7 Hidden Features Of Ubuntu 11.10 You Might Not Know Of

Danny Stieben 19-11-2011

ubuntu featuresAs the latest version of Ubuntu was released, the team of developers have been hard at work adding some convenient features. However, some are more known than others, while others will surprise you when they pop up. Some aren’t even installed by default but can be very useful. So what are these features that can make a major difference?


Take A Picture For Your Account

The first thing that will pleasantly surprise you is the way Ubuntu asks what display image you want for your account. Not only can you choose from a normal array of nice-looking icons, but Ubuntu automatically turns on your webcam and allows you to take a picture of yourself right on the spot if you so choose. Don’t forget that if you hate pictures taken by a webcam, you can always replace it later with a picture that you like more.

Synchronize Your Applications

ubuntu features

Probably one of the most useful hidden Ubuntu features is the ability to synchronize applications between computers running Ubuntu. This will be an amazing way to have the same selection of software on all of the computers you use. Additionally it takes away some of the time and effort needed to install software on one computer and then repeat the process on the others.

For the feature to work you’ll need to be logged into your Ubuntu One account (or make one first).

Install Individual Packages With Ubuntu Software Center

features on ubuntu


If you’ve been searching through the Web for some cool software you can install, you might have been told that you can go into the Ubuntu Software Center and search for the name of a specific package. If other results come up, you’ll see programs instead of individual packages. So how can you look for the package you need?

There is a button at the bottom of the window that lets you do just that. This should be helpful to some people trying to do just that, as it took me half an hour before I finally found it.

Make LibreOffice Use Global Menu

features on ubuntu

One of Ubuntu’s “show-off” features is its Global Menu capability, which mimics the way menus are shown in Mac OS X. While most applications can make use of this, there are a couple that seem to have a few issues or simply aren’t programmed to do so. LibreOffice LibreOffice - A Free Office Suite For Windows, Linux & Mac Read More would be one of those applications.


In order to get Global Menu functionality, you’ll need to install the package lo-menubar through either the Ubuntu Software Center or by running

sudo apt-get install lo-menubar

into the terminal. Then restart your computer and LibreOffice should now be integrating like every other application.

Make Google Chrome Use Global Menu

features on ubuntu

Speaking of which, Google Chrome also has out-of-the-box capability for using the Global Menu. However, it may be a little tricky for some to get it to work. If you have any kind of issues, such as a second set of close, maximize, and minimize buttons, then try the following.


Make sure that your Google Chrome window is NOT maximized, so that there is desktop space around the entire window. Next, make sure that Chrome uses “System Title Bar and Borders“. You can right-click the empty tab space to see that option. Finally, you can maximize the window, and it should integrate nicely, using the Global Menu.

Separate Options Included By Default

features on ubuntu

Ubuntu uses the latest version of GNOME for everything that isn’t Unity. Essentially, all the backend components are good ol’ regular GNOME. As such, all the settings are virtually identical compared to a vanilla GNOME environment. However, the Ubuntu developers have included a few options that were usually only accessible through the GNOME Tweak Tool Configure Your Gnome 3 Desktop With Gnome Tweak Tool There aren't exactly a bazillion different customization options for just about anything, as GNOME 3/Shell is still relatively new. If you're one of those people who can't stand GNOME 3 as long as you cannot... Read More .

This includes the action your laptop should take when the lid is closed. This is great because it reduces the need to install the GNOME Tweak Tool to change settings that should already be included with all the other regular options.


Change Unity Settings

ubuntu features

Last but not least, the final hidden feature is the ability to configure Unity. This isn’t available by default, but can be easilly installed by searching for compiz-config-manager in the Ubuntu Software Center or by typing

sudo apt-get install compiz-config-manager

into the terminal. For more information over this, you can look at this article How To Change The Settings Of Ubuntu Unity With CompizConfig Settings Manager Ubuntu's latest release, version 11.04, brings with it a completely new desktop interface called Unity. Its release has received mixed reviews, though honestly it comes down to taste. There is never a piece of software... Read More .


There are quite a few things about Ubuntu that aren’t obvious, but those features can really add some convenience to the user. While most users can use Ubuntu just fine without most of these features, advanced users will find some joy here. While these are some that I found myself, there are surely many more.

What hidden Ubuntu features do you know of that you want to share? Any other kinds of recommendations or feedback? Let us know in the comments!

Related topics: Linux Distro, Ubuntu.

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  1. Gyankuntal
    December 11, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    11.10 doesnt make access point itself..... what shoud i do? :(

    • Danny Stieben
      December 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      I'm not quite sure what you're asking. Access as in Microsoft Access?

  2. Oskar
    November 30, 2011 at 12:20 am

    Turn on firewall: sudo ufw enable

    • Danny Stieben
      December 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      That's a good tip, Oskar. I'm not quite sure why Ubuntu disables its firewall by default.

  3. Andrade Mike
    November 20, 2011 at 11:56 am

    One word: Xubuntu.  Unity is crap.

    • Larry McCauley
      November 20, 2011 at 6:11 pm

      What I find difficult to understand is why canonical want the same interface over multiple devices. Consistent user experience is important, but when it manages to alienate a huge chunk of the existing user base then one has to ask if it's that important. Personally I like Unity, but 11.04 sucked big time. It was dreadful. But even as a reluctant fan of ocelot there are times when I wish I could just access an application in the (what was once) usual way. Having said that, searching for specific files or tunes works really, really well. Swings and roundabouts. Xubuntu, from what I have read from a few sources, isn't as mature a platform that Gnome 2.32. But with dissatisfaction all over the place perhaps some extra development effort will be forthcoming for LXDE. And then we have mint with its use of plugins that seek to re-create the Gnome 2 experience in Gnome 3. When they have that off to a T, then I can see Mint really attracting loads of users. For the record Gnome 3 really turned me off.

      • Danny Stieben
        November 25, 2011 at 7:43 pm

        Great thoughts, Larry. All kinds of people are disappointed in each desktop environment...I wonder when this insanity will be fixed.

    • Guest
      November 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm

       Thank you for your thorough opinion on the subject. Would you like to impart some more wisdom, o' wise one?

  4. Larry McCauley
    November 20, 2011 at 11:54 am

    As an aside I think that Unity is still only part-baked. 12.04 should see something that is, or at least will be closer to, the final product. Unity is crying out for configuration options. Canonical agree, so let's see what they can come up with for the next release. In the meantime gnome-color-chooser offers some extra configuration latitude which surprised me, Unity being based on Gnome 3 and all that.

  5. Larry McCauley
    November 20, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Excellent stuff mate! Thanks for sharing :-)

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      No problem Larry! :)

  6. Said Bakr
    November 19, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    The most bad thing in Unity that you have to use keyboard to switch among windows or to know the applications that already run!

    • Sur8mad
      November 20, 2011 at 2:48 am

      Why the fuss? Just click on the program icon on the unity bar you want to switch to. Simple :-) 

      • Said Bakr
        November 20, 2011 at 3:23 am

        scrolling through long bar without classification is a matter of suffer. Another thing, launchers in the old top bar, has no any way to get its properties. i.e there is no right click.

  7. Wouter Vandenneucker
    November 19, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    compiz-config-manager not found though..

    • Anonymous
      November 19, 2011 at 10:16 pm

      Try compiz-config-SETTINGS-manager :)

      • Danny Stieben
        November 25, 2011 at 7:39 pm

        Oh dear, I'm sorry about that! I knew I had to fix it after I first put it down, but I guess I missed it.

  8. LinuxNoob
    November 19, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Here's a feature: Ubuntu 11.10 won't auto connect to hidden wireless network. Makes me mad like hell! 

    • Guest
      November 21, 2011 at 3:42 pm

       What are you talking about? It definitely does! I've one at home and both my desktop and laptop do so, and when I'm at my friend's, it's also without a problem! I do not have to click anything, it's usually connected before I turn FF on.

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      My only guess is that the "Connect Automatically" box isn't checked?

    • Jnr
      January 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      Try unhiding the network then and connect to it will unhidden and then hide it again sometimes work

    November 19, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    The first time I saw global menu, it did not make any sense. I felt like my mouse has to travel a long way to access them. Now I see why it is there--to get more screen space. And it taught me how to use the mouse less by using keyboard shortcuts.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      You're welcome! :)

    • Anonymous
      December 30, 2011 at 9:38 pm

      Think of it this way: you can just move the cursor to the top without stopping or being deliberate. Now does it make sense?

    • Curt
      May 5, 2012 at 6:09 am

      Mice are so old school. Long live the keyboard and its myriad of shortcuts!!!! I haven't been this familiar with a keyboard since..... before my very first Amiga. It's familiar in an interesting sort of way. Kind of like dating an ex-girlfriend again, however, she seems sort of needy, bloated, and not exactly giving me what I'm looking for.

      Yeah, after months of giving it an honest and sincere chance, it's time to break this relationship up. Fortunately, I was seeing Linux Mint on the side from time to time and it knows exactly what I like. :)