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Checking out the notebookbar and other improvements in LibreOffice 6.0

by Martin de Boer

With any new openSUSE release, I am interested in the improvements that the big applications have made. One of these big applications is LibreOffice. Ever since LibreOffice has forked from OpenOffice.org, there has been a constant delivery of new features and new fixes every 6 months. openSUSE Leap 15 brought us the upgrade from LibreOffice 5.3.3 to LibreOffice 6.0.4. In this post, I will highlight the improvements that I found most newsworthy.

Notebookbar

One of the experimental features of LibreOffice 5.3 was the Notebookbar. In LibreOffice 6.0 this feature has matured a lot and has gained a new form: the groupedbar. Lets take a look at the 3 variants. You can enable the Notebookbar by clicking on View –> Toolbar Layout and then Notebookbar.

Please be aware that switching back to the Default Toolbar Layout is a bit of a hassle. To list the tricks:

  • The contextual groups notebookbar shows the menubar by default. Make sure that you don’t hide it. Change the Layout via the View menu in the menubar.
  • The tabbed notebookbar has a hamburger menu on the upper right side. Select menubar. Then change the Layout via the View menu in the menubar.
  • The groupedbar notebookbar has a menu dropdown menu on the upper right side. Make sure to maximize the window. Otherwise it might be hidden.

The most talked about version of the notebookbar is the tabbed version. This looks similar to the Microsoft Office 2007 ribbon. That fact alone is enough to ruffle some feathers in the open source community. In comparison to the ribbon, the tabs (other than Home) can feel rather empty. The reason for that is that the icons are not designed to be big and bold. Another reason is that there are no sub-sections in the tabs. In the Microsoft version of the ribbon, you have names of the sub-sections underneath the icons. This helps to fill the empty space. However, in terms of ease of use, this design does the job. It provides you with a lot of functions in an easy to understand interface.

The most successful version of the notebookbar is in my opinion the groupedbar. It gives you all of the most needed functions in a single overview. And the dropdown menus (File / Edit / Styles / Format / Paragraph / Insert / Reference) all show useful functions that are not so often used.

By the way, it also works great for Calc (Spreadsheets) and Impress (Presentations).

Finally there is the contextual groups version. The “groups” version is not very helpful. It shows a very limited number of basic functions. And it takes up a lot of space. If you want to use more advanced functions, you need to use the traditional menubar. The traditional menubar works perfectly, but in that case I rather combine it with the Default toolbar layout.

The contextual single version is the better version. If you compare it to the “normal” single toolbar, it contains more functions and the order in which the functions are arranged is easier to use.

There is no real need to make the switch to the notebookbar. But it provides you with choice. One of these user interfaces might just suit your taste.

Microsoft Office compatibility

Microsoft Office compatibility (especially .docx, .xlsx and .pptx) is one of the things that I find very important. As a former Business Consultant I have created a lot of documents in the past. I have created 200+ page reports. They need to work flawless, including getting the page brakes right, which is incredibly difficult as the margins are never the same. Also the index, headers, footers, grouped drawings and SmartArt drawings need to display as originally composed. I have created large PowerPoint presentations with branded slides with +30 layouts, grouped drawings and SmartArt drawings. I need these to render perfectly in the slideshow. Furthermore, I have created large multi-tabbed Excel sheets with filters, pivot tables, graphs and conditional formatting. All of these need to be conserved when I open these files in LibreOffice.

And no, LibreOffice is still not perfect. But damn, it is close. This time I have seen no major problems when opening older documents. Which means that LibreOffice finally gets SmartArt drawings right. In Writer, the page breaks in different places compared to Microsoft Word. That has always been an issue. But I don’t see many other issues. In Calc, the rendering of the graphs is less beautiful. But it’s similar enough to Excel. In Impress, presentations can look strange, because sometimes you see bigger/smaller fonts in the same slide (and that is not on purpose). But I was very impressed to see branded slides with multiple sections render correctly. If I needed to score it, I would give LibreOffice a 7 out of 10 for Microsoft Office compatibility. A very solid score. Below some examples of compatibility done right.

Noteworthy features

Finally, there are the noteworthy features. I will only highlight the ones that I find cool. The first one is the ability to rotate images in any degree. Below is an example of me rotating a Gecko.

The second cool feature is that the old collection of autoformat table styles are now replaced with a new collection of table styles. You can access these styles via the menubar: Table –> AutoFormat Styles. In the screenshots below, I show how to change a table from the Box List Green to the Box List Red format.

The third feature is the ability to copy-past unformatted text in Calc. This is something I will use a lot, making it a cool feature.

The final feature is the new and improved LibreOffice Online help. This is not the same as the LibreOffice help (press F1 to see what I mean). That is still there (and as far as I know unchanged). But this is the online wiki that you will find on the LibreOffice.org website. Some contributors obviously put a lot of effort in this feature. It looks good, now also on a mobile device. Kudos!

If you want to learn about all of the other introduced features, read the release notes. They are really well written.

And that’s not all folks

I discussed LibreOffice on openSUSE Leap 15. However, LibreOffice is also available on Android and in the Cloud. You can get the Android version from the Google Play Store. And you can see the Cloud version in action if you go to the Collabora website. Check them out for yourselves.

Published on: 25 June 2018

Testing KDE Plasma Vault on openSUSE Leap 15

by Martin de Boer

I never considered using encrypted folders. But when the KDE project announced it with the release of the Plasma 5.11 desktop environment, it made total sense. Just like KDE Connect, this is one of these killer features that can convince people to give Linux a try. With the release of openSUSE Leap 15, it was the perfect time to test this application.

Installing Plasma Vault

The easiest way to install Plasma Vault, is to search in YaST Software Manager for plasma-vault, check the box next to it and click on Accept and then on Continue.

Creating a vault

Creating a vault can be done from the system tray by clicking the Lock button, which will open the Vaults pop-over window. Click on the big button “Create a new Vault…” and a new window will open.

Type in a suitable name, click Next.

Now you will get a warning that the encryption method EncFS is not 100% secure. If you want to read more about this, there is a comparison article on the website of CryFS that explains it in easy terms. By the way, you can also install the CryFS backend in YaST. However, I would recommend that you stick with EncFS for now, as CryFS has received a fix in the Plasma 5.13 release. Click Next.

Provide a secure password for your vault. In general, the best advice is use an application like KeePassX to help you generate a long and random password. Otherwise try making your password long (12-20 Characters) and use a combination of lower letters, capital letters, numbers and symbols. Click Next.

The last thing you need to do is tell Vault where the folder should be mounted. You can use any folder location in your /home directory. By default it will create the folder in /home/username/Vaults/Foldername/. Click Next.

You can also limit the visibility of the Vault to certain activities. I don’t use activities, so I personally don’t do this. Click Create. Your vault is now configured.

Using the vault

You can use the vault from the applet in the system tray. Open the Encrypted folder with your favorite file manager.

Place a file in the vault, that you want to keep from prying eyes.

Now you can lock the encrypted folder by pressing the eject button.

If you manually browse to the location that you have indicated as the Mount point, you see no files.

You can unlock the encrypted folder by pressing the mount button and typing in your password.

Your files now magically turn visible in the mounted folder.

Testing issues

The only issue that I found with KDE Plasma Vault is that I am not able to delete my test vault from inside the pop-up window. This bug has already been reported and has been fixed in the KDE Plasma 5.13 release. If you want to delete an Encrypted folder, I would recommend you to use the work-around that is mentioned in the bug report. Don’t try to install plasma-vault 5.13 on openSUSE Leap 15, as it has some dependencies that can break your operating system.

Conclusion

KDE Plasma Vault is a wonderful application. It works as advertised and is another killer feature for the KDE Plasma desktop environment. I highly encourage you to give it a try on openSUSE Leap 15.

Published on: 18 June 2018

The sad state of KDE Discover and GNOME Software on openSUSE Leap 15

by Martin de Boer

Software centers have become very important. Linux was the first place where you could install and update all software in one place, by using package managers. In openSUSE that central place is the YaST Software Manager. Other distributions, such as Ubuntu, used applications like the Synaptic package manager. The user experience of these package managers is not very user friendly, as they show many technical packages / details, which most users will not understand.

In 2008, Apple introduced the iOS App Store. This changed the public perception on how software centers should work. Everything was now in one place, neatly organized into categories. The screenshots, descriptions and ratings made it easy to learn about new software. And installation was a breeze. Google followed this trend by announcing Android Market later in 2008. Apple introduced the App Store for Mac OSX in 2010. Google re-branded the Android Market in 2012 to Google Play store. And in the same year, Microsoft introduced the Windows Store for Windows 8. This store was re-branded in 2017 to the Microsoft Store.

Within the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) world, Canonical was the first player to embrace this trend. They developed the Ubuntu Software Center and released it in 2009. The Ubuntu Software Center had the same features that made the iOS App Store great. After 2 years of steady development, the development pace slowed down. And more and more media outlets voiced their concerns on the lack of new features. They didn’t keep up with the big players anymore.

In 2013, the GNOME project released the GNOME 3.10 desktop environment. This included GNOME Software, an application for finding and installing applications. It was their version of the software center. And over the last 5 years it has been steadily developed. The pace hasn’t slowed down. You can now use it to install Flatpak applications. And in Fedora, it can now even be used to update the BIOS.

KDE was relatively late to the party. In 2015 KDE included the Muon package manager as part of the Plasma 5 desktop environment. Over the last few years, the user interface has gotten a big overhaul and Muon has been re-branded to KDE Discover. After having installed openSUSE Leap 15, I was very interested to see if KDE Discover worked as intended and could live up to bar set by the competition.

Testing KDE Discover

The first thing I noticed when opening KDE Discover, was that KTorrent was not installed on my machine. As this is a very nice program for downloading Linux ISO’s or video podcasts (shout-out to Jupiter Broadcasting), I decided to install that one first. After pressing the install button, the software downloaded. I clicked the Install button again and it gave me an error. Package not found (see below). I still liked to install KTorrent, so I opened the YaST Software Manager and installed KTorrent without any issues.

My next attempt was TuxGuitar. This is a fun application that makes playing music easy by showing the music score, playing the music as a midi file and scrolling along with the progress of the song. You hit the install button and it starts downloading. One of the strange behaviors of KDE Discover is that while displaying the search results, it continuously shows that it is still looking.

I hit install for the second time and this time it gave me a very strange warning. I needed to remove a variety of games and KDE applications before I could install TuxGuitar. I clicked cancel to see if this warning was also present in YaST.

I searched TuxGuitar in YaST and checked the box to install it. No errors. To be sure, I did an additional check on missing / problematic package dependencies. There were none. I installed the software without any issue using YaST.

The third attempt. I knew that KWrite was not installed by default in openSUSE Leap 15. The more powerful application Kate is the default text editor. So I tried installing Kwrite. I used YaST in advance to check if there were any package dependencies. YaST indicated that no additional software packages needed to be installed. I closed YaST without installing Kwrite and opened KDE Discover. This time, KDE Discover was able to successfully install Kwrite.

Another new functionality of KDE Discover is the integration with the KDE Store. The KDE Store is a place where new wallpapers, new icons and new themes can be found and installed. I decided to look for and install a new wallpaper. You can do this by clicking on Plasma Addons and then on Wallpapers. You can search within the wallpaper section, but there is no possibility to sort the search results. This is too bad, because other area’s of the Plasma desktop do have that functionality. When you right-click on the Desktop (context menu) and go to “Get New Wallpapers” you can order the search results on Newest, Ratings and Most downloads.

I decided to install Vivid Coast 4K. I hit install and this completed without any issues. I noticed that you can now view the Wallpaper by means of clicking through an image gallery. This looked very slick.

In the end, I am disappointed with KDE Discover. It works for simple installations, but it cannot handle complex scenarios. The integration with the KDE Store works well. At the same time I miss the option to sort the search results. These features are now taken for granted in other App Stores. KDE Discover still has some ways to go. Because of that experience, I wanted to compare it to GNOME Software. I used KDE Discover to install GNOME Software. This went fine, which surprised me, as YaST (which I checked in advance to see if there would be any package dependencies) indicated that many additional software packages were needed.

Testing GNOME Software

Is GNOME software better equipped to handle software installation on openSUSE Leap? I started GNOME Software and immediately encountered an error. I looked up the error online and found that this error is caused when Steam is installed without GNOME Software. The easy fix was to remove and reinstall Steam. The removal / installation process went fine. And the error was gone as well.

So let’s start with the real testing. I prepared a test by removing the Kdenlive video editor with the help of YaST. I started GNOME software and looked for Kdenlive. To my surprise, GNOME Software couldn’t find it at all.

The second test was installing TuxGuitar. To make it a fair comparison, I needed a (clean) situation where the previously installed software dependencies were still missing. I decided to test this on my Virtualbox installation of openSUSE Leap 15 with the GNOME desktop. I prepared the test by installing a bunch of the applications (Krita, KStars, Scribus) that caused problems during the KDE Discover tests with help of YaST. After that, I started GNOME Software and looked for TuxGuitar. No results.

The third test was installing Kwrite. This test was also conducted on my Virtualbox installation of openSUSE Leap 15. Luckily GNOME Software managed to find Kwrite and install it. Not totally without issues, as GNOME software did display an error. Whatever went wrong didn’t prevent the installation, so this error seemed a bit out of place.

In Conclusion

I am a longtime openSUSE user. For me, using YaST has become second nature. However, many new openSUSE users (for instance distro hoppers who started on Ubuntu) will look for a software center / app store to find and install applications. I have encountered many issues during my testing. New users who are trying out openSUSE for the first time might decide to move on to other Linux distributions when they encounter these kinds of issues. Which is too bad. Because if they would stick to YaST Software Management or to installing via the command line with Zypper, they would have a very different experience. I hope this blog helps to raise awareness within the openSUSE community. Because fixing these implementation details is important to the overall experience of a high quality distribution.

Update 18 June 2016

The latest KDE Plasma 5.13 release includes a huge (137) number of fixes for the Discover application. This fixes my complaints on the sorting of the results (see this picture). These features will land in a future openSUSE Leap release. So for Leap 15, I would recommend everyone to stick to YaST for installing software.

For both KDE Discover (1) and GNOME Software (2), I have filed bugs on the openSUSE bugtracker.

Published originally on: 10 June 2018

What’s new in openSUSE Leap 15 – KDE Plasma 5.12

One of the most exiting new things about openSUSE Leap 15 is the updated KDE Plasma desktop environment. We are moving from Plasma 5.8 LTE to Plasma 5.12 LTE. Which means that there are a lot of new features to look forward to. Lets start with emphasizing that the KDE Plasma 5.12 desktop environment looks stunning. Below is a screenshot of my personal desktop, fully configured to my personal preferences. My configuration hasn’t changed much since KDE Plasma 4.3. I use 3 widgets: a folder view, an analog clock and a network monitor.

General improvements

The Plasma desktop environment has a new default desktop that uses the Folder view. This means that just like Windows, you can place all your icons on your Desktop. This change recognizes that most people stick to old habits. It might not be the best choice from an aesthetic point of view, however it is the best default to implement.

The second improvement is the ability to control your media from the lock screen. This only works with the traditional media players. So you can’t control music playing in your browser.

Task manager improvements

The task manager has received a lot of attention in the last few releases of the Plasma desktop. Two features deserve your attention. The first improvement is the ability to mute applications from the taskbar. This is really nice for quickly muting a browser playing videos.

The second improvement is the addition of jump lists. This is a very welcome feature. For instance, it allows you to quickly open recent documents from LibreOffice.

Notification improvements

There are also some nice improvements to the notification widget. The first one is that notifications are now persistent. In the past, when applications didn’t indicate that their notifications should be persistent, they disappeared after a while. Now all notifications are persistent by default, so that you can look back. Of course, you can always clear your history whenever you want.

The second nice feature is that when you save a screenshot (using Spectacle), you can now perform various actions from the notification screen, like open the containing folder or open the image with Gwenview.

Application launcher improvements

The application launcher has 3 different appearances:

  • Application Dashboard
  • Application Launcher
  • Application Menu

The application dashboard is a full screen application launcher that has been polished in the last few releases. This is an alternative to the Windows 8/10 full screen start menu or to the Apple MacOS full screen dock. The last time I tested this feature, it was quite buggy. But (based on my recent testing) it is now behaving properly.

The second option is the application launcher that behaves a lot like the Windows Vista start menu. All menus open within the same area (click-through). However, this application launcher is way better than the one from Windows Vista. It’s much more powerful as it uses the Krunner search back-end to quickly provide you access to your applications, locations and files. Type something into the search window and it will find it on your computer.

One of the nice improvements is that you can now easily decide which tabs you like to use. So if you want to remove the Favorites section, you can just drag this away in the settings.

The third application launcher is my personal favorite. Its the one with pop-out menus. This is a very basic launcher, but it has the same powerful search capabilities. Favorites are listed as icons on the left side. And there are also lists with recent applications and recent documents.

A new feature is that when you remove all favorites, the menu is hiding the favorite section for a very minimal appearance.

Configuration settings redesign

The configuration settings have been redesigned. However, when I opened the configuration settings, it still appeared as it looked in openSUSE Leap 42.3.

You can adjust this by clicking on Configure and then selecting the Sidebar view.

You will now see the new responsive design. I am not sure if this is really an improvement. In this redesign, you lose the overview of all configuration items. When selecting a configuration item, the item list on the left changes to the specific options for that configuration item. You have the option to go back. But there is no gain in ease of navigation compared to the icon view. In my opinion, this design would work if a 3 panel layout would appear after selecting the configuration item. Then you would have an easier way to navigate between the various configuration items. This design might work better for mobile phones, but I don’t see the benefit for desktop users.

Discover and Vault

There are 2 applications that deserve an in-depth look. The first one is Discover, the software center of KDE. Discover wasn’t well integrated in the previous openSUSE Leap release. So I had high hopes for this release. The second one is KDE Vault. This is a method to create an encrypted folder on your computer to store files that you don’t want other people to access / see. I have tested both applications.

I am disappointed in Discover. Of the 3 applications that I tried to install, only the last one went without a problem. And these problems are not present when installing the same applications with the YaST Software Manager. You can read about these problems in a separate blog post.

KDE Vault works as advertised. I can imagine that users find a use case for this application. The only problem that I encountered was that once you create a vault, you cannot delete it anymore. This is unfortunate, as I didn’t have a use for my Test vault. One remaining note is that it isn’t installed by default on openSUSE Leap 15. To install it, use the YaST Software Manager and search for plasma-vault. YaST will automatically install all needed dependencies. I will create a separate blog post that describes how to create a vault.

Wayland improvements

The last improvements that I like to discuss, are the improvements to Wayland. Wayland is the new display protocol that will replace the 30 year old X.Org display server. Wayland is secure by design and X.Org is not. However, this is a big transition. Functions like print screen and remote desktop sessions need to be implemented in a different manner. There are still unsolved issues with the KDE Wayland implementation. One of them is that Wayland doesn’t play nice with the proprietary Nvidia driver. So its a work in progress. But KDE Plasma 5.12 makes big improvements in this area and I applaud the developers for their hard work. If you are not using proprietary GPU drivers, you can try it by changing the session to KDE Wayland at the login screen. Just don’t be surprised when something goes wrong. openSUSE Leap 15 makes the right choice by selecting KDE on X.Org as the default.

Published on: 4 June 2018

What’s new in openSUSE Leap 15 – installation experience

A big release

On the 25th May 2018, openSUSE Leap 15 was released for download. Over the last few days I have upgraded both of my systems to this new release. Although this was a big release for openSUSE, the media attention for this release was surprisingly low. The reason why this is a big release, is that the underlying software packages are all new.

openSUSE Leap 42 has a shared core with SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 (SLE 12). For instance Leap 42.2 shares a lot of software packages with Service Pack 2 (SLE 12 SP2). And Leap 42.3 shares a lot of packages with SLE 12 SP3. The shared core was on average 20% of the total number of packages. Because of that shared core, some of the packages were starting to show their age.

openSUSE Leap 15 shares a lot of software packages with SUSE Linux Enterprise 15, which in itself is based on a 2017 fork of openSUSE Tumbleweed. That means that all of the underlying packages in SLE 15 have been updated to a more current version in comparison to SLE 12 SP3. The shared core for openSUSE Leap 15 is (according to a FOSDEM 2018 presentation) about 27% of the total number of packages. And the remaining packages are originating from (an even more recent fork from) openSUSE Tumbleweed. Which means that we get a lot of improvements in openSUSE Leap 15.

A good example (to get an idea about the progress that has been made) is the underlying Linux kernel, which has been updated from version 4.4 to 4.12. Linux kernel 4.4 was released in January 2016 and Linux kernel 4.12 was released in July 2017. You cannot simply assume that the SLE kernel is identical to the upstream Linux kernel, because SUSE includes a lot of back-ports of security fixes and of hardware drivers in their kernels. However, you can assume that most of the newly introduced features in more recent Linux kernels are not being back-ported. So the upgrade from SLE 12 to SLE 15 means that we get 1,5 years of new features from the Linux kernel community.

So openSUSE Leap 15 is a big release. But is it any good? In this article I will focus on the installation experience.

Installation

I have installed openSUSE Leap 15 on 2 machines. The first one is a netbook: the Acer Aspire One 725. This machine has an AMD C70 chip set (CPU + GPU), 4 GB of DDR3 memory and a 120 GB SSD hard drive. The second one is a bare-bones desktop: the Zotac ZBOX Sphere OI520. This machine has an Intel Core i5-4200U CPU, Intel HD Graphics 4400, 16 GB of DDR3L memory and a 256 GB SSD hard drive. For both machines I have opted for a fresh installation instead of doing an upgrade.

Every time I install a new openSUSE release, I evaluate whether to do an update or a fresh install. The ‘problem’ with any Linux is that over time, when you install new software packages, a lot of dependencies (additional software packages that are required for the software to function) are automatically installed. But when you remove that same software package, some of these dependencies don’t get automatically removed. Which means that over time, you can collect a lot of software packages that are not used anymore. The advantage of updating is that all of the old software packages remain installed. The advantage of a fresh install is that all of the old unused packages get removed. So in general, I update between minor releases (Leap 15 to Leap 15 SP1) and I do a fresh install between big releases (Leap 15 SP3 to Leap 16).

There are 2 bottlenecks in the installation experience. The first one is the WiFi setup. The second one is the hard drive partitioning. The installation starts easy enough by asking you if you want to boot from hard disk, perform a new installation, perform an upgrade or more (which includes booting into a rescue system). You select Installation (in this example). You agree to the license.

And then you meet the network settings. This screen is similar to the networking setup for the YaST Wicket Service. You need to click on your network card. Then click Edit. Then select Dynamic Address. Then select Next. Then select Scan Network. Pick your network from the Network Name (ESSID) drop-down menu. Then select WPA-PSK (WPA version 1 or 2) from the Authentication Mode drop-down menu. Then fill in your WiFi password in the Encryption Key field. Click Next and then Click OK. Now you can continue to the next part of the installer.

The advantage of configuring your WiFi settings is that the openSUSE installer can install the latest versions from the online repositories. Which means that your openSUSE installation is fully up to date after the installation has ended. The disadvantage is that the configuration is rather complicated. My advice would be to plug-in an Ethernet cable before starting the installation. This means that the installer will automatically detect the internet connection and will simply skip this step.

Now you can select the Desktop environment. I have used KDE (Plasma) for the last 10 years and therefore always select that one. You can configure the online repositories, but I would advice to simply leave that as-is and configure the repositories after the installation is complete.

The next step is the Partitioning. This is the part where most users will encounter the biggest difficulties. First lets discuss some advantages of the openSUSE approach. The default partitioning setup is great. openSUSE creates a separate /home partition by default. This means that whenever something happens to openSUSE, you can simply blow away the root (“/”) partition and reinstall openSUSE. This is a worst case scenario, because there is a better way to rescue your system: BtrFS. This is a modern file system based on the “Copy on Write” principle. Which means that whenever you install something new, it also keeps the old version around. And you can move between “snapshots”. A snapshot is created every time you install something new. Which means that if you screw up, you can simply undo your mistake from the boot screen. But if even that fails, you can simply blow your operating system partition away, while keeping your personal data safe. This is exactly what I did. I have formatted the root partition and have installed openSUSE Leap 15 in that same partition. I kept my /home partition unchanged.

But say you don’t understand anything about partitioning. Then you can simply go with the default proposal. Nothing wrong with that. As stated before, the default setup is great. Or you can take the Guided setup. This means that you answer some easier questions and the tool automatically determines your setup. This allows you to Encrypt your partitions. Meaning that when your machine is powered off, people cannot read your data by sticking that hard drive in another computer. I would always advice you to create a separate Home partition. XFS is a very stable file system for such a Home partition. For your Root partition, you should select either BtrFS or XFS. There are heated discussions online with arguments against and for BtrFS. After having a personal question/answer with the openSUSE chair on Reddit and after reading about the careful openSUSE implementation, I think selecting BtrFS for the Root partition is now the best way to go.

If you want to determine your partition setup yourself, you need to use the Expert Partitioner. This gives you the option to start with Existing Partitions or with the Current Proposal. It really doesn’t matter too much, if you want to determine everything by yourself. Both selections bring you into the YaST Expert Partitioner tool. Some headlines indicate that it is renewed. But if you read carefully, only the back-end was renewed. It looks exactly the same as I remembered it. Go into your Hard Disks (sda, sdb, et cetera) and select the one that you want to partition. Create at least a Boot partition, a Swap partition, a Root partition and a Home partition. This is a nice tool if you have both an SSD and a spinning HDD. You can install the operating system on the faster SSD and install your Home partition on the spinning HDD which typically can contain much more data.

The remaining steps are easier. You select your timezone. Then you create a new user, or you import the current user. Because I kept my Home partition (by not formatting it and mounting it to /home) I could choose to import my current user. I would advice you to deselect Automatic Login. Finally you see an overview of the installation. Click twice on Install and now wait for the process to finish.

Things to do after the installation

One of the first things that I like to do after installing the base operating system is to add the applications that I like to use. In previous openSUSE releases, a lot of KDE applications got installed by default. This is still the case, but the Amarok music player was missing. And not having a music player installed by default is a strange decision. You can install Amarok from the YaST Software Management application, something I would recommend.

In previous releases, it could take 1 or 2 weeks before all applications were available in the software repositories. This was especially true for open source games. For example: I was used that Warsow and Hedgewars were not immediately available. This time I was pleasantly surprised to see that almost every application in my “Linux essentials list” was immediately available. There is still 1 application that I am still missing: PDF Chain, a graphical PDF editor that makes use of the PDFtk toolkit. I also discovered that a couple of Calligra applications (Author, Braindump and Flow) were depreciated, which explains why I can’t find them in the repositories. I don’t care about Author, but Braindump and Flow were actually very good applications. So I hope that the people of the Calligra team bring them back in the future.

The list of applications that I like to install might be different from yours. But if you want a wider selection of (more current) applications, it is worth the effort to add some online repositories. You can do so by going into YaST and selecting Software Repositories. The picture below shows the repositories that I have configured. This is the first time (that I am aware) that I can specify to make a HTTPS connection to the openSUSE repositories. A nice security improvement.

Another thing that you most likely want to do, is to install Codecs needed to play common audio and video files. You can do this in 2 ways. The first way is to go to: https://opensuse-community.org/ and use the 1-click install option. The second way is to install these software packages with YaST Software Management. Search and install the following software packages:

  • ffmpeg
  • lame
  • gstreamer-plugins-bad
  • gstreamer-plugins-libav
  • gstreamer-plugins-ugly
  • gstreamer-plugins-ugly-orig-addon
  • libdvdcss2
  • xine-ui
  • libxine2
  • libxine2-codecs
  • vlc-codecs
  • vlc

The last part is the system configuration. You might want to configure a printer / scanner. You can do this via YaST. Or if you have a HP (all-in-one) printer, you can follow the instructions on the HP Linux Imaging and Printers site. The last option is the more difficult way to install your printer. But this is the way to get the HP Device Manager installed, something that you woudn’t have otherwise. Before starting the process described by HP, you need to install 1 missing software package: libgphoto2-devel. Also you need to open your Firewall to be able to auto-discover your printer over WiFi. This is done in Yast. See the screenshot below.  After that, the setup of a HP printer should go without a hitch.

In conclusion

I have covered most of the basics of the openSUSE Leap 15 installation. My first impression is very positive. For me the installation went flawless on both machines. And the software availability was great this time.

But you might have different hardware and a different experience. Know that you can ask for help on the openSUSE forums, on the sub-forum for technical help on installations. Another channel to ask for help is the openSUSE Reddit forum. Or you can ask your question directly via IRC.

Enjoy your new openSUSE Leap 15 install and remember to Have a lot of Fun!

Published on: 30 May 2018