Chapter 10: Personalizing Ubuntu: Getting Everything Just Right

An excerpt from Beginning Ubuntu Linux: From Novice to Professional by Keir Thomas, published by Apress.
Setting Up Assistive Technology Support

You might know about the Accessibility tools under Windows, which help people with special needs use the computer. It's possible to use an on-screen magnifier so that users can better see what they're typing or reading, for example.

Under the GNOME desktop, the Accessibility tools are referred to as Assistive Technology Support. To use them, you need to install additional software packages, and then enable them. Follow these steps:

  1. Assuming the Synaptic Package Manager is set up to use the online repositories (see Chapter 8), open the program (System→Administration→Synaptic Package Manager).

  2. Click the Search button and enter gok as a search term. In the list of results, click the check box alongside the gok entry, and then click Mark for Installation.

  3. Click the Search button again and search for gnopernicus. Again, mark its entry for installation. Then click Apply.

  4. Once the packages are installed, select System→Administration→Preferences→Assistive Technology Support. Click the check box alongside Enable Assistive Technologies.

  5. Choose from the list the features you would like to use. They will then start automatically the next time you log in. The options work as follows:

  • The Screenreader uses a speech synthesizer to announce whatever you click on, as well as whatever you type. To alter its settings, click the Preferences button in the Gnopernicus dialog box, and then click the Speech button in the Preferences dialog box.

  • The GNOME Onscreen Keyboard (GOK) can be used by a mouse, but is most useful when an alternative input device is used, such as a touch screen. As well as presenting a virtual keyboard, it shows the options on screen as a large and easy-to-activate series of buttons. For more information, click the Help button when GOK starts.

  • The Magnifier divides the screen into two halves. The right side displays a magnified version of the left side. To learn more, click the Help button in the Gnopernicus dialog box.

  • Gnopernicus also includes support for Braille output devices. To learn more, click the Help button.

Changing Your Login Picture

If you activate the Face Browser feature along with the Happy GNOME with Browser option, GDM will display a picture alongside your username on the login screen, as shown in Figure 7. You can then click this and type your password to log in. You might be familiar with a similar system under Windows XP.

Figure 7. The Face Browser lets each user choose an icon to appear on the login screen.

You can choose your login picture by clicking System→Preferences→Login Photo. Ubuntu offers several pictures to choose from, or you can click the Browse button to locate your own. Ideally, the image you choose should be square and 96�6 pixels, although if the picture is too large, it will be automatically scaled down.

Adding and Removing Desktop Items

Virtually the entire Ubuntu desktop can be redesigned and restructured. You can move the Applications menu from the top of the screen to the bottom to be more like Windows, for example, or you can add numerous desktop shortcuts to popular applications and/or files.

Adding a Shortcut

Ubuntu's nearest equivalent to a Windows-style desktop shortcut is a launcher. An important difference, however, is that launchers are designed to run a certain command. Therefore, they can only point at programs (although you could create a launcher that contained a command chain required to run a particular program and file; to use The GIMP to open a picture, you might create a launcher that ran gimp picture.jpg, for example).

If you want to make a shortcut to a data file, such as a picture, you need to create a link. This is just as easy as creating a launcher.

Creating a Launcher

You can create a launcher two ways. One way is to simply click and drag an icon from one of the main menus to the desktop. This effectively copies the menu's launcher to the desktop, rather than creating a new launcher, but the effect is the same.

Note: Not all menu items can be dragged and dropped to create launchers. In particular, most items on the System menu cannot be dragged and dropped.

The other way to create a launcher is to right-click the desktop and select Create Launcher. In the Create Launcher dialog box, you need to fill in only the Name and Command field; the others fields can be left blank. The Command field must contain a Linux executable program, command, or script. If you use a command-line program or script, you must check the Run in Terminal box. This will open a GNOME Terminal window automatically and run the command or script within it. The terminal window will disappear as soon as the command has finished.

To choose an icon for your launcher, click the Icon button in the Create Launcher dialog box. If you don't choose an icon, the stock GNOME one is used (the same icon as is used for unidentified and/or system files). You can select from several predefined icons or choose your own picture by clicking the Browse button, as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8. Creating a launcher is easy. Just fill in the Name and Command fields, and choose an icon.



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Ya Linux is awesome i am

Jack's picture

Ya Linux is awesome i am running a dual boot of vista and ubuntu... linux is great so far how can i customize more any websites anyone can direct me too

On Ubuntu Edgy use this

Anonymous's picture

On Ubuntu Edgy use this command for configuring font:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig-config

You should mention which

Jaques Haas's picture

You should mention which version of Ubuntu you're using. I'm using 6.10, and lots of the tools you describe aren't where you say they are. For example, I have no configuration editor. A few other things too.

Good guide though, and thanks.

The configuration editor is

Anonymous's picture

The configuration editor is there, you just need to add it to the menu bar. I believe if you go to the menu and click add, you will be able to select it.

Ubuntu Rocks. Who Needs Windows Vista

Comp keyboard's picture

Windows Vista is going to launch pretty soon, but I am definitely not excited about that. Who want to pay extra hundreds dollars when you can get ubuntu for free and more stable operating system?

ugh...not vista

Durand's picture

well, im glad im not the only one who thinks like that!