KDE Plasma on Arch Linux

Published on June 22, 2022 at 6:51 pm by LEW


In this post I am going to be adding the KDE Plasma Desktop to my Arch Linux Windows 10 dual boot install.

I have already done a few KDE Plasma Arch installs on other test computers, to help determine my best options for a minimal Install. So this is the actual install on my main computer.

I should note that if I do muck it up, I can always start over, as long as I do not touch the Windows, Apps, or Data partitions, I should not have to reinstall Windows (see this post).

The KDE Plasma 5 Desk Top

KDE Plasma is one of the major Linux Desktop environments. It has a reputation for being big, blotted, customizable, and beautiful. Of course blotted is a relative term, in this case mostly when compared with other Linux desktop environments.

I have been using the Gnome desktop for a while now. Before that I was playing with minimal windows managers. The last time I seriously used KDE was back at version 3. I was not overly impressed with the original release of Plasma in version 4.

I am becoming somewhat uncofortable with the direction Gnome is moving. And when using minimal windows managers like JWM and Fluxbox, I found myself supplementing the functionality with other third party apps. So I thought I would give KDE another try.

The current release of KDE is Plasma 5, which in my testing so far has shown itself to be leaps and bounds ahead of Plasma 4, especially in resource usage and responsiveness.

KDE uses what I would call a more traditional desktop metaphor than Gnome, which I prefer on my main computer. Gnome is somewhat akin to a mobile Operating System (OS), which does make it a good choice for laptops.

Prep Work for installing KDE Plasma

There are a few things that need to be done to my Arch Linux installation before adding a desktop environment. Please refer to this post for setting up a dual boot of Arch Linux and Windows 10.

I left off with a basic Arch command line only installation on my eighth generation NUC computer. Before actually installing KDE Plasma, I need to create a user account and setup sudo. Generally most Display Managers (DM) will not let you log directly in as root. So we need a normal user account. And we need to install the sudo program. Note in the previous post there was only a root account in Arch, so it is assumed you are logged in as root.

pacman -S sudo intel-ucode 

You will notice an additional program in the command. The intel-ucode package installs the micro code for Intel processors and chip sets.

Now we add a normal user with the -m option. This will create the user home directory. Then we need to give the user a password.

useradd -m <username>

passwd <username>

Next we need to make the user a sudo user, so they can run administrative commands when needed. There are two ways to go about this. Assign the user to the %wheel group, or give sudo privileges to the user directly. If you are going to have a large group of users, or will be adding users periodically then it may be advantageous to use the %wheel group. Otherwise, if there are only one or two users, you can give them sudo privileges directly. This is done with the visudo command. You will want to add the following line somewhere in the file. Then save and exit.

<username> ALL=(ALL) ALL

I suggest logging out, then back in as the new user and testing sudo privileges. Try this.

sudo shutdown -r now

You should be asked for a password before the command will execute.

Installing KDE Plasma

Now log back in as root. It is time to install our desktop and DM. I notice a lot of tutorials have you install the KDE-applications package. This is huge and installs everything KDE. I do not want this. For example, I use Thunderbird as an email client, and do not need Kmail installed. I also do not need all the KDE games installed. However if you are not familiar with KDE, you might want to install the package just to see whats available. Kmail is not a bad program, I just don’t use it.

pacman -S xorg plasma plasma-wayland-session

This will installl xorg (basic gui server client), the KDE plasma desktop, and the Wayland compositor. I will need to do a future post about the xorg and wayland at some point. I do need to install some additional specific applications, a terminal program, a file manager, a browser, and a display manager. So I enter the following.

pacman -S sddm konsole firefox dolphin

This will install the Simple Desktop Display Manager, the KDE console program, the firefox browser, and the dolphin KDE file manager.

And that should be it. Time to reboot into your GUI environment

Additional Applications

To load additional applications, open the konsole terminal program and use sudo with pacman. You can find a list of KDE application on this wiki page. Or load your own favorite application. They do not have to be KDE specific.

Turn Off XDG User Directories

When you open your home directory, you will note several common directories already created. (like Music, Pictures, and Videos). These were created when you logged in. If you delete them, they will be recreated unless you disable XDG User Directories. This is done by modifying a configuration file. Open /etc/xdg/userdirs.conf, and set enabled = False.

Now when I delete the folders and make links to the data partition, the folders will stay gone.


All that is left is to restart. When you boot into Arch, you will be using SDDM to handle login. Once you log in, you will be at the KDE Plasma Desktop. You should explore, try a few things, do your own customization.

Once you are familiar with the Desktop you can open a consol and use pacman to install some of your favorite productivity application.

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