New To Linux: Part 3: Customizing Ubuntu 11.10



The first two parts of this series gave you a basic introduction to Linux and helped get your Ubuntu 11.10 system installed. Now I'll go over how to get started customizing your new Ubuntu 11.10 installation. I say get started, because there are so many possibilities as far as what can be changed or installed, that it would be impossible to cover it all. Instead, I am going to point you in the right direction, give you some examples and tell you where you can turn in case you need help.

System Settings

Ubuntu's System Settings are a great place to start. They can be found by clicking the power cog icon at the very top right of your screen, and will be the very first option there. You will notice that settings are broken down into three sectionsPersonal, Hardware and System.
  • Personal - These settings allow you to change things like your wallpaper, language support, screen time out and set up your Ubuntu One online cloud storage account that every Ubuntu user gets for free with an included 5GB of storage.
  • Hardware - Contains settings for things like keyboard and mouse, network adapters, screen resolution and the Additional Drivers settings where you can have the system search for drivers for system hardware that may not have set up correctly.
  • System - Offers settings that allow you to backup your system, set time and date, create additional users and in the System Info option you can select your default applications for Web, Mail, Calendar, Music, Video and Photos.


One of the most sought after features Linux distributions offer, is the ability to customize your computer in near infinite ways. Admittedly, Ubuntu's Unity interface in it's current version, is still growing in this regard. Still it offers a lot of options for customization if you know where to look.
  • CompizConfig Settings Manager (CCSM) - Open the Ubuntu Software Center and search for compizconfig and you will get only one result returned, CCSM. Select and install the package, once installed it can be opened through the Dash by typing Compiz and clicking the CCSM icon. Compiz offers many options for customization, but be carefull, making the wrong changes can break Unity. One safe area to make changes is in the Desktop section called Ubuntu Unity Plugin. Under the Experimental tab you can change the size of the Launcher icons, panel and launcher transparency as well as the icon background options.
  • Ubuntu Tweak, Simple LightDM Manger and More - There are many other "tweak" tools available, such as Ubuntu Tweak which gives you access to a lot of the CCSM settings in a simpler format. Applications such as this and Simple LightDM Manager, which gives you control of the login screen wallpaper, are not available through the Ubuntu Software Center and need to be manually installed. If you feel up to that challenge you can get them from these links: and Simple LightDM Manager from
  • Gnome Shell - If you want to try an entirely different desktop environment you can also install Gnome Shell. It will run in place of Unity and can be installed from the Ubuntu Software Center by searching for Gnome Shell. Once installed you need to Log Out and at the Login screen, click the settings icon next to your username. In the drop down you will now see an option for Gnome, select it and log in. You can switch between Gnome Shell and Unity this way whenever you like.
Opening Compiz

Where to get help

With so many options, and changes able to be made. Where can you turn to to get help? Well, it is actually very easy to get help for Ubuntu, there are many help sites out there for Linux in general and specific distros like Ubuntu. The official Ubuntu help forums can be found by surfing to it is where you can find thousands of helpful Ubuntu users like yourself as well as Ubuntu Developers all willing to help you with any questions you may have. You can (and should) read through the forums, searching for related topics or questions. As i have found, most questions I have about a problem most likely have already been asked and usually answered. Of course there are also sites like where you can find answers as well. in fact, Linux has the best community support I have ever seen, so don't be afraid to ask questions.
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