15 Great Ubuntu Tips For Linux Power Users

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A few days back I wrote about books that beginners can download and read to teach themselves Linux. Today in the Linux section we have something for the power users. Here are a few tips you should try out if you are an avid Ubuntu Linux user:

1. Get lightning fast and clever at the command line

You can use keyboard shortcuts and other command line tricks to make entering commands easier and faster. You might already know about the ‘tab’ key which completes partial commands and even file and directory names.

Here are some other keyboard shortcuts you can use within terminal:

Ctrl-a Move to the start of the line.
Ctrl-e Move to the end of the line.
Alt-] x Moves the cursor forward to the next occurrence of x.
Alt-Ctrl-] x Moves the cursor backwards to the previous occurrence of x.
Ctrl-u Delete from the cursor to the beginning of the line.
Ctrl-k Delete from the cursor to the end of the line.
Ctrl-w Delete from the cursor to the start of the word.
Ctrl-y Pastes text from the clipboard.
Ctrl-l Clear the screen leaving the current line at the top of the screen.
Ctrl-x Ctrl-u Undo the last changes. Ctrl-_
Alt-r Undo all changes to the line.
Alt-Ctrl-e Expand command line.
Ctrl-r Incremental reverse search of history.
Alt-p Non-incremental reverse search of history.
!! Execute last command in history
!abc Execute last command in history beginning with abc
!n Execute nth command in history
^abc^xyz Replace first occurrence of abc with xyz in last command and execute it

Also don’t forget to check out 4 websites where you can learn cool command line tricks

2. Launch Ubuntu Linux Applications with keyboard

There are two ways you can achieve this:

  • Use applications like Launchy or Gnome-Do that make it easier to launch applications by typing a few characters of the application’s name.
  • Or you can summon gconf editor (Alt+F2 then type gconf-editor and hit enter), and navigate to apps > metacity > global_keybindings, double click on any of the run_command_N and type in the keyboard shortcut you want to assign to an application then make a mental note of the number N. Then go to apps > metacity > keybinding_commands and double click on command_N (N being the number you used above) and type in the command you want to run. As an example if you wanted to run Firefox you would type in firefox.

Also check out these Ubuntu keyboard shortcuts you might not know about.

3. Start from wherever you left off

You can make Ubuntu remember the applications you had open when you last logged out, so that when you log back in again you’ll find all those applications running and you can resume right from where you left off.

To achieve this go to System > Preferences > Startup Applications, then go to the options tab and check "Automatically remember running applications when logging out"

4. Create a Separate Ubuntu Linux Home Partition

New versions of Ubuntu arrive every 6 months. Although you can upgrade to the latest version via the update manager, sometimes the upgrade doesn’t work as expected so some users like to do a fresh clean install.

The disadvantage with that of course is that you lose data you had in your home directory. To overcome this you can create a separate Home partition when you are installing Ubuntu, size it according to your requirements and then when you decide to install Ubuntu the next time, simply specify this partition as the Home partition (by choosing /home as the mount point).

All your files and data on the Home partition will be preserved even after a fresh install.

5. Update and Install Ubuntu Linux Software Without Internet Connection

There are lots of way to do this, the easiest of all is to use APTonCD. APTonCD allows you to create CDs and DVD’s containing all the packages you want, which you can then use to install software on computers without an internet connection.

Note that APTonCD requires you to have an internet connection (or downloaded packages) to create the installed media. However once the media is ready you don’t need an internet connection for any of the machines you want to install the software on. Insert the appropriate CD/DVD and use apt-get as you would normally.

6. Install new fonts, Microsoft fonts and improve font rendering

Ubuntu doesn’t offer many choices when it comes to the fonts. However you can easily install new fonts including those from Microsoft like Arial, Verdana, impact and many more. You can use different sites to find the kind of font you are looking for.

7. Use PPAs, Install latest versions of software

There are a lot of steps that a software has to go through before it becomes part of Ubuntu or becomes available through the Ubuntu repositories. While all those steps lend additional stability, it generally means that you don’t get the latest versions of all the software as soon as they are released.

If you like to stay on the cutting edge, you can search for Personal Package Archives for your favorite software on Launchpad and add those to your installation’s software sources. I briefly touched on PPAs and how to use them here. If that seems like too much work, you can also download the latest deb packages and install them by double clicking (you won’t get automatic updates for the software if you install it this way).

Remember you might get into an occasional trouble or two with the latest versions, but mostly it wouldn’t be catastrophic. You can always hop over to the Ubuntu Forums to get quick help.

8. Be the root

The root account is disabled by default on Ubuntu installations, mainly to prevent you from doing something you didn’t intend to do. However if you "promise to be careful" you can enable root account as follows:

  1. Type sudo passwd root and provide a root password.
  2. Then head on over to System > Administration > Login Window, go to the Security tab and check "Enable local system administrator login"

You should now be able to login as root from the Login prompt. As an alternative you can use "sudo su" to provide your password and get root prompt.

9. Run Windows applications and games

Who wouldn’t like to play Counter Strike on Ubuntu (unless of course you are completely not into it) or perhaps even run Photoshop? Well it is very much possible and here is how to do it.

10. Shorten boot time with profiling

Ubuntu Linux devs have done a great job with the boot time, Jaunty is fast and Karmic is slotted to be even faster. There is however a bit more you can do by profiling your boot. Profiling lets Ubuntu make a list of all the files that are accessed during bootup, it then sorts the files according to how they are stored on your hard disk. So the next time the system is booted, the files would be read faster.

To profile boot you need to follow these steps

  • At the grub menu highlight the kernel you boot most often.
  • Press e for edit.
  • Choose the line starting with kernel and press e again. Now add the word profile to the end of this line. Hit Enter and then press b to boot

Note that while profiling, the system will boot slower this one time, the next time however you should see an improvement. Also keep in mind that all this is machine-dependent and also depends on the arrangement of files on your hard disk, so the difference you see might not be huge, or even nil in some cases.

11. Try out different Ubuntu Linux Desktop Environments and Desktop Managers

If you are looking for something different than the default Gnome interface, you should check out alternative desktop managers that you can use. If it is a complete Desktop Environment you are looking for, KDE4 has come a long way and is now impressively usable and fun. You can do a "sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop" to get KDE.

12. Create a media center or a media server

It would be great if you could easily browse and manage your huge collection of music, videos and pictures. Mesmerized by Windows Media Center’s slick interface? Wait till you see what all cool options you have to turn your Ubuntu system into a media center. You can even access your media collection on your phone, PSP or a different computer if you set up a media server on your Ubuntu machine.

13. Share Firefox profile data with Windows

Many people use Windows and Linux on the same machine. If you are one of them, there would have been times you couldn’t find that bookmark you created or password you stored when you were using Firefox from within Windows. Check out how you can share Firefox profile data across operating systems without syncing it over the web (works best if you have the same version of Firefox in both OS’s). For different computers you can of course use Weave.

14. Customize Nautilus to your liking

Nautilus is the default file manager on Ubuntu. While you may be content with what it does, there is lots more you can make it do. You can use extensions to improve functionality and even add custom functionality to Nautilus

15. Compile your own Kernel

If you can’t find something to keep you busy for the weekend and you have your customization hat on, how about building a kernel to specifically meet your requirements? This is frankly more of a learning experience. Some might say that it enables you to use just the features and drivers you require, but if everything is working fine with the kernel supplied and you don’t have any interest in the Linux kernel, skip ahead this one is not for you.

If however you require some of the experimental features of the kernel, or need it to be compiled in some other special way we say you check out this guide within Ubuntu Documentation.

16. Change Usplash Screen and create a custom splash screen for GRUB

So you didn’t count the last one? Here is another one then. A Usplash screen is Ubuntu text and a logo with a progress bar that you see when you boot up Ubuntu.

If you would like to change that to something more interesting follow these steps. What better way to show your Linux fu than customizing the very first screen that appears? You can create a custom splash screen using one of your photos, GIMP and a little tweaking. Here is the how-to.

Know some more tips or great hacks for Ubuntu Linux users? Sure you do, go ahead let us know about them in the comments.

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Comments (60)
  • me

    nonsense. do not “be root” do “sudo” its safer. also do not use ppas that often. and what about these stupid tips like “home partition” and “share firefox profile data”!!! i dont need to share with a windows, i dont have one. i also had my home partition from the first day i used linux.

  • Anonymous

    No, I’m a Linux power user. And I find your so-called “power user” tips laughable.

    If they’re not meant for power users or aren’t actualy power user tips, don’t call them that, it makes you look like an Ubuntard.

    Just because you’ve used these tips for years doesn’t make them any more advanced.

    And these are no different then I could find on any other non-guru Ubuntu blogs. Please explain to me how keyboard shortcuts for the console, binding keyboard shortcuts, enabling root, or using WINE to run Windows apps is “power user” stuff when the average Linux user knows it?

    You’re no power user, or you’d have pointed out actual power user things.

  • Greg

    What kind of an intelligent comment is that? It does nothing to enhance anybody’s knowlege. I suspect you are less of a guru than you profess to be and suspect you are a malcontent teenager trying to get some attention any way possible.

    I am definitely a power user and have been using unix based systems since 1982. I have known some of these tips for years have forgotten others and have, due to this article reacquainted myself to many.

    Others are not as lucky as myself to have had the long, extensive exposure to Unix/Linux that I have and they will benefit, as I have from this article. We need more like it.

    If you can’t contribute in an intelligent manner, don’t bother resorting to insults – they add nothing to the dialog.

  • Anonymous

    These are power user tips? You ubuntards don’t know the first thing about how to be Linux power users. This article proves it.

    Oooh, look, keyboard shortcuts. They’re SO ADVANCED.

  • sam

    great tips. ubuntu rocks

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.