Plasma desktop menu transparency - Tutorial

Updated: November 24, 2023

This is going to be a tricky article, I must warn you in advance. Why? Because it touches on a topic that may or may not be relevant, depending on which version of the Plasma desktop you use. Therefore, read with caution. But let's assume that you want your Plasma menu to be transparent. Fancy effect 'n' all. Sure. How do you do that? Not trivial.

Plasma does many things extremely well, but the concept of theming can be confusing to newbies. You can set the Plasma theme, desktop theme, window borders, decorations, desktop effects, a mind-boggling array of options. There isn't one way to have fun and customization with Plasma. And if you want the system menu to be transparent, for whatever reason, then you might need this guide. Let us elaborate then, shall we.

Teaser

Application windows transparency, not

You can relatively easily tweak the transparency and blur effects for windows in your desktop session, but not the menu itself. For any selected Widget Style, you can click the Configure button, click the Transparency tab, and then set the desired level of see-through. So far so good. Hint: this depends on the widget style, as not all of them support the feature.

Then, you can also configure Blur - this is done through Desktop Effects. In other words, in addition to making the windows transparent, you can also make the elements under the active window more or less visible. Set the desired level of Blur, and Bob's your uncle.

Blur effect

But none of these settings affect the system menu, though.

Change the Plasma desktop file

To make the system menu transparent, you will need to introduce a manual change to the desktop file. This change may get overridden when you update your system, and by and large, it is a hacky method of doing things. But it lets you accomplish what you seek.

The location of the desktop metadata file will depend on your distribution. In my case, for Kubuntu:

/usr/share/plasma/desktoptheme/kubuntu/metadata.desktop

Back this file up first, then open it in a text editor. Then, look for the following sections, or if they do not exist, create them:

[ContrastEffect]
enabled=true|false
contrast=X.X
intensity=X.X
saturation=X.X

[BlurBehindEffect]
enabled=true|false

You can set the contrast and blur effects as you see fit. There's no rule. For instance:

[ContrastEffect]
enabled=true
contrast=2.0
intensity=0.4
saturation=1.7

[BlurBehindEffect]
enabled=false

Save the file, log out, log back in. Now, you will have a transparent system menu:

Effect working

Conclusion

The matter of system menu transparency is entirely subjective. You may choose to have it or not, and then how much. Personally, I do not see why one should do this, but several of my readers have reached out and asked for a guide on this topic, and here we are. Transparency for the win! Or should we say Kwin, hi hi.

It is also possible, by the time you read this article, that there will be a simple UI option to enable system menu transparency. After all, the KDE team works hard on making their desktop shine, and they constantly introduce fixes and improvements to Plasma. So this tutorial may not actually be needed. But if you cannot find a GUI option, then you might want to edit your desktop file, and test the results. Please be cautious, and make backups first. And that would be all. See you around. Or, see-through you around. With blur. Hi hi, again.

Cheers.