The Complete Beginners Guide To Ubuntu

Ubuntu Launcher
The Complete Guide To Ubuntu.

Ubuntu (pronounced "oo-boon-too") is one of the most popular desktop Linux operating systems.

If you aren't familiar with Linux, this guide will tell you all about GNU/Linux.

The term Ubuntu derives from South Africa and roughly translates to "humanity towards others".  

The Ubuntu project is committed to the principles of open source software development. It is free to install and free to modify, although donations to the project are most welcome.

Ubuntu first burst onto the scene in 2004 and quickly shot to the top of the Distrowatch rankings based on the fact that it was easy to install and easy to use.

The default desktop environment within Ubuntu is Unity. It is a very modern desktop environment with a powerful search tool for finding all of your applications and documents and it integrates well with common applications such as audio players, video players, and social media.

There are other desktop environments available within the package manager including GNOME, LXDE, XFCE, KDE, and MATE. There are also specific versions of Ubuntu which are designed to work and integrate well with these desktop environments such as Lubuntu, Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME and Ubuntu MATE.

Ubuntu is backed by a large company called Canonical. Canonical employs the core Ubuntu developers and they make money in various ways including providing support services.

How To Get Ubuntu

You can download Ubuntu from

There are two versions available:

  • Long Term Support Release - 14.04
  • Latest Version - 15.10

The Long Term Support Release will be supported until 2019 and is the version that is better for people who don't like to upgrade their operating system regularly.

The Latest Version provides more up to date software and a later Linux kernel which means you get better hardware support.

How To Try Ubuntu

Before going all in and installing Ubuntu over the top of your current operating system it is a good idea to try it out first.

There are various ways to try Ubuntu and the following guides will help:

How To Install Ubuntu

The following guides will help you install Ubuntu on your hard drive

How To Navigate The Ubuntu Desktop

The Ubuntu desktop has a panel at the top of the screen and a quick launch bar down the left side of the screen.

It is a good idea to learn the keyboard shortcuts for navigating around Ubuntu as it will save you time.

A key can be found which tells you what the shortcuts are. To display the list of keyboard shortcuts hold down the super key. The super key on a standard computer is denoted with the Windows logo and is next to the left alt key.

The other way to navigate Ubuntu is with the mouse. Each of the icons on the launch bar points at an application such as the file manager, web browser, office suite, and software center.

Click here for a complete guide to the Ubuntu Launcher.

The top icon when clicked brings up the Ubuntu Dash. You can also bring up the dash by pressing the super key.

The dash is a powerful tool which makes it easier for you to find applications and documents.

The easiest way to find anything is simply by typing into the search box as soon as the Dash appears.

Results will start to appear straight away and you can simply click on the icon of the file or application you wish to run.

Click here for a complete guide to the Ubuntu Dash.

Connecting To The Internet

You can connect to the internet by clicking on the network icon on the top panel.

You will be presented with a list of wireless networks. Click on the network that you wish to connect to and enter a security key.

If you are connected to a router using an ethernet cable you will be automatically connected to the internet.

You can browse the web using Firefox.

How To Keep Ubuntu Up To Date

Ubuntu will notify you when updates are available for installation. You can tweak the settings so that the updates work the way you want them to.

Unlike with Windows, you have full control as to when the updates are applied so you won't suddenly turn on your computer to find update 1 of 465 installing.

Click here for a guide to updating Ubuntu.

How To Browse The Web With Ubuntu

The default web browser that comes with Ubuntu is Firefox. You can launch Firefox by clicking on its icon on the launcher or by bringing up the Dash and searching for Firefox.

Click here for a complete Firefox guide.

If you would prefer to use Google's Chrome browser then you can install it by downloading it from Google's website.

This guide shows you how to install Google Chrome.

How To Setup The Thunderbird Email Client

The default email client within Ubuntu is Thunderbird. It has most of the features you would need for a home desktop operating system.

This guide shows how to set up Gmail to work with Thunderbird

This guide shows how to set up Windows Live Mail with Thunderbird

To run Thunderbird you can either press the super key and search for it using the dash or press Alt and F2 and type thunderbird.

How To Create Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations

The default office suite within Ubuntu is LibreOffice. LibreOffice is pretty much the standard when it comes to Linux-based office software.

There are icons in the quick launch bar for the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation packages.

For everything else, there is the help guide within the product itself.

How To Manage Photos Or View Images

Ubuntu has a number packages which deal with managing photos, viewing and editing images.

Shotwell is a dedicated photo manager. This guide by OMGUbuntu has a very good overview of its features.

There is a more basic image viewer called Eye Of Gnome. This allows you to view photos within a particular folder, zoom in and out and rotate them.

Click here for a full guide to Eye Of Gnome.

Finally, there is the LibreOffice draw package which is part of the full office suite.

You can launch each of these programs via the dash by searching for them.

How To Listen To Music Within Ubuntu

The default audio package within Ubuntu is called Rhythmbox

It provides all of the features you would expect of an audio player with the ability to import music from various folders, create and edit playlists, connect with external media devices and listen to online radio stations.

You can also set up Rhythmbox as a DAAP server which allows you to play music on your computer from your phone and other devices.

To run Rhythmbox press alt and F2 and type Rhythmbox or search for it using the Dash.

Click here for a full guide to Rhythmbox.

How To Watch Videos Within Ubuntu

To watch videos you can press F2 and type Totem or search for Totem using the Dash.

Here is a full guide to the Totem movie player.

How To Play MP3 Audio And Watch Flash Video Using Ubuntu

By default, the proprietary codecs required to listen to MP3 audio and watch Flash video aren't installed within Ubuntu for licensing reasons.

This guide shows how to install all the things you need.

How To Install Software Using Ubuntu

The main graphical tool to use when installing the software within Ubuntu is the Ubuntu Software Centre. It is fairly clunky but it is by and large functional.

Click here for a guide to the Ubuntu Software Centre.

One of the first tools I recommend installing via the Software Centre is Synaptic as it provides a much more powerful base for installing other software.

Click here for a guide to Synaptic.

Within Linux software is held within repositories. Repositories are basically servers which contain software which can be installed for a particular distribution. 

A repository can be stored on one or more servers known as mirrors. 

Each item of software within a repository is called a package. There are many different package formats out there but Ubuntu utilizes the Debian package format.

Click here for an overview guide to Linux packages.

Whilst you might find most of the things you need via the default repositories, you may wish to add some extra repositories to get your hands on software that doesn't exist within those repositories.

This guide shows how to add and enable extra repositories within Ubuntu.

Using graphical packages such as the Software Centre and Synaptic aren't the only ways to install software using Ubuntu.

You can also install packages via the command line using apt-get. Whilst the command line may seem daunting you will soon begin to appreciate the power of apt-get after using it for a while.

This guide shows how to install software via the command line using apt-get and this one shows how to install individual Debian packages using DPKG.

How To Customise Ubuntu

The Unity Desktop isn't as customizable as many other Linux desktop environments are but you can do basic things like changing the wallpaper and determine whether the menus appear as part of the application or in the top panel.

This guide tells you everything you need to know about customizing the Ubuntu desktop.

How To Install Other Major Software Packages

There are some major packages that you will probably want to use and these have been left specifically for this section of the guide.

First up is Skype. Skype is now owned by Microsoft and so you would be forgiven for thinking it wouldn't work with Linux.

This guide shows how to install Skype using Ubuntu.

Another package that you might use within Windows that you will probably want to continue using within Ubuntu is Dropbox.

Dropbox is an online file storage facility which you can use as an online backup or as a collaborative tool for sharing files among colleagues or friends.

Click here for a guide to installing Dropbox within Ubuntu.

To install Steam within Ubuntu I recommend not using the Software Centre. Either take my advice from earlier and install Synaptic and search for it from there or follow the apt-get tutorial and install Steam via apt-get.

The package that is installed will require a 250-megabyte update but once this is installed Steam will work perfectly within Ubuntu.

Another product bought by Microsoft is Minecraft. This guide shows you how to install Minecraft using Ubuntu.


This guide provides an overall overview to Ubuntu with a lot of links to other guides. By following through all the guides relevant to your needs you will soon get to grips with Ubuntu.

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