a different picture as background, select the Picture radio button and then click the folder icon next to that radio button. A dialog box comes up, showing the JPEG images in the /usr/share/wallpapers directory. You can select any one of these images or pick an image from another directory and click OK. Then click the Apply button in the KDE Control Center to apply this wallpaper to the desktop. If you don't like the appearance, click Reset.

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