Using Unity


If you're completely new to Ubuntu - just come from Windows or Mac - and you're not too good with computers, this tutorial is the perfect starting place for you. If there is a part you don't understand I'd appreciate it if you sent me an email (by clicking here) and told me where you're stuck. I'll edit it to make it better for everyone.

If you're quite good with computers, I suppose you may find this a bit slow, but I urge you to read it anyway because you might learn some neat tips!

Ok, so there are a few things that are new about Unity that you may not know. Here are some names which might be new to you. (Tip: Click the picture to see it bigger)

Once you've familiarised yourself with those names read the rest of the article for more information. First, how to find a program:

Finding Programs

Open the dash (remember that name, that's important, I use it a lot) by either pressing the super key ("Window" key, bottom left between Ctrl and Alt) or by clicking the button on the top of the launcher.

Next start typing the name of the program you're looking for, eg "gedit", and when you see the icon - click it (Tip: if the icon if the first one in the list you can press Enter to start the program without needing to click the icon)

If you don't know what the program is called then press the applications tab at the bottom of the dash. It looks like a ruler and some pencils.

From here you can browse all your installed applications and filter your results by category, like Office, Games or Internet.

Can I get my Windows files on Ubuntu?

Why, yes you can. You should open a program called Nautilus (after the sea creature) which you can find in the dash by searching for files or clicking the icon on your launcher that looks like this:

Then your files will be in one of two places. Either on the left and it'll look like a USB flash drive but bigger, like in this screenshot (mine is called 382 GB File...)

Or it will be in a folder in the File System location (which is also on the left, just above Rubbish Bin) and the folder should be called Host0. I've never heard of any other location for the Windows files being put.

Good question.

Unity uses something called a global menu to save screen space on smaller screens. It means that you can only see the menu for the current window and it is only visible when you mouse over it. You can find it at the top of the screen on the black pannel - but remember, only when you put your mouse there!

How do I scroll without a mouse wheel?

Yeah, this is another screen-space saving feature. Instead of the usual scroll bars, on Ubuntu they're hidden until you mouse over them. See the orange line on the right? Put your mouse over that. It should look something like the picture below

Then when you mouse over it, a scroll bar should appear, like this:

If you click and drag this bit:

Then you should be able to scroll. Alternatively if you single click the up or down arrow, it will scroll up and down. It takes some getting used to.

Update Manager

Maybe I'm going over the top here, but occasionally you'll see this icon:

pop up on your launcher, and clicking it brings up a window which looks something like this:

That, is the update manager. It updates all your programs and Ubuntu all in one go. Just click install updates and let it do its thing. Don't ignore if for too long, because the updates will just pile up. You can do other stuff while it loads, but don't turn your computer off until it's done!

Sometimes after it has finished installing updates, the power cog will turn red.

Red power cog

This just means some of the updates can't be installed until you've shut down the computer. It's not necessary to do this right away; shutting down the computer at the end of the day will be fine.

Getting Social!

Unity has some great social features that are really easy to use. Here's how to set them up!

Google Accounts

First, if you have a google account we'll integrate the calender, mail and other stuff. Click the power cog at the top right corner and click system settings.

Under Personal click Online Accounts

click the + button in the bottom left

and click Add... Fill in your account details, and press sign in. You're done!

Setting Up Email

The default client for Ubuntu is called Thunderbird (made by Mozilla, the same people who make Firefox) and can be found in the Unity dash or by clicking the email icon on the top panel and selecting set up Thunderbird. Now, this will either work easily or it will be slightly tedious to set up. An add account wizard should pop up and to be honest there are so many different account types that I can't go through them all, but I'll do some of the more popular email providers.

Unfortunately, the only account I really know how to add is googlemail, because that's my only email address other than my University account (I have instructions on adding The University of Manchester email accounts here), so I shall give you instructions on how to add that first. If you want help adding another account maybe send me an email and I'll try to post instructions for that.

Google Mail

Click Set Up Mail by clicking on the mail icon

Type in your account information

Click continue, and if you filled in everything correctly it should fetch the rest of the account information automatically and you can click Create Account

That's all there is to it. You can read messages by selecting inbox on the left and double clicking the message you want to read.

Empathy (Instant Messaging)

So if you want to chat with your friends with MSN, Facebook chat, Google talk or some other chat account, you'll need to set up empathy

First open Empathy

Then click continue on the account wizard that opens automatically

Select your account type from the drop down list

Enter your account information, and you're done!

Double click a contacts name to start chatting or add a contact by clicking chat in the global menu, and selecting Add contact...

If you're doing something else and you receive a message then a notification will appear in the top left.


Creative Commons Licence
This work by Jamie Twells is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.