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From the author of Using Unity as a Newcomer

Using Unity as a Newcomer

This section is for both newcomers to the Linux world and for experienced users who are newcomers to Unity.

Because most computer screens sold now are wider, to accommodate wide-screen video, it makes sense to move icons and program access to a side of the screen. Unity places a vertical bar along the left edge of the screen called the Launcher. If you maximize an application or move a window to the space occupied by the Launcher, it will hide. Move your mouse to the edge of the screen where the Launcher usually resides, and it will reappear.

The Launcher contains icons representing commonly used or running programs. There are also special icons; for example, the Home Folder icon looks like a file folder and clicking it opens a user's home directory. The Files & Folders icon shows a document in a magnifying glass, and clicking it opens a pop-up panel from which you may search your computer for specific files or folders. The Applications icon shows a + symbol in a magnifying glass, and clicking it opens a special feature of Unity called the Dash (as in “dashboard”).

The Dash is a pop-up panel that includes a search box at the top and three rows of icons. The rows represent applications in these categories: Most Frequently Used, Installed, and Apps Available for Download. The first two are expandable by clicking an obvious link to show more of your most frequently used programs or all of your installed programs. The last set shows some suggestions of programs you may want to try. Clicking an icon here will bring up the Ubuntu Software Center, which makes finding and installing useful non-default applications easy. At the top right of the Dash is a drop-down menu that will allow you to sort your applications by category, much like what used to be done in previous releases in the panel menu. The real power of the Dash is the search bar at the top. Start typing the name of a program, and an instant search will be conducted to find it, looking at both installed and yet-to-be-installed titles. This makes finding what you want faster. You can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move to an item and the Enter key to select it, or use the mouse, if you prefer.

Across the top of the screen is the Panel. This bar contains the desktop menu options for programs in use. Just move your mouse over the panel to view the menu items for the current application. It also contains application icons that give quick access to specific features like networking or your audio volume control. The Me Menu is accessed from the Panel by clicking your user name and gives you control over your social features like chat and broadcast accounts like Twitter, which Ubuntu allows you to use from the operating system without opening a web browser. Next to that, the power menu lets you log out, reboot, power off, and so on.

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