38 Things to Do to Get Started After Installing Ubuntu

A guide to building out your Ubuntu operating system

What should you do after installing the Ubuntu operating system? Below are several things to look at, many focusing on using Ubuntu while others showing the software you can — and indeed sometimes should — install.

Many of the items on the list are essential, and we've highlighted these to make them easier to spot.

Once you've got Ubuntu fully set up, be sure to configure file and folder backup.

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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.

You need to learn how the Unity Launcher works because it's your first port of call when it comes to starting your favorite applications.

Most people who use Ubuntu probably know that you launch applications by clicking an icon, but many users probably don't realize that an arrow appears next to open applications, and 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 (such as when the Software Centre installs applications).

You can also customize the launcher to include your own set of personal favorite applications.

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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 instead need to use the Unity Dash to find it.

The Unity Dash isn't just a glorified menu, but a hub that you can use to find your applications, files, music, photos, online messages, and videos.

Learn how to use the Unity Dash and you will have mastered Ubuntu.

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Connect to the Internet

Connecting To The Internet Using Ubuntu

Connecting to the internet is essential for installing necessary tools, downloading extra software, and reading online articles.

If you need help, we have a guide on how to connect to the internet from the Linux command line as well as the graphical tools provided with Ubuntu.

It may also be helpful for you to know how to connect wirelessly to the internet.

What happens if the wireless networks don't appear? You could have an issue with your drivers. Check out this video that shows how to set up Broadcom drivers.

You may also want to know how to troubleshoot general 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 to applications installed on your system.

All you need to do is run the Software Updater package from the Ubuntu Dash. As long as you've applied all updates in the Updater application, you can upgrade to the latest version of Ubuntu.

From within the Updater application, choose the Updates tab and then make sure the drop-down at the bottom is set to Notify me of a new Ubuntu version for any new version.

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Learn How to Use the Ubuntu Software Tool

Ubuntu Software

The Ubuntu Software tool is used to install new software. You can open the Ubuntu Software tool by clicking on the icon of a shopping bag on the launcher.

There are three tabs on the screen:

  • All
  • Installed
  • Updates

On the All tab you can search for new packages by entering a description in the box provided or browse through a number of categories such as audio, development tools, education, games, graphics, internet, office, science, system, utilities, and video.

Next to each software package listed after searching or clicking on a category is an install button which when clicked will install the package.

The Installed tab shows a list of all the packages that are installed on your system.

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 all the good​ stuff you will need to enable the Canonical Partners repositories.

The AskUbuntu website also shows you how to do this graphically.

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Install Ubuntu After Install

Ubuntu After Install

The Ubuntu Software tool doesn't include all of the packages that most people need.

For instance, Chrome, Steam, and Skype are missing.

The Ubuntu After Install tool provides a good method for installing these and many other packages.

  1. Click the Ubuntu-After-Install.deb download link and after the package has downloaded click to open it in the Ubuntu Software.
  2. Click the Install button.
  3. To open Ubuntu After Install click the top icon on the launcher and search for Ubuntu After Install.
  4. Click the Ubuntu After Install icon to open it.
  5. A list of every available package is listed and by default they are all checked.
  6. You can install all the packages or you can deselect the ones you do not require by removing the tick from the checkboxes. 
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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 some guides showing how to perform certain tasks focus on terminal commands rather than the graphical user interface because the terminal is universal across many Linux distributions.

It's quick and easy to learn how to open a terminal and work with a list of basic commands. You may also want to review some basics about how to navigate the file system

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Learn How to Use apt-get

Use apt-get to install files

The Ubuntu Software tool is fine for the most common packages but some items don't show up. The apt-get is a command line tool used by Debian based Linux distributions such as Ubuntu to install software.

apt-get is one of the most useful command line tools that you can learn. If you learn one Linux command today it is this one. If you prefer, you can also learn to use apt-get by video

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Learn How to Use sudo

How To Use sudo

Within the terminal, sudo is one of the commands that you will use quite often.

sudo makes it possible for you to run commands as a super user (root) or as another user.

The most important bit of advice that we can give you is to make sure that you understand the whole command before using sudo with any other statement.

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Install Ubuntu Restricted Extras

Ubuntu Restricted Extras

After you have installed Ubuntu you might decide that you want to write a letter, listen to music or play a Flash-based game.

When you write the letter you will notice that none of the Windows-based fonts that you are used to are available, when you try to listen to music in Rhythmbox you won't be able to play the MP3 files and when you try to play a Flash game it just won't work.

You can install the Ubuntu Restricted Extras package via the Ubuntu After Install application highlighted in step 7. This installation will enable all of these common tasks and more.

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Change the Desktop Wallpaper

Change Background Wallpaper

Had enough of the default wallpaper? Prefer pictures of kittens? It only takes a few steps to change the desktop wallpaper within Ubuntu.

  1. Essentially all you have to do is right-click on the desktop and choose Change Background from the context menu.
  2. A list of default wallpapers is shown. Click any of them makes that image the new wallpaper.
  3. You can also add new wallpapers by clicking on the + (plus symbol) and searching for the file you want to use.
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Customize the Way The Unity Desktop Works

Unity Tweak

You can use the Unity Tweak tool to adjust the way Unity works and tweak settings such as changing the size of the launcher icons or adjusting the window switching shortcuts.

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Setup a Printer

Setup Ubuntu Printer

The first thing you should know when setting up a printer within Ubuntu is whether your printer is supported.

The Ubuntu Community Pages contain information on which printers are supported as well as links to guides for individual makes. 

The WikiHow page also has 6 steps for installing printers in Ubuntu.

You may also find a video guide to installing printers useful. If that one doesn't do it for you, there are plenty of other videos available. 

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Import Music Into Rhythmbox


The default audio player in Ubuntu is Rhythmbox. The first thing you will want to do is import your music collection.

The Ubuntu Community Page has some information about using Rhythmbox and this video provides a reasonable overview.

This video provides a better guide to using Rhythmbox although it isn't specifically for Ubuntu.

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Use Your iPod With Rhythmbox


iPod support is still limited within Ubuntu but you can use Rhythmbox to synchronize your music.

It is worth checking out the Ubuntu documentation to see where you stand with regards to portable music devices within Ubuntu.

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Setup Online Accounts Within Ubuntu

Ubuntu Online Accounts

You can integrate online accounts such as Google+, Facebook and Twitter into Ubuntu so that results appear in the dash and so that you can interact straight from the desktop.

A visual guide to setting up online social accounts should help you get started.

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Install Google Chrome Within Ubuntu

Ubuntu Chrome Browser

Ubuntu has the Firefox web browser installed by default and so you might be wondering why installing Google Chrome is provided as one of the options on this list.

Google Chrome is useful if you decide to watch Netflix within Ubuntu. You can install Google Chrome directly into Ubuntu or you can use the Ubuntu After Install application shown in Item 7 above.

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Install NetFlix

Install NetFlix Ubuntu 14.04

In order to watch Netflix within Ubuntu, you will need to install Google's Chrome browser, as detailed above.

Once Chrome is installed Netflix runs natively within the browser.

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Install Steam

Ubuntu Steam Launcher

Linux gaming is moving forward at a very fast pace. If you plan to use your computer for gaming then you will more than likely need Steam installed.

The easiest way to install Steam is to install the Ubuntu After Install application as shown in Item 7 above. However, you can also install Steam via Synaptic and the command line.

After the install has completed you will open the Steam client and this will download the updates.

You will then be able to login to Steam and play your favorite games.

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Install WINE

Ubuntu WINE

Every now and then you will come across a Windows program that you need to run.

There are various ways to run Windows programs in Ubuntu and none of them ​are 100% perfect.

For some, WINE is the easiest option. WINE stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator. WINE allows you to run Windows programs natively within Linux.

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Install PlayOnLinux


WINE is very good but PlayOnLinux provides a nice graphical front end which makes it easier to install games and other Windows applications.

PlayOnLinux lets you choose the program you wish to install from a list or choose the executable or installer.

The correct version of WINE can be specified and customized to work natively with the application you are installing.

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Install Skype

Skype On Ubuntu

If you want to video chat with friends and family then it is possible to install Skype for this very purpose.

Be careful though, some versions of Skype are very old. Consider looking for an alternative such as Google Hangouts which provides many of the same features.

You can also install Skype via the Ubuntu After Install application.

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Install Dropbox

Dropbox Ubuntu

Sharing in the cloud is easier in some cases than trying to email files or share them through messaging apps. For sharing files between people or as an offsite storage area for family photos, large files, and videos, considering installing Dropbox using Ubuntu.

If you prefer, you can also install Dropbox via the Ubuntu After Install application.

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Install Java

Ubuntu OpenJDK

Java is required for playing certain games and applications. But you'll have to install the Java Runtime Environment and the Java Development Kit.

You can install either the official Oracle version or the open source version, whatever is best for you, however, it is not recommended to use the version in Ubuntu After Install as this is behind the latest stable version.

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Install Minecraft

Ubuntu Minecraft

Children everywhere seem to love playing Minecraft. Installing Minecraft in Ubuntu is really quite easy. And it's even possible to install Minecraft and Java all-in-one using a Ubuntu snap package.

If you prefer to install in the traditional way then you can install Minecraft in Ubuntu. The traditional installations also give you access to a Minecraft alternative.

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Backup Your System

Backing Up Ubuntu

After going to all the effort of installing all that software and to make sure you don't lose files, pictures, photos and videos it is worth learning how to backup your files and folders using the default Ubuntu backup tool.

Another good way to backup your files and folders is to create a 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 really don't like it, there are other desktop environments to try such as XFCE, LXDE or KDE.

Learn how to install the XFCE desktop or you can install the Cinnamon desktop if you want to try something different.

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Listen to the Ubuntu UK Podcast

Ubuntu UK Podcast

Now that you are using Ubuntu, you have a great excuse to listen to the excellent Ubuntu Podcast.

You'll learn "all the latest news and issues facing Ubuntu users and Free Software fans in general."

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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 how-tos designed to help you get the most out of your Ubuntu installation.

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Get Support For Ubuntu

Ask Ubuntu

One of the most beneficial aspects of using Ubuntu software is a user base that's willing to share information (that's what Open Source software is all about, after all). If you need more support then try the following resources:

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Upgrade to the Latest Version Of Ubuntu

Ubuntu 15.04

Ubuntu 14.04 is the latest long-term support release and will be fine for many users but as time goes on it will become beneficial for some users to move up to the latest version of Ubuntu.

In order to upgrade to Ubuntu 15.04 you need to run the following command from a terminal:

sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

If you are running Ubuntu 14.04 it will upgrade you to 14.10 and you will have to run the same command again to get to Ubuntu 15.04. 

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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.

In order to use workspaces within Ubuntu, you will need to turn them on.

  1. To enable this feature, click the Settings icon (the little spanner on the launcher).
  2. When the Settings screen appears click the Appearance icon.
  3. From the Appearance screen, you are able to change your wallpaper but more importantly, there is a tab called ​Behaviour.
  4. Click the Behaviour tab and then check Enable Workspaces.
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Enable DVD Playback

Mount A DVD Using Ubuntu

To be able to play encrypted DVDs whilst running Ubuntu you will need to 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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Uninstall Software Packages

Remove Software

Not every package that comes with Ubuntu is required. For instance, after installing Chrome you will probably not need Firefox anymore.

It's useful to learn how to remove a program that is already installed or one that you installed in the past that you no longer need.

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Change the Default Applications

Change The Default Applications

After installing alternative software applications such as Chrome you might want to make them the default applications so that whenever you open an HTML file Chrome opens or whenever you click on an MP3 file Banshee opens instead of Rhythmbox.

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Clear the Dash History

Clear The Dash History

The Dash keeps a history of everything you search for and everything you use.

You can clear the Unity Dash history and manage history options to control what items show up in the history.

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Start an Application When Ubuntu Starts

Ubuntu Startup Applications

If the first thing you do when you start your computer is open a Chrome browser then maybe you should learn how to set a program to run when you start Ubuntu.