Plasma 5 on Arch Linux – Install and Configure

Plasma 5 in Arch Linux

Install Plasma 5 in Arch Linux and you will get the best combination of the power Arch Linux combined with the productivity of Plasma 5 desktop environment.

In this post, you will learn how to install Plasma 5 desktop on Arch Linux and also how to configure it for your needs. Among all available distribution with Plasma 5, Arch Linux provides the latest and the most flexible Plasma 5 desktop. I think only KDE Neon can compete with Arch Linux Plasma 5 experience.

If you still have not installed Arch Linux, I showed how to install Arch Linux step by step.

1. Install Plasma 5 in Arch Linux

Plasma 5 installation options

In Arch Linux, you can install Plasma 5 in three ways:

  • plasma
  • plasma-meta
  • plasma-desktop

Personally, I usually install a very minimal Plasma 5 desktop and then add the packages if I need them.

First, you can install the group package plasma. It will install the full Plasma 5 desktop which includes around 40 packages. This option is probably the most optimal and flexible. You select what the plasma group packages you want to install and later you can remove any package if you want.

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sudo pacman -S plasma
1.- Installing Plasma with plasma package
Installing Plasma with plasma package

The second option is to install plasma-meta. It installs the same packages as the first option, but it joins all packages together as dependencies and thus it is less flexible. The advantage is however that if the meta package itself is updated with new packages these packages will be installed automatically during the update.

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sudo pacman -S plasma-meta
2.- Installing plasma with plasma-meta package
Installing plasma with plasma-meta package

The last option is to install plasma-desktop. This option installs very minimal Plasma desktop. It includes only a key set of packages to make KDE Plasma 5 work. It even doesn’t include a file manager.

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sudo pacman -S plasma-desktop
3.- Installing Plasma using plasma-desktop package
Installing Plasma using plasma-desktop package

Given these three options, I would recommend installing plasma-meta for users who like the shortest way and don’t care if there are some extra packages on the system which are not used by a user. If you want full control of what you install and you prefer to keep it simple, install the minimal plasma-desktop and then build up. This is what an advanced user would do. The first option to install the plasma group is somewhere intermediate between the other two.

Minimal Plasma 5 installation

I will proceed with the minimal install option. By this way you build a system you want and you get all the advantage of keeping your system minimal and thus your system will be very fast. For example, my system with Plasma 5 boots in less than 10 sec and uses less than 500 Mb of RAM.

My Plasma uses less than 500 mb of RAM
My Plasma uses less than 500 Mb of RAM

If you don’t have a display server installed on you Arch Linux, you need to install xorg and xorg-xinit.

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sudo pacman -S xorg xorg-xinit
Install xorg and xorg-xinit packages
Install xorg and xorg-xinit packages

Then you need to create the X initiation file. It has the name .xinitrc and placed in your home directory. The content of the file is “exec startkde”.

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echo "exec startkde" > ~/.xinitrc
Creating xinitrc file
Creating xinitrc file

Finally, you install plasma-desktop.

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sudo pacman -S plasma-desktop
Install plasma-desktop
Install plasma-desktop

I installed SDDM as a display manager. And enabled it in systemd.

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sudo pacman -S sddm
Installing and enabling ssdm
Installing and enabling ssdm

Install some key applications

Now, let’s install some key applications which I use on my minimal Plasma 5 desktop.

I installed Konsole, which is a terminal emulator, Dolphin - a file manager, Firefox as a web browser and Kate as a text editor. I also customized my Dolphin file manager and enabled smooth scrolling in Firefox.

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sudo pacman -S konsole dolphin firefox kate
Some installed applications
Some installed applications

You also probably would like to install the GTK Plasma 5 theme and its configuration tool:

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sudo pacman -S breeze-gtk breeze-kde4 kde-gtk-config
Installing breeze-theme on Plasma 5
Installing breeze-theme on Plasma 5

These are the packages that provide a unified look for GTK applications in the Plasma 5 desktop. For example, this is how the GTK application GIMP looks in KDE environment without these packages.

GIMP before configuring the GTK look and feel on Plasma 5
GIMP before configuring the GTK look and feel on Plasma 5

And this is how it looks with these packages installed and configured.

GIMP after configuring GTK look and feel on Plasma 5
GIMP after configuring the GTK look and feel on Plasma 5

When you installed these packages, go to Settings Application style and in GNOME application style set Breeze themes in all the fields.

Configuring GNOME applications style
Configuring GNOME applications style

Now, all GTK applications will look native in Plasma 5.

Another theme option I would like to share with you is how to make the Login screen have a Plasma 5 look. I use SDDM manager, which is recommended for Plasma 5. This is how it looks by default. It is not very nice looking.

SSDM default look
SDDM default look

To enable the Breeze theme for SDDM, you need edit SDDM config file. Type in your terminal:

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sudo nano /etc/sddm.conf

And in the Current theme name, set the theme name to breeze.

Setting Breeze theme on SSDM
Setting Breeze theme on SDDM

Press Ctrl+O to save and Ctrl+X to exit. Next, Reboot.

Now, the Login screen looks much better:

SDDM with Breeze theme
SDDM with Breeze theme

Finally, install kdeplasma-addons. Run:

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sudo pacman -S kdeplasma-addons
Installing some addons to Plasma 5
Installing some addons to Plasma 5

It contains many Plasma widgets and plugins that will improve your Plasma experience.

2. Install connection tools

In this section I will configure Plasma 5 to make network connections available.

First, install the networkmanager and plasma-nm packages.

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sudo pacman -S networkmanager plasma-nm
Install some packages to get network on Plasma 5
Install some packages to get network on Plasma 5

I think it is obvious that networkmanager is a network connection manager application. The plasma-nm package is a KDE applet to manage network connections.

Then you need to enable the networkmanager. If you have any other network services enabled. Disable them. I used dhcpcd during my install. So, I disable it:

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sudo systemctl stop dhcpcd
sudo systemctl disable dhcpcd
Disabling dhcpcd
Disabling dhcpcd

Then, I enable the NetworkManager in the systemd:

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sudo systemctl enable NetworkManager
sudo systemctl start NetworkManager
Enabling and starting NetworkManager
Enabling and starting NetworkManager

After you reboot, you should see the network applet in your system tray.

For Bluetooth support, you need to install bluez and bluez-utils packages. I do not have a Bluetooth, so I cannot show you how to configure it. I refer you to the Arch Wiki for that.

If use a VPN, you need to figure out what kind of VPN you use and install some of these packages: networkmanager-openvpn, networkmanager-openconnectnetworkmanager-vpnc, networkmanager-pptp,networkmanager-strongswan,networkmanager-l2tp.

My VPN provider uses Cisco VPN and I use openconnect to configure it. So, I install openconnect and networkmanager-openconnect.

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sudo pacman -S openconnect networkmanager-openconnect
Installing openconnect to use my VPN
Installing openconnect to use my VPN

Then, I can go to the network settings and set up my VPN. I believe it works similarly for other VPN services.

3. Install audio volume control

The minimal Plasma 5 desktop does not have a volume control in the system tray. Let’s install it.

For that you need to have PulseAudio installed. Also, for some media formats you may need GStreamer Multimedia Framework. GStreamer is a framework multimedia to decode multimedia files for processing and playback.

You need simply install plasma-pa package, which is an applet for audio volume management using PulseAudio.

Insatll plasma-pa package to get a simple volume control
Installing plasma-pa package to get a simple volume control

Log out and log in, and you will have a volume control in your system tray.

Showing the volume control
Showing the volume control

4. Install KDE specific and desktop essential applications

This is what I install on my system and I think any desktop should have most of these apps.

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sudo pacman -S ark libreoffice-fresh okular kinfocenter kwalletmanager kompare kfind ktorrent gwenview kipi-plugins digikam spectacle kcolorchooser kruler amarok vlc speedcrunch redshift 
Install some useful applications for me
Install some useful applications for me

In this case, I installed:

Ark – It is a tool to work with archives.

Ark
Ark

Kinfocenter – It’s a simple tool that gives you the information about your system.

Kinfocenter to show you system information
Kinfocenter to show you system information

Kwalletmanager – is the setting tool for your kwallet. If you don’t know, kwallet is a KDE authentication management tool. It stores your passwords on the system.

KDEWallet on Plasma 5
KDEWallet on Plasma 5

Gwenview – Is a KDE image viewer.

Gwenview - Image viewer
Gwenview - Image viewer

I also recommend installing kipi-plugins. Kipi-plugins is the set of plugins that extend the functionality of gwenview and digiKam.

Kipi plugins to extend the Gwenview funcionality
Kipi plugins to extend the Gwenview functionality

If you have a large photo library, you would also love digiKam. It is a very powerful KDE photo management application.

Digikam is awesome to manage photos
Digikam is awesome to manage photos

Of course, if you need to do any image manipulation, there is no better tool than GIMP.

GIMP the best program to manipulate image on Linux
GIMP the best program to manipulate image on Linux

Spectacle – a KDE Screenshot Utility.

Spectacle is a nice tool to make screenshot
Spectacle is a nice tool to make screenshot

If you work with graphics you will also find useful kcolorchooser and Kruler.

You can use Kcolorchooser to get the HTML code for any color on your screen.

KColorchooser to get HTML code of many colors
KColorchooser to get HTML code of many colors

Kruler can be used to measure anything on your screen.

Kruler on Plasma 5
Kruler on Plasma 5

Libreoffice-fresh – is an office suit. I think LibreOffice is the best. But you can install any other office program. For example, many people prefer wps-office. You can install it from the AUR.

LibreOffice is the best ofimatic suite in Linux
LibreOffice is the best ofimatic suite on Linux

Okular – a KDE PDF viewer. I think Okular is the best PDF viewer on Linux.

Okular is the best PDF reader in Linux
Okular is the best PDF reader on Linux

Amarok – KDE music player. The music player is a matter of taste. I like Amarok. The best alternative in my view would be Clementine. But there are many other options.

Amarok music player
Amarok music player

VLC – Well, it is the best open source video player.

VLC the best multimedia player on Linux
VLC the best multimedia player on Linux

Speedcrunch – complex calculator. If you need to do simple tasks like addition, division, etc, you can use Plasma search plugin with Alt+F2 and then do any calculation. But for more serious math, speedcrunch is the best in my view.

Speedcrunch a great tool for math
Speedcrunch a great tool for math

Redshift – Redshift is probably a must have application in any desktop. It changes the temperature of your screen according to the time. The screen colors are cold during the day and warm at night. It is very good for your eyes. It reduces eye strain and improves your sleep if you sit in front of your computer at night. Note, for KDE you also need to install redshift Plsama 5 widget. It is available in the AUR.

There are a few more applications I use, but I think they are not necessary for the many users.

kompare – a very good KDE application to compare text files.

Kompare is useful to compare text file
Kompare is useful to compare text file

kfind – an application to find Files/Folders. It is little extended in comparison to search within Dolphin file manager.

KFind to find files on Plasma 5
KFind to find files on Plasma 5

ktorrent - a KDE torrent application. If you do downloads using torrents, ktorrent is a great torrent app.

Ktorrent a nice application to download torrents
Ktorrent a nice application to download torrents

So, these are the programns which I think will be the most useful for majority of users.

Conclusion

To conclude, I would like to mention that Plasma 5 also has many tools for configuring your system with graphical interface. For example, you can configure SDDM graphically if you install sddm-kcm package. But I prefer to keep things simple. I need to configure SDDM only once. So, I can do it by direct editing the config file, and probably I will not ever touch it again. So, there is not reason to bloat the system with sddm-kcm package.

Remember, the simpler your system is the less likely things will break.

You can learn more things to do after installing Linux.

Comment below if you have any addition to these recommendations.

Average Linux User
Average Linux User I am the founder of the Average Linux User project, which is a hobby I work on at night. During the day I am a scientist who uses computers to analyze genetic data.