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Using Your Linux Desktop

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This chapter introduces you to Linux Desktop's graphical user interface, which allows you to navigate the operating system. While this chapter is geared toward Linux novices, there are some hints and tips that will help even the experienced Linux user.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Linux provides two basic types of interface for you to use when working with your computer: GUI (graphical user interface) and CLI (command-line interface). An overview of the interface types is provided in Chapter 5. In this chapter, the most common type of interface, a GUI called a desktop, is discussed in detail. The CLI is discussed in detail in Chapter 7.

Linux can start without a desktop, but most users prefer to have Linux start with a desktop. The installation instructions provided in Chapter 4 result in a desktop opening at startup. A desktop interface functions as the top of your desk, supplying an empty working surface and a set of tools.

Different distributions provide different desktops, but most provide KDE (K Desktop Environment) and/or GNOME (Gnu Network Object Model Environment)—the Big Two of Linux desktops. The default desktop differs by distribution. For instance, Fedora defaults to GNOME, and Mandrake/SuSE defaults to KDE. However, you can change the default once you decide which desktop you prefer.

KDE and GNOME are open source software, each developed in a project of its own. New versions are released independently of Linux releases or the release of any specific Linux distribution. As a result, different distributions include different KDE and/or GNOME versions. In addition, KDE and GNOME are very configurable. Almost everything about them can be changed. Consequently, KDE and GNOME don't look exactly the same in different distributions or versions of distributions.

When using this book, remember that your KDE or GNOME may not look exactly like the book. Most of the figures in the book are Fedora Core 2 (KDE 3.2/GNOME 2.6) or Mandrake 10 (KDE 3.2/GNOME 2.4). Your version may be older or newer. Because your KDE and GNOME may not always look and behave exactly as shown in the book, it's best to consider the instructions in this chapter as suggestions, rather than an exact map. It provides clues to the most likely places to find configuration tools, but not necessarily a detailed route.

This chapter describes the contents of your desktop and how to use them. Then, when you are comfortable with the default appearance and behavior of your Linux, you find out how to change everything.

Logging In

To access your desktop, you must log in using a Linux account. When you power on your computer, the process goes as follows:

  1. The computer boots up.

  2. The computer prompts you to log in.

  3. You log in to an account, typing your password.

  4. The desktop displays.

After the computer boots (Step 1), you see a login screen. The login screens for Fedora Core, Mandrake, and SuSE are shown in Figure 6-1.

Figure 6.1

Figure 6-1 Login screens.

Notice that Mandrake and SuSE give you a choice of accounts. In this case, only one account (janet) is available. If more accounts were installed, they would also be on the login screen. Accounts are discussed in Chapter 8.

Select an account by clicking it. In SuSE, the account name appears in the Login field. Type the password in the Password field and click Go! to log in. In Mandrake, a second screen appears, as shown in Figure 6-2.

Figure 6.2

Figure 6-2 Second login screen for Mandrake.

Type in the password and click Login to log in.

Fedora requires you to type the name of the account. When you type the account name and press <Enter>, the username field changes to the password field, asking for the password. Type the password and press <Enter> to login in.

Many Linux distributions allow you to select which desktop to use when you log in. Of course, you can only select among the desktops that you installed. KDE and GNOME are discussed in this book, but other desktops are available and were possibly installed by default during installation. For instance, notice in Figure 6-2 that the Mandrake login screen has a button to select Session type. If you click the button, a drop-down list appears, shown on the right. The default desktop is KDE, but you can change it. GNOME is shown in the list because it was specifically added during the installation, as shown in Chapter 4. Failsafe starts Linux without a desktop, just with the CLI, discussed in Chapter 7.

Notice that all three login screens in Figure 6-1 provide a button (Shutdown, Halt) that allows you to stop the login if you want.

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