There's no place like... KDE: Plasma 5.27 is out and GNOME 44 hits beta
New versions of the two dominant desktops for Linux and other FOSS Unix-a-likes
Version 5.27, the latest LTS release of the KDE Plasma desktop, is out, and a beta of the latest GNOME, version 44, is here too.
KDE Plasma 5.27 is the new Long Term Support release, and is expected to be the last release in the 5.x series. At some point, Plasma 5 should be replaced by the shiny new Plasma 6, based on the new Qt 6 libraries, but until then, fixes for any bugs discovered in KDE 5 will go into 5.27.
For now, Plasma 5.27 has some new shiny to entice users. The most visible is a fresh welcome screen that appears on the first run and guides users through setting up their desktop. As Plasma is a highly customizable desktop, newbies might need some help, although it will be interesting to see how distros which have their own welcome screen choose to interact with this.
Plasma 5.27 also has a built-in window tiling system, which is a feature that may polarize people: some folks like automatic tiling, and others hate it, which we suspect is why it's off by default. If you enable it, under
System Settings → Workspace Behaviour → Desktop Effects, then dragging windows while holding down the Shift key tiles them, resizing multiple windows at once to fit them side-by-side. Separate layouts can be stored by pressing the Super (that is, Windows) key and
KDE Plasma 5.27 has a handy new automatic tiling feature to rearrange multiple windows in one operation.
There are other improvements to various existing features. The Discover app store has a new layout and better searching, plus direct support for Valve's Steam Deck handheld PC/console device, which you can now update from within Discover. The Krunner global search tool has improved ranking of search results by relevancy, can handle more types of search, such as defining words and converting timezones, as well as offering a web search if it comes up empty. Additionally, there are improvements to various widgets for the Plasma panels, better Wayland support, better handling of multiple monitors and more.
There's a full changelog if you want the full details. As an LTS release, Plasma 5.27 is going to make its way into all KDE-based distros in time. One of the first distros to build it in is the latest release of KaOS Linux, an Arch Linux derivative based on KDE. The 2023.2 release includes the new KDE, as well as kernel version 6.1, the latest LTS version.
GNOME 44 is expected this spring, and will form part of both Ubuntu 23.04 and the forthcoming Fedora 38. This is a less pivotal release than KDE's, but it still should include welcome changes. The GNOME web browser, Epiphany, has been ported to Gtk4. The file picker finally has image previews, a feature users have been requesting for a decade. There's better monitoring of background apps. In the Settings app, the accessibility features have been redesigned and are now sorted by sense: Seeing, Hearing, Typing, and so on. Its About page now shows the system firmware version, which may raise awareness of the need for updates. Updating your PC's firmware often helps resolve strange, hard-to-trace issues with Linux, and far too often owners neglect to check, let alone update it.
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The GNOME Files app has received some attention. When GNOME 3 first appeared, the app formerly known as Nautilus got a serious prune and lost quite a lot of functionality. (The Nemo file manager from the Cinnamon desktop is a worthy alternative if you want more options.) But now, some new features are making their way into file manager. There's an optional expandable folder view, which adds Mac-style spinners to folders in the list view, enabling you to view and navigate the directory tree. Images copied from other programs can be pasted into Files to directly create a new file. Also, tab management has been tweaked, with a new option to close all other tabs.
As usual there are also bug fixes and other small tweaks and refinements, such as acceleration settings for trackpads, refinements to Mutter and Clutter, improved Intel GPU handling, and more. The GNOME github has a full change log. GNOME 44 should be out in late April. ®