Updated: June 4, 2021
Krunner is a multi-purpose application launcher built into the Plasma desktop. Fact. What makes it worthy of mention, you may ask? Well, first, because it's good. Really good. We talked about it in the past, and then I also did separate review of two other launchers of similar nature, both of which were non-default additions to this or that desktop. But we're not here to discuss these other projects, we're here to talk about Krunner and its merits.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about Plasma, praising its many excellent features and tools. One of the entries I decided to include was Krunner. But since it's too complex and useful to review in just a few short, quick sentences, I decided to do a proper, separate article. Similar to my 2015-ish endeavor, I want to tell you more about Krunner and what it does. Has anything changed in the last six odd years? Let's have a look.
The Krunning Man
Many a project has tried, and almost as many a project has failed in providing a useful launcher. The reason is, it's very hard tailoring an assistant tool that does what people need without being in-yer-face. Or if it does too little, it can be easily ignored. Then, there's the subtle matter of integration - how well does the tool reside and cooperate with the rest of the system. If it ain't a part of it, then things will most likely be wonky.
Krunner has always managed to skirt these traps elegantly, but not quite as successfully as it could. The reason is, how do you discover it? Unless you hit Alt + F2, you probably won't. Then, if you're an ordinary user who somehow finds themselves facing Krunner's drop-down search box, do they know how to use it effectively, AKA enjoy more than just a few passing seconds of glamor and fad?
This initial hurdle still remains, but if one can get past it, Krunner offers a wealth of goodies to its users. And, I'm happy to say, it's improved since 2015 a fair deal. One, it has more. Two, equally importantly, it doesn't have too much. Let's elaborate.
What has Krunner ever done for us?
Apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what has Krunner ever done for us? Apart from all that ... So, this utility does a quite a lot. There are two main categories of functionality: file search, Web search, and plugin. Three! Three main categories.
The last part (but first in the list so to speak) - plugins - defines the different tasks that Krunner can do. Powerful, modular. You can enable/disable different plugins, write your own, or install some new ones using the built-in search, or in a bit nicer fashion, through Discover, the software manager in KDE.
The plugins offers a wealth of functions, like system and application control, browsing history search, calculator, translation, unit conversion, time conversion, and more. In Discover, you will also find plugins to manage passwords, control different applications (including VPN tools), set timers and alarms, check public transport timetables, and so forth. Some of these plugins have extra options you can tweak and changes. Some only have one, predefined behavior. Even so, this is very nice.
Using the plugins is easy and a bit complicated at the same time. A quantum behavior. If you know all the trigger words, if you know all the semantic rules to invoke these different functions, you're all good. If you don't, you may wonder how the translator or unit convert works. Nothing too drastic, but a bit beyond Captain Obvious reporting to duty, sir!
In pursuit of data
File search allows you to configure what results Krunner returns when you type in a string. Will it search the local disk, and if then, what kind of results will it provide you? You can create a list of paths you want indexed - and also not indexed. For instance, you may not want to index the contents of any mounted Vault, or folders that hold your private data (for whatever reason). You can also tell Krunner to index hidden files and folders, and even try to index the file content (where possible). This means you will also be to search inside files, and not just their names or location. Very handy, fast and quite accurate, too. Per desktop activity control, because Plasma!
The World Wide Web
The Web Search Keywords section - the third element (not the fifth element surely, hihi) relates to Web search. You can examine and configure the keywords by which Krunner will forward your queries to the relevant online/Internet resource. For example, Amazon, Wikipedia, DuckDuckGo, Bing, and tons more. In other words, you don't need to open your browser, you don't need to add any new search engines, you can just use Krunner on your desktop to do the relevant searches. Very handy and tidy. Moreover, you can perform the searches using private mode. Finally, you can add your own keywords.
And the tool works. It's quite neat. I've been using it in my Plasma desktop quite frequently. For instance, occasionally, I'd use it to restart the Plasma shell or KWin when they go wonk, usually after playing an old, odd game through DOSBox or WINE. Or to do a quick file search or unit conversion. Krunner sits there, waiting for you when you need it. Lovely Jubbly.
Back in the 1950s, they imagined we'd have flying cars, Utopia and universal harmony by 2000. Well, in 2021, we need to settle for something a bit less grandiose. A nice desktop assistant utility that isn't trying to sell your soul to the lowest bidder? Sure. We can do that with flair. Krunner is one of those things you didn't know you needed but make total sense when you try them. Unlike most applications of this nature, it does not try too hard. In fact, it could try a bit harder. But it delivers good results for its plethora of options and functions. The integration is good, the functionality robust. Sure, you won't live your life inside Krunner, but that's not the point. The cute Dystopian concept of perma-busy perma-noisy assistant is all wrong. No one lives such a busy 25th century life.
The program comes with lots of extras, it's flexible - and it allows you to use it without compromising on your privacy. Comparing to the tool I tried some six years ago, it's a whole lot better. It has a clearer identity, it looks better, there's more meaningful functionality, the discoverability is higher, and it never intrudes or bothers you. Definitely a keeper. Well, if you use KDE, you get it, no questions asked. And so, if you fancy a desktop with a bit of extra flair, Krunner offers meaningful, practical usability. It's a really smart application launcher and desktop helper. Me likes. And we're done.