Using the Super Key in Xfce

Update: Ksuperkey is in the Korora repo now and included in Korora Xfce 24.

One of the restrictions in Xfce is that you can’t use a key as both a shortcut key and a key modifier. I have often seen questions about this particularly as regards the Super (aka Win) key. It is often set to open the menu whether the default menu or WhiskerMenu is used. If it is also used as a modifier, i.e. in a combination with another key as a shortcut, the menu will be opened as well as the action called by the shortcut.

A question from another Korora team member reminded me of Ksuperkey and looking at the Github page for the project I noted a comment that while it was written for KDE it should work in other Desktop Environments including Xfce. That sounded like it was worth checking out.

Unfortunately Ksuperkey is no longer packed for Fedora 23 so can’t just be installed in Korora. However it is simple to build. I followed this guide, replacing yum with dnf, and it worked without any issues.

If used without any options Ksuperkey calls alt + F1 which in Korora opens the menu by default. I removed that shortcut as I use whiskermenu. In Korora the Super key is used to open WhiskerMenu so in Settings – Keyboard – Shortcuts I edited that to use Alt + F1. Next I ran ksuperkey from alt + F2 and tested. I had previously configured some shortcuts to open applications using Super + other keys so I could easily test. The applications opened and the menu didn’t appear. When used by itself the super key opened WhiskerMenu. Exactly what I hoped to achieve and what was promised.

Lastly I added ksuperkey to Settings – Sessions and Startup – Application Autostart so I didn’t need to run it manually each session.

Ksuperkey adds useful and needed functionality to Xfce and probably other Desktops and is a worthy addition. It has a number of options that can tailor its operation to different situations, see the Usage section on the project page. Don’t be misled by the name, Ksuperkey doesn’t have a bunch, or even any, KDE dependencies that will be added to your system. Its name merely reflects it’s heritage.

KDE 4.10

Fedora (and therefore Korora) has just received the update to KDE 4.10.1. THere are a number of improvements claimed for the new version including better stability.

This has been the improvement that I have noticed the most. I had been having issues with KDE locking up after a short time. THere was no discernible pattern to the lock ups so I had found a solution. To be honest I hadn’t tried too hard. I simply switched back to Xfce which was rock solid as always.

One change I’ve made to KDE is that I added the Daisy plasmoid as a Launcher panel. It is now included with Korora 18 and makes a nice addition.  It still needs some development as it is missing some features such as the ability to re-arrange icons but it is a nice addition.

KDE 4.10.1 is a recommended update for KDE users and if my experience is a guide it is worth the update.

Favourite Linux Applications

Below is a list of the applications I use regularly. I don’t claim they are the best but they are the ones I prefer. Many are KDE based but there are fewer of them than previously. I use both KDE and Xfce as my desktop environments. The apps that come with Xfce are pretty basic so I prefer alternatives.

One of the complaints I have about many of KDE’s apps it that they have been combined with KDEpim which means you can’t install single apps. If you don’t use Kmail and its brethren then I would avoid Blogilo and Kjots, both of which I have previously used.

Chrome / Chromium is my browser of choice. Not perfect, it doesn’t integrate into the desktop too well. But it is fast and has the main extensions I like.

Conky – just calling Conky a system monitor really understates what it can do. Conky can do so much that it requires its own post. Since it introduced real transparency it greatly reduced the problems running it under KDE. One of the first things I set up on a new installation.

Krusader – twin pane file manager. Dolphin is good especially with the split feature but I like the power and retro style of Krusader. I’ve tried others like Midnight Commander which is quite good but nothing comes close to Krusader.

Gimp – it is all you need to edit images. To work with raw files just add ufraw and ufraw-gimp.

Digikam – adds digital asset management aka photo organiser. Has editor which works better for raw images than ufraw but I prefer Gimp. Has export to almost anything you can think of.

Cups-pdf – while Koffice and LibreOffice can create PDFs adding cups-pdf allows you to create them from anything that can print.

Kdenlive – the most stable video editor under Linux. A good balance between power and ease of use. Not perfect but there is nothing better at the moment.

Tilda – a drop down terminal emulator. Makes accessing the terminal so easy and you can hide it and let it get on with what is doing. KDE provides Yakuake which has many options and is a great application.

LibreOffice – the most polished FOSS office suite there is. If only Base was up to the standard of the rest of the suite.

Clementine – what can I say, can’t work without some music. A good mix of features and performance.

Zim – note taker / desktop wiki. I used Kjots for a while but it was integrated into KDEPim which meant it was near impossible to sync it between 2 systems so I switched to Zim. Just as good maybe better but I don’t use all its features and it has fewer dependencies.

So that is it. There are other applications that I use from time to time which work well too, things like Yumex and VLC but the ones above are those I like and use nearly every day. They are all available in Kororaa, a couple require extra repos to be installed in Fedora though.

Fedora 12

I have been trying out the new verison of Fedora since it was released a couple of weeks ago. This version is more of a evolutionary update rather than a major change, at least in KDE. F12 comes with the same version 4.3.2 that F11 was running. An update to 4.3.3 has been released for both versions since then.

That is not to say there haven’t been changes just that the majority are behind the scene improvements. A list of the changes are on the release notes.

Moblin Added

One of the changes to F12 is the release of Moblin for Fedora. Unfortunately it is currently based on Moblin 2.0 instead of the current 2.1. I installed it on my netbook and gave it a run for a few days. It is obviously in the early stages of development as some of the basic features are missing. There is no way to log out for example.

I liked the basic concept but don’t think it is quite ready for day to day use yet. I went back to KDE.

Network Manager

For a few versions now Fedora has worked well with Mobile Braodband but this verison includes some big changes in that area.

One big improvement is the provision of preset configuration for many Broadband providers. When you connect for the first time it asks you for your country and isp as well as type of service and then it connects with the correct setup.

It seems to work well. However one problem, probably not associated with the changes, is it is not possible to reconnect should you disconnect. You need to unplug the modem and plug it back in again. An irritation but not a major problem unless you are working in an area with poor reception.

Nvidia Cards

The open source nvidia driver nouveau has been improved for this version. Reports are that it is much more stable than previous versions. It still doesn’t do 3d so you need to install the propriety drivers if you want Google Earth, desktop effects or other 3d apps. There is a how to on the Guide section of the Fedora Forums. There is some extra steps due to a new version of x.org.

Atom Processors

Atom processors are common in netbooks and this version of Fedora has been optimised for them. I noticed some improvement in the performance of my netbook. I am using KDE on there now and find it is performing so well I haven’t felt the need to install Xfce which I did in F11.

Overall I would say this is a good update of Fedora especially if you use netbooks or Mobile Broadband. If you are using F11 and it is working fine for you there is no hurry to update though.

Fedora and KDE 4.3

KDE 4.3 was released a few weeks ago and the update has finally made it into the Fedora Updates repo a few days ago. It had been in Updates Testing for a while. The update was worth waiting for, 4.3 is another improvement.

The release notes list hundreds of bugs that have been squashed and although most apparent changes are cosmetic the work done beneath the skin is obvious from the improved performance. I’ve noticed a speed increase to the extent that KDE isn’t much slower than Xfce on the same hardware. This is a condemnation of Xfce as much as a bouquet for KDE. I found Xfce 4.6 to be slow compared to previous versions while KDE has made big strides forward since 4.0.

The only small problem I had was I needed to change my startup script for Conky as it lost its transparency. It appears the config file that contains the wallpaper setting has changed. That fixed everything is back to normal, well a better normal.

KDE 4.3 is another (big!) step forward for KDE. It is now well and truly ready for everyday use. If you haven’t tried KDE for a while now is the time for another look.

KDE – Desktop Environment of the Year

It comes as no surprise that KDE has been voted the Desktop Environment of the year by the members of LinuxQuestions.org. It has matured into a great environment and deserves its award.

It was nice to see some other KDE linked projects doing well too with Amarok winning the audio media player category and K3b the mutlimedia utility category.

See here for the full story.

More on Fedora 10 and KDE 4.2

I recently posted about updating to Fedora 10. After using it for a while on a couple of computers I have some more comments to share.

Desktop Managers

I have been switching between Xfce and KDE and so can offer a few comments on the differences. Much of the time I have been using KDE 4.1 while waiting on the update to 4.2 to appear in the repos. I updated as soon as it appeared and am pleased I did.

Xfce in promoted as a lightweight desktop and that it is noticeable as KDE uses around twice as much memory when doing something simple such as having just Firefox open. I have similar set-ups in both desktops so they are comparable in that way. I have their native desktop effects active not Compiz. KDE’s in more involved with a lot more options, similar but not as extensive as Compiz although with 4.2 it is a lot closer.

One good thing in KDE, actually there are quite a few, but the multimedia buttons on my laptop work after setting them up in Amarok. In Xfce the volume and mute buttons don’t work.

I like the quick launch bar in Xfce, setting that up in KDE is more difficult. I have my favourite apps in Favourites on the menu but that isn’t the same, two clicks instead of one. However with 4.2 the menu shortcuts are working again and so I can set them up as I used to have them. Using the keyboard to start my favourite apps is so much easier and quicker.

KDE is much more configurable, selecting colours and other options is so much easier then Xfce but still not as good as KDE 3.5. Again 4.2 is much better with more options available.

One feature of Xfce (and Gnome I believe) that I missed in KDE was the ability to switch desktops using the mouse wheel. Well 4.2 has introduced this feature.

Suspend

Suspend to Disk works once I installed Kpowersave and set it suspend on lid close. It resumes without problem but I noticed a few things. Memory usage seems higher after resume and that is the only time Swap is used. I have 3 gig and as I rarely use more than one (its on 1.1 at the moment and I have OO Writer and Firefox are open and Amarok is playing, Miles Davis’ Walkin’ since you asked,) so Swap isn’t needed. Also the processor is more likely to run at full power. It usually sits on 1 gig and jumps to 2 gig when needed. After resume it sits on 2 much longer.

Apps

Along with the development of KDE4 most of the KDE apps have been updated. Just like early versions of KDE4 this has not been without pain but that is improving now. The new version of Amarok is great. I also like Digikam’s new upload to Picasa Web option. This means I no longer need Picasa as that was the main thing I used it for. I’m starting to sound like a broken record (is that saying out of date now?) but 4.2 introduced many improvement both to apps and widgets.

As you may have gathered I am very pleased with the update to KDE 4.2 and am using it most of the time now. It isn’t perfect but is much better than earlier versions and now has regained much of the functionality we were used to in 3.5. If 4.2 is this good just imagine what is coming in future versions.

Fedora 10

Having installed Fedora 10 I thought I would share some of my impressions. First some comments on installation and setup with a few problems and then some general thoughts.

Installation

I installed from a dvd which is the way I usually do it. I couldn’t use the update option as I was replacing a 32 bit Fedora 9 system with a 64 bit Fedora 10. I had used 64 bit before with F8 but when I updated to F9 I had a 32 bit dvd so I used that.

My only gripe with installation was the lack of an option to install Xfce as my desktop. My memory may be going but I think that was an option in earlier versions. So I installed the Kde version which gave me 4.1. 4.2 has just been released and I understand will be available via the regular Fedora update very soon. As usual I selected, and deselected, several packages. You must select customise now to do this during installation otherwise you will just get a default Gnome system.

Once installed I couldn’t get the internet working on my 3G modem. The Network Manager applet wasn’t appearing in the panel, neither was the Bluetooth applet. I had to reinstall a couple of times. It finally worked after I re-activated wifi in bios. Network Manager was in the panel and when I plugged in the modem I could activate it.

That done I started the update. There were nearly 300 packages to be updated and it took several hours. Not sure if it was an internet problem or slow mirrors, I have had problems with slow mirrors since then and that may be the cause.

Getting things working.

Next was to get things set up the way I like. Although I could select many of the packages I wanted during installation there were still many more to install afterwards. First I added the RPMFusion repos so I could get the good stuff like codecs that are not in the standard repos.

One of the first things I did was install Yumex, the graphical front end for Yum. It is the best package manager for yum systems, much better than the standard “add remove software”. Don’t why it isn’t used as the default.

Next I installed xfce. I have been using it as my desktop for a while now. I have KDE4 but can’t get used to it. It works much better than the F9 version but still doesn’t feel right.

At this stage I had a couple of problems, no sound and no bluetooth. The second was the most of a nuisance as I use a bluetooth mouse all the time and hate the touchpad on my Dell laptop. After some searching I found the command “hidd –-search”. If I pressed the reset button on the mouse as I ran that, as root, the mouse was recognised and worked. It didn’t remember after a restart so I had to do it everytime. Later I added the applet to the panel using the Launcher option in xfce and set it up that way. This seems to have solved the problem as it is remembered after a reboot now. Now I can disable the touchpad. I added gsynaptics to the panel and it works but isn’t remembered after a reboot.

The sound problem I’m not sure about. I tried playing with the settings, checking nothing was muted and the usual things but nothing worked. Then when I restarted one time it gave an error about not finding the sound system and resetting and everything started working so I left it alone after that. Amarok is working fine at the moment so that is all that matters. Almost, next I tried You Tube.

I found You Tube sound worked but was very soft. So soft I first thought there was no sound. The tv was on at the other end of the room and only when it went quiet for a moment did I realise there was some faint sounds coming from the computer. I turned up the volume and could hear something. Again I explored checking the volume control in the Multimedia menu. By chance I found there was a volume control under the Settings menu. It was set to 50% or less. I raised that and You Tube was suddenly very loud. Why is there more than one volume control and which one should we use? I decided to set both to full and use the application’s control to set the level for the current track. This is easiest for me.

One interesting thing is initially I didn’t install the Nvidia drivers from RPMFusion. I used nv for a while. I turned on the compositor in Xfce and some effects worked. They are basic just transparency, the shadows didn’t work as nv is a 2d driver not 3d. I needed to install the nvidia drivers to have Google Earth working properly.

Adobe has released native 64 bit flash and I installed it using a thread on Fedora forums. Although some people have had problems it is working well for me.

I added a few applications to the quick launch bar at the bottom of the screen. To find icons and apps I used the existing ones as a guide. I looked at the properties of the Firefox launcher and found what I was looking for in the same folders.

Impressions

Fedora 10 is a good stable release now. Most Fedoras take a couple of months to settle down so I don’t install as soon as they are released. This seems to work for me. I am liking it after living with it for a few days. That doesn’t mean it is perfect as there are a few things to sort but generally it is a good system

Outstanding issues.

Fedora removed dcop earlier and I was using it in a script for Conky to show the current playing track in Amarok. That doesn’t work and I will look into it too.

The settings to turn off the touchpad don’t “stick”. While typing I find I bump it occasionally and find myself typing in another part of the document. If I am doing a fair bit of typing I turn it off using Gsynaptics.

Testing Desktop Managers

As I have mentioned here before I have been predomiantly using KDE 3.5 for my main desktop for sometime now. The last couple of days have seen me experimenting with some alternatives. I installed Fedora 9 with KDE 4.1.2 and Xfce 4.4.2. This isn’t the first time I have used KDE 4 and I have used older versions of Xfce. Neither have previously tempted me to move away from KDE 3.5 though.

KDE 4.1.2

My earlier experiences with KDE 4 had me deciding it wasn’t ready for everyday use. It is difficult to pinpoint particular issues that support this but it is the general feeling from using it. A good desktop manager will disappear, at least to the extent that it doesn’t get in your way when you are working. However if you are spending more time trying to get past the desktop than you spend in your apps there is a problem. So here are a couple of the issues I found.

The new menu format feels slow and clunky. I found using it with a mouse difficult and with the keyboard it was inconsistent. I had set up shortcuts in my Fedora 8 KDE 3.5 system and found the way to set them up here was similar. However they didn’t work. There were saved and could be edited but there was no response when I tried them. In 3.5 there was an extra step to use multiple keys which doesn’t seem to exist here so that may be the problem. After a short time I had reset the menu to the classic menu which helped a little. The help screens still refer to the previous versions too.

I didn’t like the look of Firefox and found a post on the Fedora Forums which describes how to make Firefox use the current KDE theme. This helped a lot. Open Office had a strange problem where icons on the toolbar disappeared unless the mouse was over them. I haven’t got around to look into that yet.

I found KDE to be a bit slow too although it is faster than the 4.0 I tried sometime ago. It is also much more stable. Maybe 4.2 will be more usable.

Xfce 4.4.2

Xfce is a light weight desktop that is quite minimalist when compared to KDE and Gnome. It certainly runs faster and uses less resources. This makes it useful on older computers and when you want to run resource intensive apps like video editors. I had used older versions and found them a little too basic for my liking. Also Xfce is less customisable than KDE. They always seemed stable and fast but I never kept them as my default desktop.

After using KDE 4 Xfce looked very simple and that isn’t a bad thing. Everything I have tried works with little attention. I haven’t worked out how to set up shortcuts yet. Also I haven’t found a theme I prefer but that is a small concern. It seems stable and is the fastest I have tried on this computer. My early impressions are that I could live with Xfce which is something I haven’t thought of older versions.

So Where Does That Leave Me?

My preferred desktop manager is still KDE 3.5. Undoubtably this is partly due to being familiar and therefore comfortable with it but even more due to the fact it is mature. KDE 4.1.2 is not quite there. Maybe 4.2 will do it for me. I look forward to trying it sometime soon. Xfce has come a long way and could become my choice when I update my everyday system from Fedora 8. I will install Compiz on it soon and see how that goes.