Originally Published: Friday, 27 April 2001 Author: Wayne Bridges
Published to: learn_articles_firststep/General Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Getting Started with KDE in Linux-Mandrake 7.2

Continuing with his exploration of Mandrake 7.2 Linux.com writer and professional "newbie" Wayne Bridges tours the KDE desktop environment and takes a look at the K menu.

After installing Linux-Mandrake, as we did in my last article, I felt it was time to log in and have some fun. Once the machine has rebooted after the install, we are presented with a graphical screen saying "Welcome to " followed by our machine's host name. Below this, there are the icons we chose for each user during installation, then two text boxes for login and password. Finally, at the bottom of this screen, there is a drop-down box labeled "Session Type" followed by three buttons labeled "Go!", "Cancel", and "Shutdown...".

From this screen, we can click on one of the user icons. This will automatically place the selected user's name in the "login" text box. We can then type in the password in the next box, choose a window manager (a window manager is the set of programs which make up your working environment within Linux) from the "Session Type" drop-down menu and click on the "Go!" button. For this week's session, we will be selecting the KDE window manager from the session type list. Don't worry... we'll get to the others, but we have to pace ourselves.

The KDE Environment

A splash screen is the first indication that we are entering the KDE environment. This screen is entirely graphical and includes a picture of Tux, the Linux penguin and the KDE logo, which is an upper-case K in the center of what looks to be a gear. This splash screen gives way to a desktop not entirely unlike that of Windows or Mac OS. There are icons on the desktop, a toolbar at the bottom of the screen, and a clock in the lower right corner.

A window entitled "Kandalf's useful tips" opens automatically as we enter the KDE desktop. This window has a picture of a wizard on the right side and a helpful tip on the left. Today's tip is telling me that the K in KDE doesn't stand for anything. At the bottom of this window are "Next", "Previous", and "Close" buttons, as well as a check box to control whether Tips runs on startup. We'll leave the box checked to run on startup, but close the window for now. Thank you, Kandalf.

On the desktop, there are icons for the floppy drive, the CD-ROM, Netscape Navigator, and the Trash folder, which are all fairly common. A few things here that were new to me were DrakConf, XKill, Doc, and a Home Directory icon. Each of these is pretty exciting, in their own little way.

DrakConf is the Mandrake Configuration Utility which allows you to make changes to your system's configuration from within the operating system. From within the DrakConf window, we can configure Internet connection sharing, network configuration, hardware profiles, users and groups, security settings, input devices (such as keyboard and mouse), graphics configuration, and startup services. DrakConf opens each of these configuration utilities in its own window, making it easy for even the newest newbie to configure the Linux system.

XKill is a utility for forcing the X server to close connections to clients and is useful for aborting programs that have displayed undesired windows on a user's screen. When a user clicks on the XKill icon, a special cursor is displayed as a prompt for the user to select a window to be killed. The user can then click on the selected window and it will go away.

The icon labeled "Doc" on the desktop opens a Konqueror window (Konqueror is a Web browser) from which you can access an assortment of Linux-Mandrake documentation. The Installation Guide, User Guide and Reference Manual are available in HTML format. There is also a link to the Linux-Mandrake website, where you can find additional help.

The final desktop icon I want to mention here is the Home Directory icon which is labeled "Home". This provides a desktop link which is the equivalent of an Explorer window in Microsoft Windows. Use this window to access your home directory as well as network shares and web sites.

The Toolbar

The area at the bottom of the screen is called the Toolbar. Let's take a look at the various tools available to us on the Toolbar. Moving from left to right, we'll find a small arrow pointing off the left side of the screen, a set of 8 icons, 4 small boxes numbered one through four, a taskbar area, a clipboard icon, a clock, and, finally, a small arrow pointing off the right side of the screen.

Let's begin by talking about the small arrows on the extreme left and right sides of the Toolbar. These buttons are used to hide the Toolbar. When we click one of these arrows, the entire bar, with the exception of the arrow on the opposite end, disappears. When we click on that remaining portion of the Toolbar, the entire piece slides back into view.

The largest part of the Toolbar's left side is taken up by the eight icons I mentioned above. The leftmost of these is a large K superimposed on a gear. This is much like the KDE logo we saw when logging in. When we click on this icon, we are presented with a start menu, much like the one found in MS Windows. We'll be discussing this menu in more detail in the next section, so we'll move along for now. The one thing worth mentioning here, however, is that we aren't working in Microsoft Windows now, so this menu will be referred to as the K Menu from here on out.

The next icon to the right of the K Menu is a picture of two windows. When we click on this icon, we see that this is a window manager application that lists all windows on all virtual desktops. By clicking on any window or desktop in the list, we can instantly go there. A "virtual desktop" is a way of allowing the user to open as many windows as he or she needs and to organize those windows logically onto desktops. For instance, if you keep your email application open at all times, but you want it to remain in the background while you work on an HTML page, you could keep the email application open on a second desktop. You can still move to your email with one click, but your main desktop is completely uncluttered so that you can open your HTML editor there with plenty of room to work.

The third icon from the left on the Toolbar is the "Show Desktop" icon. Clicking here will minimize all of the windows and show you the desktop. This applies to the desktop on which you are currently working. If you want to see another desktop, you'll have to select it from the Window List or click on one of the other Virtual Desktop icons.

Fourth from the left in this row of icons, you will find a picture of a house in front of a folder. This, as you may have guessed, is the Home Directory icon and will perform the same function as the Home Directory desktop icon.

The next icon we'll find here opens the KDE Control Center. The Control Center is "a central place to configure your desktop environment." From the Control Center window, the user can perform many everyday tasks such as changing file associations, configuring mouse behavior, setting up Windows shares, and viewing memory utilization. This is not nearly a complete list of things a user can do in the Control Center, so try opening it yourself to get a better idea of the functions it can perform.

The icon which looks like a small terminal window is just that: a small terminal window. This terminal emulator can be used to execute command-line functions from within the KDE environment. For instance, you could open a telnet session from the shell prompt. You could also perform file system functions, such as an "ls" command to list the contents of the current directory.

The life preserver icon is the most valuable of any we have mentioned thus far. This is the KDE Help Center. Here, you can learn to use the Control Center, the Konsole, or the mail and instant messaging applications included in KDE. Another valuable reference in this section is the Unix Manual Pages. This has been a blessing to Unix users since the beginning of time. You can find information in the man pages on practically any user command or system call in existence. Just type man and then the command you have questions about.

The final icon in this row is a globe with some sprocket-thingies attached to it. This icon represents the Konqueror Web Browser. Konqueror can be used to browse either the web or the local file system and is used by default when you open the Home Directory. It is a full-featured browser with many of the same functions as Netscape Navigator or any other popular package.

To the right of this row of icons, are four blocks, numbered 1 through 4 (by default). These blocks represent your virtual desktops. By clicking on one of these blocks, you can move to the corresponding desktop.

Further to the right is the task bar area. Like a MS Windows task bar, this area contains a small rectangle representing each open window. Clicking on one of these rectangles will open the window, or make it the active window. Clicking on that rectangle a second time will minimize that window.

The clipboard icon stores recently selected sections of text and allows the user to paste them into his current work. This clipboard, known as Klipper, has a configuration utility which can be accessed by clicking once on the clipboard and then choosing "Configure" from the pop-up menu.

The last item on the Toolbar is the clock. The clock shows the time by default and you may click on it to view a small calendar. The time and date format, as well as the clock's preferences may be set by right-clicking on the clock.

The K Menu

The final area of the KDE window manager that we'll explore is the K menu. As we mentioned earlier, the K menu can be accessed by clicking on the K icon on the Toolbar. From the K menu, we can access applications, documentation, multimedia, and networking menus, as well as others.

The Amusement menu has an assortment of board games, strategy games, puzzles, and card games. My personal favorite of these is called Gnome Chess, which is a chess game for one or two players. Under the Strategy section of this menu, there is also a game called FreeCiv, which is a version of Civilization which runs on Linux.

Under the Application menu, we can find CD burning applications and an address book. There is also a Python development environment called IDLE and a version of the Emacs editor which runs under KDE (xEmacs).

The Configuration menu is where you'll find system configuration information such a information about system resources, network configuration, and user permissions. This is also the place to manage printers and install new software packages.

The next menu which can be access from the K is the Documentation menu. This is where we can find HowTos and the Mandrake documentation.

The Multimedia menu contains graphics, sound, and video programs. From this menu, we can access GIMP, which is a complete graphics editing package, and a very popular application for Linux users. There is also a CD player and an MPEG player for videos.

Some of the most interesting applications Mandrake has to offer can be found in the Networking menu. This is where the chat applications, the email programs, and the instant messaging clients live. My pick from all of these is an application called Everybuddy. This is an instant messaging tool that lets you combine your AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger buddy lists in one program. The Networking menu also contains IRC, news, and FTP clients.

K's office menu provides all of the productivity applications you'll ever need. There are word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software, and even pop-up notes. While these applications can provide all of the necessities, some users may prefer an integrated office application. For these users, there is StarOffice, which is included on the applications CDs in the Mandrake package.

The Terminal Menu allows you to choose your favorite terminal window from those available. While all of the terminal windows provide the same basic functionality, some allow you to change fonts, backgrounds, and customize your session in other ways. This can make you feel more at home, for instance, if you're accustomed to the green text on a black background you'd find on an AS/400 terminal. (Scary!)

The K Menu also contains links to many of the places we've seen on the Toolbar and Desktop including the Control Center, Help Center, and Home Directory. Your bookmarks from the Netscape Navigator and Konqueror browsers can be accessed from here, as well as a "Run" command similar to that in other operating systems. An "About KDE" option displays a pop-up window with information about the window manager's version, and a "Lock Screen" selection allows you to lock the workstation until your password is entered.

There is one more K Menu item worth mentioning. That is the one labeled "Logout". When you select this option, you will be presented with a new dialog box with two buttons, "Logout" and "Cancel". Pressing the Logout button here will take you back to the login screen we discussed at the beginning of this piece.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief tour of the KDE Desktop Environment. This is by no means a complete HowTo. Get in there. Explore! In the next article, we'll take a more in-depth look at the KDE Control Center.