Buddy Hackett once said, “As a child my family’s menu consisted of two choices: Take it, or leave it.”
On your computer desktop, you often have multiple choices ON your menu, choices of recent documents to open, applications to open, system features to configure, or an option to shut down your machine or log out. Gnome, Mate, and many other desktops have a default menu built in. You can change the menu by installing alternative software. In the case of Mate and some other Gnome alternatives, the desktop comes with the “new and improved” sometimes called “advanced” menu that isn’t the default, and isn’t really an option … you have to fiddle to find out about it, mess around to make it install, then when you run it, you may run into trouble if it crashes. The version Mate supplies, in my experience over several years, crashes regularly.
The KDE Linux Desktop is a step above Buddy Hackett’s home life. Out of the box, you get three distinct options for what kind of menu you like. One of the main reasons people chose different desktops is how the desktop offers the user access to applications, documents, etc. In the old days, a multi-level menu was common. Then, the fancier menus were invented, sometimes called launchers, that would typically open with a list of favorites, or commonly used, software, and possibly recent documents, and a search function to find your things. Eventually, the full fledged dashboard, or “hud,” was invented. This is where the entire screen (or one monitor’s screen if you have multiple monitors), opens up with a bunch of icons and stuff. And, as noted, which of these approaches a given desktop environment was designed around often determined which desktop people liked to use.
Do not mistake this evolutionary scenario for an ordered list of betterness. All three methods have their benefits, and different people will prefer different methods.
You can have any of these three paradigms with pretty much any standard Linux desktop environment, but you will probably have to install, tweak, and mess with software that may not be reliable.
Or, you can use KDE and have all three paradigms as easily accessible, built in, well optimized, maintained options.
The KDE Application Menu looks like this:
You click on the dotty-looking thing on the lower left, and out pops the usual top level menu. There can be three levels in total. You get quick access to power-off or log out, recent applications or documents, and you can alternatively add recent contacts. Note that there is a search window.
The KDE Application Launcher looks like this:
Sorry, this may be a bit hard to see, but in real life it is totally readable. (Also, I think you can configure the transparency option of the various transparent things in KDE). This shows favorite software, which is configurable. Note that I’ve not configured mine, were I to do so it would have a very different list. Just start typing when this launcher is visible, and you are now searching for software. See those partly visible icons along the bottom? They are normally totally visible (my screen shot is imperfect). They are “favorite,” “application,” which is basically the multi-layered menu but a bit different, “Computer,” which is places, “history” and “Often used,” (not currently configured) as well as the non-removable button to shut down the computer. You can pick among these choices, have all, none, or a subset.
If you chose as your “menu” option the “Application Dashboard,” you get this:
This takes up the whole screen, and gives you this giant icon-rich borwsing for stuff experience. Note the menu-ish list on the right. and, you can search by just typing. This is a bit like the Ubuntu Unity dashboard.
Each of these items is very configurable. This is an example of the configuration menu for the Application Menu:
You chose which menu-launcher-thingie method you want to use by right clicking on the menu doohickie in the lower left and chosing “Alternatives.” Then you pick one and chose “switch.” Easy. Looks like this:
This is what is built in. You can do all sorts of other things to enhance your menu-application experience. I suggest you don’t. Stop fiddling with your computer and get to work. But the nice thing about KDE is that you have three highly configurable approaches to finding your applications and recent files, which are built in, maintained, and not broken. This separates KDE from most or possibly all of the other possible Linux desktops.
There are two other ways to get to your applications. One is to hit alt-F2 or the hot key or Krunner, which is a simple one line window that pops up. You can run apps from this, and do a lot of other things as well. The other is to put an icon for your commonly used software on the panel (menu bar, whatever you want to call it) which is probably along the bottom of your screen.
Me? I put the icons for the five or six most commonly used apps on the panel. I’m not sure if I want the application launcher or the multi-level menu to be the default, but I’ll only rarely use it. That makes me think I’ll go for the multi-level menu. When I use the menu to find an app, I’ll appreciate the organized traditional hierarchy to help me find it.