On this page, we collect definitions of terms used in Plasma. Its main purpose is to get developers' terminology synchronized.
Workflow is the sequence of actions a user performs to accomplish a task. A workflow involves applications, but can also lead the user across devices.
The workspace's purpose is to guide the user through her workflow, across applications. A workspace runs on a specific device, such as Desktop, tablet, etc, and forms part of workflows across devices. The workspace is a generic term for all the software component intended to provide the final UX for the global work environment, the minimal "fixed" running user interface that manages documents, applications (opening, closing) and global system properties such as notifications or attached hardware devices.
(KDE is used as umbrella brand in this context, standing for "created by the KDE community")
The shell, technically speaking, is the binary that will load and display the UI parts of the "Workspace". It doesn't provide its own UI, it may be tied to a particular formfactor.
Examples (these refer *only* to binary names):
The term shell does not include Plasmoids loaded into it, it's provides the implementation of the Corona and defines how the views are bound to it. These views hold containments, which then load applets. The particular shell and the final UX are only tied in part.
Active applications follow a set of user interface guidelines to integrate well with Plasma workspaces across different devices (including desktops).
Action Item: Take proposal to call all workspaces "Plasma" or "Active" to kde-promo, with the intention of removing the other brand.
Today people have huge numbers of files, devices, people they know, network services they use; and few use their computer (laptop / desktop) for just one particular task (work, entertainment, personal communication, school..).
Plasma Workspaces should enable workflows for multiple tasks, possibly on multiple devices, focusing on providing scalable interfaces to present information and access to data in ways people will find useful for today's contexts. This should all be presented using direct manipulation interfaces that have an organic look and feel.
We would also like you to acknowledge that the term to describe a certain avian animal. Or, to paraphrase it: THE BIRD IS THE WORD.