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Customizing Ubuntu for Performance, Accessibility, and Fun

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There is an enormous number of services you can run on an Ubuntu server. Matthew Helmke, Elizabeth Joseph, and Jose Rey highlight some of the more popular services, from Web to e-mail to file services. If you are a new administrator, you will find a simple guide on how to install and configure these services for the first time. If you are an experienced administrator coming from another distribution, you will find this information a handy, how-to guide on how Ubuntu organizes all of the configuration files for your favorite services.

This chapter is from the book

One of the most appealing arguments for the adoption and use of Linux is the fact it can be customized according to users’ personal preferences. 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. We then look at the default settings, including various ways to tweak them. Lenses were introduced in the Ubuntu 11.04 release; in the 16.04 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 to best suit 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 them. At the end of this chapter, we identify some more resources to further your understanding of the Unity desktop.

In this chapter, we show you just a few of the Lenses that are available and explain how you can install them. At the end, we point out the resources that will 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 established. Specifically, 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 certainly 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 will be given a list of resources to get you started on providing the developers with feedback.

In Ubuntu 16.04 Unity desktop, many new Unity Scopes are installed by default. These new Scopes allow the Dash to search in many more places, and they provide you with results from a wide variety of sources.

Unity also features 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 rather is a feature that can be accessed by pressing the Alt key.

As we look at the parts that make up the Unity desktop, we’ll also explore the Unity Tweak Tool (Figure 5-1). Unity Tweak Tool 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, thereby undoing changes made earlier. To install Unity Tweak Tool through the GNOME Software Center, click the Software icon located in the Launcher. Once the software center opens, type Unity Tweak Tool into the search box and click Install (Figure 5-2).

Figure 5-1

Figure 5-1 Unity Tweak Tool

Figure 5-2

Figure 5-2 Installing Unity Tweak Tool from the GNOME Software Center

You can also install the Unity Tweak Tool from the command line with the command sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool.

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 5-3 and the words to Figure 5-4. Finally, Figure 5-5 shows the HUD.

Figure 5-3

Figure 5-3 Diagram of the Unity desktop

Figure 5-4

Figure 5-4 Diagram of the Dash

Figure 5-5

Figure 5-5 Diagram of the HUD

  1. Windows Tile

  2. Application Menu

  3. Dash Icon, which opens what is shown in Figure 5-4, including:

    1. Applications Lens

    2. Files and Folders Lens

    3. Videos Lens

    4. Music Lens

    5. Photos Lens

    6. Social Network Messages Lens

  4. Launcher Icons

  5. Launcher

  6. Trash

  7. Indicators

  8. HUD

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

The Ubuntu 16.04 release uses the 4.4 Linux kernel, based on the 4.4 upstream stable kernel.

The applications included in this release by default, but not necessarily locked to the Launcher, are Nautilus, GNOME Software Center, Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Rhythmbox, Deja Dup Backup Tool, Shotwell, Transmission, Remmina (remote desktop client), GNOME Control Center (system settings), Gedit, and Totem.

As mentioned earlier, tweaking your Unity desktop can be done easily with tools like the Unity Tweak Tool, and some tweaks can be made using the Appearance tool. To get to the Appearance tool, click the Super key once and the Dash will open. In the search box, type “Appearance,” and then click on the Appearance icon to open this tool (Figure 5-6).

Figure 5-6

Figure 5-6 Locating the Appearance icon from the Dash

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