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KDE Visual Design Group/HIG/Layout


The application layout depends on the functionality as well as the content of the application. The layouts used throughout the design should be consistent both visually and functionally.


The top level layout for your application may be constructed by selecting an appropriate Command Pattern and Navigation Pattern as well as taking advantage of recommended Content Patterns.

  • Command Patterns are determined by the command structure chosen for the application (simple, complex or very complex).
  • Navigation Patterns depend on the structure of the application content (flat, 2-deep, 3-deep, n-deep).
  • Content Patterns are a collection of consistent ways to present content
    • Images - Guidelines and patterns for displaying images
    • Icons with text - Patterns for consistently showing icons with text
    • Viewing vs Editing - Patterns and guidelines for laying out content that is primarily viewed.
    • Search and Filter- Patterns for exposing search and filter functions
    • Wizard - Patterns for guiding the user through a series of step to accomplish a task
    • Tooltips - Patterns for consistent presentation of information in tooltips.
  • Follow the general guidelines on alignment, size, and spacing to ensure balance, reduce clutter and create breathing room.

See the layout design example that shows how to construct the layout for a photo gallery application.

Plasmoid Layouts

Plasmoids like panel popups and desktop widgets have more restrictions to account for limitations on space. These plasmoids should meet the following criteria:

  • Plasmoids use only a simple command structure.
  • Plasmoids should have a flat or, at most, a 2-deep content structure.
  • If the above two criteria cannot be satisfied, consider designing a traditional desktop application instead of a plasmoid.
  • Adjust the content and layout to the size of the container to ensure the information shown is understandable, readable and useful. So if the plasmoid is in the panel then avoid simply shrinking the content that would normally be shown if the plasmoid is on the desktop.
    • For example, the battery monitor in the panel does this well by showing the charge state of the main battery in the panel, but shows much more information about all batteries and brightness on the desktop or in the panel popup.


Applications Survey

An extensive survey of a broad range of desktop applications was conducted. The survey activity included identifying the type and layout characteristics of each application. The types of applications surveyed were:

Video player, Audio/Music player, Image browser, Image editor, Web browser, File browser, Settings, Text editor, IDE, Document editor, Document viewer, Games, Email, Address book, Chat client, Calendar, Video conference, Audio/Video editing, Terminal, Calculator, Clock, System Monitor, Archiver, Mapping/Directions, Software installer/remover, Dictionary

Industry Guidelines Review

Several published guidelines were reviewed to identify common industry layout guidance and to help validate some of the guidance provided in these guidelines. The industry layout guidelines reviewed include:

  • Windows Design Guidelines
  • Google Design Guidelines
  • Android Design Guidelines
  • OS X HIG
  • iOS HIG

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