Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

DesktopBSD day 9 – Fine tuning the desktop

There is one downside to being a software glutton: it makes a mess of your desktop. My menu panels under Windows, GNOME or KDE quickly loose their function as easy access to the applications. Don’t even get me started about finding my programs under Mac OS X. It usually doesn’t take long for me to start rearranging the menu-items and the programs. Under Windows that job is a simple matter of dragging-N-dropping and a superfluous use of the right mouse button. I tried it under the Ubuntu GNOME desktop, but I kind of gave up using Alacarte for this. Absolutely horrible (though I haven’t given it a try with Gutsy Gibbon yet). DesktopBSD uses the KDE desktop and since that desktop has the reputation of being a paradise for the customizer I started the task of fine tuning my desktop with an optimistic mindset.

The starting point

It really was quite a mess. The submenu for Office applications had all the separate OpenOffice.org, Koffice and GNOME Office items and financial software in one long list. It wasn’t even listed alpabetically.

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The submenu Internet wasn’t in a much better condition. You see, once you finish installing new applications you are requested whether you want to add them to the menu. Of course. It then launches the KAppfinder (also accessible via Settings -> Menu updating tool). The best tactic is then to select the separate programs. The quickest way is to click on “Select all”. Why this isn’t always the smartest thing to do can be seen in the screenshot

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I wound up with two entries for both Firefox and Thunderbird (and a third Firefox-Linux).

Editing the menu

The upper settings menu item gives access to the menu editing tool Kmenu.

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The lower settings menu has a Desktop entry, but that function deals with the behavior of the desktops and the windows. It’s somewhat confusing to have two settings menu’s, but I wrote about that earlier.

Ater playing with the Kmenu editor I can easily say it’s a very powerful tool to setup up your personalized menu. Let’s look into it a bit further.

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When you click on a menu item the right hand panel provides all sorts of information and options. The fields for the program name, the description and comment gives you the possibility to fine tune the labels of each program and thus provide easier access to them by novice end users. You can even alter the Work path of the program and allow it to run as a different user. And feel free to create you own shortcuts, which should appeal to the ‘mousefobians’ (or simply those who are more prone to RSI problems and prefer to reduce the use of the mouse).

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It is quite simple to change the structure of the current menu. You can add new items, new submenus and new separators. Once you have created a new submenu it becomes a matter of dragging-N-dropping the preferred items to it. When you are done, click save and the menu panel appears with it’s new structure.

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Adding new items is both simple and complicated. You can add a new entry by clicking “New item…”. For a novice user it might be more puzzling on what to use in the command field. In general you might say it is often simply a matter of using the generic name of the program, but browsing the other menu entries reveals that often extra instructions are needed (like %u). In my case it led to an error while launching Grisbi, but after creating a new file for the program the problem was solved. Other programs didn’t cause problems.

The final touch

The upper settings menu also gives access to the Desktop settings wizard. This helps you to setup the KDE environment including the graphical effects.

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Next I went to Settings -> Configure the panel. It’s here that you add the final touch to the menu panel. By default DesktopBSD mentions both the name and the description of the program. In an already crowded menu panel that’s a bit too much. The tab Menus allows you to change that option. To the bottom of that screen you see the option to change the number of quick start items. I prefer to have that set to 0, as not to crowd my menu panel even further.

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All in all it didn’t take too much time to alter this part of the desktop. You can also access Kmenu via the right mouse button over a submenu or item in the panel. I could only find two points of criticism. One, while you are in Kmenu the program assumes you know what you are doing, so don’t expect a “Are you sure you want to delete this” warning. Well, if you happen to throw a whole section away, just close the program without saving. Secondly, I miss the option to sort the programs and submenus in an alphabetical order. But, really, with this kind of flexibility I begin to develop a real attachment to KDE.

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One thought on “DesktopBSD day 9 – Fine tuning the desktop

  1. I appreciate these tips as I thought it was a mess myself but I did not play around look enough as I wanted a SATA drive and it did not support it so I went with Mandriva.

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