Linux Discovery – Unity Desktop

Once Ubuntu is installed, I can start the system, log in and find myself on a Desktop.

01 - LauncherThe times when Linux was a shell-oriented system are long gone – like Windows is no longer living on a DOS Prompt. Although in both system, the Terminal Window – for those that need it – is still available.

Ubuntu’s Desktop is called “Unity”. And if you are used to Windows, don’t worry – it behaves much like the Windows Desktop does – you learning curve will be minimal.

On the left of the screen, you will find the Launcher. The Launcher is the equivalent to the Taskbar in Windows. Here, you will find Quicklist, a set of icons “pinned” to the Launcher – much like items pinned to the Taskbar in Windows. If you don’t want an icon there, just right-click it and select “Unlock from launcher” and it will be gone.

At the top of the Launcher, you will find the Dash – represented by the Ubuntu logo. The Dash is harder to compare to Windows – it is a mixture of the Start button, recent items and a Search… I will have to gain some experience using it but it seems to be pretty handy at this time.

The Dash will search your computer as well as online resources if you provide a search term – that way you can find local applications as well as a direct reference to website, e.g. Wikipedia.

So let’s search for the term “harddisk” via Dash – as my screen size is limited (for screenshot reasons) I also use the Dash Filters in the upper right corner.

02 - Dask in ActionThe result, following the filter criteria on the right – points me to a local application for disk management as well as to online reference sources such as Wikipedia.

The Dash comes in various flavours which can be switched using the symbols at the bottom.

03 - Dash Symbol BarThese symbols are called “lenses” and by using the different lens, you can display recently used and installed applications (2nd smybol), files & folders (3rd symbol), videos (4th symbol) and so on. It should not go unnoticed that the inclusion of external sources such as Amazon, eBay, Google, etc. is harshly disputed as a concern to loss of privacy.

The top of the screen is occupied by the Global Menu Bar (aka Top Menu Bar) and the Indicators on the right side. The Indicators pretty much compare to the Windows System Tray, the Menu Bar has no Windows equivalent.

To understand the Top Menu Bar, it is best to launch an application – let’s start FireFox with the symbol from the Quicklist.

04 - Top Menu Bar in ActionOnce FireFox is started, the Top Menu Bar is updated with menu command of the application – as opposed to Windows, the menu is not “within the application window” but assimilated into the Top Menu Bar. With two applications open, the Top Menu Bar always shows the menu of the active window.

This allows for another very cool feature of the Unity Desktop: the Head-up Display (HUD). By pressing and releasing the Alt-Key, you can bring up a search window that allows you to search for menu commands of the active application.

FireFox has a couple of Menu items related to page zooming – you can find them in the View menu in the Global Menu Bar.

06 - FireFox MenusYou can see Zoom, Zoom in, Zoom Out and Zoom Text Only. If you now press and release the Alt-Key and then type zoom into the search bar, you will see the following:

05 - HUD in ActionAnd you can select the menu item right from there – a very cool feature, I have to admit, for applications with large menu structures…

Finally, Unity supports a variety of keyboard shortcuts – you can display the most important ones by holding down the Superkey, on most (windows-oriented) keyboards the “Windows”-Key… ironically…

Now that should be sufficient to navigate the Unity Desktop and get things moving…

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