KDE has just announced a few moments ago the release of the Beta version of the forthcoming KDE Plasma 5.9 desktop environment, the next major version following on the work for KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS.

While KDE Plasma 5.8 is an LTS (Long Term Support) release, KDE Plasma 5.9 is not. It's one of those short-term supported Plasma branches that you should be already used to by now, thus bringing yet another set of exciting new features, many under-the-hood improvements across all of its components, and countless bug fixes.

Helping people be more productive, KDE Plasma 5.9 adds interactive previews to the built-in system notifications. For example, you'll now be able to drag the screenshot notifications of the Spectacle utility into various e-mail composers. Additionally, you'll now be able to change icon, label text, working directory, and other properties for the icon widget created when dragging an app or document on the desktop.

Due to popular demand, as well as to enforce heavy multi-tasking, KDE Plasma 5.9 adds support for switching between windows using only Mesa and number shortcuts, as well as to pin various apps in your activities in the Task Manager. It also made it possible for users to mute their favorite audio or video player directly from the Panel Task Manager.

A brand-new applet added to the KDE Plasma 5.9 desktop environment promises to restore an older functionality that was used under the KDE 4 series, namely the ability of grouping multiple widgets together into a single one that's being handled by a tabbed interface, thus allowing the user to more easily access multiple setups and arrangements.

Quick Launch applet improvements, global menus, and streamlined visuals

By far the most exciting new feature of KDE Plasma 5.9 is the return of the global menus, which is probably the most requested so far from KDE 4. "Global Menus have returned. KDE's pioneering feature to separate the menu bar from the application window allows for new user interface paradigm with either a Plasma Widget showing the menu or neatly tucked away in the window bar," reads today's announcement .

Other noteworthy improvements implemented in KDE Plasma 5.9 Beta include a new System Settings network configuration module, the ability to change the window decoration of the global "Look and Feel" desktop themes, redesigned Task Manager tooltips, many visual improvements to the look and feel of the Plasma apps and desktop interface, as well as better Wayland support, which is getting closer to feature completion.

With this announcement, the Beta version of KDE Plasma 5.9 is now available for public testing from the usual channels or through the unstable repositories of various GNU/linux distributions that offer these pre-release packages, such as KDE Neon Developer Edition. The final release of the KDE Plasma 5.9 desktop environment is hitting the streets later this month, on January 31. Check out the videos and screenshot gallery below for more details!

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