Using the GNOME desktop

Logging on & home directories

Once you know where your workstation is, you can log in using your QOL credentials - student/staff number and password. The first time you log on the computer will create a local home directory (/home/studentno) for your files. We allocate around 150GB for home directories, and these are local to the computer - if you log onto another system you'll get a fresh empty home directory. We back up the home areas on a nightly basis to a remote server and keep a week of copies.

You can access your Q-Drive, or OneDrive, using the web clients - we can't offer direct access to them like you get on a Windows system.

On first login you'll be run though a basic setup wizard - you can skip through the defaults on everything.

The desktop

We are running the Fedora 26 Linux distro and use the GNOME desktop environment with some tweaks to make it a little more familiar to people familiar with Windows or macOS. By default your desktop looks like this.

The default GNOME desktop on our teaching systems

In the bottom left corner we have a 'Gnome' menu which functions pretty much as you should be used to from the Windows Start menu. There is a list of application categories, and icons on the left act as shortcuts to favourite directories.

The GNOME menu shows applications and other useful functions. Icons for favourite applications are to the right of the menu.

You can search for applications by typing their name in the search bar at the top of the menu.

Searching for applications by name, or context. In this case searching for Latex brings up various LaTeX editors.

Along the bottom of the menu are icons for various functions, the most important of which are those for logging out and locking the screen. If you mouse-over the icons a popup will explain their function.

The logout and lock icons.

Beside the Gnome menu we have icons for the default 'favourite' applications - Firefox, the GNOME File Manager, and the GNOME Terminal. Most of the science applications you use will involve using the Terminal, so plan on getting used to using it!

The bar running along the bottom of the screen acts like the macOS Dock, but with some tweaks.

  • The bar shows icons for both favourite applications and those which are currently running.
  • The 'focussed' running application has a blue line under its icon.
  • Windows are minimised to the application icon - it shows a blue dot for each.
  • Right-click on the icon of a running application to make it a favourite.
  • Right-click on a favourite application to remove it.
  • Right-clicking on the icons will also show a context menu where you can open new instances of the applications, access preferences, etc.
  • Hover over the icon of a running application for a preview of all of its windows.
  • A long hover over one of the window previews will highlight the window on the desktop, dimming all others.
Right clicking on a favourite application allows you to remove it as a favourite, as well as accessing application-specific options.
Right click on a running application to add it to the favourites.
Hover over the icon for a running application and a preview appears of all windows for that application.
Hover over one of those previews and the window in question will be highlighted on the desktop, even if it's on another virtual desktop.

Window management

As on Windows 10, if you drag a window to the left or right side of the screen the window will fill that half of the display. If you drag the window to the top of the display it will switch to full-screen mode. Dragging the window down, or towards the centre, will return it to its original size and position.

You can also do this from the keyboard. Pressing the Windows (aka Super) key plus ← or → will make the window fill that side of the screen; Super+↑ will switch to full screen; Super+↓ reverts to the original state.

Pressing Super-Tab will cycle through the running applications. Applications with multiple open windows show a pop-up preview of all their windows.

You can cycle through the windows of the currently focussed application by pressing Super-` (that's the 'reverse' quote, usually paired with the tilde [~] key).

Virtual desktops

GNOME provides virtual desktops, which are a way to organize your windows according to task. You can have one desktop for editing code, another for running it, another to check your email, and maybe another for your social media.

If you tap the Super key (or send the mouse to the top left corner of the screen) you get taken to the 'Activities view' which shows all windows associated with the current desktop, including the minimised ones. To the right of this display you will see a side bar with the virtual desktops - the system is configured to show four by default. You can click on a desktop to switch to it, or drag a window to another desktop.

Press the Super (Windows) key, or send the mouse to the top left corner, to activate Activities view.

Finally, at the top of the screen, you will see a search box - if you type there you can search for applications and launch them.

You can use the search function in the Activities view to act as a quick application launcher.

You can switch virtual desktop using the keyboard by pressing Super+PageUp to switch to the desktop above the current one, or Super+PageDown to switch to the desktop below. A popup will indicate your position in the stack of virtual desktops.

Advanced tweaks

If you're familiar with GNOME then you may not like some of the changes we've made. If you run the TweakTool you can disable the extensions we've installed, or reconfigure them. Obviously we don't recommend this for people not comfortable in GNOME!

public/teaching-linux-systems/using_the_gnome_desktop.txt · Last modified: 2017/07/18 16:19 by Robert Ryans

Back to Top Sitemap News