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What's different between Activities and per-desktop widgets?

User avatar MirceaKitsune
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Yes, I already read about Activities and know what they are... as well as how they're meant to play a different role from Virtual Desktops. The second thing still confuses me with the latest implementation however. Activities were initially meant to allow different wallpapers + plasmoid sets, as well as applications being grouped for multiple tasks. But from what I read, after KDE >= 4.5 the option "different widgets for each desktop" has been separated from activities, whereas previously activities would be tied to virtual desktops when that was enabled.

What I don't understand is what the real difference is between using activities and enabling "different widgets for each desktop" in a single activity at this day. Since basically, they both do the same thing; Grouping different windows to a desktop (even the task manager can be set to only show windows from that desktop), having custom widgets on each desktop, and having custom wallpapers on each desktop. Now they seem like two implementations of the very same thing.

Only different use I see for activities is that they can start up / shut down different groups of applications, whereas virtual desktops don't decide what's running and what's not. And when using multiple desktops with multiple activities, you can basically have "groups in each group" which might be useful for extreme multi-taskers. But what's really the difference?

Personally I prefer "different widgets for each desktop" and permanently grouping different windows to different desktops, since I feel it's easier to work with and all in one place. Only thing I can see myself using activities for is saving different desktop designs and settings. Also, is there any possibility that something might change drastically here? I always fear an update might radically change something I'm using, and since I'm thinking of getting different plasmoids for each desktop I'm curious how safe it is to rely on either choice (especially different widgets for virtual desktops).
User avatar Hans
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But from what I read, after KDE >= 4.5 the option "different widgets for each desktop" has been separated from activities, whereas previously activities would be tied to virtual desktops when that was enabled.


Where did you read this? As far as I know, it's still the same (it's very possible that I'm wrong though).

I see the "different widgets for each desktop" option as a way to switch activities using virtual desktop switching mechanisms and find it to kind of break the design of activities.


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airdrik
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That option actually did change. In 4.4 (and prev) it was a hack to enable different widgets+wallpapers on each desktop by tying activities to desktops (enabling the option forced a 1-1 relationship between activities and desktops). At that time there was no other association between activities and desktops (activities were the 'virtual desktops' of widgets).
In 4.5 they revamped the whole activities system, adding in particular the ability to associate windows with activities. They also fixed (and change the text, iirc) of the different widgets option so that instead of tying activities to desktops you actually got different widgets on each desktop.

An example to illustrate the current behavior: let's say I have 3 activities and 4 virtual desktops, providing 12 different work spaces. With the option disabled all desktops in a given activity will have the same wallpaper+widgets; so you end up with 3 different sets of widgets: one for each activity, each one shared by all desktops within an activity. With that option enabled you then end up with 12 different sets of widgets - one for each activity+desktop pair.


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airdrik
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As far as activities vs. desktops, it is largely a matter of preference. Some people prefer the spatial organization provided by virtual desktops (assisted by the pager). Some people prefer the task-oriented organization provided by activities (the primary usage of the mobile-centric Plasma-Active). Some people make use of a combination of the two, using activities to separate tasks and using virtual desktops within an activity for additional space for the given task (the workflow widget is designed around this usage: http://kde-apps.org/content/show.php?content=147428).

One advantage of using activities for organization is that each major KDE release has brought more functionality to activities, including: associating windows with activities (4.6, by default in 4.7), per-activity power management (4.8), and associating documents with activities (4.9).


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User avatar Hans
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airdrik wrote:That option actually did change. In 4.4 (and prev) it was a hack to enable different widgets+wallpapers on each desktop by tying activities to desktops (enabling the option forced a 1-1 relationship between activities and desktops). At that time there was no other association between activities and desktops (activities were the 'virtual desktops' of widgets).
In 4.5 they revamped the whole activities system, adding in particular the ability to associate windows with activities. They also fixed (and change the text, iirc) of the different widgets option so that instead of tying activities to desktops you actually got different widgets on each desktop.


Oh I didn't know that, that's pretty cool. In that case I take back my words about the option "breaking" the concept of activities.


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User avatar MirceaKitsune
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Well, my curiosity before changing my desktop layout is if "different widgets per desktop" risks being removed or merged back into Activities again in future versions. This feels a little uncertain so I thought to ask first. Can I assume the option to have different plasmoids for each desktop will stay and not get removed or replaced by activities again?
airdrik
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MirceaKitsune wrote:Well, my curiosity before changing my desktop layout is if "different widgets per desktop" risks being removed or merged back into Activities again in future versions. This feels a little uncertain so I thought to ask first. Can I assume the option to have different plasmoids for each desktop will stay and not get removed or replaced by activities again?

I imagine that it is pretty safe to rely on it functioning as-is, as it has remained unchanged since the major Activities restructuring in 4.5.


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