Learning a new operating system is rarely simple, because you’re not just learning how to do things: you’re unlearning your previous ways of doing things. The best way to learn, then, is to simply explore. And, as any true geek knows, exploring is fun!
If you’re ready to explore Ubuntu, but not sure where to start, here are the things I usually do after setting up Ubuntu.
Try what sounds interesting, ignore what doesn’t and suggest other things to try in the comments below.
Explore The Software Center
The best place to start exploring is probably the software center. You’ll find it by clicking “Applications,” right at the bottom of the menu.
Fire it up and you’ll be presented with categories to explore Ubuntu. I recommend you look at the games to begin with, because you’ll find fun ones (Frozen Bubble is highly recommended), but browse any category that interests you.
This will give you a good feel for how software installation works on a Linux-based system. It’s best to find the software you’re looking for here, rather than searching for a given program online and downloading it.
Tens of thousands of free programs await you, so have fun! Let me know of any really good ones in the comments below.
The MakeUseOf Ninite Pack
You might notice, though, that not every program on the web can be found in the software center, including Google Chrome, Dropbox and Skype. There are legal reasons for this, but if you want to install those programs quickly and easily you should really check out the MakeUseOf Linux Pack from Ninite.
It’s a relatively recent change to my ritual, but ever since it came out I’ve been using it pretty much as soon as I get Ubuntu up and running. You can pick which of these programs to install and let Ninite do the work for you.
Set Up Your Accounts
Since Ubuntu 10.04, Ubuntu’s tray has included an amazing applet that integrates all of your inboxes. The sooner you click this applet and fill in your email, instant messaging and social networking credentials, the sooner you can take advantage of Ubuntu’s amazing integration with these services. Try it out; you’ll probably like it!
Don’t like the default look of Ubuntu? You’re not alone. Happily, there are thousands of themes, icon sets and wallpapers for you to download on the web. Check out Gnome-Look for the best collection of them.
Installing themes is easy: just click “System” followed by “Preferences,” then click “Appearance.” Drag any theme you’ve downloaded to this window and it should install (if not, check the page where you downloaded the theme for instructions).
Wine, AIR & more
Ubuntu is extremely powerful, and can run a wide variety of software. If you’re interested in using Adobe Air, Java, DOS and even some Windows software from within Ubuntu you can do so. Get started by reading this article on ways to make Linux compatible with more software.
By default Ubuntu uses what’s called the Gnome environment, but that’s not the only interface you can use. Check out Tim’s excellent article on switching between Gnome and KDE to find out how you can explore the KDE desktop, learning a great deal about what makes Linux special in the process (hint: it’s choice).
Other Things Worth Checking Out
There’s a lot more to explore out there, of course. You could try f.lux’s cool new Linux GUI to help you sleep better after late night computer sessions, or give Hotot, the ultimate Ubuntu Twitter client a spin. The opportunities are endless.
The goal: to explore this amazing operating system and find out what it has to offer. As it turns out, the answer is quite a bit. Can you recommend Ubuntu newbies any cool things to try out? Do you have any questions about any of these processes? As always, comment away.