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Using the Unity desktop

By Kendell Clark for the Vinux Project

When you first boot Vinux after installation or if you elect to try Vinux from the CD, you will be presented with the Unity desktop. It's quite different from previous Vinux versions, so we'll take a detailed tour around the desktop to get you familiarized.

The Panel

While previous Vinux versions had a bottom panel similar to the notification area in Windows, the Unity desktop has a single top panel where things such as your battery status, your network connections, options to shut down or restart, etc, are located. We'll take a detailed look at the panel. Before we get started however, it is worth noting that what appears on your panel will depend on what indicators you have installed. Indicators are like the panel applets in Gnome 2, and serve pretty much the same function. We'll get to those later. To access the panel, press and hold the Alt key, and press and release the F10 key. Orca should announce, "Messages image." This is the messages indicator, which appears when you have either Pidgin or Empathy installed, and allows you to change your status, Away, Available, etc, view any new instant messages, or check your email. To move between the indicators, press the left and right arrow keys. The default indicators that are installed are as follows: Messages indicator; Allows you to change your instant messaging status, view any instant messages you have not read yet, check your email, etc.

Power indicator

Allows you to view the status of your battery if you are using a laptop. This will tell you whether your battery is charging,, how much time you have remaining if you are running on battery power, or if you are charging your battery, approximately how long your battery will take to charge. You can also adjust power settings, what the computer will do when the battery is low, etc by selecting the power settings menu item.

Network indicator

This allows you to view and edit your network connections. If you have a wireless card installed in your computer, this will show you any nearby wireless networks and allow you to change between them. If a network requires a password, the word "secure" will appear after the network name, as will the signal strength of the wireless network. Physically connected networks such as Ethernet and USB networks are also displayed here. VPN, virtual private networks, are supported and can be configured from this menu.

Sound indicator

This indicator will allow you to adjust sound settings, mainly volume controls for speakers, microphones, and any other sound hardware you might have installed. If you wish to change the volume, highlight the volume menu item, press the right arrow to increase and the left arrow to decrease. Orca will not announce the volume change, though the volume is adjusted. Press the down or up arrow to exit changing the volume. This indicator also allows you to mute or unmute your sound and change sound settings.

Time indicator

This indicator shows the date and time, and allows you to adjust date and time settings.

User indicator

This indicator allows you to change user accounts, activate a guest session (useful if you are allowing someone else to use your computer), or change user account settings, such as adding a new user or editing an existing user.

Device indicator

This indicator allows you to change system settings, such as screen, power, view system details (RAM, processor, hard disk space, etc), view the programs that start up when you log in, check for and install software updates, lock your screen (useful if you are leaving your computer and do not wish for anyone else to be able to see what you have been working on), log off, suspend, or shut down your computer.

In addition to these default indicators, other indicators can be installed from the Ubuntu software center (see Installing and Removing Software for info on how to install and remove software.) Some additional useful indicators will be described below.

Weather indicator

This indicator allows you to view weather in multiple areas simultaneously. It will appear on your panel before the default indicators, and will show a breakdown of the current weather conditions for your local area, condition, wind speed, temperature, sunrise and sunset time, high and low temperature, etc. There is also a forecast menu item which will open a dialogue box, allowing you to view a four day forecast. To install, open a terminal and type, "sudo apt-get install indicator-weather." You can also open the Ubuntu software center and enter indicator-weather into the search field.

Skype indicator

In some previous skype versions a panel icon or applet was included in the default skype installation, but now to get accessible access to a range of skype functionality from your top panel you must install a separate package._ <code>_ sudo apt-get install sni-qt:i386_ </code> will install a skype indicator on your vinux running computer. Most of the available items are easily understood as one arrows up and down through the indicator's menu. You can read recent or unread chats, access the skype options menu, log out of your account and quit skype among other things. The one item that may be unclear from its label is activate.___ If skype has been minimized pressing activate will restore the skype window and put it in focus. If you press activate when the skype window is open it will be minimized. Accessiblity is excellent with the exception that as you navigate across the top Accessiblity is excellent with the exception that as you navigate across the top panel the skype indicator is only announced as "image", so like some other indicators you must arrow up or down to see what it is.

CPU frequency indicator

This indicator will allow you to see or adjust the frequency (speed) at which your CPU operates. This can be useful if Unity appears to be running slowly, as your CPU is generally set to use only the minimum amount of speed required to do the task at hand, and adjusted higher or lower as needed. This indicator will appear before any default indicators. What is available in this menu is different from processor to processor. You may have more or less options, but generally you will have these, which are range of numbers that allow you to choose a specific frequency your processor should run at. There are also different optimized settings, such as Performance to use the maximum speed for best performance, Conservative to preserve power, Powerave to preserve power when running on battery, and On Demand, which is usually the default, and will use only the amount of power required and no more. To install, open a terminal and type

sudo apt-get install indicator-cpufreq

Application menus

There is one other important difference between Unity and previous Vinux versions. All applications that have menu bars, such as Gedit, Rhythmbox, etc will now appear on the panel. Accessing menus is still the same- just press F10 from within the application- but the menus will appear on the panel. Use left and right arrow to move between menus, and if you pass the last menu, usually Help, you will arrive on the first indicator you have installed.

The launcher

The launcher is similar to the applications menu in Gnome 2 and the Start menu in Windows, with one important difference. The launcher is a single menu of recently used applications, your favorite applications and removable devices such as external hard drives, USB thumb drives, etc. You can add items from this launcher, called Pinning. You can also remove unwanted applications from the launcher. We will now take a detailed look at the launcher and discuss how to use it. To access the launcher, hold down the Alt key and press and release the F1 key. Orca will announce "launcher pane." To move up and down the launcher, press the up and down arrow keys. Orca will announce menu items, and whether they are running and if so, how many windows are open. For example Orca might say, "terminal 2 windows opened." Removing items from the launcher; If you wish to remove a menu item from the launcher, highlight the item and press the right arrow key. Orca will not announce anything but a menu has just opened. Press the down arrow until you hear, "unlock from launcher." Press enter on this and the item will be removed from the launcher. Note that this only works for applications. If you press the right arrow on a device such as a thumb drive or hard drive, you will open a menu containing options to Eject, Safely remove, and Open the drive in Nautilus file browser.

Adding items to the Launcher

To add an application to the Launcher, simply open the application. While the application is running, access the Launcher. You should see a menu item for that application. For example if I had just opened Mangler, there would now be a Mangler item on the Launcher. Press the right arrow and select lock to Launcher. The application is now available on the Launcher, regardless of whether the application is open or closed. The Launcher will also notify with Orca how many instances, if any, are open of any application. To open a second instance of your home folder with Nautilus for example: Press Shift + Super + F1. Note that if you add a device to the system such as a thumb drive, it automatically appears on the Launcher so there is no need to manually add them. There is one item you cannot remove from the Launcher, and that is Dash Home. This opens the dash, which we will discuss next.

The Dash

Another great feature of Unity, is the Dash. The Dash serves all kinds of purposes, such as allowing you to start applications, browse your files and folders, and even install applications you do not yet have installed. The features that the Dash depends on are called Lenses. Lenses add functionality to the Dash, allowing it to perform different features. We will discuss the Dash in detail. Using the Dash is surprisingly simple. Simply press the Windows key to open the Dash. Orca will announce "Dash pane." Simply start typing. When finished, press the down arrow. The Dash searches for what you typed. Search results consist of files and folders, installed applications or applications that can be installed using Ubuntu Software Center. Press the down arrow to view the results. If you hear, "see more results", press space bar on that menu item to show more results. This will then change to, "see fewer results." You will see some, or all of the following: Files and folders (see x more results); This indicates that there is either a file or a folder matching what you have typed. Press the right arrow to expand the list, and press the down arrow to enter the list. Press the right and left arrow to view the results. To open a file or folder, press Enter. If it is a folder, it will open in Nautilous, allowing you to browse it, add and remove files, etc. If it is a file, it will open in its default application. An audio file in the default media player, a text file in Gedit, and so on. Applications (see x number of results); This indicates that there is one or more installed applications that match. Press the right arrow to expand the list, and press down arrow to enter the list. Press enter on an application to run it. Downloads (see x more results); Items that you have recently downloaded with firefox or other graphical browser that match your search will appear here. Apps available for download (see x more results); If you press enter on one of these menu items, the Ubuntu Software Center will open, allowing you to install an application. If I typed in Mangler, and pressed enter on the Mangler result under apps available for download, the Ubuntu Software Center would open, allowing me to install or read reviews about Mangler. As usual, press right arrow to expand the list, and press the down arrow to enter the list. The reason for this is that the lists are collapsed, so as not to take up too much screen real estate.

unity.txt · Last modified: 2016/04/26 21:43 by Burt Henry