Linux Format

Take the Elementary tour

Discover how to get started using your new flavour of Linux.


Booting into Elementary OS – using Live Distro, a virtual machine (see page 36) or full install – you should find yourself at the login screen, where you’re prompted to enter the password you just created to log into your new OS for the first time. When the desktop appears, you’ll see a verdant mountain landscape as your wallpaper, highlighti­ng how Elementary is designed very much in the mould of Mac OS.

At the bottom is the Dock – it’s a more elegant form of Windows’ taskbar, while there’s a Panel at the top. On the left of this, click Applicatio­ns to open Elementary’s launcher, its equivalent of the Start menu. You’ll see a series of shortcut icons spread over two pages (roll the mouse wheel up and down to move between them) – clicking one opens it, while right-clicking reveals options to pin or remove it from the Dock, uninstall the app or view it in the AppCenter.

The AppCenter is Elementary’s app store, similar to the Microsoft Store in Windows or your phone’s app store. It’s not the only way to install programs on your PC – and is, in fact, quite lightly populated with apps written specially for Elementary’s Pantheon desktop. We’ll cover both it and alternativ­e app sources shortly.

Continuing our tour, in the middle of the Panel is the date and time – roll your mouse over this to reveal a pop-up monthly calendar with a list of any events you’ve set up using Elementary’s main Calendar app or via any online CalDAV service you’ve connected to it.

The top-right corner of the Panel reveals a series of buttons, each of which reveals a pop-up menu. From left to right: a speaker button lets you control audio volume and music playback via Elementary’s Music app; a network button makes it easy to quickly enable and disable networks; a notificati­ons pop-up offers a ‘do not disturb’ option; and a power button make it easy to lock, log out, suspend, shut down or restart your system.

All four pop-ups also contain shortcuts to their relevant entries in the System Settings menu, which can also be accessed from the launcher and the Dock.

Set up your system

Take the time to go through System Settings – this is where you get to fine-tune Elementary to your needs. It’s a little spartan compared to other OSes – there are 21 sections split into four categories: Personal, Hardware, Network & Wireless, and Administra­tion.

For the most part, things are self-explanator­y – Applicatio­ns is where you can switch defaults to new programs if you replace them. It’s also the place to go to manage startup entries and set permission­s for individual apps, managing their access to certain folders and devices, such as webcams and printers.

If the layout isn’t quite to your liking, explore the options under Desktop, from switching wallpaper and accent colours to resizing the Dock and even improving readabilit­y for those with dyslexia.

Visit Displays to resize the screen if necessary or enable night light support and apply filters to make the screen easier to read and less distractin­g. Go to Online Accounts to connect CalDAV calendars and tasks as well as IMAP email accounts to use with the built-in Mail and Calendar apps. A Sharing section enables you to switch on DLNA servers for streaming music, photos and videos to compatible devices.

Another unique feature can be found under Screen Time & Limits, where if you share your PC with others, you can apply screen time limits, plus block selected applicatio­ns and websites – perfect for children.

Some sections are greyed out with a warning that administra­tor rights are required – click the Unlock button and enter your user password to make changes.

Find more apps

While Elementary comes with a core set of apps similar to those bundled in Windows, you’ll soon be itching to do more with your new OS. You can install apps several ways in Elementary – just like you can in Windows – but the simplest place to start is its AppCenter, accessible directly from the Dock.

Click this to open an app store not dissimilar from that on your phone. There’s a search tool at the top, a list of featured apps, and categories for you to browse. Click one, and a list of paid-for and free apps is shown. You’ll also see an orange flash button at the top – click this to see a list of all installed apps (these include the apps preinstall­ed with Elementary) as well as any that have updates available. Click Update next to individual entries, or Update All to update them all in one go, or click the Settings button next to the flash button to reveal an automatic updates option.

You may be disappoint­ed with the slim pickings on offer – try a search for a well-known tool such as LibreOffic­e and you’re likely to come up short, although you are directed to an alternativ­e app centre, Flathub, through Elementary’s web browser. Flathub has many more apps to choose from – click Install to download a small file with a flatpakref extension. Open your Downloads folder in the Files app, then double-click this. A dialog warning you about this ‘untrusted’ app pops up, with a summary, download size and warning that updates aren’t checked before they’re offered. Tick I Understand and click Install Anyway to proceed.

Apps installed through Flathub also appear in the AppCenter alongside other installed apps, but there’s one major disadvanta­ge to Flathub: because of the way apps are packaged (to run in a sandbox for security and compatibil­ity purposes), they tend to be much larger than apps from elsewhere.

Thankfully, apps can be added from other sources, too – because Elementary is effectivel­y a variant of the massively popular Ubuntu distro, it supports Ubuntu repositori­es, which are collection­s of apps hosted in a single location. These can be installed directly through the terminal using sudo apt install appname , but if you don’t know the applicatio­n name, a simpler option is to install another package manager alongside AppCenter. Open the terminal and issue the following commands:

$ sudo apt update

$ sudo apt install synaptic

Once installed, close the terminal and open the Applicatio­ns launcher, where you’ll see an entry for Synaptic Package Manager. Open this and you’ll gain access to a much wider range of programs.

You can also source some programs from their own websites. Look for two types of file: DEBs are packages similar to Windows installers, while AppImages are like Windows portable apps. Search Synaptic Package Manager for a program called GDebi, which simplifies the install process for DEB packages.

When it comes to AppImages, the files need to be tweaked to make them executable in Linux. To do this, right-click the file in Files and choose Properties > Permission­s before clicking Execute under Owner, which changes the permission­s to 764. Click Close and the program should now run when you double-click it.

 ?? ?? The System Settings tool is worth exploring in depth after installing Elementary – it works in a similar way to Windows’ equivalent.
The System Settings tool is worth exploring in depth after installing Elementary – it works in a similar way to Windows’ equivalent.
 ?? ?? Elementary’s desktop is called Pantheon and was designed with Mac OS switchers in mind. It’s bright, colourful and easy to use.
Elementary’s desktop is called Pantheon and was designed with Mac OS switchers in mind. It’s bright, colourful and easy to use.
 ?? ??
 ?? ?? The AppCenter isn’t just for finding and installing new programs; use it to manage and update existing ones, too.
The AppCenter isn’t just for finding and installing new programs; use it to manage and update existing ones, too.

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