Tutorial: Getting Started On Your Linux Desktop

4. Main Components of the Desktop

The figure below shows a typical view of the graphical Linux desktop.

Click to view screen shot Fig 1.2 A Typical Linux Desktop There are 3 main components on the desktop: · the Menu System · the Panel · the Desktop itself 4.1 The Menu System The main menu can be accessed by clicking on the Main Menu button located at the extreme lower left hand corner of the desktop. This may be portrayed by one of several icons depending on the desktop environment used.

Click to view screen shot Fig 1.3 Generic GNOME Main Menu Button

Click to view screen shot Fig 1.4 Fedora/Red Hat Main Menu Button. Clicking on this will bring up the Menu System as shown in the figure below.

Click to view screen shot Fig 1.5 The Menu System

From the Menu System you can start many of the applications installed on your Linux system. Note that the Menu System consists of a Main Menu panel and sub-menu panels. Each entry in the Menu System which has an arrow on its right means that it is an entry point to a sub-menu, and there can be sub-menus within each sub-menu. In this way applications in the Menu System can be organised and categorised for easy reference and access.

To access a the sub-menu associated with a menu entry, move the mouse and rest it on the menu entry in question and a sub-menu panel will appear.

Click to view screen shot Fig 1.6 Main Menu and Sub-menu Clicking once on a menu entry will cause an application associated with it to be launched, i.e. executed.

4.2 The Panel

The long bar across the bottom of the desktop screen is called the Panel. The Panel contains the Main Menu icon, the application launcher icons, a notification area and applets.

Click to view screen shot Fig 1.7 The Panel

Installed by default are several application launcher icons on the Panel.

Clicking on one of these will run an application. Commonly accessed applications can be added to the Panel and those that are less frequently used can be taken off.

The notification area holds alert icons so that the user can be alerted to critical messages.

Applets are small applications that run on the Panel. These usually perform useful and informative tasks like setting the sound level of the soundcard, monitoring whether the system software needs an update, etc. By default the following applets are run.

  • The Workspace Switcher

  • The graphical desktop can be regarded as a workspace drawing an analogy with the working area on a real physical tabletop. Programs are run, documents displayed and files opened on the workspace. To cut down on workspace clutter and to enable the user to organise his workspace more efficiently, the graphical desktop environment allows the usage of multiple workspaces. Each workspace can be considered as a virtual desktop.

    Click to view screen shot Fig 1.8 The Workspace Switcher. By default the user has four desktop workspace areas to work on. The workspace switcher represents each workspace as a small square and shows the applications running in each of them. To access a workspace click on the square with the mouse.

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