Module 4 - SLP
INSTALLING AND CONFIGURING UBUNTU
Understanding the Ubuntu desktop
Initially, you may notice many similarities between Ubuntu and other operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X. This is because they are all based on the concept of a graphical user interface (GUI)—i.e., you use your mouse to navigate the desktop, open applications, move files, and perform most other tasks. In short, things are visually-oriented. This
SLP is designed to help you become familiar with various applications and menus in Ubuntu so that you become confident in using the Ubuntu GUI.
All GUI-based operating systems use a desktop environment. Desktop environments contain many features, including (but not limited to):
The look and feel of the system
The organization of the desktop
How the user navigates the desktop
Ubuntu uses Unity as the default desktop environment. The Unity desk-top is comprised of the desktop background and two bars—a horizontal one located at the top of your desktop called the menu bar and a vertically-oriented bar at the far left called the Launcher.
The Desktop Background
Below the menu bar at the top of the screen is an image covering the entire desktop. This is the default desktop background, or wallpaper, belonging to the default Ubuntu 14.04 theme known as Ambiance. To learn more about customizing your desktop (including changing your desktop background).
The Menu Bar
Ubuntu menu bar
The menu bar incorporates common functions used in Ubuntu. The icons on the far-right of the menu bar are located in an area of the menu bar called the indicator area, or notification area. Each installation of Ubuntu may contain slightly different types and quantities of icons based on a number of factors, including the type of hardware and available on-board peripherals upon which the Ubuntu installation is based. Some programs add an icon to the indicator area automatically during installation. The most common indicators are:
Every application has a menuing system where different actions can be executed in an application (like File, Edit, View, etc.); the menuing system for an application is appropriately called the application menu. Instead, it is located to the left area of the menu bar. By default in Unity, the application menu isn’t on the title bar of the application as is commonly the case in other GUI environments.
Ubuntu start page tab
To show an application’s menu, just move your mouse to the desktop’s menu bar (at the top of the screen). While your mouse is positioned here, the active application’s menu options will appear in the desktop’s menu bar, allowing you to use the application’s menuing options. When clicking on the desktop, the desktop’s menu bar reappears. This capability in Unity to display the application’s menu only when needed is especially beneficial for netbook and laptop users with limited viewable screen space. You can disable this feature via Session Indicator ‣ System Settings ‣ Appearance. In the Behavior tab, under Show the menus for a window, select In the window’s title bar.
The vertical bar of icons on the left side of the desktop is called the Launcher. The Launcher provides easy access to applications, mounted devices, and the Trash. All running applications on your system will place an icon in the Launcher while the application is running. To change the Launcher icon size, go to Session Indicator ‣ System Settings ‣ Appearance, tab Look.
The first icon at the top of the Launcher is the Dash, a component of Unity. We will explore the Dash in a later section of this chapter. By default, other applications appear in the Launcher, including the Files file manager, LibreOffice, Firefox, any mounted devices, and the Trash, which contains deleted folders and files, at the bottom of the Launcher.
Holding the Super key, also known as the Windows key (Win key), located between the left Ctrl key and Alt key, will cause Ubuntu to superimpose a number onto the first ten applications in the Launcher and also display a screen full of useful shortcuts. You can launch an application with a number n on it by typing Super+n.
If you open more applications than can be shown in the Launcher, the Launcher will “fold” the application icons at the bottom of the Launcher. Simply move your mouse to the bottom of the Launcher, and you’ll see the Launcher icons “slide” and the folded application icons unfold for easy access.
To run an application from the Launcher (or cause an already-running application to appear), just click on the application’s icon. Applications that are currently running will have one or more triangles on the left side of the icon indicating the number of application windows open for this application. Running applications also have a back-lit icon on the Launcher.
The application in the foreground (i.e., the application that is on top of all other open application windows) is indicated by a single white triangle on the right side of its icon. You can also run an application through the Dash which will be explored in the upcoming The Dash section.
Adding and removing applications from the Launcher
There are two ways to add an application to the Launcher:
Open the Dash, find the application you wish to add to the Launcher, and drag its icon to the Launcher.
Run the application you want to add to the Launcher, right-click on the application’s icon on the Launcher, and select Lock to Launcher.
To remove an application from the Launcher, right-click on the application’s icon, then select Unlock from Launcher.
The Dash helps you quickly find applications and files on your computer. If you’ve used Windows in the past, you’ll find the Dash to be similar to the Windows Start menu or the Start Screen in Windows 8. Apple OS X users will find the Dash similar to Launchpad in the dock. If you’ve used a previous version of Ubuntu or another GNOME Linux distribution, the Dash serves as a replacement for the various GNOME 2 menus. The Dash allows you to search for information, both locally (installed applications, recent files, bookmarks, etc.) as well as remotely (Twitter, Google Docs, etc.).
To explore the Dash, click on the top-most icon on the Launcher; the icon contains the Ubuntu logo on it. After clicking the Dash icon, the desktop will be overlaid by a translucent window with a search bar on top as well as a grouping of recently accessed applications, files, and downloads. Ubuntu also includes results from popular Web services. The search bar provides dynamic results as you enter your search terms.
Lenses act as specialized search categories in the Dash: searching is accomplished by utilizing one or more lenses, also known as scopes, and each lens is responsible for providing a category of search results through the Dash.
Search for files and applications with the Dash
The Dash is an extremely powerful tool allowing you to search your computer for applications and files.
The Dash can help you find names of files or folders. Simply type a portion of the file or folder name. As you type, results will appear in the Dash. The Files and Folders lens will also assist in finding files or folders—showing you the most recently accessed files as well as the most recent downloads. You can use the filter results button in the top-right corner of the Dash to filter results by attributes such as file or folder modification times, file type (.odt, .pdf, .doc, .txt, etc.), or size.
A standard Ubuntu installation comes with many applications. Users can additionally download thousands of applications from the Ubuntu Software Center. As you collect an arsenal of awesome applications (and get a bonus point for alliteration!), it may become difficult to remember the name of a particular application; the Applications lens on the Dash can assist with this search. This lens will automatically categorize installed applications under “Recently Used,” “Installed,” or “More Suggestions.” You can also enter the name of an application (or a part of it) into the search bar in the Dash, and the names of applications matching your search criteria will appear. Even if you don’t remember the name of the application at all, type a keyword that is relevant to that application, and the Dash will find it. For example, type music, and the Dash will show you the default music player and any music player you’ve used.
Workspaces are also known as virtual desktops. These separate views of your desktop allow you to group applications together, and by doing so, help to reduce clutter and improve desktop navigation. For example, you can open all of your media applications in one workspace, your office suite in another, and your Web browser in a third workspace. Ubuntu has four workspaces by default.
The workspaces feature is not activated by default in Ubuntu. To activate workspaces, click on Session Indicator ‣ System Settings… ‣ Appearance then click on the Behavior tab and click on the Enable workspaces box. When this box is checked, you’ll notice that another icon is added to the bottom of the Launcher that looks like a window pane. This is the workspace switcher.
Switching between workspaces
If you’ve activated the workspace switcher as described above, you can switch between workspaces by clicking on the workspace switcher icon located on the Launcher. This utility allows you to toggle through the workspaces (whether they contain open applications or not) and choose the one you want to use. You can also launch the workspace switcher by typing Super+s and choose a workspace by using the keyboard arrows followed by RET (the Return / Enter key).
Switching between open windows
In Ubuntu, there are many ways to switch between open windows:
If the window is visible on your screen, click any portion of it to raise it above all other windows. Or,
Use Alt+Tab to select the window you wish to work with. Hold down the Alt key, and keep pressing Tab until the window you’re looking for appears highlighted in the popup window. Then, release the Alt key, and the application highlighted in the popup will move to the foreground of your desktop. Or,
Click on the corresponding icon on the Launcher by moving your mouse to the left side of the screen and right-clicking on the application’s icon. If the application has multiple windows open, double-click on the icon in order to select the desired window. Press Ctrl+Super+D to hide all windows and display the desktop; the same works to restore all windows.
Moving a window to different workspace
To move a window to a different workspace, verify that the window isn’t maximized. If it is maximized, click on the right-most button on the left side of the title bar to restore it to its original size.