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Ubuntu is a free Linux-based operating system based on Debian and named after the Southern African philosophy of ubuntu ("humanity towards others"). As of 2012, Ubuntu is cited as the most popular Linux distributon on desktop machines and also popular for servers and cloud computing.

Ubuntu is sponsored by the UK-based company Canonical Ltd which makes revenue by selling software support (since the OS if free). Each version of Ubuntu is named with "adjective animal" starting with the same level in sequence... for example version Ubuntu 11.04 is "Natty Narwhal", 11.10 is "(Oneiric Ocelot)", 12.04 is "Precise Pangolin".... (a Pangolin is a scaly long tailed ant-eating mammal found throughout Asia and Africa), and so on. The names are fairly comical, but very difficult to remember.

I first used Ubuntu in September 2012 when I started a job at Google and was given an Ubuntu 12 desktop machine (the default at Google). At the time I had some experience with Unix breed operating systems like Red Hat, but Unbuntu 12 is very different from all of these and also different from Unbuntu version 10 and earlier - if anything the latest Ubuntu's seem most similar to OS X. Most notably, Ubuntu 11 and 12 don't have an "Applications" button at the top left and instead use a "Unity" design with has a "Dash Home" button where you can see recent files and applications.

WARNING: All the tips and shortcuts lists here are for Ubuntu 12, so may not work for other versions.

Accessing and Installing Applications

To access applications hit [super]+[a] (where super is the apple/windows key) and you can see a list of applications. When an application is launched you can right click it in the lanch bar (on the left) and say "Lock to launch bar".

To install applications, many can be access from the "Ubuntu software center" which may already be an icon on your launch bar, or else click [super]+[a]. Type the application you want (eg: "GIMP") into the searh bar and you may see it appear in the as software available for download.... then just click it and install (will need admin password). Most Ubunty applications are free, or pretty darn cheap.

Useful Shortcuts Keys in Ubuntu

NOTE: Many of these shortcuts are visible when you hold down [super] for over 2 seconds

  • Dash:
    • [super] - open "dash home"
    • [super]+[a] - open applications list in dash
    • [super]+[1-9] - open corresponding app in launcher

  • Workspaces:
    • [super]+[s] - see all workspaces (and drag windows between)
    • [ctrl]+[alt]+[arrows] - switch workspace
  • Windows:
    • [super]+[w]** - spread windows (same as [F12] on Mac)
    • [ctrl]+[super]+[d] - minimize all windows, then a second time to unhide (similar to [Window]+[m])
    • [ctrl]+[super]+[arrows] - maximize/minimize window
    • [alt] - press alt at any time to access all app specific commands
    • [alt]+[`] - switch windows same app
    • [super]+[tab] - switch windows using launcher
    • similar to windows: [alt]+[F4] - close window | [alt]+[tab] - switch windows

  • Compiz:
    • For more shortcut options type "Compiz" into Dash home, then enable "Commands" and click "General Options" then the "key bindings" tab.

Favorite Applications

Here's a list of programs I have installed, for future reference:

  • "Panel tint2" - adds a Windows like "task bar" down the bottom for switching between programs. Once installed you have to hit [alt]+[F2] then type "tint2" for it to show up. To start every time [alt]+[F2] > "Startup Applications" and add "tint2" as command and name.
  • "GIMP" - free image editing software, although no my favorite - I prefer http://apps.pixlr.com/editor/ (online tool).

Enabling Workspaces

By default, workspaces are off. Click Gear icon > System Settings > Appearance > Behavior tab then "enable workspaces". You can now use the [ctrl][alt][arrowkeys] to go between the 4 (2x2) workspaces.