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The Ubuntu guide for displaced Windows users

Chris Hoffman | March 11, 2013
With Windows 8 pushing a "touch-first" desktop interface--Microsoft's words, not ours--and with Valve's Steam on Linux beginning to bring much-needed games and popular attention to the oft-overlooked operating system, there's never been a better time to take Linux out for a test drive.

The dash: The dock doesn't show all your installed applications. To open the dash so you can reach other applications, click the Ubuntu icon in the upper-left corner of your screen, or press the Windows key (known as the Super key in Linux). The dash allows you to search and browse your installed applications and files, among other things. Use the search feature to find an installed application, or click the Applications icon at the bottom of the dash to browse all of your installed applications.

Locking and unlocking app icons: When you open a new application, its icon will appear on the dash for as long as it's running. You can right-click icons to lock them to and unlock them from the dock, just as you can pin and unpin them on the WIndows taskbar.

Application menus: Ubuntu uses a Mac-style universal menu bar by default. So if you're using Firefox, you'll find the File/Edit/View menus on the panel at the top of your screen, not in the Firefox window itself.

Your Home folder: Open Ubuntu's file manager, and you'll see your Home folder. This is where you store your personal files, just as you would on the C:\Users\Name folder in Windows. But unlike in Windows, your user account doesn't have write access to areas in Ubuntu outside your home folder, so get used to storing your files here.

Workspaces: Linux has always offered excellent support for workspaces, also known as virtual desktops. A virtual desktop is essentially its own self-contained workspace with a different set of open windows. You can switch between workspaces with hotkeys by pressing Ctrl-Alt-arrow key.

The Workspace Switcher icon located near the bottom of the dock also allows you to view and manage your workspaces. You can move windows between workspaces in any of three ways: right-click their title bars and use the options in the context menu; drag and drop them in the workspace switcher; or press Ctrl-Alt-Shift-arrow key.

The HUD: The Ubuntu heads-up display provides an easy way to search and use an application's menu items with just your keyboard. To activate it, press Alt and start typing a command that appears in a program's menu. For example, if you want to activate the View > Show Hidden Files menu option in the file manager, you can press Alt, type Show Hidden, and press Enter to activate the menu option. You can also use this feature to search for and find menu options.

Indicator applets: Like system tray icons in Windows, indicator applets show your battery state, network connection, and sound settings. You'll find them in the upper-right corner of your screen. In Ubuntu, as in Windows, applications that you install can add their own indicator applets. Use the options under the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your screen to shut down your computer or to access the System Settings window, which corresponds to the Windows Control Panel.


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