April 3, 2018

KDE Plasma Gets KBackup In Upcoming Version 5.13 - Here's A Quick Look

One of the new features that is coming in plasma version 5.13, in addition to the massive amount of improvements, new features, and bug fixes as one might expect, is the inclusion of KBackup. Pushing for usability enhancements within Plasma as one of it's core missions of late, it makes sense for this type of tool to be included as a standard function of a well-rounded, productive, and secure operating system. It fits in nicely with the KDE Community's Usability and Productivity initiative.

Let's take a quick look at this handy little utility to see how it can help quickly perform basic backup tasks, along with quickly describing a few more advanced features as well.

Why KBackup?

From the KDE Store description:
"KBackup is a program that lets you back up any directories or files, whereby it uses an easy to use directory tree to select the things to back up.

The program was designed to be very simple in its use so that it can be used by non-computer experts.

It can do full- and incremental backups."

While there are other GUI options out there such as the Kup Backup System (also a KDE / Qt app), Lucky Backup, and others, KBackup makes sense because of its sheer simplicity. In fact I would like to point out that along with the newly-introduced Vaults feature in plasma, KBackup stands out amongst typical KDE applications in that it really only does one thing and manages to do it very well. No overwhelming option screens to be found, no complicated dialog boxes to check or help pages and "How-To" blog posts to sift through to be found here. The basic premise is to pick a folder, pick a destination, and copy those files from point "A" to point "B". Destination meaning a folder, a thumb drive, cloud storage, pretty much anything that you can mount and browse via the dolphin the file manager is fair game.

KBackup chewing through a backup job by
sending files to an inserted USB stick

Using KBackup

Using KBackup is extremely simple. The GUI interface really only consists of two main parts: the left side which is a tree-list view of your mounted drives showing visible files and folders, and the right side being where you select your destination of where the backup should go. You just use the tree list view on the left-hand pane to navigate the files and folders, checking the boxes corresponding to the selections that you want to back up. On the right, select the destination and press 'Start Backup'. The backup starts and that's really all there is to it.

A typical use case would be for a user to insert a USB stick into there computer, selected a destination for the selected backup files to go to, and press the 'Start Backup' button to back them up and send them to that USB thumb drive. Of course you can also send it to anywhere else as mentioned above as long as your computer can recognize the destination. So network drives, cloud storage, a second hard drive on your computer, etc. all are potential targets to backup your files to.


Of course once you've selected all of the files and folders you would like to backup, you probably want to repeat that process on a regular basis. Be it monthly, weekly, or daily, one would assume that it's a good idea to make backing up your important data a normal part of your routine. To help with this, K backup utilizes profiles. Once a successful backup is completed, simply click on the file menu and select save profile. This will save all of your file in folder selections and the desired destination to a backup file of its own for later retrieval. Anytime you need, you can load that profile again for ease-of-use and to save some time. You can save as many profiles as you need to define for all of the different backup scenarios that you will encounter while planning your ideal backup reginent. Backup profiles can also be used on the command line - which is beyond the need for most users and therefore not included here.

Profile settings

One thing that I found about profiles in KBackup that was slightly confusing at first was that the profile settings was a different menu selection from the profile itself. So what you will find by clicking on the file menu and then profile settings option are the additional options that KBackup will manage for an individual profile. One really nice feature is to select the maximum storage size, thereby allowing you to make sure that your backups will fit onto the medium that you are sending it to. As you can see in the diagram below, common removable storage sizes are already presented to you. However, and thoughtfully, there is a custom field for you to set that size limit to whatever you need. It is probably a good idea to check that selection before backing up in order to make sure that the data you have selected to backup will fit in the space allocated on the device that you want to send it to, especially if using a USB drive or blank DVD, for example.

Setting the maximum archive size in
KBackup's profile settings

In addition to setting the archive size, other profile options include selecting how many incremental backup copies you want to keep, as well as the frequency that you would like your backup to be made. For more advanced users, you can enter expressions in order to exclude certain file-types from your backup, as well as define whole directories to exclude (like excluding your browser cache, for example). Finally, backup files can be compressed to save space if desired. Depending on your particular operating system install, it will choose either bzip2 or gzip compression.

Additional options in KBackup's Profile Settings

Incremental backups

When you schedule KBackup to do a scheduled job via the settings outlined above, for example backing up your documents directory every week, KBackup will perform a full backup on those files. However, if you manually run the same backup operation in between, KBackup will utilize an incremental backup for that job. As you might guess, this means that only the files that changed since the last full back-up are included, thus vastly speeding up the pace for the job's completion.

Command line options are available for those wanting to write scripts for their own control over how KBackup interacts with their system and when. For further reading, see the doc's handbook. I have provided a link below for reference. For the vast majority of users however, the included options within the GUI interface will provide more than enough to take control over backing up their system.

Wish list

Really the only thing that I would change about KBackup if I had the ability to instantly wave my magic wand and do so, would be this: to allow backing up of encrypted files and folders. With many of us using cloud services for data storage, backing up files to that cloud makes a lot of sense for pragmatic reasons. The main one being that you can get to your files from anywhere. However, in an age where cyber security and privacy rule a lot of our thoughts these days, the ability for KBackup to handle encrypted folders and files would definitely be a plus.

Also, and definitely related, is the addition of Vaults to KDE. As many of you know, Vaults easily allows a user to encrypt their data using a few different possible encryption methods. I think you can see where I'm going with this...

It would ultimately make the most sense in a perfect world for me as a user to quickly add a folder to a vault to encrypt it, lock the Vault, and run a KBackup job automatically sending it up to the cloud. There are open source backup solutions out there that will do this, but as far as I know, as of today KBackup does not yet have this ability.

The ability to add encrypted files and folders to
KBackup would be a definite plus. Bonus points
if you know where this graphic came from!

Final thoughts

The inclusion of an easy to configure built-in backup solution into KDE Plasma is a welcome addition indeed. I am often asked about how I personally backup data, and I know I see it asked a lot on various KDE related forums. This long-standing and respected tool will give both new and long-time users a quick and easy way to perform a task that we all know we could probably do a better job at handling.

Should KBackup gain the ability to handle encrypted files and folders, we Plasma users will have a true top of the line backup management solution for both personal and professional use cases.

KBackup does its part to enhance the "Productivity and Usability" initiative laid out as a goal of the KDE community. And because of that, it is a welcome addition to the Plasma default applications family.


- KBackup in the KDE Store
- KBackup handbook



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