31 Things to Do to Get Started After Installing Ubuntu

Setting up Ubuntu to do cool things with the Linux operating system

After installing Ubuntu, you should familiarize yourself with the desktop environment and download essential software to get the most out of your operating system. Here's a list of important things to do while setting up Ubuntu.

Information in this article applies to version 11.04 and later of the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

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Learn How Ubuntu's Unity Launcher Works

Ubuntu Launcher

The Ubuntu Launcher provides a series of icons on the left side of the Unity desktop environment. When you open an application in Ubuntu, an arrow appears next to the app icon in the launcher. Every time a new instance loads, another arrow is added (up to four). It's also worth noting that the icons will flash until the application has fully loaded. Some applications provide a progress bar when they're in the middle of a long-running task.

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Learn How Ubuntu's Unity Dash Works

Ubuntu Dash

If the application you want to run isn't available from the Unity Launcher, you'll need to bring up the Unity Dash. The Unity Dash is a hub that you can use to find your applications, files, music, photos, online messages, and videos. To access the Unity Dash, select the Ubuntu icon at the top of the launcher. The Dash keeps a history of everything you search for, but you can clear your Unity Dash history and control what items show up in the history.

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Connect to the Internet

Ubuntu internet network options

Connecting to the internet is essential for downloading software and browsing the web. It's possible to access the internet from the Linux command line, but it's easier to use the system menu at the top of the screen to connect to Wi-Fi with Ubuntu. If your wireless networks don't appear, you could have an issue with your device drivers. The official documentation has tips for troubleshooting Ubuntu Wi-Fi issues.

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Update Ubuntu

Ubuntu Software Updater

Keeping Ubuntu up-to-date is important for security reasons and to make sure you get bug fixes for applications installed on your system. All you need to do is run the Software Updater package from the Ubuntu Dash. If you go into the application's settings, you'll find an option to get notified when a new version of Ubuntu becomes available.

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Learn How to Use the Ubuntu Software Tool

Ubuntu Software tool

The Ubuntu Software tool is used to install and uninstall software on Ubuntu. You can open the Ubuntu Software tool by selecting the shopping bag icon on the launcher. Under the All tab, you can search for new packages or browse apps by categories such as audio, development tools, games, etc. The Installed tab shows a list of all the packages that are installed on your system, and the Updates tab shows a list of updates that need to be installed to keep your system up-to-date.

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Enable Extra Repositories

Canonical Partner Repositories

The repositories set up when you first install Ubuntu are limited. In order to get access to the good​ stuff, you will need to add extra repositories and PPAs to Ubuntu. Personal package archives (PPAs) contain software updates that are not available in the main repositories.

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Install the Ubuntu After Install Tool

Ubuntu After Install

The Ubuntu Software tool doesn't include all of the packages that most people need. For instance, Google Chrome, Steam, and Skype are missing. The Ubuntu After Install tool provides a method for installing these and many other packages. You can choose which packages you want or download them all at once.

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Add Fonts With Ubuntu Restricted Extras

Install Microsoft fonts on Ubuntu Linux

You may notice that none of the Windows-based fonts that you're used to are available in Ubuntu. Likewise, when you try to listen to music, you won't be able to play your MP3 files. To add more fonts to Linux and enable Flash and MPEG playback, install the Ubuntu Restricted Extras package, which is available via the Ubuntu After Install application highlighted above.

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Learn How to Open a Terminal Window

Linux Terminal Window

You can do most things in Ubuntu without using the terminal, but you will find that many tutorial guides focus on terminal commands rather than the graphical user interface because the terminal is universal across many Linux distributions. There are multiple ways to open the terminal window in Ubuntu including the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + T. You should also familiarize yourself with Linux commands for navigating the file system

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Learn How to Use Sudo

Examples of the sudo command in Ubuntu

The Ubuntu sudo command is one of the most frequently used terminal commands. You must use sudo to run commands that require root access, such as installing certain updates or making changes to the operating system. Whenever you try to perform an administrative task, sudo will ask for your user password to protect your system from unauthorized changes.

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Enable DVD Playback

Mount A DVD Using Ubuntu

There are multiple ways to mount DVDs using Ubuntu. To play encrypted DVDs, you must install the libdvdcss2 package. Open up a terminal window and run the following command:

sudo apt-get install libdvdread4
sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/install-css.sh
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Learn How to Use apt-get

Use apt-get to install files

The Ubuntu Software app serves as a front end for the Advanced Packaging Tool (APT), which is the same default package-management framework used in other Linux distribution. Ubuntu Software has the most popular packages, but if you can't find the one you need, you can use the apt-get command line tool to install any package on Ubuntu.

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Change the Desktop Wallpaper

Change Background Wallpaper

Want to change the desktop wallpaper in Ubuntu? Right-click on the desktop and choose Change Background from the context menu to see a list of default wallpaper options. You can even use your own image if you prefer. Alternatively, you can choose a solid color or a color gradient as the background.

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Customize How The Unity Desktop Works

Unity Tweak

You can use the Unity Tweak tool to customize the Ubuntu interface. For example, it lets you change the size of the launcher icons and adjust the window switching shortcuts. You can also move the Ubuntu launcher to the bottom of the screen.

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Connect to a Printer

Setup Ubuntu Printer

If you have a network printer set up, you must supply the IP address or plug it directly into your computer. If Ubuntu doesn't detect your printer right away, then it may not be supported. The Ubuntu community pages contain information about which printers are supported by Ubuntu as well as links to drivers and tutorials for individual devices. 

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Import Music Into Rhythmbox


Rhythmbox is the default audio player in Ubuntu. After installing the packages required to play music files, the first thing you will want to do is import your music collection. The Rhythmbox interface makes it easy to import files from your computer, from a CD, or from an FTP server. You can also listen to internet radio and download podcasts. Although iPod support is limited, the Ubuntu documentation has detailed instructions for how to connect portable music devices to Ubuntu.

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Setup Online Accounts Within Ubuntu

Ubuntu Online Accounts

You can integrate your Facebook, Twitter, and other online accounts into the Ubuntu desktop. That way, you can manage your social media feeds without having to open a web browser. Go to System Settings > Online Accounts to see which services are compatible with Ubuntu.

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Install Steam

Ubuntu Steam Launcher

If you plan to use your computer for PC gaming, then you will more than likely want Steam installed. The easiest way to install Steam is to use the Ubuntu After Install application; however, you can also install Steam via the Synaptic Package Manager or using the command line. After downloading the necessary updates, you will be able to log in to Steam and play your favorite games.

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Install WINE

Ubuntu WINE

Do you miss your old Windows apps? WINE, which stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator, allows you to run Windows programs natively within Linux. Unlike traditional emulators, WINE acts as a compatibility layer that facilitates communication between the Linux and Windows APIs. In addition to dozens of official Microsoft applications, WINE can also run games made for Windows.

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Install PlayOnLinux


While WINE is a great tool for running Windows programs on Linux, PlayOnLinux provides a nice graphical front end which makes it easier to install games and other applications. In addition to PC games like Grand Theft Auto 4, you can run productivity software like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and Dreamweaver.

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Install Skype

Skype On Ubuntu

Skype is still one the best VoIP services for video chatting with friends and family from your computer. Microsoft has web-based Skype client just for Linux users. All you have to do is install the Skype package for Ubuntu.

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Install Dropbox

Dropbox Ubuntu

Using Dropbox for Linux to send files is often easier than using email or messaging apps. Dropbox is a dependable cloud storage service for sharing documents, photos, and more between users. It can also serve as offsite storage for large videos and other media files.

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Install Java

Ubuntu OpenJDK

Java is required to run many games and applications, but Ubuntu doesn't come with it enabled. Therefore, you must install the Java Runtime Environment and the Java Development Kit for Ubuntu. You can install either the official Oracle version or the open source version. After enabling Java, you can install Minecraft on Ubuntu using snap packages.

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Back Up Your System

Backing Up Ubuntu

After going through the trouble of installing all that software, you should back up your Ubuntu files and folders using the built-in backup utility. It lets you schedule automatic backups and automatically upload them to the cloud for safe keeping. Another way to backup your files is to create a Linux tarball using the terminal.

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Change the Desktop Environment

XFCE Desktop Ubuntu

If your machine is struggling under the weight of Unity, or you just don't like it, there are other desktop environments to try such as XFCE, LXDE or KDE. For example, XFCE is highly customizable and optimized to run on low-end devices. If your prefer an environment that is more similar to Windows, try installing the Cinnamon desktop for Ubuntu.

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Read Full Circle Magazine

Full Circle Magazine

Full Circle Magazine is a free online magazine for the Ubuntu operating system. The PDF-formatted magazine features user-submitted articles and tutorials designed to help you get the most out of your Ubuntu installation.

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Get Support For Ubuntu

Ubuntu Community Support page

Since Ubuntu is open source software, it has a massive community of users who are eager to share information. If you need help figuring out how to do something, visit the official Ubuntu community support page, the unofficial Ubuntu Forums, or AskUbuntu.com. You may also find advice from other Ubuntu users on Reddit.

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Enable Virtual Workspaces

Enable Workspaces In Ubuntu

One of the best features of Linux that sets it apart from other operating systems is the ability to use multiple workspaces. To enable this feature, open the Ubuntu settings, select the Appearance tab, then select the Behavior tab and check the Enable Workspaces box.

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Change the Default Ubuntu Applications

Change The Default Applications

By changing the default applications for Ubuntu, you can make it so that all HTML files open in Chrome instead of Firefox. Likewise, you can change your default music player so that MP3 files open in Banshee instead of Rhythmbox. You can also choose to automatically run a program when you start Ubuntu.

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Uninstall Ubuntu Software Packages

Remove software in Ubuntu

Not every package that comes with Ubuntu is required. For example, after installing Chrome, you probably won't need Firefox anymore. You should remove software from Ubuntu that you no longer use to free up space for more useful programs.

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Upgrade to the Latest Version Of Ubuntu

Ubuntu 15.04 desktop

Although Ubuntu 14.04 will be supported until at least 2022, you'll eventually want to upgrade to a newer version to take advantage of additional features. In order to upgrade Ubuntu, run the following command from the terminal:

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

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