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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Working on the Desktop

The desktop is a workspace with some tools sitting on it. When you want to perform a task, you start an application that opens in a window on the desktop. You can open many windows at once, each performing different tasks, using the same or different applications.

Your desktop offers many features to assist you. Many of the following features will be familiar to Windows users:

  • Icons: You can click icons on the desktop or panel to start applications or go to locations. In most distributions, the desktop icons activate with a double-click and panel icons activate with a single-click. However, this is configurable and some distributions start desktop icons with a single-click. You can add, remove, or reorganize icons on the desktop or panel, discussed later in this chapter.

  • Menus: Linux provides a main menu and many component-specific menus. You can add, remove, or edit menu items. When you install a new application, a menu item is usually added to the main menu.

    • Main menu: Contains available applications and utilities as main menu items or items on submenus, similar to the start menu on Windows. The main menu is opened by clicking an icon on the panel, usually the leftmost icon. The main menu icon is a large K for KDE and a foot for GNOME. However, distributions often use their own logo as the main menu icon, such as the red hat logo on the Fedora panel and the green dragon head on the SuSE panel.

    • Component-specific menu: Menus specific to a component open when you right-click the component. If you right-click on the desktop background, you see one menu; if you right-click on the panel, you see a different menu. If you right-click an icon, you see another menu still. And if you right-click inside an open window, you see still another menu. The menus contain selections that are specific to the object.

    • In many menus, one letter is underlined in the menu selection. You can type the letter, rather than highlight and click, to select the menu item. Some menus show shortcuts for their actions, such as <Alt+F9>. This means you can press <Alt+F9> without opening the menu and the action is performed.

  • Tool tips: Information that displays when you move the mouse pointer over an object and hold it a for a short time, called hovering. You can turn tool tips on and off.

  • Windows manipulation: Windows can be moved, minimized, maximized, resized, moved out of the way, or closed.

    • Move: Click the top bar of the window and drag the window around the desktop using the mouse. Or click the button in the upper-left corner and select move.

    • Resize: Drag the sides or the corners of the window using the mouse. To maximize the window to full-screen size, click the middle button in the upper-right corner.

    • Move out of the way: Double-click the title bar of the window. The window rolls up like a window shade. To unroll it, double-click the rolled up window. Click the - button in the upper-right corner to minimize the window. If your panel has the Show desktop icon, click it to minimize all open windows at once. If the Show desktop icon isn't present, you can add it to the panel, as described later in this chapter.

    • Close: Click the x button in the upper-right corner or select close from the upper-left drop-down menu.

  • Look and feel: The look and feel of the Linux desktop is very configurable. For instance, the desktop background displays a default appearance provided by the distribution. The background for Fedora, Mandrake, and SuSE is blue. Fedora and Mandrake include logos on the background. However, you can change this background to any color, pattern, design, or picture that you want.

  • You can change the appearance of all elements of the desktop, such as the window borders and title bar and the panel. Linux users often configure their desktop with a theme—a unified set of colors and images, even sounds, that integrate all parts of the desktop into a single look and feel. Some themes are included with your distribution that you can use. Others are available for download from the Web. Some people develop their own theme.

    Some behavior of desktop components can also be changed. For instance, icons can be configured to activate with a single-click or a double-click. Windows can become active when clicked or when the mouse pointer passes over them. Tool tips—information that displays when the mouse pointer passes over a component—can be turned on or off.

Remember that almost everything is configurable. This section describes the usual behavior of desktop components. However, most appearance and behavior is configurable. Any distribution might decide to configure their desktop differently. A previous user of your system might have changed some features. If the behavior of your system is different from the description in this chapter, you can change it to your preferred appearance or behavior. Configuring Linux is described later in this chapter.

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