Yesterday I cleaned up a few bugs in the system tray, particularly with how it was refusing to resize smaller after icons would automatically hide. In the process I cleaned up a few other issues I noticed; e.g. I made the notifications icon autohide by default and got rid of the vertical line which was looking more and more vestigal as the rest of the chrome around it had been ripped away. The bug fixes will be in 4.7.1, some of the visual changes will only be in 4.8.
This follows rather nicely in the steps of work we did for the Plasma Desktop 4.7 relesae in making things a bit cleaner and easier to get around. Yes, we added a button for the activity manager to expose that more, but we cleared up a number of other things. In fact, that's what prompted me to take ten minutes out of my day today to write this blog: I read a user comment lamenting virtual desktops and how they don't like to use them. This was a problem for them due to some other desktop environments being increasingly tied to virtual desktops as part of critical workflow. Which reminded me of a little thing we did for 4.7: if you have only one virtual desktop (or, put another way: you don't use them), then pager in the panel disappears. If you change your mind later and bump the number of virtual desktops up, the pager reappears. This elminates the oddness of having a pager with just one virtual desktop on your panel.
Also related to the pager is some work Martin put into KWin recently: starting in 4.8 KWin will define the layout of the virtual desktops. Previously, and as is documented in the NETWM spec, this is up to the pager. This made sense back then: everyone had a pager, and probably only one, and the window manager didn't do nearly as much with window presentation as modern compositing window managers do. Today, it makes little sense. You can have multiple pagers and the window manager exposes virtual desktops in all sorts of ways through desktop effects. So, we've moved that functionality to the window manager, which makes things simpler and more consistent.
One other small thing we did in 4.7 on the panel is make the default launchers in the taskbar for file manager and web browser follow your prefered applications as set in the system settings. Which means we have one configuration that we ship, but it matches what you want. Including if you change your mind later. Since they share space intelligently with the tasks, it means less space used: when the app is running, the launcher goes away. (Btw, a bug in 4.7.0 around that feature has been fixed for 4.7.1, so if that isn't working for you properly, the fix is just a patch level update away.)
Merging application system tray icons with task entries is only on the roadmap for 4.8. Yes, I know: FINALLY! :) All of these efforts to streamline and simplify are making for a more polished result. It isn't all just trimming and rearranging, however: I plan on adding Share Like Connect to the panel by default as well. We will be working on these things in various BoFs and hacking rooms over the next week in Berlin.
Speaking of which .. I've finished packing for the Berlin Desktop Summit and am working on my presentation now until I head down to Zürich HB to board the night train. I have my football boots, a WeTab, a PandaBoard, collections of various cables, writing books and the necessary amount of clothing for the week there. I can't wait to see everyone there, listen to the talks, collaborate with people that I only get to see in person every year or two, hack until my fingers bleed and my body demands sleep and, of course, karaoke in Alexanderplatz. It's going to be amazing.