Lancelot, and the Knights of the Plasma Widget

As controversial as it has been, i've been a supporter of KDE 3's Kickoff menu ( as introduced by openSUSE Linux ), and hence a supporter of the new KDE 4 default menu. There are some vocal protesters, but i feel that this sort of menu is a huge leap forward in general, and something with the ability to type instead of searching through tonnes of submenus is a great relief to me. Adding a few tabs for useful items adds more usability and helps with the overall feel of the menu. While i have heard of the Lancelot menu/application launcher, i had never used it until today. So what is Lancelot? I think the best description requires some images. So i opened up KSnapshot and used some of its great features to just snap a picture the KDE default menu and then Lancelot.

KDE 4 default menu has the text entry bar at the top, allowing me to type just a few letters to find the application i am looking for. The tabs at the bottom allow me to select applications and browse the menu in a simple, yet sophisticated manner. Instead of cascading submenus all over, the menu that you browse to scrolls into the pane as the previous one scrolls out, keeping things small and ordered. The biggest disadvantage is that it is difficult to navigate up the tree of this menu quickly, as there is only a button to take you back up one level. The concept of breadcrumbs ( as with Dolphin or Finder's path bars ) would be great.

Lancelot has some similarities with overall appearance and feel. Also having several tabs for different things, although it does put the Shutdown/Logout items on the main canvas of the menu. Again, it has a text entry bar, allowing me to locate applications within seconds instead of browsing the whole menu. Another brilliant feature is that Lancelot has not only breadcrumbs, but also shows the previous menu in a compressed space next to your current ( you can configure the number of parent menus visible ). Here you have the option to select the menu you would like to be in from the breadcrumbs or the previous menus on the side.

As someone who is a stickler for usability and efficiency, this sort of project is really brilliant. The fact that there is competition between different menu systems is part of what gives open-source operating systems an edge over the commercial ones. The lack of alternatives in Windows and Mac limit their drive to improve the existing one, and result in the lack of efficiency in operating your desktop. While the days of Linux playing catchup to proprietary systems are gone, i feel that the KDE project is now the leader in innovation over all the platforms. Plasma is ever so controversial, but many great innovations have been, and the ideas in Plasma are going to be copied and change the desktop forever. Widgets like Lancelot are proof thereof, congrats to Ivan Čukić and the other guys working on it. The main issues people have with Plasma are to do with stability, and i still find the occasional issue ( normally because i still have old libraries ), but 4.2 is looking to be a release that might lead to mainstream uptake of the KDE 4 series. On another note, well done to the openSUSE team, the openSUSE Plasma theme is really looking great!


  1. I never lost faith to KDE 4, even with the many issues that version 4.0 had. The new technologies & cleaner code base will lead to great innovation in the near future. And K3b & Amarok ported to Windows? It is huge news itself, it will allow for a much easier transition to Linux.

  2. U'r right about the porting of the KDE base libs, it's awesome! i've started using Dolphin, Kate and Amarok ( 2.0 FTW! ) on Windows already :)
    Although i have to admit, Kopete seems under-featured to me after using Digsby at work for so long, so i'm running Digsby through Wine on Linux now... don't kill me :P