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openSUSE 11.1 GNOME User Guide
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1.3 Desktop Basics

As with other common desktop products, the main components of the GNOME desktop are icons that link to files, folders, or programs, as well as the panel at the bottom of the screen (similar to the Task Bar in Windows). Double-click an icon to start its associated program. Right-click an icon to access additional menus and options. You can also right-click any empty space on the desktop to access additional menus for configuring or managing the desktop itself.

Figure 1-1 GNOME Desktop

By default, the desktop features two key icons: your personal Home folder and a trash can for deleted items. Other icons may also be present on the desktop, such as icons representing devices on your computer. If you double-click your Home folder, the Nautilus file manager starts and displays the contents of your home directory. For more information about using Nautilus, see Section 1.5, Managing Folders and Files with Nautilus.

Right-clicking an icon displays a menu that offers file operations such as copying, cutting, or renaming. Selecting Properties from the menu displays a configuration dialog. On the Basic tab, you can change the name of the icon as well as the icon itself (by clicking on it and selecting a file with a different one). Various information about the object represented by the icon are also shown here. The Emblems tab lets you add graphical descriptive symbols to the icon. The Permissions tab lets you set access permissions for the selected files. The Notes tab lets you manage comments. The menu for the trash can also features the Empty Trash option, which deletes its contents.

A link is a special type of file that points to another file or folder. When you perform an action on a link, the action is performed on the file or folder that the link points to. When you delete a link, you delete only the link file, not the file that the link points to.

To create a link on the desktop to a folder or a file, access the object in File Manager by right-clicking the object and then clicking Make Link. Drag the link from the File Manager window and drop it onto the desktop.

1.3.1 Default Desktop Icons

To remove an icon from the desktop, simply drag it onto the trash can. You cannot move the Home icon to the trash.

WARNING: Be careful with this option—if you move folder or file icons to the trash can and you empty the trash can, the actual data is deleted. If the icons only represent links to a file or to a directory, only the links are deleted.

1.3.2 Desktop Menu

Right-clicking an empty spot on the desktop displays a menu with various options. Click Create Folder to create a new folder. Create a launcher icon for an application with Create Launcher. Provide the name of the application and the command for starting it, then select an icon to represent it. You can also change the desktop background and align desktop icons.

Figure 1-2 GNOME Desktop Menu

1.3.3 Bottom Panel

The desktop includes a panel across the bottom of the screen. The bottom panel contains the Computer menu (similar to the Start menu in Windows*) and the icons of all applications currently running. You can also add applications and applets to the panel for easy access. If you click the name of a program in the taskbar, the program's window is moved to the foreground. If the program is already in the foreground, a mouse click minimizes it. Clicking a minimized application reopens the respective window.

Figure 1-3 GNOME Bottom Panel

The Show Desktop icon is on the right side of the bottom panel. This icon minimizes all program windows and displays the desktop. Or, if all windows are already minimized, it reopens them.

If you right-click an empty spot in the panel, a menu opens, offering the options listed in the following:

Table 1-1 Panel Menu Options



Add to Panel

Opens a menu of applications and applets that can be added to the panel.


Modifies the properties for this panel.

Delete This Panel

Removes the panel from the desktop. All of the panel settings are lost.

Allow Panel to be Moved/Lock Panel Position

Lets you drag the panel to another side of the screen, or locks the panel in its current position.

New Panel

Creates a new panel and adds it to the desktop.


Opens the Help Center.

About Panels

Opens information about the panel application.

1.3.4 Adding Applets and Applications to the Panel

You can add applications and applets to the bottom panel for quick access. An applet is a small program, while an application is usually a more robust stand-alone program. Adding an applet puts useful utilities where you can easily access them.

The GNOME desktop comes with many applets. You can see a complete list by right-clicking the bottom panel and selecting Add to Panel.

Figure 1-4 Add to Panel Dialog Box

Some useful applets include the following:

Table 1-2 Some Useful Applets



Dictionary Lookup

Look up a word in an online dictionary.

Force Quit

Terminate an application. This is especially useful if you want to terminate an application that is no longer responding.

Search for Files

Find files, folders, and documents on the computer.

Sticky Notes

Create, display, and manage sticky notes on your desktop.

Traditional Main Menu

Access programs from a menu like the one in previous versions of GNOME. This is especially useful for people who are used to earlier versions of GNOME.

Volume Control

Increase or decrease the sound volume.

Weather Report

Display current weather information for a specified city.

Workspace Switcher

Access additional work areas, called workspaces, through virtual desktops. For example, you can open applications in different workspaces and use them on their own desktops without the clutter from other applications.

openSUSE 11.1 GNOME User Guide
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  Published under the terms fo the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire