7 Ways to Launch Programs in KDE

posted in: KDE | 8

One of the most basic and important things you will ever do with your computer is launch programs. Typically, operating systems have one or two methods for achieving this, such as opening a menu (Windows) or folder (Mac OS X), or by clicking an icon on your panel, dock, or desktop.

KDE lineart logo

KDE is a desktop environment that runs on Linux and other Unix-like operating systems. Linux is a versatile OS that runs on servers, such as those offered by server host 34SP.com, desktops, laptops, netbooks, mobile phones, and other devices. With KDE there are several ways to launch programs, and we will highlight seven of those in this article.

1. The K Menu

Like the “start” menu in Windows, the K Menu (Kickoff) in KDE gives you a hierarchical view of the programs installed on your system. In addition to browsing through the categories, you can also search for the exact program you want using the search bar within the menu.


2. Alternative menus

KDE offers two alternative menus. The first is the original K menu, which looks more like the programs menu from earlier versions of Windows, rather than the multi-column, searchable menu it has now.

The second alternative is Lancelot, an advanced searchable menu system that includes much more than just programs. Lancelot is bigger and has extra features, such as the option to navigate and even launch programs without clicking.

3. Krunner

One of the most innovative and easy-to-use features in KDE is Krunner. To launch it at any time, simply press “Alt+F2”. You can also right-click on the desktop and then click “Run Command”. Krunner is only a search box with no browseable features, but once you start typing, you will get a wide range of results, from programs to documents and contacts. It even functions as a calculator. It is possible to do all of your launching from Krunner without ever using anything else. It can even find Linux commands that are not in your graphical menu.


4. Shelf

One of the features Lancelot adds is called Shelf. To use it, simply add the widget to your desktop or panel the way you normally would. When you open the configuration dialog, select either “favorites” to show your app favorites or choose a particular application category. Apps will launch from your shelf just as they would from the menu. You can even add the search bar to search for any apps, as you would from the Lancelot menu.

5. Programs:/

KDE’s file manager has built-in support for launching applications. In the contextual location bar, type programs:/ and press enter. You will now see the same categories that are present in your menu. Clicking through any of those categories will show their equivalent menu content in the form of icons. You can launch any app by clicking its icon.

programs in Dolphin

6. Widgets

You can turn any launcher icon into a widget simply by dragging it from your menu onto your desktop or panel. On the desktop, you can move and resize the widgets however you want. On the panel, they will function like normal buttons.

7. Pinned tasks

A rather new feature in KDE is the ability to pin tasks to the panel. Once a task is pinned, it will become an icon that is indistinguishable from a widget button.

All About Options

You might ask yourself, “Why does KDE have so many methods for starting programs?” The reason is that Linux users (and KDE users in particular) like options. For some, a traditional start menu is the way to go. Others would die without a shortcut launcher like Krunner. Which one you use the most completely depends on your preferences.

Many people, myself included, use a combination of several of these to get the best experience. For example, you may have quick-access apps on your panel, but may launch others with Krunner. When you are not sure what program you want to launch, you can browse through them with the menu or file manager. With a great set of options and tools to get the job done, your productivity should be higher, and that should lead to complete satisfaction.

8 Responses

  1. Samuel

    Thanks for the article as I’ve just switched to KDE a few days ago and could get all the help to get it to know better. I didn’t know all the ways to do it and I really like KRunner as a quick access for almost everything

  2. Tavis J. Hampton

    My pleasure. There are a lot of great features that are not well documented. If you’re interested, I’ve written some more about KDE here:


    I am also working on a book, published by RapidBooks that should help new users get acquainted with it.

    Finally, please subscribe to this site, as I will be periodically posting more KDE articles here.

  3. darkduck

    >7. Pinned tasks
    It’s only available in recent KDE releases. I believe 4.5 and higher. Some distributions still have older releases available.

  4. darkduck

    I’d like to add one more: quicklaunch panel.
    I like plasma-applet-quicklaunch as it allows multiple lines of buttons – this saves space on taskbar.

  5. Tavis J. Hampton

    @darkduck You’re right, but I always install and write about the latest versions. I’m currently using 4.7. Regarding quicklaunch panel, thanks for mentioning it. I forgot about that one.

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