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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

GNOME Control Center

Table . Program Info

Fedora/GNOME menu

Preferences > Control Center

or the Start Here icon on your desktop

Mandrake/KDE menu

Applications > System > Configuration > GNOME > GNOME Control Center

Terminal Command


GNOME doesn't really have a control center. I think they started calling the collection of preference modules a Control Center because that is what KDE calls it. Names aside, the GNOME Control Center is a view of icons in the Nautilus file manager (see Figure 4.3). Besides main menu and terminal command access, you can open Nautilus in file browsing mode and type preferences:/// into the address bar to access the Control Center icon view. Of course, Mandrake and Fedora have a few differences in the GNOME Control Center. Most of the differences are in the icons used and the labels attached to each module.


Figure 4.3 The GNOME Control Center view has most of the same items found in the Preferences menu on your main menu.

With the GNOME Control Center merely consisting of a collection of icons, you can double-click on any icon to access the dialog box for that preference module. If you want quick access to any single module, you can choose it from the submenu in the main menu under Preferences. One theming option is not in the Control Center. You can find the preferences for changing GDM (your login manager) themes in the main menu under System Settings > Login Screen. Whereas the KDE Control Center contains a few items that could be considered system administration tasks, the GNOME Control Center has only personal preferences. GNOME keeps all the system administration tasks in the main menu under System Settings and System Tools. Let's look at the GNOME Control Center in Fedora.


The Accessibility option in the main menu is a submenu, so here it acts like a sub as well by opening a new icon view of two more module icons. The Accessibility module is where users with disabilities can adjust keyboard and mouse options to make access easier. Some of the keyboard settings are repeated in the Keyboard and Mouse modules. In the Assistive Technology Preferences dialog box, you find options for a screen reader, a magnifier, and an on-screen keyboard.

More Preferences

The More Preferences icon is another pointer that opens a new icon view of five other icons. Most of these options are advanced, are unnecessary to change, or can be accessed elsewhere.

About Myself

In case you didn't know your name when you were asked for it during the installation, you get a second crack at getting that question right. You can score bonus points for knowing your phone number and office information. None of that information is important to complete. Leave the Login Shell option set to /bin/bash.

CD and DVD

This module is a wonderful addition to GNOME. You can set what action is taken automatically when different types of CDs or DVDs are put into the drive. Sure, GNOME stole this idea from Apple, but it is still nice to have. Try the defaults before you decide to make changes.

Control Center

I cannot tell you why there is a Control Center icon in the Control Center. Because the Control Center view is just a copy of the main menu items under Preferences, this icon snuck into the view. You can click on it all day, but this icon isn't going to do anything but open the window you already have open.

Desktop Background

The Desktop Background module is the place to add pictures of naked farm animals&8212;or whatever you like&8212;to your desktop. The options are simple: Choose a picture, set the style, and pick a color.

File Types and Programs

When you double-click a document, media file, archive, or image in your file manager, Nautilus, a default application, attempts to launch. If you don't like the default program that Nautilus uses for a particular file type, you can change it here. You can also add file types that are not already defined and set applications for file types that do not have an associated application. This module gets better with each release, but File Types and Programs is still one of those preferences that you should be careful with. If you set an application for a specific file type and then change your mind later, taking out the association can be frustrating.


The Font Preferences dialog box is another way to make your desktop look all your own. You can change the default fonts used for applications, desktop icons, window titles, and the GNOME terminal.


You can change the keyboard speed settings and regional layouts in the Keyboard module. A very groovy new feature in this dialog box is the Typing Break tab. If you are someone who forgets to take frequent breaks to move around, give your eyes a rest, and stave off carpel tunnel fun, use the typing break options to enforce breaks.

Keyboard Shortcuts

You know what keyboard shortcuts are. GNOME has a lot of keyboard shortcuts set up already for you, but you can adjust them here. Be careful that you do not use a keyboard shortcut that will interfere with one being used by an application. Also make sure that you don't set any keyboard shortcuts that will activate too easily when you are working on something else. For instance, Enter would be a bad keyboard shortcut.

Login Photo

Use the Login Photo module only if you have set your login manager, GDM, up to use the face browser option. If you did that, you can choose a picture for it here. With all of the cool themes for GDM, you don't really need the face browser.

Menus & Toolbars

This is a simple dialog box with only a few choices for how you want to view the menus and toolbar in different applications.


In the Mouse module, you can change your click speed, decide whether you are left-handed, and adjust cursor and mouse speed options. You know, they used to burn left-handed people as witches. I'm not saying anything about you&8212;I'm just telling you that. (*ehem* witch! *ehem*)

Network Proxy

In an office environment, you will need your network administrator to help you with your proxy settings. If you have a proxy server in your home, then you, or whoever set it up for you, will know what to do with the Network Proxy module.


To change the password for your username, open this dialog box, enter your current password, and then enter your new password. This is not the place to change your root password. To change your root password, go to the main menu and choose System Settings > Root Password.

Preferred Applications

Fedora and GNOME choose default applications for you, but once you decide on your favorite programs, you will want to visit the Preferred Applications module. You can choose a preferred Web browser, mail reader, text editor, and terminal application.

Screen Resolution

Here you can change your screen resolution and the refresh rate for your monitor. Don't mess with the refresh rate unless you know the range your monitor allows. Check any paperwork that came with your monitor or search online for documentation to find out the capabilities of your monitor.


The screensaver in GNOME is the XScreenSaver program, so this module brings up the XScreenSaver preferences. You can choose from a bazillion already installed screensavers, have random screensavers or only one, and set the time for the screensaver to activate. The Advanced tab has lots of picky settings for using desktop images in screensavers, diagnostics, and color maps. You might want to check out the Display Power Management section for standby and sleep options.


These preferences handle the sound server, Sound Events (system notification sounds), and the System Bell. Each option is pretty clear just by reading the description. You won't break anything by trying out these options, but you might annoy yourself with a few of those sound choices.


The Theme module (see Figure 4.4) is one of the most important, as far as my fun factor is concerned. Themes are where you can radically change the look of GNOME. There are four types of themes: large overall themes, window controls themes, window border themes, and icon themes. The last three are in a subdialog box that shows up when you click the Theme Details button. When you make changes in the subdialog box, your overall theme shows up as a custom theme. You can then save your custom theme.


Figure 4.4 The GNOME Control Center's Theme Preferences and Theme Details dialog box.


Open this one, and you see the Window Preferences dialog box with options for focus follows mouse (Select Windows When the Mouse Moves over Them) and other options for window behavior and moving windows.

GNOME makes changing your preferences painless. Most of the options in the modules need little explanation. You can try them without fear that you will mess up anything very important. The modules don't have a Defaults button as the KDE Control Center does, so remember what you change, in case you want to undo your actions. I often find it easier to access the modules in the GNOME Control Center through the main menu, especially for changing only one or two preferences.

Table 4.2. How to Find Frequently Used Preferences in the GNOME Control Center

Desktop wallpaper

Desktop Background

Window theme

Theme > Theme Details > Controls

Theme > Theme Details > Window Border

Window colors

You can change window colors only by changing the window control and window border themes.

File associations

File types and programs

Default fonts




Keyboard and mouse settings




[Main Menu] > System Settings > Printing (root password required)

New fonts

Installing new fonts is not in the Control Center but is easily done. Open Nautilus, type fonts:// in the address bar (or use File > Open Location if Nautilus is in spatial mode), and then drag and drop TrueType font (.ttf) files into the directory.

Notification sounds

Sound > Sound Events

Installing new window border and control themes in GNOME is easier than it is in KDE. All you need to do is download the compressed file from a Web site with GNOME themes, such as http://art.gnome.org or http://gnome-look.org. Open the Theme dialog box in the Control Center and click the Theme Details button. Go to the right tab for the type of theme that you downloaded and click the Install Theme button. Select your downloaded file, and you are done. You should see the new theme that you installed in the list on the appropriate tab.

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