If you've only ever used Windows, getting to grips with a Linux OS can be an intimidating thought. So we've put together an easy-to-use guide to help you get the most out of this OS.
Ubuntu's default Gnome GUI desktop borrows many ideas from other operating systems, so it should seem immediately familiar. The alternative Kubuntu version of the OS uses a different desktop environment called KDE. I won't discuss KDE here, but whichever desktop works best for you will largely be a matter of personal preference.
Neither Gnome nor KDE should pose much difficulty for an experienced Windows or Mac OS X user. Gnome is slightly more Mac-like, while KDE's interface is more similar to Windows.
In Gnome, the top and bottom menu bars together perform functions equivalent to the Windows taskbar. The top bar contains menus for launching applications, navigation, and system configuration, while the bottom bar keeps track of currently running programs.
In addition, the left end of the bottom bar includes a button to hide all currently opened windows, while on the right are squares that represent 'virtual workspaces'. Gnome allows you to open two or more workspaces, each of which acts as a separate desktop, just as if you were working on multiple monitors. Clicking on the menu-bar squares lets you jump from one workspace to the next. You will also find the Trash icon on the right.
Navigating menus and windows follows customary conventions. The left mouse button selects items, and double-clicking opens or launches an item. The right mouse button brings up a contextual menu. A number of global keyboard shortcuts are available, too, including Alt-Tab to switch between windows, Alt-F1 to bring up the Applications menu, and F1 for Help.
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Working with applications
The great thing about Linux distributions such as Ubuntu is that they include not only the OS but also a whole bundle of practical, full-featured applications. In Ubuntu, you can access them from the Applications menu, next to the logo in the top-left corner of the screen. Among the default applications you'll find on your Ubuntu system (along with many other free tools, games, and utilities) are:
- OpenOffice.org, a complete office-productivity suite, including word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software
- The Mozilla Firefox web browser
- Evolution, an email, calendaring, and groupware application similar to Microsoft Outlook
- The Gimp (GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), an open-source graphics-manipulation and painting program akin to Adobe Photoshop
- Rhythmbox, a media player similar to iTunes or Windows Media Player
NEXT PAGE: Even more apps