Ubuntu 22.04 includes the GNOME 42 desktop environment. Although lacking the complexity of Windows and macOS desktops, GNOME provides an uncluttered and intuitive desktop environment that provides all of the essential features of a windowing environment with the added advantage that it can be learned quickly.
In this chapter, the main features of the GNOME desktop will be covered together with an outline of how basic tasks are performed.
Installing the GNOME Desktop
If the Ubuntu Desktop image was used for the Ubuntu 22.04 installation process, the GNOME desktop will already be installed and will automatically launch each time the system starts.
If an Ubuntu server configuration was installed, the GNOME desktop will not have been included in the packages installed on the system. On server-based systems without a display attached, the idea of installing a graphical desktop environment may seem redundant. It is worth noting, however, that remote access to the GNOME desktop is also possible, so even on so-called headless servers (i.e. servers lacking a monitor, keyboard, and mouse), it may still be beneficial to install the GNOME desktop packages. The topic of establishing remote desktop access will be covered in detail in the Ubuntu 22.04 Remote Desktop Access with Vino chapter of this book.
If the installation configuration did not include the GNOME desktop, it may be installed at any time using the following command:
# apt install ubuntu-gnome-desktopCode language: plaintext (plaintext)
Once the installation is complete, the desktop login screen will appear the next time the system restarts.
An Overview of the GNOME 42 Desktop
The screen shown in Figure 6-1 below shows the appearance of a typical, newly launched GNOME desktop session before any other programs have been launched or configuration changes made. The main desktop area (marked A) is where windows will appear when applications and utilities are launched.
The bar at the top of the screen (B) is called the top bar and includes the Activities menu (C), the day and time, and a collection of buttons and icons, including network status, audio volume, battery power, and other status and account settings:
The application menu for the currently active application running on the desktop will also appear in the top bar. Figure 6-2, for example, shows the application menu for the Terminal app:
Depending on the app, a menu containing additional options may be available in the app’s window bar. Figure 6-3, for example, shows the built-in menu for the Terminal app:
Another menu is available by right-clicking on the app icon in the dock, as shown in Figure 6-4:
Applications and utilities are launched using the dock, shown in Figure 6-5 below:
By default, the dock will display an icon for a predefined set of commonly used applications and will also include an icon for any applications that are currently running. If the application is currently running, it will appear with a dot marker to the left of the icon, and if multiple copies are running, a dot will appear for each instance.
To launch an application, simply click on the icon in the dock.
To find an application not included on the dock, one option is to select Show Applications (marked A in Figure 6-5 above) to display a browsable list of applications as shown in Figure 6-6:
Note that the list can be filtered to display all applications or only those used frequently by selecting the buttons at the bottom center of the screen. It is also important to be aware that some entries in the list are actually folders holding additional applications. In the above screenshot, for example, the Utilities entry provides access to a collection of other tools, such as the system monitor and disk management tools and the Terminal window application.
An alternative to browsing the applications is to perform a search using the search bar, which appears when the dashboard by clicking Activities in the top bar, as shown in Figure 6-7:
As text is typed into the search box, the list of possible matches will be refined.
To add an application to the dock for more convenient access, locate the icon for the application, right-click on it, and select the Add to Favorites menu option:
To remove an app from the dock, right-click on the icon in the dash and select Remove from Favorites.
As with other desktop environments, applications run on GNOME in windows. When multiple application windows are open, the Super + Tab keyboard shortcut will display the switcher panel (Figure 6-9), allowing a different window to be chosen as the currently active window (the Super key is either the Windows key or, in the case of a Mac keyboard, the Cmd key):
If a single application has more than one window open, the switcher will display those windows in a second panel so that a specific window can be selected:
To cycle backward through the icons in the switcher, use the Shift + Tab keyboard shortcut.
To maximize a window so that it fills the entire screen, click the title bar and drag the window to the top of the screen. To return the window to its original size, click on the title bar and drag it downwards. Alternatively, simply double-click on the title bar to toggle between window sizes. Similarly, dragging a window to the left or right side of the screen will cause the window to fill that half of the screen.
The area of the screen where the application windows appear is referred to as the workspace, and GNOME allows multiple workspaces to be configured. To view the current workspaces, click Activities in the top bar (marked C in Figure 6-1 above) or press the keyboard Super key to display the following screen:
The area marked A in the above figure is the currently selected workspace. Clicking in the areas marked B and C will select and display the previous and next workspaces, respectively. The center workspace panel (A) displays the currently active applications windows. Hovering the mouse pointer of a window will display a close button that can be used to exit the window. To move a window from one workspace to another, display the workspaces panel and drag and drop the application window onto the destination workspace. When a window is added to a blank workspace, another blank workspace is added to the workspace panel, allowing multiple workspaces to be created.
The workspace thumbnails (D) provide a convenient way to switch between workspaces and are particularly helpful when working with many workspaces.
To remove a workspace, either close all the windows on that workspace or move them to another workspace.
The Show Applications screen also provides access to the current workspaces, as illustrated in Figure 6-12 below:
When the system needs to notify you of an event (such as the availability of system or application updates), a popup panel will appear at the top of the workspace. Access to the calendar and any previous notifications is available by clicking on the day and time in the top bar, as shown in Figure 6-13:
To access the Settings application, click on the down arrow on the far right of the top bar and select the button with the tools icon as highlighted in Figure 6-14:
The Settings application provides a wide range of options, such as Ethernet and WiFi connections, screen background customization options, screen locking and power management controls, and language preferences. To explore the settings available in each category, simply select an option from the left-hand panel in the Settings window:
The menu shown in Figure 6-14 above also includes options to switch users, adjust audio volume, change to a different WiFi network, and log out, restart, or power off the system.
Customizing the Dock
The size, position, and behavior of the dock may be changed from within the Settings app by selecting the Appearance option, as shown in Figure 6-16:
The position can be set to any of the four sides of the screen, while the Icon size can be used to reduce the size of the dock. Finally, the auto-hide dock option, if enabled, will cause the dock to recede from view until the mouse pointer moves to the edge of the screen where it is currently located.
Installing Ubuntu Software
In common with other operating systems such as macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android, Ubuntu has an “app store” in the form of the Ubuntu Software tool. An icon is usually placed in the dock, as indicated in Figure 6-17:
Once loaded, the tool provides a list of applications available for installation on the system grouped together based on categories, recommendations, and editor’s picks. The library of available applications may also be search to find a specific item:
To install an application, simply select it in the Ubuntu Software window and click on the Install button:
Beyond Basic Customization
The GNOME desktop is, by design, a clean and uncluttered environment with minimal customization options. That does not mean, however, that it is not possible to make additional changes to the desktop. In fact, the GNOME Project has developed a tool called GNOME Tweaks for this very purpose. To install this tool, open the Ubuntu Software tool, and search for and install the GNOME Tweaks application. Once installed and launched, the Tweaks dialog will appear as shown below:
A wide range of options for customizing the desktop are now available. Too many, in fact, to cover in this chapter, so take some time to experiment with these settings before proceeding to the next chapter.
Ubuntu includes the GNOME 42 desktop environment, which may either be included during the initial installation or installed. Unlike most other desktop environments, GNOME is intended to provide a clean and easy-to-use windowing user interface. Key areas of the GNOME desktop include the top bar, Activities overview, and dash. In addition, GNOME supports multiple workspaces keeping running applications organized and the screen uncluttered. A variety of configuration options is also available within the Settings app, including desktop background settings, audio, network configuration, and WiFi network selection.