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This chapter is from the book

Common Applications

Kubuntu comes with a large number of applications preinstalled and configured, including Web browsers, office applications, and e-mail programs. Remember, since choice is a huge feature of Kubuntu, if you do not like the default applications, you can always change them. All of these applications are available through the Application Launcher.


The default office application for Kubuntu 10.04 is OpenOffice.org 3.0.1. This version is an update of the second major release of the suite that includes Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, and Math; the first three can be launched from the Application Launcher. (Draw and Math are not available from the menu and are launched from within one of the other applications.) Note that the developers of Kubuntu have renamed the applications in the Application Launcher to better reflect what each does. For example, Writer is renamed Word Processor.

Each of these programs is easy to use and can help you switch from the Microsoft Office product line. In fact, the OpenOffice.org suite is included in the desktop CD and can be installed on a Windows system to help you get comfortable and ready for a switch to Kubuntu. Each application corresponds to a similar application in the Microsoft product line. Calc is very similar to Excel, Writer works like Word, and Impress replaces PowerPoint. OpenOffice.org can handle all but Microsoft Access files without problems, and the whole suite is ready to be used in a corporate environment as well as for personal use.

To demonstrate the power of OpenOffice.org, let's create a new document. To start OpenOffice.org Writer, open the Application Launcher and navigate to Office and then Word Processor. You can also launch KRunner (Alt+F2), type Word processor, and hit Enter.

Writer resembles any other word processing software you have used. Simply start typing your letter or paper as you normally would, and use the toolbar for formatting options, including changing alignment, setting boldface or italic type, and other needs.

When you are done working on a document, save it by selecting File > Save or by typing Ctrl-S. OpenOffice.org saves documents in the Open Document format. This file format is a standard across the world. You can also save documents in other formats, including Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF. To save as a PDF file, just click the PDF button on the main toolbar (located next to the print icon) and enter a filename.

Web Browsing with Konqueror

As mentioned earlier, Konqueror can function as a Web browser as well as a file manager. To launch Konqueror, open the Application Launcher and navigate to Internet, then Web Browser. Alternately, you can launch KRunner (Alt+F2) and type in Konqueror. Like other modern Web browsers, Konqueror provides tabbed browsing, the ability to have multiple Web pages open in the same window. To do this, select File > New Tab or press Ctrl+T. A new tab will be created in your open Konqueror window. A cool feature is that you can be browsing the Web in one tab, browsing your home directory in another tab, and also browsing network folders in a third tab. All of these functions can help manage your taskbar and keep your desktop looking clean and sharp.

As a Web browser, Konqueror enables you to set bookmarks, change your home page, and use all the other features you would expect from a Web browser.

Navigating around the Internet is no different in Konqueror than in any other Web browser, including Firefox, Opera, Netscape, and Internet Explorer. Just type the Web address into the address bar and hit Enter. For example, type in www.kubuntu.com to visit the home page for Kubuntu.

To search using Google, simply move to the search bar, and directly to the right of the address bar type in what you are looking for. Konqueror will use Google to find it for you.

Often when browsing the Web, you will see an orange icon at the bottom of Konqueror. This means there is an RSS feed available. To track this feed, simply click on it, and Konqueror will add it to your subscribed feeds in Akregator. We'll talk more about Akregator later in this chapter.

Using Firefox for Browsing the Web

Allowing choice is a key feature of Ubuntu distributions. Kubuntu can use the latest version of Firefox (3.1 as of this writing), which can be installed via the Mozilla Firefox Installer (Figure 8-31).

Figure 8-31

Figure 8-31 Mozilla Firefox installer

Firefox has taken the Web browser world by storm and is as good as or even better than Internet Explorer. Firefox not only provides better features and a better browsing experience but also adheres more closely to Web standards. Like Konqueror, Firefox includes tab browsing (File > New Tab or Ctrl+T), bookmarks, and everything you would expect of a modern Web browser.

Firefox has many different extensions that can be plugged in to allow greater flexibility for your Web browser. The most common plug-ins are for using Macromedia Flash and Java, which some Web pages require.

Installing a plug-in is as simple as visiting a Web site that requires it. A yellow bar will indicate that you are missing a plug-in. Click on the Install Missing Plug-ins button to install the required plug-in.

Burning CDs—Audio and Data

Another common task is creating or burning audio and data CDs. Kubuntu's default CD creation program, K3b (installed through KPackageKit), is a very easy-to-use utility that can help you create backup CDs or even new music CDs. K3b provides a very familiar interface for burning and copying CDs (Figure 8-32).

Simply click on one of the icons from the main Kreator screen that describes the project you would like to create, for example, a new audio CD, a new data CD, or a new data DVD project. You can even copy a CD. After the new project has been started, simply drag the files you want from the top section to the lower section (Figure 8-33).

Figure 8-33

Figure 8-33 Just drag and drop the files.

Once you have moved the files, select Burn, and sit back while your new CD is created.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is another feature that we almost cannot live without these days. Kopete, Kubuntu's default instant messaging client, handles this task very well. You can find it under the Internet section in the Application Launcher. You can also launch Kopete from KRunner or the Search bar of the Application Launcher by typing Kopete. The beauty of Kopete is that it can connect to all of the major service providers, so you do not have to have multiple programs open. Kopete can handle ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), and because Google Talk (Google's instant messenger program) is built around the Jabber protocol, Kopete can handle that as well. Kopete also can work with MSN Webcams.

In order to use Kopete, you need to configure accounts. Select Settings > Accounts, and then configure the different accounts you would like Kopete to use. Kopete can save your passwords to these accounts and even automatically connect upon start-up.

Once the accounts are configured correctly, you can change Kopete's behavior to fit your preferences. Many options can be selected, including away settings, what happens when a new message arrives, and even how the system starts up.

Internet Relay Chat

A great place to find support for Kubuntu is Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which can be accessed by using Quassel (Figure 8-34) and the different IRC channels. Join irc.ubuntu.org and then come over to #kubuntu to get many of your support questions answered. Quassel by default is set up to access #kubuntu, but more channels can be added. The people in #kubuntu are full of great knowledge and can help you try to solve any issues that you have.

Figure 8-34

Figure 8-34 Quassel

To launch Quassel, type either Quassel or IRC in the Application Launcher and click on the application.


These days almost everyone uses e-mail, and almost everyone uses some form of calendar program to keep track of appointments and schedules. Kontact, Kubuntu's default PIM (Personal Information Manager), takes care of all these tasks plus more.

To start Kontact, go to the Application Launcher and then to the Internet section. You can also start it from KRunner or by typing Kontact in the Search Bar of the Application Launcher. Figure 8-35 shows an example of the Kontact window.

Figure 8-35

Figure 8-35 Kontact

Looking at the figure, you can see that Kontact has a lot of different features. We cover several of the program's options in the following subsections.

KMail is the program that handles e-mail. It can be run separately from Kontact if you choose. The first step in configuring Kontact is to set up KMail to send and receive e-mail.

Setting Up Your E-Mail Account

You will need several pieces of information to set up KMail. Your ISP or system administrator should be able to provide these details.

  • Type of e-mail server (such as POP or IMAP)
  • Mail server name (such as mail.domainname.com)
  • Mail account's username and password
  • Authentication type (typically password)
  • Outgoing mail server name

Configuring Kontact is easier than it may look. Once Kontact is open, select Settings and then Configuring Kontact. From the Configure Kontact panel, select Mail followed by Accounts. Under the tab labeled Receiving, add the information provided from your ISP as the incoming mail information. Once that account has been created, add a new account under the Sending tab that matches the outgoing mail information provided by your ISP.

Using KOrganizer

KOrganizer is included with Kontact. It will track your schedule and provide reminders of your appointments. Upon switching Kontact to calendar mode, you will see a month view on the left and individual days on the right, as Figure 8-36 shows.

Figure 8-36

Figure 8-36 KOrganizer, Kontact's calendar mode

You can set up two different types of events in Kontact:

  • Meetings: events scheduled with different people
  • Appointments: general events

It is easy to add a new meeting or appointment. Find the date for the event in the month view, right-click, and select New Event. In the new window that opens, fill out the Summary, Location, Time, and Description boxes. You can also set up Kontact to remind you when it is time for the appointment.

Using Akregator

Another great application that is part of Kontact (or can be used separately) is Akregator (Figure 8-37), an RSS program that can track your favorite Web feeds. Due to the integration of Akregator and Konqueror, any Web page that has an RSS feed will have an orange icon in the corner of the program that helps you add it to your list.

Figure 8-37

Figure 8-37 Akregator

Simply click on the icon and select Add to Akregator. Akregator will keep your feeds up to date by automatically checking for new content. Another bonus of the integration between Konqueror and Akregator is that Web pages can be opened within Akregator to post comments and view more information than what is provided by the Web feed.

As you can see, Kontact is a great program that helps you organize your life, track your favorite Web sites through RSS, and handle your e-mail.

Kiosk Mode

Kiosk mode allows an administrator to configure KDE and all aspects of the desktop and prevent the end user from changing the settings.

KDE stores all of its configuration information in text files. These files control everything from the default background to whether or not a person can add bookmarks. To see the locations of the configuration files, simply type kde-config–path confi from the Konsole. Note that the order applied is the reverse order of what is displayed. By simply changing one of the files in the highest priority, the last listed in the kde-config statement, you can affect what all users see.

To change the background for all users, simply edit the Wallpaper section found in kdesktoprc, located in /usr/share/kubuntu-default-settings/kde-profile/default/share/config.

As previously discussed, each user can change the desktop to meet his or her own needs. However, an administrator can make it so some things cannot be changed. Simply insert [$i] at the top of the file for each application you would like to make immutable.

Along with enabling or setting changes, an administrator can remove user access to certain items by simply editing the kde globals file and adding a [KDE Action Restrictions] [$1] section.

There are plenty of additional items that can be limited and changed in Kubuntu.

Exploring the Kubuntu Landscape

Unlike many other operating systems, Kubuntu includes a large number of applications installed by default. These tools have been selected to allow you to install Kubuntu and then just get your work done. Some of the applications installed by default have been covered already. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), there are too many applications to discuss in this book due to space restrictions.

To partially solve that problem, here is a quick summary of many programs that are available from the Application Launcher, including how to find them and brief descriptions.

  • Kate: Application Launcher > Utilities > Kate—This simple and powerful text editor is great for editing documents, making quick notes, and programming. There is a vast range of plug-ins for items such as spell checking, statistics, and syntax highlighting.
  • Calculator (Speedcrunch): Application Launcher > Utilities > Calculator—Speedcrunch is an extremely powerful calculator that can help you solve both basic and advanced math problems.
  • Konsole: Application Launcher > Utilities > Konsole—Beneath the desktop is a very powerful command-line core. Konsole allows you to access this command line by putting a nice window frame around it. Konsole is great for command-line junkies, those who prefer to do things with a graphical interface. Konsole can be completely customized to meet your command-line needs.
  • Performance Monitor (KSysGuard): Application Launcher > System > Performance Monitor—The Performance Monitor provides information about how your Kubuntu system is functioning. Having problems with an application taking too much memory? How would you know? KSysGuard provides this information.
  • System Logs Viewer (KSystemLog): Application Launcher > System > System Logs Viewer—Interested in what is going on with your system? Kubuntu keeps track of files and access logs that can be viewed through this program.
  • Internet Dial-Up Tool (KPPP): Application Launcher > Internet > Internet Dial-Up Tool—Need help connecting to your ISP through a modem? KPPP will help take care of this. KPPP can help set up your modem and even set up your dial-up connection.
  • Remote Desktop Connection (KRDC): Application Launcher > Internet > Remote Desktop Connection—KRDC can help you connect to remote systems either through the remote desktop protocol (RDP) or through virtual network connection (VNC). Simply type in the address and click on Connect. KRDC can save the settings for each computer you connect to.
  • PDF Viewer (Okular): Application Launcher > Graphics > PDF Viewer—KPDF provides you with the ability to open and view files saved in the Adobe PDF format.
  • Screen Capture Program (KSnapShot): Application Launcher > Graphics > Screen Capture Program—KSnapShot allows you to take screenshots and save them in different formats. The great thing about KSnapShot is that you specify the exact amount of the screen that will be captured. This program was used to take all of the screenshots for this chapter.
  • Image Viewer (Gwenview): Application Launcher > Graphics > Image Viewer—Gwenview is the default application for viewing images in Kubuntu. All different types of images can be opened, including .png, .jpeg, and .bmp.
  • KDevelop: Application Launcher > Development > KDevelop—While not installed by default, KDevelop is a wonderful integrated development environment (IDE) that can help you with your coding projects. This application must be installed via KPackageKit.
  • Marble: Application Launcher > Education > Misc > Marble—Marble is a 3D mapping and globe application. Additional map information is available through GHNS.
  • KRandRtray: Application Launcher > System > Screen Size and Rotate—This application is used to rotate and resize the monitor. It also detects and configures external monitors.

Tips and Tricks

The more you use Kubuntu, the more tips and tricks you will learn to help make your computer experience better and easier. Kubuntu can be configured to do almost anything you would like.

Run Programs Automatically When Kubuntu Starts

You might like to start some programs automatically every time you log in to your system. For example, to help you with your Kubuntu work, you might want to access various channels of IRC every day via Konversation. There are four easy steps to set this up using the session management feature of KDE.

  1. Launch all the applications you would like to open automatically.
  2. Open up System Settings from the Application Launcher, and click on the User Management section.
  3. Click on the Session Manager button on the left, and make sure that the Restore Manually Saved Session checkbox is enabled.
  4. Log out, saving your sessions.

Automatically Turn On Numlock When Kubuntu Starts

If you are sick of always having to turn on numlock, the change is very simple to make.

  1. Open up System Settings from the Application Launcher, and select Keyboard & Mouse.
  2. Under the Numlock on KDE Startup, enable the Turn On checkbox.
  3. Click on Apply to save your settings.
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