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The Official Ubuntu Book, 7th Edition: Customizing Ubuntu for Performance, Accessibility, and Fun

This chapter shows how you can customize your Ubuntu experience by changing the Unity desktop from its default settings to fit a number of user types.
This chapter is from the book

Chapter 6. Customizing Ubuntu for Performance, Accessibility, and Fun

  • Unity Terminology
  • Appearance Tool
  • MyUnity
  • Compiz Config Settings Manager
  • Unity Lenses and Scope
  • Additional Resources
  • Summary

One of the most appealing arguments for the adoption and use of Linux is the fact it can be customized according to personal preferences, and in this chapter we look at the many ways the Unity desktop can be adapted to different users. Unity is a relatively new desktop, so we start by reviewing the terminology for the desktop, then look at the default settings, and various ways to tweak them. Lenses were introduced in the Ubuntu 11.04 release, and now in the 12.04 LTS, a wide variety of Lenses are available. We examine some popular Lenses and how to use them. Different people use their computers in different ways, and for that reason we want to help you discover how to tweak your Unity desktop for your needs.

While tweaking your desktop is a fun way to personalize your desktop experience, we also want to caution you about making changes without understanding what those changes will do. If you are unsure about making those changes, take some time to research the changes you want to make. At the end of this chapter, we give you some more resources to further your understanding about the Unity desktop.

In this chapter, we show you just a few of the Lenses that are available and how you can install them. At the end, we show you the resources to get you started writing those Lenses as you go from novice to superuser. Let’s get ready to supercharge your Unity desktop!

Unity Terminology

When the Unity launcher was introduced in the Ubuntu 11.04 release, a number of design goals were set out. The icons needed to be easy to find, running applications needed to be always visible, the focused application needed to be easily accessible, and the interface needed to be touch friendly. The Unity desktop has certainly been met with a mixed range of highly charged emotions from early adopters, and due to their passion and feedback, the desktop and its functionality have improved. Providing user feedback is one of the most important things an Ubuntu user can do for the project. At the end of this chapter, you’ll be given a list of resources to get you started on providing the developers with feedback.

In Ubuntu 12.04 Unity desktop are two new Unity Lenses installed by default. These new Lenses, which we talk about later in this chapter, are the home and video Lenses.

Also new to the desktop is the HUD (Heads Up Display) that users can use to search the menus of a focus (active) window or full application. HUD doesn’t replace your global menu, but it is a feature that can be accessed by tapping the Alt key.

As we look at the parts that make up the Unity desktop, we also explore the MyUnity tool (Figure 6-1). MyUnity is a third-party tool that allows users to configure and tune their Unity desktops. It also allows users to return to the default desktop settings. To install MyUnity through the software center, you need to click on the Ubuntu Software Center icon located in the launcher. Once the software center opens, type MyUnity into the search box and click Install (Figure 6-2).

Figure 6-1. MyUnity tool

Figure 6-2. Installing MyUnity from the software center

You can also install the MyUnity tool from the command line with the command sudo apt-get install myunity.

Following is the list of user interface (UI) terms for the parts of your Unity desktop; numbers 1 to 7 correspond to the numbers in Figure 6-3 and the words in Figure 6-4, number 8 is shown at the top right of Figure 6-5, which also shows the HUD.

Figure 6-3. Diagram of the Unity Desktop

Figure 6-4. Diagram of the Dash

Figure 6-5. Diagram of the HUD

  1. Windows Tile
  2. Application Menu
  3. Dash Icon, which opens what is shown in 6-4, including:
    1. Application Lens
    2. File Lens
    3. Music Lens
  4. Launcher Icons
  5. Workspace Switcher
  6. Launcher
  7. Trash
  8. Indicators
  9. HUD

Now that we have reviewed the terminology for your desktop, let’s look at those default settings.

The Ubuntu 12.04 release uses the 3.2.0 kernel and is based on the 3.2.6 upstream stable kernel and Xorg server 1.11.4.

The applications included by default and not necessarily locked to the launcher are Nautilus, Ubuntu Software Center Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Rhythmbox, Deja Dup Backup Tool, Gwibber, Empathy, Shotwell, Transmission, Remmina (remote desktop client), GNOME Control Center (system settings), Gedit, Brasero, and Totem.

As mentioned earlier, tweaking your Unity desktop can be done easily with tools like MyUnity, and some tweaks can be made using the Appearance tool. To get to the Appearance tool, tap the Alt key once and the dash will open, in the search box type Appearance, then click on the Appearance icon to open this tool (Figure 6-6).

Figure 6-6. Locating the Appearance icon from the Dash

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