Getting started with Ubuntu: the essentials

Annoyingly, things are different if you’re using an ATI or Nvidia graphics card. For an Nvidia card, for example, you’ll need to use the Nvidia X Server Settings Applet (System | Administration | Nvidia X Server Settings), then go to X Server Display Configuration and click the Detect Displays button there. After that, configuring your monitors works in much the same way as above.

Getting started with Ubuntu: the essentials

Change your theme

You can change backgrounds, colours, fonts and themes by going to System | Preferences | Appearance.

Click on a theme in the Theme tab and you’ll see it rolled out immediately, or you can tweak themes by clicking on the Customise button. Feel free to mix and match UI elements, fonts and colours to your taste, or download new ones by clicking on the Get More Themes Online link.

The ClearLooks and NewWave themes are particularly useful if you’re looking for a slightly more Windows-like look and feel as they move the window controls to the right-hand corner, where you might expect them to be.

Play audio and video files

Ubuntu has its own preferred audio and video players installed as standard, but these won’t necessarily handle all your files straight out of the box. In some cases, you can get away with clicking on the file and trusting Ubuntu to find another app or plugin that will play it.

Alternatively, you can use the Ubuntu Software Centre to install the Fluendo codecs to decode MP3s and the GStreamer plugins to handle a variety of music and video files. You’ll find them in the Sound and Video section. Finally, the VLC media player can be invaluable when it comes to handling media files. It’s also in the Software Centre under Sound and Video.

Set your power management settings

You’ll find the power management options under System | Preferences | Power Management.

On a desktop PC, you’ll see only options for putting your computer and the display to sleep, but on a laptop or netbook you’ll get an additional range of options covering systems running on battery power, including what happens when the lid is closed and what you want your system to do when the battery charge gets critically low.

Connect to a wireless network

Once a right royal pain in the proverbial, making a Wi-Fi connection in Ubuntu is now as straightforward as it is in Windows. Click on the standard Wi-Fi bars icon at the top of the screen, and just select your network from the dropdown list. If it asks for a password, type it in. One more click and you’re connected!

In the event that you need to change any settings, right-click on the same icon and select Edit Connections. Use the tabs and panels to select the connection you need to fix, then click on the Edit button to the right. The tabs will allow you to check the wireless security settings and iPv4 settings as well as manage any configuration that needs to be done.

Complete guide to Ubuntu:

How to install Ubuntu
Installing Ubuntu from a USB memory stick
Getting started with Ubuntu: the essentials
How to install software in Ubuntu
10 essential Ubuntu apps
How to run Windows apps in Ubuntu
The Ubuntu file system

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