KaOS 2022.06 gives the KDE desktop an out-of-the-box but user-friendly twist

I love it when a distribution dares to be different. We have enough clones of the Windows desktop metaphor and macOS has pretty much perfected the dock/topbar layout. So when I see a distribution that takes a standard desktop and flips it on its ear, it immediately gets my attention.

Such is the case with KaOS 2022.06, which takes the KDE desktop environment and gives it an out-of-the-box twist to give it just enough unique flavor, without adding an extra layer of complexity for users.

Before I get into this subtle twist, let’s find out what exactly KaOS 2022.06 is. Essentially, KaOS is an open-source operating system that uses the KDE desktop environment to create a user-friendly Linux distribution that anyone can use. It’s immediately familiar, modern looking, rock-solid, and simple to install.

Of course, one could say that about most modern Linux distributions, as they have come a long, long way from their more challenging roots. According to the KaOS developers, “KaOS has chosen to use the Linux kernel as a base.” They continue with, “After that choice, the best available package manager, most flexible way of package building, repository maintenance is pacman/makepkg for a rolling distro like KaOS.” Okay, so we now know we’re dealing with an Arch Linux-based distribution. Continuing, the developers finish up with “As for the Desktop Environment, there will never be a change, whether it is Linux or Illumos based, KDE Plasma will be the choice, Qt the Toolkit.” That’s great to hear, as a sudden shift from one desktop environment to another can cause, you guessed it, chaos.

Before we continue, let’s talk a little bit about Arch Linux. Why? Because Arch Linux isn’t exactly a flavor of Linux that anyone would ever call user-friendly. It’s not. From installation to management, Arch Linux is a distribution best reserved for users who already know Linux. With that said, why would anyone suggest KaOS for new users? Simply put, KaOS makes Arch Linux easy. And fun.

Adding a little KaOS to KDE

With that said, what makes a challenging distribution easy to use? It all starts with the desktop and KaOS has taken one of the most user-friendly (while remaining flexible) desktops on the market and made it their own. No, they’ve not twisted KDE out of true but simply given it a bit of a makeover by shifting the bottom panel to the right and giving it a flatter theme (Figure 1).

Figure 1

The KaOS desktop in the middle of a system upgrade.

Image: Jack Wallen

Confession time here. I much prefer my desktops not to follow the same old trends that so many have followed (being a bottom panel, start menu, system tray, and desktop icons). I prefer a more minimal desktop that is clean and out of the way (which is why I tend to prefer the GNOME desktop).

What KaOS does is just enough of a twist to make it different (while retaining the simplicity). Click the “K” menu to reveal the Application Launcher (Figure 2), where you’ll find plenty of applications available.

Figure 2

The KaOS Application launcher.

The default KDE application launcher makes it easy to find the applications you need to use.

Image: Jack Wallen

If you don’t find the software you need, you can always launch Octopi, the Arch Linux package manager GUI (Figure 3), which allows you to easily install thousands of free, open-source software.

Figure 3

The Octopi application manager GUI.

The Octopi package management GUI is very simple to use.

Image: Jack Wallen

The Welcome Screen

This is one thing every Linux distribution should add…a welcome screen. For KaOS, that task is given over to a tool called Croeso (Figure 4), which offers quick links to customizations, installable software, available wallpaper, documentation, and more.

Figure 4

The KaOS Linux welcome screen.

Croeso makes it easy for new users to get started on the right foot.

Image: Jack Wallen

Installed applications

As I said earlier, there are plenty of pre-installed applications for you to enjoy, including the likes of:

  • LibreOffice (office suite)
  • Sticky Note (notes)
  • Falkon (web browser)
  • Elisa (music player)
  • Haruna Video Player
  • HP Device Manager
  • K3b (disc burning)
  • Kate (advanced text editor)
  • KDE Connect (device sync)
  • KGpg (encryption)
  • Seafile (desktop sync client)
  • SimpleScreenRecorder (screen recorder)
  • Sweeper (system cleaner)
  • Yakuake (drop-down terminal)

The one caveat for software is that (unlike distributions such as Ubuntu), you won’t find much in the way of proprietary software. So, there’s no Skype, Zoom, or Spotify out of the box. You can, however, install Flatpak with Octopi and then install apps from Flathub. One thing to remember is that you must reboot after installing Flatpak and then add the Flathub repository with:

flatpak remote-add –if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo

You could then add Zoom like so:

flatpak install flathub zoom

You now have access to even more applications for KaOS.

Are you ready for a little KaOS in your life?

If you’ve ever wanted to try Arch Linux, KaOS is certainly one of the better options available. Does that mean KaOS is the best distribution for those new to Linux? The truth is that with the help of KDE, KaOS is an outstanding desktop Linux distribution. But for those who are brand new to even the idea of Linux, I would have to recommend this with a caveat. Although you shouldn’t have any problem installing KaOS and handling the basic tasks, you’ll very quickly find yourself having to do a bit of work to take the next steps. So, the initial learning curve is fairly shallow, but once you get past those beginner moments, you’ll find that the learning curve gets slightly steeper. For some, that’s a good thing because it means they’ll learn something along the way. For those who don’t want to have to educate themselves (once they get past those first steps), you might want to avoid KaOS and go with something more traditional, such as Ubuntu or Linux Mint.

Also: How to install Ubuntu Linux (It’s easy!)

Even so, KaOS is an outstanding Linux distribution with a lot to offer. If you’re of the curious type, this desktop operating system might be your next best option.

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