Ubuntu 16.04 is an LTS, or long-term support, release. That means Canonical has promised five years of updates. You can leave this version running on your computer for half a decade!
This makes it extra important to have things set up out of the gate. You want to be sure your software is current, you’ve installed your favorite apps, and you feel at home.
These things aren’t hard to do. All you need is a point in the right direction. That’s what this list is for.
1. Download Updates
Now that you’ve installed Ubuntu, the first thing you will want to do is download the latest updates.
Launch Ubuntu Software in the Dock. The Updates tab will show any available updates.
Or you can search for Software Updater from the Dash. This app will check Ubuntu’s repositories for changes. Tap the Install Now button to grab everything.
Click Details of updates to see what you’re about to download. You can uncheck any apps that you wish to skip.
You may need to restart for some changes to take effect.
2. Install Drivers
Next, let’s make sure everything is in working order. Some manufacturers provide proprietary drivers to make their hardware work. Your Wi-Fi or graphic’s card might not function out of the box without them (in the case of Wi-Fi drivers, you need an Ethernet cable to get online in the meantime).
Canonical provides easy access to these drivers. You can find them by launching “Software & Updates.” From there, select the Additional Drivers tab. Available proprietary drivers will show up here.
Boom, you’re done. This task remains easier with Ubuntu than certain other Linux distributions.
3. Install Apps
16.04 marks the end of the Ubuntu Software Center. Now you can grab your apps from Ubuntu Software, a renamed version of GNOME Software. Alongside updates, this is where you can go for apps.
Ubuntu Software groups apps by category so that it’s easy to find what you want. When you already know what you’re looking for, enter the name into the search bar.
Ubuntu Software appears at the bottom of your dock. Tap it to grab those must-have apps that don’t come pre-installed.
4. Add PPAs
Some apps aren’t available in Ubuntu Software. The program may not meet Canonical’s guidelines, or it might not have existed when Ubuntu 16.04 launched.
No matter. Developers can make their apps available for Ubuntu using personal package archives, or PPAs.
You can add these by opening “Software & Updates” and heading to the Other Software tab.
From there, click Add. At this point, you can enter the address to the PPA you’re trying to add.
Need more help? These apps typically come with their own installation instructions. Often you can copy and paste code into the terminal. Just make sure you trust the source and understand what you’re copying. You can cause damage to your computer by running the wrong commands.
5. Install Codecs
Many of your audio and video files won’t work out of the box. This is less a technical issue and more of a legal one. Canonical doesn’t have the rights to distribute the codecs for playing most restricted formats as part of Ubuntu.
On the other hand, Canonical can redistribute them after installation.
Yeah, this gets pretty complicated. We could spend an entire post talking about this issue.
Here’s the gist. The unambigously legal way to use proprietary codecs in the US is to buy a codec pack. You can also get all the goods by downloading Ubuntu Restricted Extras. This isn’t technically approved behavior in the US, but you’re not likely to get in trouble. As for other countries, laws vary depending on where you live.
6. Change Theme & Wallpaper
I don’t find black panels particularly ugly. Nonetheless, Ubuntu’s default look doesn’t catch my eye.
Without installing anything extra, you can change the theme. Go to System Settings > Appearance. There you can change the default “Ambiance” theme to something brighter.
This is also where you go to change your desktop background. Ubuntu comes with a dozen or so options. You can add more by hitting the + button.
7. Tweak Launcher
Wish the launcher buttons were larger? Think that sidebar takes up too much space? Either way, return to System Settings > Appearance to make a change. 48 x 48 pixels is the default, but moving the slider makes this number go up or down.
Starting with 16.04, you can move the launcher to the bottom of the screen. Doing this requires a little bit more work. The way to do this without installing any extra software requires the terminal.
From there, enter this command:
gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Launcher launcher-position Bottom
To move the launcher back to the side, make this tiny change.
gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Launcher launcher-position Left
8. Adjust App Menus
Ubuntu app menus aren’t usually visible. To make them appear, you hover your mouse over the panel. It’s easy, as long as you know where to look.
But this requires extra mouse movement. You have to adjust your cursor simply to see what options are available.
Keyboard shortcut ninjas can get around this by making menus always visible. This option is available under System Settings > Appearance. This time you have to select the Behavior tab.
You have several options. Besides making menus always displayed, you can change their location. Switching them to the window bar instead of the panel is a nice way to keep old-school functionality while having a different look.
9. Configure the Dash
The Dash is Ubuntu Unity’s centralized hub. The top icon in the launcher can open apps, access files, and load up online search results. Is this awesome, or is it overkill?
You can disable aspects that you don’t like. System Settings > Security & Privacy > Files & Applications gives you control over whether Ubuntu records your file usage to access via Dash and elsewhere.
Maybe you want more results to show up in Dash. Try tossing in Amazon search results. This used to be default behavior. Now you have to enable to feature at System Settings > Security & Privacy > Search
10. Download Unity Tweak Tool
Want to tweak something else? What about everything else? The Unity Tweak Tool is your one-stop-shop for customizing even the tiniest aspects of your Ubuntu desktop. Change fonts. Swap out the icons. Designate hot corners that show or hide windows. If there’s anything that bothers you about Unity, you can probably tune it here.
For example, System Settings > Appearance provides an option to auto-hide the launcher. The Unity Tweak Tool lets you change the animation while you’re at it.
Clicking an icon in the launcher will open an app. Clicking again does nothing. What else could it do? If you’re coming from other operating systems, you may expect that second click to minimize the app. You can enable this behavior in Ubuntu through Unity Tweak Tool > Unity > Launcher > Minimize.
Have You Made the Upgrade?
Updating to the latest version of Ubuntu is recommended, but by no means required. You’re welcome to skip certain releases if the version you’re already running works for you. But here are six big reasons why you might want to give 16.04 a go.
What do you do after installing Ubuntu? What would you recommend for others? There’s no reason this list has to stop with ten. Hit up the comments section for more great advice!
Image Credit: Mechanic lying and working under car by wavebreakmedia via Shutterstock