Homerun 1.2.0

Monday saw the release of version 1.2.0 of Homerun, now a collection of launcher interfaces for Plasma Workspaces, powered by a common foundation. If you're already familiar with, or even a happy user of Homerun this description of it might make you raise an eyebrow, so let's take a look at what's new in this version.

Homerun Kicker

Homerun Kicker

The main addition in Homerun 1.2.0 is a second interface built atop Homerun's collection of data sources, the Homerun Kicker launcher menu shown above. Unlike the first Homerun interface, which is designed for use on the full screen or desktop background and meant to be both mouse- and finger-friendly (you can check it out here if you're new to Homerun or just need a memory boost), Homerun Kicker is a more traditional launcher menu design optimized for efficient use by mouse or touchscreen when placed on a panel.

The use of traditional, cascading popup menus is complemented by a sidebar strip in which application favorites and items related to power and session handling may be placed. Both types of items can be added, removed and reordered at will via mouse and menus, much like in the bigger, older brother.

It also has search, which - also a previously known Homerun feature - mines several different sources of data for your query. Unlike in the larger interface, however, results in Homerun Kicker are shown in dynamically created columns, one for each source:

Searching in Homerun Kicker
Mmmmm. All that data.

Homerun Kicker looks and should feel simple, but has a bunch of fairly neat things going on under the hood to achieve that goal. Optimization for efficient mouse use starts with the chosen layout, but doesn't end there: The handling of mouse input is smart enough to, for example, treat a diagonal move into a sub-menu differently from vertical movement, to avoid accidentally switching to a different category when only briefly grazing menu items. The result is a menu that hopefully feels solid, dependable and hassle-free.

Keyboard aficionados have no need to feel to feel left out, either: Arrow keys and other keyboard commands work as you'd expect from a menu. Upon opening Homerun Kicker keyboard input focus is placed on the search field, so the search-and-hit-return workflow familiar to Homerun users is supported here as well.

Another feature worth mentioning is support for setting a custom image as the launcher button. The image can be non-square, enabling greater visual variety and a wider mouse click target.

What else is new?

With both Homerun interfaces built on the same underlying framework, several of the new things in this release pop up in both of them. Acute eyes may have already spotted a "Recent Applications" entry in the first Homerun Kicker screenshot - this is backed by a new Homerun source that can of course also be placed on tabs in the screen-spanning Homerun interface. The same goes for "Power / Session"; having a combined listing of buttons many users mentally group together had been a popular user wish in the past.

The original Homerun interface is most often used as a fullscreen launcher, but thanks to the versatility of the Plasma Workspaces architecture can also be placed on the desktop background, where it is very useful in a tablet or hybrid laptop setting. Some users felt the Plasma Desktop Toolbox getting in their way in this usage mode. It's now hidden by default, but can be toggled on and off from the configuration menu.

There's also the usual collection of minor behavior improvements and bug fixes. One particularly nasty bug could lead to the wrong apps being launched when using the "All Installed Applications" source with a particular combination of sidebar filtering and a search query - that's fixed now.

Future plans

Homerun Kicker is included here as a first version that lacks some of the greater power known from its big brother. In particular, there's no graphical way to change the list and ordering of Homerun sources in the menu yet (though there's one big knob to disable the integration of non-apps data into search results if you don't want it). This is one obvious avenue for future versions to explore.

Those future versions may already be powered by Plasma Next by then - porting to Plasma Next (and therefore Qt 5 and Qt Quick 2) is on the immediate todo as well. The Plasma 1 version will continue to be supported with improvements and fixes until that transition is complete, however.

Some of the work put into Homerun Kicker and the experience gathered with it may also benefit the Plasma Next effort down the road. First reactions from the development period and the users of distributions that have already included Homerun Kicker in their default configuration indicate there's definitely an audience for a traditional menu option that integrates nicely with workspace theming, unlike the classic launcher menu widget currently bundled with Plasma Desktop. Replacing that widget with a derivative of the work accomplished here is one option that's being discussed at the moment.

Closing notes

Welp, that's it! Go grab the tarball or poke your favorite distro for an updated package. After checking out the goods consider providing your feedback. There's a #kde-homerun IRC channel on freenode you can stop by, and of course bugs as well as wishes can be reported at KDE Bugzilla.


I like the idea of the new kicker-like interface, tested it and compared to classic-menu (which I use currently):
+ nice optical integration with desktop
+ I like the search-function and the icons on the left (these should be configurable).
- if some submenus are big (~more than 7 entries), then further submenus would be better (like in classic menu)
- Homerun is noticibly slower than the classic-kmenu for me (intel 1.2 ghz dual core, gma 4500 gfx).
- I like the "last used applications" section on top of the classic menu (could you add something like that?)

By Peter at Wed, 01/29/2014 - 18:30

> + I like the search-function and the icons on the left (these should be configurable).

They are configurable :).

> - if some submenus are big (~more than 7 entries), then further submenus would be better (like in classic menu)

The code technically supports arbitrarily deep nesting, but while interviewing users I heard several times that too-deep nesting is the one element they don't like about the classic menu, so I decided to flatten things to one sub-level for now. That might change, or at least become configurable down the road. Feedback is useful there.

> - Homerun is noticibly slower than the classic-kmenu for me (intel 1.2 ghz dual core, gma 4500 gfx).

Do you use Desktop Effects and the Blur effect in particular? If so, what OpenGL mode is your kwin set to? Blur is a computationally fairly costly effect, and the OpenGL 1 version uses unoptimized ARB shaders on top. There are other reasons why Homerun Kicker might be slower (there are some limitations and bugs in QML 1 that require me to do some work in the popup creation hotpath I'd love to avoid; QML 2 should help there in the future), but the blurred background is something the classic menu doesn't need to do that you can affect.

> - I like the "last used applications" section on top of the classic menu (could you add something like that?)

Notice there's a "Recent Applications" sub-menu. I considered making it inline, but it'd be awkward if the apps didn't have icons, and I felt icons for the main menu entries would clash badly with the favorites sidebar. No icons there and consistent use of sub-menus seems cleaner and simpler.

By eike hein at Wed, 01/29/2014 - 18:40

Nice! but what happens when I use a white wallpaper, will I still be able to read the white font?

By Kye at Wed, 01/29/2014 - 20:38

The font color and the opacity of the background are driven by the Plasma theme. This particular theme might not do so well with a bright wallpaper (though it's better than you might expect, the background comes off medium gray on top of white), but you can always choose a different theme to complement your wallpaper better.

By eike hein at Wed, 01/29/2014 - 20:42

What happens if I don't happen to be staring at a blank workspace, but I actually have apps running. They tend to use bright backgrounds (think websites, for example). This kind of stuff looks great on a dark wallpaper, but when you start using your computer, I'm afraid this kind of eye candy won't work as well anymore. Maybe it should always just display the part of the wallpaper that it would cover, as background for the menu. Would probably still look weird, though.

By Remenic at Thu, 01/30/2014 - 00:03

Again, please note that these things are theme-driven - and it's worth adding that the theme shown in the screenshots isn't the Plasma default, but rather a third-party theme I personally enjoy using. As such good contrast in the default theme is an entirely reasonable concern - just not one directly relevant to this blog post :).

Meanwhile, some folks in the Plasma Next team have actually been working on a new contrast-enhancing window manager effect plugin that affects how semi-opague windows are composited on top of each other; this ought to aid various themes in their efforts in the future. (This further demonstrates how this topic is a more general concern.)

By eike hein at Thu, 01/30/2014 - 03:03

Can't compile it on Korora (based on Fedora, I believe). Cmake complains about missing libkonq in the system. Yum could not find it either.

By Kanwar at Thu, 01/30/2014 - 03:18

Fedora definitely has a libkonq package. Konqueror is part of the kde-baseapps module, perhaps your distro has something like kde-baseapps-libs and a corresponding -dev package.

By eike hein at Thu, 01/30/2014 - 12:14

The Kicker menu resembles a lot like Mint Cinnamon. I mean visually - ofcourse KDE backend is more robust and has powerful capabilities. Just struck me and sharing here :-)

By Anand at Thu, 01/30/2014 - 03:53

very nice!

By electricprism at Thu, 01/30/2014 - 11:26