When presented with a bare Ubuntu desktop, a new user is often not sure what to do next. Here are a few things I would suggest:
Enable Universe and Multiverse Repositories
It’s almost a given that you’re going to want to download some cool program from one of these repositories. (Repositories are just collections of programs that you can download). The Universe repository contains thousands of programs maintained by the Ubuntu community, are generally safe, but come with no guarantee. Multiverse contains programs that are not “free”, meaning they have licensing issues that don’t meet Ubuntu’s requirements, so take that into consideration. To learn more about the various repositories, go here. To enable these repositories, simply go to System > Administration > Software Sources. Check the boxes labeled “Community-maintained Open Source software (universe)” and “Software restricted by copyright or legal issues (multiverse)”, and then click the Close button. When prompted to reload, just click the Reload button.
Go to System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager. Here’s where you get to see all the applications that you can download any time you want. Once you find an app you want to download, click the box next to it, select Mark for Installation, and then click on the Mark button if prompted to also install additional items that the program needs. When ready to download, just click the Apply button on the top menu and all the apps you chose will be downloaded and installed for you. Try installing a game or two for fun. One of my favorites is FloboPuyo. You can click the Search button and type that in to go right to it.
Add Applets and Launchers to Panel
The panels are like toolbars for the desktop. You can add things to the panels to make it easy to launch applications. Right-click on any empty space on the panel. Click Add To Panel. Now you have 3 choices:
1) Choose one of the pre-configured applets such as Clipboard Manager, Force
Quit, System Monitor, Volume Control, and Weather Report and click the Add button.
2) Application Launcher – Lets you copy one of the already configured programs located in the Applications menu onto the panel. For instance, I added Synaptic and Terminal to my panel for quick, easy access.
3) Custom Application Launcher – If an application isn’t already in the Applications menu, this is how you add it to the panel. It’s a little more complex, so I’ll skip it for now, but basically, you’ll need to know the command needed to run the app in order to make this work.
You can also add more panels to your desktop (bottom, sides…). Simply right-click the panel, and choose New Panel. A new one will be created. You can then right-click the new panel, choose Properties and redefine where it should be placed or make other adjustments to it. Then just add items to it just like you did above.
Run through the System menu items
The System menu (Preferences and Administration) holds tons of useful information. Just take a look at everything there so you are familiar with it. Next time you need to do something like configure power management, you might remember where to find it because you saw it during this run-through.
Check out Tomboy in Applications / Accessories
Tomboy is an awesome little notes application that helps me remember all kinds of things (including Ubuntu tips). Some people have issues with Tomboy because they don’t like the fact that it is historically connected to Microsoft, but I don’t let that kind of thing get in the way of enjoying a cool program.
Go to Applications > Add/Remove, choose Show All Available Applications, and search for Sysinfo. When it is listed, place a checkmark in the box next to it, and then click on Apply Changes to install it. Once installed, it will show up in Applications > System Tools and will show you lots of juicy details about your system configuration. Of course, there are other ways to get the information from the command line, but this is the nice, graphical solution for beginners.
Google Anything You Don’t Understand
The fastest way to get an answer to a question is to Google it! I usually just type the word “ubuntu” in front of whatever I’m wondering how to do in the Google search bar, and my answer is usually found really quickly that way.
Those are just a few things to get you started on your journey. Have fun!