Friday, April 29, 2011

Tweak Unity to better suit your needs. Don't give up!

At some point Windows, Mac DEs and even GNOME, KDE, XFCE, LXDE and others were new for you. You used to learn those and now are fluent with all that stuff. Unity is a bit different, a you need to learn it but not from the start. Now you are familiar with how a DE works so it wouldn't be that difficult.

The real question is what you earn if you take the plunge to learn Unity. In my opinion, the answer is it will save you time. How? Navigate to Applications > Accessories > Terminal on regular GNOME and now press the <Super> button on Unity and type just 3 letters 'ter'. You see the Terminal, press <Down> arrow and hit <Enter>. Got it!

Your kid who is just starting to use computer, give her Unity and let her learn. After a few months, make her sit on a Windows or GNOME/KDE PC and she will say, what the crap is this. Is this how a computer works? I think you understand the point. We are used to regular stuff and don't want to bother a bit even for our own comfort.

So lets tweak Unity a bit to better suit our needs.

Install CCSM and tweak the Dock settings

Press the <Super> button to bring up the Dash and type 'terminal'. Open it and run this command:

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

Once completed, again press the <Super> button and type 'compiz'. You'll see 'CompizConfig Settings Manager', start it and look for the 'Ubuntu Unity Plugin'.

Unity Behaviour, CCSM

Under the 'Behaviour' tab, you can tweak the Reveal Mode, auto-hide settings and shortcut keys.

Unity Experimental, CCSM
Under the 'Experimental' tab, you can change the Animation, Opacity, Icon Size (dock size) etc.

I personally don't like to hide my dock so I've selected 'never' there and made the dock size small enough to fit my small screen.

Get familiar with the shortcuts

AskUbuntu has started a nice thread which has got lots of details on the new shortcuts. Even wallpapers are available to be set as your background and take a look whenever you need. For more info, please see the link below.

Install dconf-editor and tweak some more settings

sudo apt-get install dconf-tools

Press Alt + F2 and type 'dconf-editor'. Navigate to desktop > unity.

dconf-editor, Unity
Under 'devices', you can modify the settings for mounted drives to show up or don't show up in the dock. But you'll need to unmount your drives from Nautilus then.

Under 'panel', you can modify the system tray applications to show up or not in the system tray. By default, the white-listed applications include Java apps, Mumble, Wine applications, Skype, and hp-systray. If you want to enable a specific application, edit the following line under Unity > Panel > systray-whitelist.

['JavaEmbeddedFrame', 'Mumble', 'Wine', 'Skype', 'hp-systray']

Add your desired app inside the [brackets] like this.

['JavaEmbeddedFrame', 'Mumble', 'Wine', 'Skype', 'hp-systray', 'yourapp']

If you want to enable the tray for all the software, remove everything and type ['all'] in its place.

Log out and log back in for the changes to take effect.

And if you want to revert the tray to its default settings later, simply run this command in a Terminal.

gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Panel systray-whitelist "['JavaEmbeddedFrame', 'Mumble', 'Wine', 'Skype', 'hp-systray']"

Monitor your CPU/RAM usage

The Unity panel doesn't support applets but it does support AppIndicators. Install the AppIndicator for monitoring your CPU/RAM usage:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alexeftimie/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-sysmonitor

Now press <Super> and type 'sysmonitor'. Click it and it would appear in your top panel.

Weather Indicator

There is no weather indicator included in the official repositories for Unity till now. However, you can install one from a PPA.

Go to a Terminal and run these commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:weather-indicator-team/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install indicator-weather

For more information, please see the complete description:

Quicklists for the Dock

You can access your Videos, Pictures, Downloads etc folders via the file manager but still there is a way to pin your bookmarks to the dock.

Copy/paste all of this text at once in your Terminal (single command):

echo "[Desktop Entry]

Name=Home Folder
Comment=Open your personal folder
Exec=nautilus --no-desktop

[Videos Shortcut Group]
Exec=nautilus Videos

[Documents Shortcut Group]
Exec=nautilus Documents

[Music Shortcut Group]
Exec=nautilus Music

[Pictures Shortcut Group]
Exec=nautilus Pictures

[Downloads Shortcut Group]
Exec=nautilus Downloads
TargetEnvironment=Unity" | sudo tee /usr/share/applications/nautilus-home.desktop

Now you can right-click the home icon in your dock and navigate to any of your favorite folders.

For more top quicklists, please see here:

Missing your favorite applet?

Please see the others of our select indicators:

There is also a large list of indicators available on AskUbuntu:

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