Plasma Unity looks - More Latte and window button tweaks

Updated: May 6, 2020

After writing my article on how to style the Plasma desktop to look like Unity, I received a fair deal of emails from readers, including the author of Latte Dock, offering various tips and suggestions on how to improve my work. This included changes to my panel and dock configuration, the use of other widgets that do not require compilation, some other ideas, and such.

Well, since we're after perfection, a true form of art, it's only natural that I write a sequel. This isn't a comprehensive compilation of all the tips and tricks I received, just a selection of the ones that made most sense to me. Of course, I had to make sure everything actually works, and some things are far from trivial, hence this article. Let's begin.

Teaser

Active Window Control

An alternative implementation of window buttons & title that I used is offered by the Active Window Control widget, available through Discover. This one can be installed without the manual compilation I had to do with the Window Buttons applet in my previous attempt. The downside is, this applet is about two years old, without any major updates since.

Configuration

Once I had the widget installed, I added it to the top panel and started tweaking. There's quite a lot you can do with Active Window Control. It can be a little confusing at first, so you might have to go down the route of trial and error until you figure the most suitable layout for your desktop.

AWC configuration

I didn't need to invest too much time figuring out the Appearance and Behaviour (note spelling), but I did focus on the buttons behavior for quite some. By default, Minimize and Maximize buttons are not shown, and the buttons are shown permanently, so you need to tick the right box to have them shown only when an application window is maximized (to mimic the Unity behavior). You can also change the button order, again, so it looks like the other other desktops. However, I wasn't able to find a way to change the theme. If I get it, you can manually load a theme from a file, but you can't just use whatever's already installed and available on the system.

Appearance

Buttons

Buttons, more

Then you have mouse control and application menu. Lots of options, lots of reading.

Mouse control

Application menu

The final result wasn't perfect. I had the buttons, but they didn't use the desired theme, so they felt out of place. By default, the buttons were also rendered super-tiny, and I had to maximize their size to make them look as I needed. I also couldn't find a way to increase the distance from the application icon + title. I might have just missed the option in the rich configuration menu, but it was much easier to accomplish the same with the other widgets in my first attempt.

Final result

Latte Dock tweaks

Here, both the author and several readers informed me that it's possible to use icon scrolling with Latte Dock, much like you get in Unity. This is accessible under Tasks, and you actually need to enable the Scrolling functionality. You may think it works, because it says Automatic: Enabled, but because the toggle isn't switched on, the section isn't actually active. Rather counterintuitive in this respect. In the end, this worked just fine, the scroll animation is fast with almost no delay, and you also have the application menu and the show desktop icon permanently fixed, which is quite handy.

Vertical scrolling

Permanent icons, scroll functionality

The next tweak - indicators. It's possible to use some of the existing application indicators or download additional ones. Not bad, but the fact Latte Dock uses its own configuration, which is significantly different from how Plasma native does it, complicates things. It's not easy discovering the tons of cool options available, especially since you have separate settings for the global dock behavior as well as different layouts.

Indicatorss

Problems remain ...

There were still issues that I wasn't able to resolve. For example, the dock wouldn't stretch fully vertically. For some odd reason, even at 100% height, there was still a 10px gap at the bottom - and the height is specified as percentage and not pixels, which is not very accurate. Similarly, I couldn't find a way to increase the spacing of the application menu icon from the top panel. I did find the Latte spacer widget through Discover, I had it installed, and then I tried to add one, but this simply didn't work.

Spacer widget

Top margin

Bottom margin

I then tried making changes directly through the configuration files. I opened the ~/.config/lattedockrc file and started fiddling with different settings. I was able to make changes, to the best of my understanding of these various options, and I could see the effect. But nothing I did helped change the height or the margin/padding.

[FileDialogSize]
Height 768=480
Width 1366=949
...
[UniversalSettings]
badges3DStyle=false
canDisableBorders=false
currentLayout=Unity
downloadWindowSize=800,550
lastNonAssignedLayout=Unity

I then also looked under a separate configuration file, latte/Unity.layout.latte, and still, I didn't find anything that would help. So while I did make reasonable progress, in the end, I went back to my panel only setup until I can have Latte Dock in perfect order.

Unity looks

Conclusion

I'd like to thank everyone for their help - very neat, and we're making progress. Active Window Buttons are a reasonable suggestion for those who don't wish to compile anything. However, they don't integrate as seamlessly into the desktop as I'd like, and the configuration is a bit rigid here and there. With Latte Dock, this fourth attempt got me ever so closer to the Unity look & feel I want, but there are some stubborn annoyances in the dock that I simply can't resolve. Vertical size and spacing, to name two.

Still, progress! Good stuff. In particular, I think Latte Dock has immense potential, maybe not just in Plasma but in general, and if there was a super magical bundle that contains all the bits and pieces, it would make for an amazing demonstrator. All of it - buttons, title, global menu, dock, the whole shebang. Well, this brings us to the end of this little piece. As always, your suggestions are most welcome. The journey ain't done just yet, so fire away!

Cheers.

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