Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin - Optimized

If you are a recent Linux convert, just new to Linux or only a casual computer user, you don't have to worry: Whatever of the main Linux desktop distributions you are choosing (be it Ubuntu, Zorin OS, Linux Mint, Fedora, ... - whatever flavor of those) to use or try out - you are ok. The following is for power users who want to save clicks and mouse-miles to the absolute minimum required.

This article partly applies also for other distributions that offer compiz.

Since Ubuntu 11.04 which first introduced the new Unity interface for the main desktop instead of Gnome, I was testing many different Linux desktop alternatives because I worried about the future of the Ubuntu desktop. After testing several distributions (see preamble above) and all the main desktop environments including XFCE, LXDE, KDE, Gnome3+AWN, Gnome3+Cairo Dock I came back and settled with Unity on the current Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin) production work desktop. I do consider myself as a Linux Desktop power user on a daily basis at home and work and I focus on usability, efficiency and stability. On 10.04 I was experimenting with Gnome 2 plus AWN or Cairo Dock finding a more efficient desktop configuration. Basically I ended up with something similar to Unity. Except: I was doing hard work on configuration ending up with several small but annoying problems (including crashes of particular applets now and then).

Honestly, I find Unity on Ubuntu 12.04 (not so in the versions before) very stable and useful out-of-the box. There are still a few very first actions, but anyway far less post-install-configuration work than everywhere else (not to talk about Windows which is the OS with the most-post-install work ever existed).

First actions after install (applies to debian based distributions such as Ubuntu, Mint or Zorin OS):
  1. Click Settings/Power Icon in the right upper corner, then "System Settings"->"Appearance"->reduce "Launcher icon size" to 32. Default size is just too big to get most icons fully displayed that I need on a daily basis (ok this first one is only for Ubuntu users with Unity).
  2. Start Nautilus (Windows/Ubuntu/Super key + 1), move mouse to top of screen (new way to get to the active application's menu) and choose "Edit"->"Preferences" and change "default view" to "List View".
    And in tab "Display" I also change the date format to ISO (yyyy-mm-dd) - you might want to keep the default.
  3. Start Firefox and under "View"->"Toolbars" check "Bookmarks Toolbar".
  4. On the commandline (open a terminal):
    sudo apt-get install synaptic

    I now, there is a nice app store now - pretty fine for the normal user and even for me if I want to look around for interesting stuff. But I still like to see the original package names, have overview and full control about the repositories and the like. therefore I still like synaptic - in addition to what comes with Ubuntu.
  5. On the commandline (if on Ubuntu or other distribution with Desktop environment that offers/works with compiz):
    sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-plugins-extra

    That's for configuring my desktop to get the best usability and efficiency.
  6. Enable partner repositories:Press ALT+F2 and type synaptic then press Enter.
    In the menu select Settings->Repositories.
    Enable the partner and independent repositories.
    Close the sources dialog and on the synaptic main window click on the reload button (this is the same as the commandline "sudo apt-get update" - without the quotes).
  7. Managing passwords:
    It is always recommended to use different passwords on different sites where you register and login. After several registrations nobody can remember all the passwords. Therefore it is helpful to use a password manager. My current favorite is keepass2. It can be installed this way:
    sudo apt-add-repository -y ppa:jtaylor/keepass
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install keepass2
  8. And then I install a lot of other tools - such as (on the commandline again - this is all one line):
    sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras ubuntu-restricted-addons adobe-flashplugin ffmpeg vim cups-pdf gnome-utils thunderbird k3b p7zip-full gufw libdvdcss2 xdotool gthumb vlc shutter gtk-recordmydesktop openjdk-6-jre icedtea-plugin openjdk-7-jre grsync galternatives soundconverter winff asunder ogmrip thoggen k9copy google-talkplugin skype pidgin emesene mc htop traceroute secure-delete pdftk imagemagick rar unrar jhead what-utils ttf-linux-libertine ttf-isabella ttf-dejavu-extra ttf-inconsolata ttf-sil-gentium ttf-junicode ttf-rufscript ttf-radisnoir remmina remmina-plugin-gnome remmina-plugin-xdmcp remmina-plugin-nx freerdp-x11rem chmsee jxplorer mdbtools-gmdb nautilus-filename-repairer smbclient clamav clamav-freshclam clamtk libmotif4 curl network-manager-openconnect-gnome network-manager-openvpn-gnome network-manager-vpnc-gnome openconnect ttf-mscorefonts-installer acroread
    Note: You need to enable a few repositories before:
    #Adding medibuntu (all the next on one line)
    wget --output-document=/etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list http://www.medibuntu.org/sources.list.d/$(lsb_release -cs).list && apt-get --quiet update && apt-get --yes --quiet --allow-unauthenticated install medibuntu-keyring && apt-get --quiet update

    #For Google-Talk-Plugin (2 lines)
    wget -q -O - https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub | sudo apt-key add -

    sudo sh -c 'echo "deb http://dl.google.com/linux/talkplugin/deb/ stable main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google.list'

  9. On Ubuntu with Unity? - Then these help:
    sudo apt-get install classicmenu-indicator lo-menubar unsettings myunity indicator-weather
  10. For the professional IT guys (continue on the commandline - again all one line):sudo apt-get install gparted dconf-tools gconf-editor gisomount bum vim-gnome gedit-plugins geany geany-plugins scite meld diffutils diffuse diffpdf gitg bless ghex build-essential xmlcopyeditor
  11. For the developers or server guys more might be highly relevant (on the commandline one line again):
    sudo apt-get install mysql-server mysql-client mysql-query-browser mysql-gui-tools-common mysql-admin pgadmin3 gsql
Enhanced usability:
Now - if you are on Unity or using a desktop environment with compiz - here are the tweaks to maximize usability:
  1. Start ccsm (e.g. Press ALT+F2 and type ccsm and press Enter). This is the compizconfig-settings-manager.
  2. Choose "Desktop Wall Plugin" under "Bindings" category and set "Move Left" to "Bottom Edge + Button 1" and "Move Right" to "Bottom Edge + Button 3. - That let you switch the desktop left and right easily with the mouse on the bottom edge.
  3. Still in "Desktop Wall Plugin" go to "Edge Flipping" and uncheck "Edge flip move" as well as "Edge Flip DND".
  4. Go back to main screen and select "Scale plugin". Go to "Bindings" and set the "Initiate Window picker" to "BottomRight" and/or "TopLeft".
  5. Go back and switch to "Application Switcher" plugin. Under "Bindings" choose for "Next Window" the TopEdge+Button 1.
  6. Set "Next Window (all Windows)" to "TopEdge+Button3".
Related posts: Locale configuration on Ubuntu, Firefox change default page format, OpenOffice and LibreOffice starts slow, Default paper size in Open Office, Normal.dot in OpenOffice or LibreOffice.