This week in Usability & Productivity, part 16: new lock and login screens

Get ready for a Usability & Productivity avalanche! There’s so much to announce this week that I’m breaking it up into two posts! I’m super excited to announce that in addition to the normal stream of little quality-of-life improvements, a major and long-simmering change has landed: we’ve overhauled the lock and login screens to provide better usability and aesthetics, and more features!

The lock screen now displays the default Plasma wallpaper and behaves more like a screensaver: only the clock and date are displayed at first. Here’s how it looks with the new Plasma 5.13 wallpaper:

And after moving the mouse, typing on the keyboard, or tapping the touchscreen, the image is darkened and blurred, and the controls become visible:

Doesn’t this look really, really good!?

People who prefer less flashiness can set the background to a solid color, and the controls will not fade in and out–just like before. Those who want more bling can set a slideshow or an animated effect for the background, and it will be just like the attractive screensavers of yore!

Even cooler, if you don’t change the default settings, then every time you upgrade Plasma, the lock and login screens will automatically use the new wallpaper for that Plasma version.

We’ve also resolved a usability issue with the old version: light-colored or very busy backgrounds no longer obscure the text and user interface elements for either the login or lock screens because the background is blurred and darkened whenever they’re shown, and at other times the clock and date have a subtle drop shadow applied:

I pushed pretty hard for this redesign and did a bit of the work, but the overwhelming majority of it was done by Marco Martin, who deserves our praise and congratulations!

Users will be able to enjoy these incredibly beautiful and classy lock and login screens in KDE Plasma 5.13, which is slated for release in June.

I’ll note that this is a big change that’s just landed so we may tweak it a bit before the Plasma 5.13 release. The plasma wallpaper itself may be adjusted, and we might also decide to use a slightly different image by default. But for the most part, this is what Plasma 5.13 users are gonna see, and we think you’ll love it!

If my efforts to perform, guide, and document this work seem useful and you’d like to see more of them, then consider becoming a patron on Patreon, LiberaPay, or PayPal.

Become a patron Donate using Liberapay donate with PayPal

But wait, there’s more… see it in part 2!

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58 thoughts on “This week in Usability & Productivity, part 16: new lock and login screens

    1. Oops, fixed now. This is the first time I’ve scheduled multiple posts in advance, and I didn’t take into account how the URLs would change. Thanks for beinging it to my attention!

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  1. This looks really great. I use same wallpaper for the desktop, lockscreen and SDDM.

    Will there be a CheckBox in the Configure Desktop > Wallpaper and SystemSettings > Workspace > Desktop Behavior > Screen Locking > Appearance to set the wallpaper as lock screen wallpaper? Something like same as wallpaper would be useful.

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    1. At some point, I would like to see that as an option. But it is somewhat controversially within the KDE developer community on account of concerns about privacy and security.

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  2. Will the password input textbox be activated while in this mode though?
    It’s one of the things I hate about Windows; I have to click the mouse or press a key to activate the textbox; after which I can finally enter my password.
    Or at least make that configurable.

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  3. I love this so much! But is the desktop and screenlock wallpapers separate? My only concern would be if a user sets a NSFW wallpaper on the desktop (I don’t, but some do), and it shows up on the lockscreen that could cause many unwanted situations.
    I have not used KDE much so this may not be a issue in KDE at all, it may be separate already, but that’s the only potential disadvantage I can think of.

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    1. Yes, they are separate. If the user changes their wallpaper, what’s shown on the lock and login screens doesn’t change. This exact concern is one of the reasons why the “use current wallpaper on the lock screen” is somewhat controversial within the KDE developer community.

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  4. I just noticed that the lock screen does not include an option to suspend or shut down the system. Any plans to include the mentioned buttons?

    I also noticed that once I lock the screen, I can’t start another session by logging into another users account without destroying the old session. Any idea why this is the case?

    Thanks

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    1. Forgot to mention : pressing the power button (I have set it to suspend) does not work in the lock screen. So the only option is to login and suspend the system.

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    2. I just noticed that the lock screen does not include an option to suspend or shut down the system. Any plans to include the mentioned buttons?

      See https://bugs.kde.org/show_bug.cgi?id=336369. Many folks want it, but there’s a bit of controversy within the KDE developer community. I’ll take another look.

      I also noticed that once I lock the screen, I can’t start another session by logging into another users account without destroying the old session. Any idea why this is the case?

      Sounds like a bug. Please file it at bugs.kde.org.

      Like

  5. Thanks for this update, but can you change this new behavior to the former one, i.e. disable the fade in at the login screen? I am not sure if I like it very much.

    Furthermore, at Kubuntu 18.04 machine I have a HiDPI display (2560×1440 on 14″), where I set the font DPI to 149 and the scaling to 1.3. However, the login screen does not scale but has sharp fonts, while the lock screen scales but has blurred fonts.

    Do you think you can target that issue? The rest of the desktop already works pretty well* with HiDPI displays. 🙂

    * System Settings -> Search field is still blurred and the margin to the left is too small.

    Last, I upgraded from 17.10 to 18.04, yet the “login button” on the login screen uses a different theme (Breeze bright) than the rest of my desktop (Breeze dark). How can I fix that?

    Thanks!!! 🙂

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  6. Looking forward to use this nice improvement soon. Thanks for this effort! I personally believe that a nice and simple default design and default settings is attractive to new users and it makes me as a long time user happy as well. This is a good example why I believe KDE is on the right track again.
    The unlock button though doesn’t look nice, it doesn’t fit to the overall transparent design and this button looks like something from the past.
    An annoyance was in the past the keyboard navigation especially in SDDM, hope that this works well with this new theme in the lock screen.
    I’m very positive about the new design, thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you like it! I agree regarding our overall direction and momentum. Our tech stack is generally really good, so we’re largely free to focus on this kind of UX and polish work that has such a huge impact to users.

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  7. What about the media controls? Will they still be visible? you don’t have any in your example images, so it’s not clear. If they aren’t shown it would kinda defeat their purpose, so I’m assuming they are, but it would be good to know for sure.

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  8. Any chance of moving the language indicator to the same central location that the caps lock warning is placed? when using a non latin keyboard you can easily miss the fact you are writing the password in the wrong langauge

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      1. As far as i can tell the fix suggested is to indicate “check keyboard layout” on failure, which will be one of the first things done anyway, what I asked about is indicating the layout where the user is looking near the password field so the user knows before starting to type if the keyboard is on the correct layout

        Its more of an issue now that monitors are getting larger and the layout indicator is two tiny letters in the corner

        Also telling users to check the layout could make it worse by confusing the user to switch layouts and try again after inputting the password wrong in the correct layout

        The attitude in the bug and phabricator is that this is a none issue by the developers who don’t have this issue, they also don’t think this is a problem as they consider multi layout users a minority and a none issue as the indicator in the corner is good enough

        Indicating the current layout next to password fields is a usability and quality of life improvement as the typed password is hidden by default and knowing immediately before even typing the password without having to check the bottom corner saves multiple tries to input the password

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  9. Awesome work! I love this kind of refinements.
    Any news on the .gif support for SDDM? I actually have a modded version of the breeze theme for that, I hope this update doesn’t break it 😛

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      1. I don’t think it can be considered a bug. More like a feature request.
        I mean, the feature is there if the user is ready to get his hands dirty and fiddle with qml files as I did. But I think it would be optimal to have the option to choose a .gif as the background of the login screen in the system preferences.

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        1. Bug reports are also used for feature requests. 🙂 The point is, if it’s not tracked somewhere, it won’t get done.

          Are you requesting that animated gifs used as the background actually display their animations? Because gifs work just fine, they just don’t animate.

          Since you mentioned hacking the qml file, does this mean that you have a fix and would like to submit a patch?

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          1. Sorry, I’m just really new to this.

            Yes, that’s exactly what I mean, to get the gif to animate in the login screen.

            I really dont know how to share why I did or if it has some side effect. At least it doesn’t have for me. But honestly, I’m sure I’m not the first to do it (its a one like fix :P). All I did was change Image{} to AnimatedImage{} in background.qml of the breeze SDDM theme.
            Sorry if it doen’t help, I really dont know the right way to submit patches and all that. Any advice about that would be really appreciated 😀

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  10. Would be nice if notification about switched on CapsLock button would be more distinguished then rest of text on the screen, because if this message has the same color as others, the same style then may not be noticeable.

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    1. If you use a solid color background, there’s no fade-in-fade-out effect and hence no blur. But for all other background types, you *do* need blur. Without it, the text and buttons could be (and frequently were) illegible against white, light-colored, and very busy backgrounds.

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  11. Hello,

    I really don’t like to nag, but there is a number of people waiting since quite a while that KDE would allow for two-factor authentication during log-in. I’m not talking only about yubikey here, for example Ubuntu (sddm) supports 2fa by opening an additional input box once the password was given correctly.

    Also there is no way to get fingerprint login support tweaked currently into Kubuntu/KDE, it works with the login screen (with a lot of tweaking), but then it fails at the lock-screen.

    So I understand the changes announced here are really nice, but still they are cosmetics. The login to a linux desktop must allow for more security measures than just username/password.

    Like

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