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Customizing Kubuntu

A major feature of Kubuntu is the amount of customization you can do. Due to the freedom of open source software, if there is an application you want to use, chances are you can find it. Everything from the desktop background to the font size of applications to the order and arrangement of the KMenu can be customized.

Customizing the Desktop

By simply right-clicking on the desktop and selecting Configure Desktop, you can make a great deal of changes. KDesktop, as the application is called, is divided into four different sections: Background, Behavior, Multiple Desktops, and Screen Saver (Figure 7-10).


Figure 7-10 KDesktop

Kubuntu comes with several backgrounds installed by default. You may select any of these from the list. Click on Get New Wallpapers to select additional backgrounds from KDE.org. Since Kubuntu is a multidesktop system, each desktop can have the same background, have a different one, or even be sized differently. This system offers many opportunities for great customization.

The Behavior section allows you to customize how the desktop behaves. Want icons on the desktop? Want a menu bar at the top of the screen? How does the mouse behave? Along with these, you can choose what types of icons are used for each application and association.

Interested in using multiple desktops? How about 20 of them? Any user can organize desktops based on tasks, thus grouping applications based on the current task. For example, while writing this book we used the Multiple Desktops section to create two desktops: Day-to-day applications were open on one desktop while a word processing application, help applications, Web browsers, and even a virtual machine were all open on the other desktop.

Another important item that can be changed is the screensaver and how it operates. This section under Configure Desktop allows you to select any of the preinstalled options or those downloaded from the Internet. After choosing the correct screensaver, simply configure it to start automatically and decide whether it will lock your screen as well.

Choosing how the desktop looks can help give a personalized feel to Kubuntu. If the appearance seems lacking, you can make further changes by choosing System Settings > Appearance. This allows you to further customize things such as colors, icons, and style. Kubuntu is all about customization, something you are probably sick of hearing about, and there are many ways to change how the desktop appears. This almost guarantees that no two users will have identical desktops.

Get Hot New Stuff

Looking for the latest screensaver, desktop background, or other cool things for your Kubuntu installation? Kubuntu fully supports the Get Hot New Stuff (GHNS) framework of KDE. GHNS allows people to upload templates to a server and have other users download and use that template. In an interview posted on KDE News (http://dot.kde.org/1110652641) Josef Spillner describes exactly how the process works.

[U]ser A is using a spreadsheet application and modifies a template that comes with it. This template can then be uploaded to a server and eventually be downloaded by user B by checking the contents of the "Get Hot New Stuff" download dialogue.

The GHNS framework shows up in several places throughout Kubuntu.

One place where you can see this is when you're configuring the background for your desktop. On the right in the Background section of KDesktop is the Get New Wallpapers button. Click this to open a window that displays new wallpapers you can use. These images come from www.kde-look.org. Figure 7-11 shows how this works.


Figure 7-11 The GHNS framework at work

Different applications have the ability to download information from the Internet and from KDE sites. Throughout applications in Kubuntu you will find references to Get More, which uses the GHNS framework.

Customizing Applets and the Kicker

The Kicker is the application launcher of KDE. The Kicker is also capable of running different docked applets such as the page, the task back, or the clock. Applets are small applications that run inside the Kicker. The applet everyone is probably most familiar with is the taskbar. It resides by default at the bottom of the screen and includes the KMenu and programs that are currently running. The next applet over is called the mini-pager. It shows a small preview of the different applications running on the different desktops. (If you don't want to use the default setting of showing all applications on all desktops, you can customize the mini-pager to show only the applications from the current [active] desktop.) Another applet you'll use on a regular basis is the Quick Launcher applet. This allows you to quickly start your favorite or most used programs. You can add different programs to the Quick Launcher by right-clicking on an existing application, selecting the Panel menu, and then choosing Add Application to Panel.

Customizing the KMenu

For those familiar with Microsoft Windows, the KMenu is similar to the Start menu. Upon installation of your Kubuntu system, each application is placed in a certain location based on the category that it belongs to. For example, Konqueror, Kopete (the instant messaging client), and other applications used over the Internet are all located under the Internet section. But like everything in Kubuntu, you can alter this. Simply right-click on the KMenu, and select Menu Editor. The window shown in Figure 7-12 will open, allowing you to make the desired changes.


Figure 7-12 Menu editor

In fact, you can change the location of the KMenu or remove it all together. One of the most noticeable aspects of the menu editor is that there are more folders in this list than in the KMenu. This is due to a decision the Kubuntu team made to show only folders that have programs installed in them. To customize the KMenu, simply use the tools provided under the File menu.

A major benefit of Kubuntu is that if the user does not like the way the system looks, he or she may change it. Almost everything can be customized to truly personalize the system.

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