ICDL Using a Computer Chapter 2. Desktop

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Chapter 2. Desktop


GUI (Graphical User Interface)
A GUI is a system that allows the user to interact with the operating system through clicking on icons on the screen. Icons are graphical representations of operating system functions. At its heart, Linux is a text -based system. This requires you to type commands out in full. GUIs were developed to simplify the use of Linux for the desktop user. As you become expert in the use of Linux, you will need to become familiar with the text-based system. This is not, however, the objective of these notes.
A distribution is a bundled set of CDs which include the heart of the Linux operating system, known as the kernel, together with a set of applications. Each distribution in turn implements Linux slightly differently.
The desktop is the actual GUI itself. There are a number of different desktop systems. The most popular are Gnome and KDE. The actual implementation of a desktop varies from distribution to distribution. KDE used with the SimplyMEPIS distribution will differ somewhat from when used with the Red Hat distribution. These notes are based on KDE running under SimplyMEPIS (version number).

Work with icons


Recognize common desktop icons such as those representing files, directories/folders, applications, printers, recycle bin/wastebasket.

The following screen illustrates a number of icons on the desktop.

(screenshot needed)

CD-ROM and Floppy give you direct access to those devices.

Directories (folders) are represented by a directory icon, as illustrated by (name of directory).

Home is a shortcut to your home directory. When new users are added to the system, Linux creates home directories for them. As users do not have rights to other users' directories, the home directory provides a private location for the storage of files. The one exception is root, who has complete access to the system.

Trash is a storage location where files are placed after they have been deleted. If trash has not been emptied, you can recover files you have deleted.

There are also desktop icons representing applications such as a word processing or spreadsheet application and other icons that represent printers, e.g. (name of printer).

Files can also be saved to the desktop. This will be explained in section The desktop is a useful place to save work in progress as you then have immediate access. Files are represented by an appropriate application icon. In the above screen, (appropriate examples required from screenshot).

Select and move desktop icons

You can move icons to a different position on the screen by dragging them. This allows you to group related icons in clusters.

  1. Click on a icon to select it.
  2. Hold down the left mouse button and drag the icon to its new position.
  3. Release the left mouse button.

Open a file, directory/folder, application from the desktop

A directory is a location in which files are stored. You may visualise a directory as a drawer of a filing cabinet in which ordinary files are stored. Just as you would label the drawers of a filing cabinet, you give each directory an appropriate name. In many ways a hard disk drive is very much like a room containing many filing cabinets.

A directory may contain files of any type. It may also contain other directories. Directories which are located inside other directories are called sub-directories.

  • Double click on Home. This will open the Konqueror file browser and display the contents of your home directory.

(screenshot needed)

Note that this directory contains a number of files and other directories.

Open an application from the desktop

  • Double click on an application icon on the desktop such as the icon representing OpenOffice.org.

This will open the application and you will then have to use the application's Open command to access the file.

A shorter method would be to double click on a file associated with an application which will open the file in the appropriate application. For example, if you wished to open the spreadsheet called Sales.sxc, you would normally have to load Calc, then use File->Open and locate the file. If you had saved it to the desktop, doubling clicking on the icon would open Calc and then load the spreadsheet.

Create a desktop shortcut icon, desktop menu alias

Save a file to the desktop

Suppose you are working on a file in Writer called Costs.sxw and you wish to save it to the desktop.

  1. In Writer, File->Save.
  2. Select the sub-directory called Desktop in your home directory.
  3. Click Save.

Create a shortcut to a menu item

Suppose you use Writer and Calc on a regular basis. Instead of accessing them through the menu system, you can place shortcut icons on the desktop.

  1. Right click anywhere on the desktop. (screenshot needed)
  2. Create New->Link to Application
  3. Click the General tab and enter the label Writer. (screenshot needed)
  4. Click the Execute tab and enter the command oowriter (all in lower case).
  5. Click OK. An icon will be displayed on the desktop. In order to use this method you need to know what command to use to run the application. How to determine this is explained in the following section.
  6. Double click on the desktop icon to run the application.

Determine the command name of an application

Suppose you wish to determine the command to run Calc.

  1. Right click on the Start Applications icon.
  2. Click Menu Editor.
  3. Scroll down to the Office entry and click on it to expand.
  4. Scroll down to the Spreadsheets entry and click to expand.
  5. Click on OpenOffice.org Calc. (screenshot needed)
  6. Read the Command. In this case it is oocalc.
  7. Use this command to create a shortcut icon to Calc on the desktop.

Create a desktop shortcut to the KDE Control Centre

The KDE Control Centre provides the main tool for configuring your desktop. Using the menu editor, you could determine the command to run the control centre. This command is kcontrol.

  1. Right click on the desktop.
  2. Create New->Link to Application.
  3. Click the General tab and enter the label KDE Control Centre.
  4. Click on the icon in the General tab, then click the Other icons radio button. (screenshot needed)
  5. Select an icon to be associated with the application and click OK.
  6. Click the Execute tab and enter the command kcontrol (all in lower case).
  7. Click OK.
  8. Go to the desktop and double click on the new icon.
This will load the KDE Control Centre without having to access it through the menus.

Working with windows


Identify the different parts of a window: title bar, menu bar, toolbar, status bar, scroll bar.

The following screen uses OpenOffice.org Writer to illustrate the main components of an application window.

(screenshot needed)

The title bar is where you can see the name of the application that is open. In this case OpenOffice.org. You will notice in the screen above the words Untitled 1 appear before the name of the application. This means that there is an unsaved document open. Once the document has been saved and has been given a name then the name will appear instead of Untitled 1.

Collapse, expand, resize, move, close a window

The icons relating to these functions are located in the top right hand corner of the screen.

(screenshot needed - NB: these and the following few should be from the SAME desktop!)

Collapse a window

  1. The first is the Minimize button (screenshot needed). This collapses the current window and displays an icon with the application's name in the panel at the bottom of the screen.
  2. To restore the application window, click on the application icon in the panel.

Close a window

Click the Close icon. (screenshot needed)

Resize a window

  1. Click the Cascade windows icon. This displays the window so that it only occupies part of the screen. (screenshot needed)
  2. Hover the mouse over one of the corners on the window. This will display a resize handle.
  3. Hold down the left mouse button and drag the corner to resize the window.
  4. Release the mouse button when you have the desired size for the window.
  5. Hover the mouse over one of the sides of the window. This will also display a resize handle. However these handles limit your movement either vertically or horizontally.

Move a window

  1. Click and hold down the left mouse button on the Title of the window. This is the (colour) area in the left hand top corner of the window.
  2. Drag the window to the new position.
  3. Release the mouse button.

Maximise a window

Click the Maximize window icon. This icon will only be available if the window has been cascaded. (screenshot needed)

http://www.mepislovers-wiki.org/images/c/cc/Note.png You cannot resize or move a window that has been maximized.

Switch between open windows

Where you have multiple windows open, each will be displayed as an icon on the panel at the bottom of the screen. Each icon will have a title. Usually the title is too long to be displayed in full.

  1. Hover the mouse over the icon to display the full title. (screenshot needed with Gimp in panel)
  2. Click on an icon to switch to that application. Where there are several windows open at once, KDE will try to group these. In the above screen, GIMP has four windows associated with it.
  3. Click on the icon containing multiple windows and select the window you wish to open. (screenshot needed)

Open another desktop

KDE (and Linux in general) goes one step further. You may open up to four different desktops at the same time. In each of these you may be doing a completely different type of work. The different desktops are also accessed from the panel. (screenshot needed)

http://www.mepislovers-wiki.org/images/c/cc/Note.png The icons for open applications will be displayed in the panel irrespective of the desktop you are currently working in. If you click on one of these, you will automatically be taken to the desktop in which the window is open.

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