This chapter discusses the basics of using the KDE
graphical interface on Linux. If you've worked with another
GUI environment, this information will probably seem elementary,
but you may want to skim it to pick up some possible differences.
Logging In and Out
When you first start Linux, you are greeted with a login screen. Before you can
do anything, you'll need to enter your login name, sometimes called a user-
name, and your password, both of which should be supplied by your administra-
tor. This is called logging in.
Because a Linux system can have multiple users, each with their own cus-
tomized desktop and settings, entering your login name tells Linux who you are
and instructs it to load your particular settings. Usernames are especially impor-
tant when several people have access to the same computers.
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Linux uses your password to verify your identity, so you should always keep it
secret. When you enter your password, the characters you type will not appear in
the box. Instead, you should see plus signs or asterisks as you type. (Depending
on the way your Linux system is configured, there may be no on-screen represen-
tation of your password at all, and you'll have to type it in blindly.)
After typing your login name and password, press
. There will be a
short delay as your computer loads everything for your session. A KDE graphic
will show the loading progress. Once your machine is initialized, the KDE desk-
top should appear, and you will be ready to begin working.
Changing Passwords
When selecting a password, it is important to choose one that you will remem-
ber easily (it's best to avoid writing it down) and that's not easy for others to
guess. Avoid names, dictionary words, or anything related to easily obtainable
personal information. A good password combines upper- and lowercase letters
with nonalphanumeric keys. Passwords such as *nCk&Ve or *uG]y$Uds- are
good examples. Your system administrator may assign you a password, but if you
are responsible for your own, it's a good idea to change it approximately every
two months.
You can change your password using the KPasswd utility found in the Utilities
submenu of the K menu. You'll learn to navigate this menu later in this chapter.
Figure 2.1: Login Screen
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Logging In and Moving Around
Logging Out
To log out from your computer at the end of a session, click the K button on
the panel, and choose Logout from the pop-up menu. A dialog box will come
up asking whether to restore your current session when you next log in and to
confirm that you really want to log out. Click Logout to confirm.
Figure 2.2: The Change Password Dialog Box
Before you log out of the system, make sure that all your work has been saved. This will
help prevent losing data.
A Word about Root
When KDE is first installed, the installation program will prompt you to create
at least two accounts: root and normal user. Root is thought of as a superuser
account and is reserved for system administration, as it lets you do almost any-
thing to your system. Most offices limit root access to the system administrator.
If you have root control on your system, beware--changes to system files can
radically alter the way the system works. As you are experimenting and getting
familiar with KDE, you will probably come across things that are designated as
root-access only, and you will be unable to change them without the help of
your system administrator.
The Landscape of the KDE Desktop
Once you've logged in to the computer, you will see a fairly blank background
with some small pictures and a bar across the bottom of the screen with more
Figure 2.3: Logout Screen
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pictures. The background is called the desktop; the bar is called the panel; and
the pictures are icons--symbols representing the programs and tools on your
computer that are probably used most often. For example, the life preserver is
the icon for the Help program, and the globe represents the Konqueror web
browser, used for navigating the Internet.
Programs and groups of programs are also called applications.
The desktop icons have their functions listed beneath them, such as Printer
or Email. Text will pop up to explain the functions of the panel icons when you
hold the mouse pointer over them. This applies to almost every icon or button
you see in KDE or any of its applications. Using the panel and desktop icons is
discussed in the "Navigating Your Desktop" section of this chapter.
To open a program from its icon, position the mouse pointer directly over
it and click the left mouse button once-- a single click. A blinking mini- icon
appears next to the mouse pointer indicating that your computer is opening the
program or file. The type of mini- icon will show which program is opening. For
instance, if you click on the globe icon in the panel to open the Konqueror web
browser, a blinking globe will appear.
Menus, Windows, and Toolbars
offer a list of tasks to perform. For example, if you click the K button in
the lower left corner of the panel, you will see a pop-up menu that lists the
names of various programs and utilities available on your system. As you move
your mouse pointer up, other pop-up menus appear. These are submenus, menus
specific to an item on the main menu.
For example, here we show the submenu for Toys. When you find a pro-
gram on a menu or submenu that you want to open, single- click on the pro-
gram name to launch the program.
Figure 2.4: Submenu of a K Menu Item
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Logging In and Moving Around
If a small black arrowhead appears next to an icon or an item on a menu, a submenu is
available. Place the mouse over the item to bring up the submenu.

When a program opens, it does so in a window, an enclosed rectangular
area on the screen. You can have multiple programs open simultaneously on
your desktop in multiple windows. (You'll learn exactly how many desktops and
windows you can open at once in the next section.) This is part of the multitask-

capability of Linux. While one program is running a task, you can be work-
ing on another. For instance, while your computer is running the installation of
a program, you can be happily typing a letter with AbiWord.

Each program window will usually have a menubar at the top that lists
menu items--groups of options and commands that apply to the specific pro-
gram you have open.

Figure 2.5: A Typical Menubar within a Program, with Submenu Options
Although the left mouse button is used the most, clicking the right mouse
button will often bring up a hidden option menu for a program if one is avail-
able. For example, if you click the right mouse button when the pointer is on
the empty desktop (not on an icon or a file), a menu will pop up with options to
log out, lock the desktop (meaning a password will be needed to access any-
thing), open a new document, arrange icons and windows, and perform various
other tasks. These pop-up menus of available options change depending on
which program you are using, so be sure to check them for the icons and tools
you use most often.

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Other Mouse Uses: Moving and Copying
You can also use your mouse to move items on the desktop by clicking on them
and dragging them to a new location-- a method called drag and drop. To do this,
position the mouse pointer directly over the item you want to move. Then hold
down the left mouse button and move the mouse itself to drag the item across
the screen. Once you reach the desired location, release the mouse button to
drop the item there. You can even use drag and drop to perform actions. For
example, you can drag a file to the printer icon to print it.
To move a window to another location on your screen, place your pointer in
the window's titlebar (the topmost section of the window) and then drag and
drop the window to a new location. Once the window is where you want it,
release the mouse button.
To resize a window, move the mouse pointer along the window border.
When a double-headed arrow appears, click and drag the arrow inward or out-
ward to the desired size. Adjusting from a window corner lets you change the
width and height at the same time (by dragging diagonally).
To move a window whose titlebar is inaccessible (maybe in your excitement, you moved it
clear off the top of the screen), hold down the
key, click anywhere on the window,
and drag.
You can also use the mouse to copy text from within any window that has a
place for text placement into another window. For example, you can use the
mouse to copy text from a web page into a document or email message. Simply
highlight the text you want to copy by placing the mouse at the beginning,
pressing the left button, and moving the pointer across the desired text (double-
click to highlight word by word rather than space by space). Clicking the middle
mouse button (or the left and right button simultaneously on a two- button
mouse) will paste the text wherever the text cursor is.
Figure 2.6: Hidden Menu for the Desktop
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Logging In and Moving Around
Windows that display more than will fit in a single screen will have a vertical
gray bar at the far right side, with a small black arrow pointing up at the top
and another pointing down at the bottom. This is a scroll bar that allows vertical
movement in a document. Clicking the down arrow will make the lower part of
the document visible, and clicking the up arrow will take you up again. You can
also click on the bar itself with the mouse pointer and drag it up or down. The
same is true for something too wide, except the scroll bar is across the bottom.
Navigating Your Desktop
As described previously, when you log in to KDE, you'll see a colored back-
ground with several icons on the left and a bar at the bottom lined with more
icons, called the panel.
Figure 2.7: The KDE Desktop
The Panel
The panel provides quick access to the programs used most often. It also helps
navigate the windows you open. Each panel icon represents a menu, directory,
application, or helpful tool that's only a mouse click away from appearing on
your screen for you to use. The most significant of these icons is the big K in
the far left corner.
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The K Menu
When you click on the K, a menu pops up. This is KDE's main menu, the K
menu. Each entry in this menu is like a folder in a filing cabinet, representing
either an application or a directory on your computer.
Figure 2.8: The K Panel
Most entries in the K menu have icons, and some have arrows. The icons
help you identify what each entry means; for example, your home directory has
a house next to it.
Navigating the K Menu
The K menu offers various ways to access your computer's contents. Entries are
highlighted as your mouse pointer passes over them, letting you know exactly
where you are in the menu. To access a submenu, highlight an entry with an
arrow, then move the pointer into one of these boxes. These linked submenus
and their related main menu headings make up the K menu tree. To close a sub-
menu, move your pointer to a blank space on the desktop and click.
Figure 2.9: The K Menu
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To keep a submenu open, click the submenu heading, or open the submenu by moving
the mouse pointer to its heading, and then move your mouse pointer off the menu.

Opening and Closing Windows from the K Menu
Of course, your ultimate goal in navigating the K menu is to reach the files and
applications you need. Once you've found the entry you want, open it by click-
ing your mouse (either button will do). For example, to use your computer's cal-
culator, open the K menu, place your pointer on Utilities, then move the
pointer to Calculator on the submenu.

Figure 2.10: Opening a Window from the K Menu
Click Calculator and, presto, a calculator appears.
To close a window, click the X at the far upper right corner of the titlebar.

If you re-open the K menu after opening the calculator, you will notice something new
inside it: the word Calculator and its icon now appear at the top. This is because KDE
logs your recently accessed folders, files, and applications, so you can open them again
more quickly. The items in this part of the menu will change, depending on which
programs you used most recently. The K menu can also be configured to log most
frequently rather than most recently used items. See the "Panel" section of Chapter 11.

One of the panel icons you may use a lot at first is the help icon (the life pre-
server). Whether you've forgotten how to use the Delay feature in KSnapshot or
how to change the speed of your mouse pointer, Help can provide the answers.

Once launched, you will be presented with the KDE HelpCenter's opening
pages. The left side of the window contains two tabs, Contents and Glossary,
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which allow you to search for specific topics quickly. The main part of the win-
dow opens automatically to "Chapter 1. Welcome to KDE." Here you can read
the full KDE user documentation, or click on certain areas of interest such as
KDE user's manual and The KDE FAQ (frequently asked questions), or access
information on KDE's basic applications by clicking on links like Desktop Panel
or File Manager. Click on Prev or Next at the top of the window to flip through
the chapters of the KDE help manual.
Figure 2.11: The KDE HelpCenter Introduction Screen
Here are some tips for navigating Help:

Use the Up, Home, Next, and Prev links to move among the pages you've
viewed. The Next and Prev links are shown both below and above the text.
The Home and Up links appear only below.

Click underlined text for further information (such as "What is the K
Desktop Environment?").

Use the tabs to switch between Contents and Glossary.
If you open Help from within a program, such as KMail or KOrganizer (by selecting
Help Contents from the top menubar), the help document corresponding to that
program will be presented automatically. Otherwise, you can scroll through the Contents
list or the Glossary to find a specific item.
Most help documents appear as web pages (HTML files) with links to more
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Virtual Desktops
Virtual desktops are simply additional desktops. It is somewhat like having multi-
ple monitors connected to the same computer, except only one is visible at a
time. Their purpose is to give users more workspace. Linux's multitasking capa-
bility allows your computer to handle many tasks at once. Virtual desktops make
it easier to manage these mutliple tasks and allow you to have more windows
open at once than you could with only one desktop.
The block of numbers (1, 2, 3, and 4), collectively known as the pager icon,
that follows the row of panel icons represents the virtual desktops. Initially, you
may question the need for more than one desktop, but you'll learn to love the
extra real estate additional desktops provide, as well as their ability to help you
stay organized.
The default desktop is number 1. If you open a window on this desktop, a
small representation of that window will appear within the square that repre-
sents desktop 1 in the pager section of the panel, indicating the presence of a
window on that desktop. If you open an additional window, the new window will
be blue in the pager representation, and the first one opened will be gray to
show that it is not currently in the forefront. Click the other numbers to move
from one desktop to another. With no windows open it will look like nothing
has changed. But now try this: go back to desktop 1 and click the terminal icon
(the icon showing a monitor and a seashell) to open a terminal window. Now
click on desktop 2. Does it look like the terminal window has disappeared?
Return to desktop 1 and you'll find it hasn't.
If a window is open on one desktop, it can be moved to another by way of
the little pushpin in the upper left corner of the window. To move the window,
click the pushpin so it looks like it's pushed in, and the window will follow you
to whichever desktop you move. To make the window stay on one desktop, click
the pushpin again.
The panel includes a pop-up menu to the right of the pager icon, indicated
by an arrow. Click the arrow and the Show Windows List will appear, listing the
contents of your virtual desktops. You can also press the middle mouse button
on any blank spot on any desktop to get the same menu.
Figure 2.12: The Show Windows List
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The Unclutter Windows and Cascade Windows options at the top of the Show
Windows menu let you organize multiple windows on your current desktop.
Unclutter Windows spreads the windows out so you can see all of them at once,
while Cascade Windows treats the windows like overlapping cards. Open different
windows on your desktop and experiment with switching between the two options.
Directly below the Unclutter and Cascade options, you'll see a list of all four
desktops. If you have any windows open on any of your desktops, they appear as
subheadings beneath the appropriate desktop name. Clicking any one of these
windows brings it into the foreground so you can use it.
The Taskbar
The long rectangle (blank if you have no windows open) next to your pager icon
is the KDE taskbar, which shows every open window on your current desktop.
The taskbar offers you an efficient way to manage these windows.
As you open windows, the taskbar fills with rectangular buttons identifying
each window. To bring a particular window into the foreground, click its button
on the taskbar. When you do, that window's desktop will be displayed showing
that window in the foreground. You should also see that window's button
pressed down on your taskbar, which tells you that it's currently in use.
Right- click any of the taskbar buttons to open a shortcut menu with even
more options for managing the window.
The Window menu can also be accessed by right- clicking the window's title-
In addition to using the Window menu, one way to minimize an open window is to click
its taskbar button. Click this button again, and your window will return to the forefront
of your desktop.
To keep a window open and easily accessible, you can "shade" it. This will make your
window behave like a window shade that has been pulled up. When shaded, the only
visible part of the window is the titlebar. Double-click the titlebar to shade it. Double-click
it again to restore it.
Figure 2.13: The Window Menu
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K Panel Extras
To the right of the taskbar are a few buttons offering additional shortcuts for
managing your KDE sessions:

Lock the desktop and Logout: the padlock and computer keyslot icons,
respectively. These buttons let you keep people out of your computer while
you're away from it. Use Lock when your absence is temporary, and you
don't want to close the windows opened on your desktop. Clicking it will
activate your screensaver, blanketing your desktop but keeping your
windows up and running. Use Logout to quit your KDE session entirely,
when you're done for the day or when you need to log back in as a different
user. (Make sure you remember your password before clicking either of
these buttons, as both of them require it to let you back in.)

Klipper: the clipboard button opens a box with your most recent cutting,
pasting, and copying activities so you can repeat these actions readily.

Clock: you can change the display on the KDE clock by right- clicking it and
choosing Preferences. Click the clock for a full calendar of the present
month, with the current day highlighted.

Hide Panel: the arrows on both the far right and far left ends of the panel
assist desktop-hungry users and minimalists alike. Click either, and you'll see
the panel zip off the screen, except for its outer tab that contains an arrow
pointing in the opposite direction. Click this arrow again to restore the panel.
To move the panel to either side of your screen, drag and drop an empty space on the
taskbar toward either side of the desktop. When you see an outline of the panel on the
side to which you want it moved, release the mouse button, and your panel will jump to
its new home on your screen.
The Desktop
Let's have a look at the desktop itself. To begin, let's call up two useful shortcut
menus from the desktop.
Desktop Shortcut Menus
Right- click any blank part of the desktop to open a pop-up menu. You'll find it
contains many of the same options found on the panel, such as the Help menu
and the Run Command, among others.
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Clicking the Enable Desktop Menu option instantly transforms the menu into
a bar at the top of the desktop. To access the menu features using this bar, click
the heading you want to access, then choose the entry from the drop-down menu.
To remove the bar, right-click the desktop, then click Disable Desktop Menu.
If your mouse has a middle button, middle- click on the desktop to call up
the Show Windows List, also found on the panel.
Desktop Icons
The last group of KDE default icons is the desktop icons, which may vary
among distributions. (To add additional icons or replace existing ones, see the
"Adding Icons" section in Chapter 11.)

Trash: opens Konqueror to display discarded files. When the trash is empty,
the icon has a lid; when the trash contains files, the icon displays a can
overflowing with trash. (See "Working with Files" in Chapter 3 to learn
more about trash.)

Autostart: opens a Konqueror window in which you can place applications
you want launched each time you log in.
To add an application to Autostart, simply select the program you wish to
add from the Konqueror file manager (See Chapter 3 for how to use
Konqueror) and drag it to the Autostart folder. A menu will pop up allow-
ing you to add the item to Autostart.

Printer: opens the printer configuration window, with options for
controlling and customizing your individual print jobs.

Floppy: allows access to files on a floppy disk.

CD-ROM: allows access to files on a CD-ROM disk.
Figure 2.14: The Desktop Shortcut Menu
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The floppy and CD-ROM icons are covered more fully in the "Accessing
Files on Removable Media" section of the Chapter 3.
If you have other drives connected to your system, such as an LS120 or Zip
disk drive, icons for these drives should appear on your desktop as well.
Navigating with the Keyboard
Using keyboard shortcuts instead of the mouse can save a lot of time. Earlier
versions of KDE refer to these keyboard combinations as key bindings, but cur-
rently they are referred to as shortcuts. The default shortcuts for managing your
desktop are called global shortcuts.
From the K menu, open the Preferences submenu, then open Look & Feel,
and select Shortcuts. The first tab in this window includes all KDE default global
keyboard shortcuts available to you, giving you both key combinations and their
functions. This window offers a quick reference if you forget a certain key bind-
ing. Notice the function descriptions without key combinations; KDE allows you
to create your own key bindings so you can use choose additional shortcuts or
modify existing ones. See Chapter 11 for details.
The alt key can be used in conjunction with other keys to call up certain menus,
close or identify windows, and show the contents of your virtual desktops.
KDE's default settings allow
to be used with the first five function keys
(the keys located in the top row of your keyboard that start with an F and are
followed by a number). Pressing
-F1 (at the same time) takes you to the K
menu. Use the arrow keys to scroll down, up, right, and left in this menu. To
open a submenu, press the
key. To escape this submenu, press the
key. Pressing the
key takes you out of the K menu altogether.
-F2 calls up the Run Command window. Pressing
-F3 calls
up the Window menu of the window currently in use. The underlined letters in
this menu's entries are the letters you can use to access the menu options from
your keyboard.
Figure 2.15: Using the Keyboard with the Window Menu
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Use the arrow keys to scroll down to the entry you want to use. Press the
down arrow key to highlight Move, and then press the letter M. It looks like
nothing happened, but if you press your arrow keys randomly, you will see that
the window is moving again. To get out of Move mode, press
. Now call
up the same menu, highlight the Size option, and press S. Use your arrow keys
to reshape the size of the window. Press
when you're finished.
-F4 closes the current window, and pressing
-F5 calls up the
Show Windows List, listing all virtual desktops and windows in use.
You can cycle through the windows opened on your desktop with
. Hold down
as you press
to move from window to window. Release the
key when you
find the window you want to use.
You can also use your mouse in conjunction with your keyboard to move or
change the size of your windows. Open a terminal window from your panel (the
icon with the screen and a shell). Place your pointer over the window's white
space, hold down
, and click. Release the
key, but continue to hold
down the left mouse button and move your mouse. Release this button when
you've repositioned your window to your liking.
Now place your pointer over the white space again, press
, and right-
click. Remember this bidirectional arrow? Depending on where you click, you'll
get a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal arrow. To reshape the window, release the
key while still holding down the right mouse key, and drag the mouse in
any direction.
in combination with the F1, F2, F3, and F4 keys switches you to
desktops 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. Pressing
moves you to the next
desktop; pressing
calls up the Task Manager window; and pressing
-V calls up the Klipper pop-up menu. Again, to escape these windows,
Initially, you may want to use the mouse to navigate your desktop, but as
you become more familiar with the KDE environment, you can start experi-
menting with the shortcuts. You may even get to where you rarely take your
hands off the keyboard.
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