Years ago, when I first started using Linux, I settled on Kubuntu. At the time, Kubuntu was using the KDE 3.5 desktop. I liked that for a while, before eventually switching to Ubuntu about the time KDE 4.0 came out. KDE 4.0 was a radical departure from KDE 3.5 (think of the differences between Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X). A lot of things were the same, but a lot were different. I didn’t like it. I made the move to regular Ubuntu, which uses the GNOME desktop environment, and loved it. But I never forgot KDE. Every few months, when KDE released a new version (first 4.1, then 4.2 and 4.3 and 4.4), and it was always better, but not what I wanted. I remembered hearing once how the KDE 3.0 series didn’t get “good” until KDE 3.5, so figured why not try KDE again when 4.5 rolled around. On October 10, Ubuntu released its newest versions of its variety of operating systems, and Kubuntu included 4.5.1, so I decided now was as good a time as any to try it out. And I loved it!
I have no idea whether I’ll stick with KDE full-time, or if I’ll eventually switch back to GNOME (I’m already thinking about doing some partitioning so I can have both installed), but suffice it to say if I return to GNOME, it’s because I like it better, and not because I don’t like KDE.
There’s a ton to like about KDE, but in this article I’m going to talk about one of the things that bugs me, and a program I found that is an excellent replacement. I’m talking about KDE’s notification system. Each time a program has a message to display, such as when new mail arrives, when a friend sends an instant message or when your video encoding or cd burning is done, Kubuntu uses its notification system to create a message. I like how it works, actually. If you walk away and 15 new messages arrive from a variety of programs, you can click the notification icon and up pops a window showing you everything that happened while you were away, all neatly arranged by application.
My problem is that when I’m sitting there at the computer and the messages arrive, they’re just kind of… ugly, I guess. The window containing the message, even though it’s nestled in the corner of the screen, is huge. If a lot of messages arrive all at once from the same program, they will overlap each other, occasionally making it impossible to read all but the most recent. Yes, I can go back and read up on what was happening, but I’d like to see them all in real-time.
Add to this the fact that I’m used to how Ubuntu’s new notification system for GNOME works. With it, when a new message pops up, and it happens to be in front of the window you’re working in, just hover your mouse over the new message. It fades out and you can click through it in order to keep working. It’s a nice feature, one that KDE’s built-in notification system doesn’t have.
But Colibri has it. Colibri is a new notification system replacement, compatible with Ayatana, the framework Ubuntu’s system is built on, and it’s wonderful. I switched a day or two ago when I heard about it, and love it. It has a few quirks, but overall I think it’s a better solution for me.
Using Colibri is simple. Just install it via KPackageKit or the Terminal. It’s in the standard Ubuntu repositories, so installing it from KPackageKit is as easy as searching for it. In the Terminal, it’s even easier. Just type the following:
sudo apt-get install colibri
You’ll be asked for your password, you’ll download a small package (only 38.9 kB on my system), and in a few seconds you’re done.
You’ll need to disable your current notification system in order for Colibri to launch. To do so, right-click on the notification icon in the taskbar (the letter “i” with a circle around it). Choose Notification Settings, then uncheck the checkboxes under the Pop Up Notices heading (Application notifications is the first, followed by File transfers and other jobs). Now, open up the Colibri Notification settings manager and turn it on. You can choose which corner of the screen Colibri places its notifications, as well as which screen they will be placed on, if you’re running a multiple monitor setup. You can also get an idea what the notifications will look like by viewing a preview. Make sure the checkbox to Start Colibri at login as checked, click Apply, then OK. and you’re done.
From now on, whenever a program has a notification, Colibri will take care of it. The notification bubbles look great; on my system they’re a nice semi-transparent silver color, and fit in perfectly with the rest of my desktop. They behave the way I want (or at least the way I’m familiar with from my years with Ubuntu), and they’re less obtrusive than the standard notifications. Apparently when the KDE 4 series was being developed, this behavior was an option, but when it was removed, Colibri was born. And am I ever glad it came about.