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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Introduction

This is the 4th part in the series looking at how to make Xubuntu the ultimate operating system.

Part 1 was all about the initial review of Xubuntu. The article looked at the base install of Xubuntu and commented on the performance benefits that Xubuntu provides over Ubuntu. 

Part 2 I looked at how to customise the desktop in Xubuntu. I showed how it is possible to customer the panels and how to adjust the menus and background themes so that Xubuntu looks just the way you want it to.

In part 3 I looked at the default music player in Xubuntu and reviewed  4 of the best music applications in Linux.

This is part 4 and today I will be looking at office software. To do a review comparing different office suites would take a considerable amount of time and would bore you long before you made a decision over which package is suitable for you.

Instead I have decided to write just about LibreOffice. For me LibreOffice is the ultimate office suite within Linux and even within Windows. 

There was a time when Microsoft Office was head and shoulders above every other office package but there are only so many features you can add before you are either adding for the sake of adding or you are adding features that nobody wants (ribbons anyone).

LibreOffice has managed to incorporate a whole raft of features that makes it comparable with Microsoft Office at a feature level and it has something that Microsoft Office now lacks which is familiarity. The menus are laid out how I'd expect them to be and I don't find myself hunting for features lost in tabs and ribbon bars.

Now you might ask what is wrong with Abiword and Gnumeric. To be honest if you just want to type a letter then Abiword works just fine but for me that is all it is useful for. With Gnumeric it is ok for basic calculations and very simple spreadsheets.

If you have the disk space and you have the resources available then I cannot see a good reason for not having LibreOffice installed.

LibreOffice Writer


LibreOffice Writer is a Word Processing application similar to Microsoft Word. It has a full set of features including access to a wide array of templates, wizards for creating letters and a mail merge facility.

Wizards


To start of with I will highlight the wizard feature. There are wizards for creating letters, fax cover sheets, agendas and even web pages.

For this review I will look at the letter wizard but the other wizards work in a similar way.

The letter wizard starts off by asking you the type of letter you wish to create, the choices being a business letter, a formal personal letter or a general personal letter.




The second page of the wizard lets you determine the items that will appear in the letter such as return addresses, subject lines, salutations and footers.







The third step of the wizard lets you determine the addresses that appear on the letter and you can use the mail merge feature to produce multiple copies of the same letter. I will come to this in more detail later on.

The fourth step enables you to enter a footer for the letter and finally on the fifth step you can choose whether to store the settings you have entered as a template.

What is produced is a series of place holders which you then click into and amend in order to write your letter.

Writing one letter this way is far too overkill but if you had to write one letter and then send it to 50 people stored in an address database then you can easily use this system to create a template that can be used again and again.

Templates

Sometimes you will want to create a document that has been created a million times before and rather than reinvent the wheel you can choose to install a template from the LibreOffice Template library.

Now there is a button that says Install Template Pack but despite clicking this button and following the instructions nothing appears to have happened.

Fortunately there is a link next to the button which says "Get more templates online" which takes you to the Template Library.

There are templates for a large number of document types including Curriculum Vitaes (Resumes), Calendars, Budgets, Certificates, EBooks, Fax Templates, Magazines, Newsletters, Notes, Labels, CD/DVD labels, Invoices and well to be honest too many to list here.




Mail Merge


To demonstrate the mail merge feature I created a spreadsheet with two rows in it. Quite simply it has the first and last names of 2 fictional people and their address details and contact phone numbers.



Within LibreOffice Writer I can use a spreadsheet with a list of names and addresses to create a mail shot.

You can either use the letter wizard and then import the addresses or just choose the address data source wizard and pull in the parts you need.

The first thing you need to do is select the data source.

The datatype can be anything from a simple spreadsheet to a complicated MySQL database.

After choosing the database type you can then choose the file to retrieve the addresses from, or if the source is a MySQL database the database name and server to connect to.



Once you have selected the database you can then map the database fields to the fields on the letter template.

Using the simple spreadsheet above all I had to do was match the first name column in the spreadsheet with the <firstname> tag within the letter template.

When you have finished mapping the fields you will then see the document with the tags still in place for example <firstname>, <lastname> etc and you might think that nothing has happened.





At this point you are still in the edit mode so you can drag the fields to other parts of the document. For example you might see the word Hello and want to place the <firstname> field after it so that every letter says hello to the person you are sending it to. 

To actually generate the letters click the mail merge button and a further wizard will appear which will take you through the actual letter generation process.


Creating Web Pages

It is possible to use the LibreOffice Writer to create basic web pages.

Personally I would never use a word processor to create web pages as there are far better tools capable of producing web pages and I find that word processors have the habit of adding bloat to your HTML.



The interface within LibreOffice is a little bit clunky but as WYSIWYG HTML editors go it works quite well and looking at the source code the HTML generated isn't too bad.

General Functionality

LibreOffice writer can open and store files in multiple formats including ODT, Microsoft Word and PDF.

The document can be sent electronically via email in various formats.

You can expect all the standard functionality that is in other word processors including headers, footers, the ability to add images, videos and other objects. 

There is a spell checker and there is also a macro facility similar to the one in Word.

LibreOffice Calc

The largest corporations around the world have full ERP solutions supplied by SAP and Oracle. The truth is though most large corporations would fall apart if Microsoft Excel didn't exist.

Spreadsheets are the backbone of business and they are perfect for data analysis, tracking of information, charting, basic relational data, bug lists and address lists. Every office has resident experts who know how to use all the functions and how to write complex VBA code.

Spreadsheets are also the scurge of many an IT department as the spreadsheets become unwieldy and people have a habit of connecting spreadsheets to databases by hardcoding connection strings.

Microsoft Excel is brilliant. I don't often praise Microsoft but there are a few things that Microsoft have created that are really good. Excel is one of them and Visual Studio is another and of course the XBOX 360 is by far the best gaming machine on the planet.

LibreOffice Calc though is now potentially every bit as powerful as Excel although it will be difficult to get companies to rewrite all that VBA code in LibreOffice Basic.

Every function that you can think of using in Excel is covered in LibreOffice Calc. Named ranges are catered for in an almost identical way.

LibreOffice Calc has full support for PivotTables and Charting and using LibreOffice Basic you can create functions every bit as complex as those within Excel.

LibreOffice Impress


LibreOffice Impress enables you to create presentations in much the same way you would with Microsoft Powerpoint.

Creating presentations is very easy. You can either use the wizard or you can create a presentation from scratch.

The image above was created by using the wizard. To demonstrate some of the features of Impress I will create a presentation from scratch.

LibreOffice Impress has a range of default layouts that can be applied to pages.

The image to the left shows a simple title page with centred text.

You can choose from a large number of layouts. For example you can have a title with images on the left and text to the right, or text on top and an image at the bottom.

You can change the slide design and pick from a range of templates.

Instantly a dull white slide can be transformed to be something that looks a little more professional.




You can go one step further and make it look great by adding a background image.

The image to the right is just the default background from Xubuntu 12.10 used as a background for the slide.

Ironically I don't like it as a desktop background but as a slide background it looks good.

You can add slides simply by right clicking on the slide panel on the left and by choosing the add slide option. Slides can be moved around by dragging them up or down.

You can add images, videos, sounds, charts and text to your presentations.

Everything on the slide is customisable.

You can add different transition effects to every page to make the presentation visually pleasing.

Presentations can be saved in ODP or PPT format. As there is a portable version of Impress available it is possible to store a copy with the presentation on a USB drive which means you do not have to worry whether Powerpoint will destroy the layout or transition effects.

I have used LibreOffice Impress to produce presentations for work purposes and for my son's school presentations. I think because I can carry LibreOffice around on a USB drive I feel more comfortable creating presentations within LibreOffice. I know how the presentations will look wherever I have to present them because I'm using the software it was created with.

LibreOffice Database

A program I really love to hate is Microsoft Access. 

The reason for my hatred of Microsoft Access is that every department in every big company has used Microsoft Access as a way of circumnavigating the IT department in order to create an application that is fit for purpose.


The problem with circumnavigating the IT department is that the resident Access expert ends up leaving and the users need new fields, new reports or they just don't know how to use Access well enough to keep it tidy.

Microsoft Access has a purpose and that purpose is not to create huge applications with lots of VBA code. The purpose of Access is to provide small relational databases that can be shared between 1 and 6 users.

It is perfect for address books, bug tracking, inventory databases such as music collections or for listing all the items in your house in case you get burgled. (Obviously you would need a backup in case the machine containing Access is stolen).

Within LibreOffice there is a database application that works very similarly to Microsoft Access and it is really easy to use. 

There are two ways to create tables. You can use the design view or you can use the wizard.

The design view makes it easy to add columns including setting their types, whether they are nullable and whether they autoincrement.

The wizard view lets you choose from a pre-determined set of table types such as addresses, customers, bank accounts etc.


You can create relationships between tables using the relationship wizard. Simply drag from one table to another and a link is made.

You can create one-to-one links and one-to-many links.





Creating forms for entering data is very easy. You can simply right click on the table and choose the form wizard.

If the table you have chosen has relationships to other tables you can add subforms within the main form.



The LibreOffice Database application has everything you would expect from a small relational database including tables, views, queries and reports.

Reports are as easy to create as forms. Simply right click on a table and click the report wizard.



Summary

The one tool I have not mentioned is LibreOffice Draw.

LibreOffice Draw is similar to Microsoft Visio and would therefore be used to create process diagrams, flow diagrams or network diagrams.

I think LibreOffice is the perfect office tool to go with the ultimate Xubuntu operating system. 

So what are the alternative office suites? Well you could go for Open Office, Calligra or stick with individual tools for individual tasks.

As with audio software it is about finding the tools that work for you. Fortunately the Ubuntu repositories are huge and so finding that perfect application should be fairly easy.

In the next instalment I will be listing the other applications that I think would make the perfect Xubuntu operating system.

Thankyou for reading.


Click here to buy Xubuntu on DVD or USB





Make Xubuntu the ultimate Linux Operating System - Install LibreOffice

Introduction

This is the 4th part in the series looking at how to make Xubuntu the ultimate operating system.

Part 1 was all about the initial review of Xubuntu. The article looked at the base install of Xubuntu and commented on the performance benefits that Xubuntu provides over Ubuntu. 

Part 2 I looked at how to customise the desktop in Xubuntu. I showed how it is possible to customer the panels and how to adjust the menus and background themes so that Xubuntu looks just the way you want it to.

In part 3 I looked at the default music player in Xubuntu and reviewed  4 of the best music applications in Linux.

This is part 4 and today I will be looking at office software. To do a review comparing different office suites would take a considerable amount of time and would bore you long before you made a decision over which package is suitable for you.

Instead I have decided to write just about LibreOffice. For me LibreOffice is the ultimate office suite within Linux and even within Windows. 

There was a time when Microsoft Office was head and shoulders above every other office package but there are only so many features you can add before you are either adding for the sake of adding or you are adding features that nobody wants (ribbons anyone).

LibreOffice has managed to incorporate a whole raft of features that makes it comparable with Microsoft Office at a feature level and it has something that Microsoft Office now lacks which is familiarity. The menus are laid out how I'd expect them to be and I don't find myself hunting for features lost in tabs and ribbon bars.

Now you might ask what is wrong with Abiword and Gnumeric. To be honest if you just want to type a letter then Abiword works just fine but for me that is all it is useful for. With Gnumeric it is ok for basic calculations and very simple spreadsheets.

If you have the disk space and you have the resources available then I cannot see a good reason for not having LibreOffice installed.

LibreOffice Writer


LibreOffice Writer is a Word Processing application similar to Microsoft Word. It has a full set of features including access to a wide array of templates, wizards for creating letters and a mail merge facility.

Wizards


To start of with I will highlight the wizard feature. There are wizards for creating letters, fax cover sheets, agendas and even web pages.

For this review I will look at the letter wizard but the other wizards work in a similar way.

The letter wizard starts off by asking you the type of letter you wish to create, the choices being a business letter, a formal personal letter or a general personal letter.




The second page of the wizard lets you determine the items that will appear in the letter such as return addresses, subject lines, salutations and footers.







The third step of the wizard lets you determine the addresses that appear on the letter and you can use the mail merge feature to produce multiple copies of the same letter. I will come to this in more detail later on.

The fourth step enables you to enter a footer for the letter and finally on the fifth step you can choose whether to store the settings you have entered as a template.

What is produced is a series of place holders which you then click into and amend in order to write your letter.

Writing one letter this way is far too overkill but if you had to write one letter and then send it to 50 people stored in an address database then you can easily use this system to create a template that can be used again and again.

Templates

Sometimes you will want to create a document that has been created a million times before and rather than reinvent the wheel you can choose to install a template from the LibreOffice Template library.

Now there is a button that says Install Template Pack but despite clicking this button and following the instructions nothing appears to have happened.

Fortunately there is a link next to the button which says "Get more templates online" which takes you to the Template Library.

There are templates for a large number of document types including Curriculum Vitaes (Resumes), Calendars, Budgets, Certificates, EBooks, Fax Templates, Magazines, Newsletters, Notes, Labels, CD/DVD labels, Invoices and well to be honest too many to list here.




Mail Merge


To demonstrate the mail merge feature I created a spreadsheet with two rows in it. Quite simply it has the first and last names of 2 fictional people and their address details and contact phone numbers.



Within LibreOffice Writer I can use a spreadsheet with a list of names and addresses to create a mail shot.

You can either use the letter wizard and then import the addresses or just choose the address data source wizard and pull in the parts you need.

The first thing you need to do is select the data source.

The datatype can be anything from a simple spreadsheet to a complicated MySQL database.

After choosing the database type you can then choose the file to retrieve the addresses from, or if the source is a MySQL database the database name and server to connect to.



Once you have selected the database you can then map the database fields to the fields on the letter template.

Using the simple spreadsheet above all I had to do was match the first name column in the spreadsheet with the <firstname> tag within the letter template.

When you have finished mapping the fields you will then see the document with the tags still in place for example <firstname>, <lastname> etc and you might think that nothing has happened.





At this point you are still in the edit mode so you can drag the fields to other parts of the document. For example you might see the word Hello and want to place the <firstname> field after it so that every letter says hello to the person you are sending it to. 

To actually generate the letters click the mail merge button and a further wizard will appear which will take you through the actual letter generation process.


Creating Web Pages

It is possible to use the LibreOffice Writer to create basic web pages.

Personally I would never use a word processor to create web pages as there are far better tools capable of producing web pages and I find that word processors have the habit of adding bloat to your HTML.



The interface within LibreOffice is a little bit clunky but as WYSIWYG HTML editors go it works quite well and looking at the source code the HTML generated isn't too bad.

General Functionality

LibreOffice writer can open and store files in multiple formats including ODT, Microsoft Word and PDF.

The document can be sent electronically via email in various formats.

You can expect all the standard functionality that is in other word processors including headers, footers, the ability to add images, videos and other objects. 

There is a spell checker and there is also a macro facility similar to the one in Word.

LibreOffice Calc

The largest corporations around the world have full ERP solutions supplied by SAP and Oracle. The truth is though most large corporations would fall apart if Microsoft Excel didn't exist.

Spreadsheets are the backbone of business and they are perfect for data analysis, tracking of information, charting, basic relational data, bug lists and address lists. Every office has resident experts who know how to use all the functions and how to write complex VBA code.

Spreadsheets are also the scurge of many an IT department as the spreadsheets become unwieldy and people have a habit of connecting spreadsheets to databases by hardcoding connection strings.

Microsoft Excel is brilliant. I don't often praise Microsoft but there are a few things that Microsoft have created that are really good. Excel is one of them and Visual Studio is another and of course the XBOX 360 is by far the best gaming machine on the planet.

LibreOffice Calc though is now potentially every bit as powerful as Excel although it will be difficult to get companies to rewrite all that VBA code in LibreOffice Basic.

Every function that you can think of using in Excel is covered in LibreOffice Calc. Named ranges are catered for in an almost identical way.

LibreOffice Calc has full support for PivotTables and Charting and using LibreOffice Basic you can create functions every bit as complex as those within Excel.

LibreOffice Impress


LibreOffice Impress enables you to create presentations in much the same way you would with Microsoft Powerpoint.

Creating presentations is very easy. You can either use the wizard or you can create a presentation from scratch.

The image above was created by using the wizard. To demonstrate some of the features of Impress I will create a presentation from scratch.

LibreOffice Impress has a range of default layouts that can be applied to pages.

The image to the left shows a simple title page with centred text.

You can choose from a large number of layouts. For example you can have a title with images on the left and text to the right, or text on top and an image at the bottom.

You can change the slide design and pick from a range of templates.

Instantly a dull white slide can be transformed to be something that looks a little more professional.




You can go one step further and make it look great by adding a background image.

The image to the right is just the default background from Xubuntu 12.10 used as a background for the slide.

Ironically I don't like it as a desktop background but as a slide background it looks good.

You can add slides simply by right clicking on the slide panel on the left and by choosing the add slide option. Slides can be moved around by dragging them up or down.

You can add images, videos, sounds, charts and text to your presentations.

Everything on the slide is customisable.

You can add different transition effects to every page to make the presentation visually pleasing.

Presentations can be saved in ODP or PPT format. As there is a portable version of Impress available it is possible to store a copy with the presentation on a USB drive which means you do not have to worry whether Powerpoint will destroy the layout or transition effects.

I have used LibreOffice Impress to produce presentations for work purposes and for my son's school presentations. I think because I can carry LibreOffice around on a USB drive I feel more comfortable creating presentations within LibreOffice. I know how the presentations will look wherever I have to present them because I'm using the software it was created with.

LibreOffice Database

A program I really love to hate is Microsoft Access. 

The reason for my hatred of Microsoft Access is that every department in every big company has used Microsoft Access as a way of circumnavigating the IT department in order to create an application that is fit for purpose.


The problem with circumnavigating the IT department is that the resident Access expert ends up leaving and the users need new fields, new reports or they just don't know how to use Access well enough to keep it tidy.

Microsoft Access has a purpose and that purpose is not to create huge applications with lots of VBA code. The purpose of Access is to provide small relational databases that can be shared between 1 and 6 users.

It is perfect for address books, bug tracking, inventory databases such as music collections or for listing all the items in your house in case you get burgled. (Obviously you would need a backup in case the machine containing Access is stolen).

Within LibreOffice there is a database application that works very similarly to Microsoft Access and it is really easy to use. 

There are two ways to create tables. You can use the design view or you can use the wizard.

The design view makes it easy to add columns including setting their types, whether they are nullable and whether they autoincrement.

The wizard view lets you choose from a pre-determined set of table types such as addresses, customers, bank accounts etc.


You can create relationships between tables using the relationship wizard. Simply drag from one table to another and a link is made.

You can create one-to-one links and one-to-many links.





Creating forms for entering data is very easy. You can simply right click on the table and choose the form wizard.

If the table you have chosen has relationships to other tables you can add subforms within the main form.



The LibreOffice Database application has everything you would expect from a small relational database including tables, views, queries and reports.

Reports are as easy to create as forms. Simply right click on a table and click the report wizard.



Summary

The one tool I have not mentioned is LibreOffice Draw.

LibreOffice Draw is similar to Microsoft Visio and would therefore be used to create process diagrams, flow diagrams or network diagrams.

I think LibreOffice is the perfect office tool to go with the ultimate Xubuntu operating system. 

So what are the alternative office suites? Well you could go for Open Office, Calligra or stick with individual tools for individual tasks.

As with audio software it is about finding the tools that work for you. Fortunately the Ubuntu repositories are huge and so finding that perfect application should be fairly easy.

In the next instalment I will be listing the other applications that I think would make the perfect Xubuntu operating system.

Thankyou for reading.


Click here to buy Xubuntu on DVD or USB





Posted at 23:06 |  by Gary Newell

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Introduction

The purpose of this set of articles is to take the base Xubuntu installation and show how easily it can be improved to make the best Linux operating system of them all.

The first part was a review of Xubuntu where I reviewed the base install. In the second part of the I looked at how it is possible to customise all the aspects of the XFCE desktop to make it look the way you want it to look.

The bit that needs to be worked on now are the applications. Xubuntu comes with a set of applications which will get you up and running and if you have an old computer the base set of applications will be just fine.

If you are using a newer computer then whilst the XFCE desktop is brilliantly customisable the applications aren't that exciting.

So in this review I will be looking at 4 of the music applications you might choose to install to replace GMusicBrowser which is installed by default.

The 4 chosen applications are Audacious, Banshee, Exaile and Rhythmbox.


Audacious

Audacious is a bit like GMusicBrowser in that it justs plays music. It isn't really that fancy, it doesn't connect to your external music players and it doesn't have a webstore attached where you can download the latest music.

There are also no online radio stations.


The initial screen is a bit underwhelming but it can be changed to look a bit more pleasing on the eye and the WinAmp View image on the right is just example of this. 



You can add music from either a folder or a URL. Click the plus symbol to add music from a URL or the folder symbol to add music from a folder.

I selected the Music folder and clicked add. All the songs were added in about 5 seconds (14 gb worth of music).



You can choose to add different visual effects which are nice if you are just listening to your music and doing nothing else.

There are a number of ways to output your music within Audacious including ALSA and PulseAudio. There are also a number of effects to choose from including echo, extra stereo, crossfade and voice removal.

Now I am not going to pretend to be a guru when it comes to music. I listen to a lost of 80s rock music, a bit of 90s/00s ska punk and heavy metal. I therefore don't get much benefit from a lot of the so called effects. What I can say though is that I expected voice removal to remove the voice content from songs and whilst it does drastically reduce the channels used for the vocals you can still hear them.

For me Audacious was ok but I'm not sure it is that much better than GMusicBrowser. It doesn't contain the wow factor or any cool gadgets that are included in PMusic (Puppy Linux).

The other thing that I wasn't particularly happy with was the way playlists work. It is ok if you import playlists but if you want to create a new one you have to create the playlist and then import the songs into the playlist from the music folders on your machine. Not particularly intuitive. (Unless there was some secret technique that wasn't obvious).

Just to clarify it is possible to import music from an external music player if it attaches itself as an external drive, simply by browsing the folder structure as if you were adding music from any folder.

Banshee


Banshee is a more complete experience when it comes to playing and managing your music collection.

Banshee has support for music devices including iPods (supposedly, I have no way of proving this without selling my soul to the dark side and buying an Apple device) and the Sony Walkman.

Importing media is simply a case of selecting "Import Media" from the menu.

You have a number of places that you can import music from including your local drives, your music devices and the Amazon music store.



Creating a playlist within Banshee is a pleasant experience.

Simply select new playlist from the Media menu, enter a name for the playlist and then drag and drop the songs that you want within the playlist.






It is possible to import online radio stations into Banshee so that you can choose to listen to them as and when you want to without finding them on your favourites list in your browser.

It is a little fiddly (When you compare it to PMusic in Puppy which imports hundreds of radio stations for you already) in that you have to know the URL of the feed to begin with but you should be able to get that from most online radio station websites.

As mentioned before you can connect directly with your external music devices.

You are able to play the music straight from the device and of course synchronise to and from the device including adding and removing playlists.






Banshee has support for playing Podcasts and there is a feature called the Miro guide which gives you the ability to search for podcasts.







Finally if you have ran out of music and want to purchase some more pop into the Amazon store from within Banshee and download the songs you wish to buy and they are automatically imported into your library.





Banshee was an altogether better experience than Audacious and provides much more functionality. Overall it is a music player that I could easily use on a daily basis. The cover art does take a little time to pull through though.

Exaile

Exaile is more along the lines of Audacious in that it is just a music player although it does have the ability to add online radio stations as well and it uses cover art which it seems to pull down at a much faster rate than Banshee.

There is no obvious ability to connect to the Sony Walkman plugged in but on the install page it does say that it works with iPods but someone else will have to confirm that fact.



Adding music is relatively straight forward. Select the option from the menu and then click the add button.

You can choose to install from any folder. It is worth noting at this point that as with Audacious you can import from external music players if that player attaches itself as an external drive which the Walkman does.



Adding a radio station works in a similar way to Banshee in that you enter a name and the URL to the radio station's feed.





Exaile might be your player of choice if you need something that is somewhere between Audacious and Banshee.

Creating playlists was certainly easy enough. Pick a file (or files), right click and choose add to custom playlist. You can choose to add to a new playlist if you wish.

I have to note that I had a few lags in performance when trying to switch from one playlist to another and at one point the application crashed. 

Rhythmbox

Rhythmbox is my music player of choice. It has all the functions of Banshee but it looks better and provides a better user experience.

Adding music is a simple case of selecting Media and import folders and you are able to import all your music. It does seem to take a while longer than the other music players but no more than a couple of minutes. 




Rhythmbox gives you the ability to change the look and feel so that you can decide which columns are visible and whether you see albums and artists or genres and artists or all three.







Rhythmbox doesn't limit you to just music. You can also listen to podcasts and it also links to the Myra Guide to enable you to search for suitable podcasts.






Another area where Rhythmbox surpasses Banshee is the list of preset online radio stations that are available. 

Most genres of music are covered but if you want to add in radio stations that aren't there you can just by entering the URL to the feed.



As with Banshee if you want to purchase new material you can do so within the application itself.

Rhythmbox uses the Ubuntu store to provide music as opposed to Banshee which uses Amazon.



Creating playlists within Rhythmbox is easy. Simply right click on the files and choose the playlist you want to add the songs to or indeed create a new playlist.

Media devices are picked up within Rhythmbox and it is possible to synchronise with the libraries on the computer simply by right clicking on the device and selecting sync. I did notice one issue with this and that is the fact that Rhythmbox picks up 2 external devices even though only one is plugged in. If I pick the wrong one then the other one disappears. I have to re-mount the device to get it to be picked up again.

Summary

I really like Rhythmbox. It is a really professional tool and so this is the player that I will be keeping within my Xubuntu build.

It is obviously down to everyone's requirements and experiences with products as to which application will work for them but these are 4 music players that could work with Xubuntu to make it the ultimate operating system.

There are of course other music players and I'm sure to be graced with comments such as "why did you not pick music player x or what about music player y". Feel free to add your favourite music player as a comment or if you'd like to write a guest review about specific music players let me know.

The next article in the Xubuntu series will be about office software. If you are looking for a review of another version of Linux then sign up to my twitter feed as one is coming shortly. 

Finally if you are working on a distribution (no matter how big or small) and would like a review please get in contact.

Thankyou for reading.











Make Xubuntu the ultimate Linux operating system by installing 4 of the best music applications for Linux

Introduction

The purpose of this set of articles is to take the base Xubuntu installation and show how easily it can be improved to make the best Linux operating system of them all.

The first part was a review of Xubuntu where I reviewed the base install. In the second part of the I looked at how it is possible to customise all the aspects of the XFCE desktop to make it look the way you want it to look.

The bit that needs to be worked on now are the applications. Xubuntu comes with a set of applications which will get you up and running and if you have an old computer the base set of applications will be just fine.

If you are using a newer computer then whilst the XFCE desktop is brilliantly customisable the applications aren't that exciting.

So in this review I will be looking at 4 of the music applications you might choose to install to replace GMusicBrowser which is installed by default.

The 4 chosen applications are Audacious, Banshee, Exaile and Rhythmbox.


Audacious

Audacious is a bit like GMusicBrowser in that it justs plays music. It isn't really that fancy, it doesn't connect to your external music players and it doesn't have a webstore attached where you can download the latest music.

There are also no online radio stations.


The initial screen is a bit underwhelming but it can be changed to look a bit more pleasing on the eye and the WinAmp View image on the right is just example of this. 



You can add music from either a folder or a URL. Click the plus symbol to add music from a URL or the folder symbol to add music from a folder.

I selected the Music folder and clicked add. All the songs were added in about 5 seconds (14 gb worth of music).



You can choose to add different visual effects which are nice if you are just listening to your music and doing nothing else.

There are a number of ways to output your music within Audacious including ALSA and PulseAudio. There are also a number of effects to choose from including echo, extra stereo, crossfade and voice removal.

Now I am not going to pretend to be a guru when it comes to music. I listen to a lost of 80s rock music, a bit of 90s/00s ska punk and heavy metal. I therefore don't get much benefit from a lot of the so called effects. What I can say though is that I expected voice removal to remove the voice content from songs and whilst it does drastically reduce the channels used for the vocals you can still hear them.

For me Audacious was ok but I'm not sure it is that much better than GMusicBrowser. It doesn't contain the wow factor or any cool gadgets that are included in PMusic (Puppy Linux).

The other thing that I wasn't particularly happy with was the way playlists work. It is ok if you import playlists but if you want to create a new one you have to create the playlist and then import the songs into the playlist from the music folders on your machine. Not particularly intuitive. (Unless there was some secret technique that wasn't obvious).

Just to clarify it is possible to import music from an external music player if it attaches itself as an external drive, simply by browsing the folder structure as if you were adding music from any folder.

Banshee


Banshee is a more complete experience when it comes to playing and managing your music collection.

Banshee has support for music devices including iPods (supposedly, I have no way of proving this without selling my soul to the dark side and buying an Apple device) and the Sony Walkman.

Importing media is simply a case of selecting "Import Media" from the menu.

You have a number of places that you can import music from including your local drives, your music devices and the Amazon music store.



Creating a playlist within Banshee is a pleasant experience.

Simply select new playlist from the Media menu, enter a name for the playlist and then drag and drop the songs that you want within the playlist.






It is possible to import online radio stations into Banshee so that you can choose to listen to them as and when you want to without finding them on your favourites list in your browser.

It is a little fiddly (When you compare it to PMusic in Puppy which imports hundreds of radio stations for you already) in that you have to know the URL of the feed to begin with but you should be able to get that from most online radio station websites.

As mentioned before you can connect directly with your external music devices.

You are able to play the music straight from the device and of course synchronise to and from the device including adding and removing playlists.






Banshee has support for playing Podcasts and there is a feature called the Miro guide which gives you the ability to search for podcasts.







Finally if you have ran out of music and want to purchase some more pop into the Amazon store from within Banshee and download the songs you wish to buy and they are automatically imported into your library.





Banshee was an altogether better experience than Audacious and provides much more functionality. Overall it is a music player that I could easily use on a daily basis. The cover art does take a little time to pull through though.

Exaile

Exaile is more along the lines of Audacious in that it is just a music player although it does have the ability to add online radio stations as well and it uses cover art which it seems to pull down at a much faster rate than Banshee.

There is no obvious ability to connect to the Sony Walkman plugged in but on the install page it does say that it works with iPods but someone else will have to confirm that fact.



Adding music is relatively straight forward. Select the option from the menu and then click the add button.

You can choose to install from any folder. It is worth noting at this point that as with Audacious you can import from external music players if that player attaches itself as an external drive which the Walkman does.



Adding a radio station works in a similar way to Banshee in that you enter a name and the URL to the radio station's feed.





Exaile might be your player of choice if you need something that is somewhere between Audacious and Banshee.

Creating playlists was certainly easy enough. Pick a file (or files), right click and choose add to custom playlist. You can choose to add to a new playlist if you wish.

I have to note that I had a few lags in performance when trying to switch from one playlist to another and at one point the application crashed. 

Rhythmbox

Rhythmbox is my music player of choice. It has all the functions of Banshee but it looks better and provides a better user experience.

Adding music is a simple case of selecting Media and import folders and you are able to import all your music. It does seem to take a while longer than the other music players but no more than a couple of minutes. 




Rhythmbox gives you the ability to change the look and feel so that you can decide which columns are visible and whether you see albums and artists or genres and artists or all three.







Rhythmbox doesn't limit you to just music. You can also listen to podcasts and it also links to the Myra Guide to enable you to search for suitable podcasts.






Another area where Rhythmbox surpasses Banshee is the list of preset online radio stations that are available. 

Most genres of music are covered but if you want to add in radio stations that aren't there you can just by entering the URL to the feed.



As with Banshee if you want to purchase new material you can do so within the application itself.

Rhythmbox uses the Ubuntu store to provide music as opposed to Banshee which uses Amazon.



Creating playlists within Rhythmbox is easy. Simply right click on the files and choose the playlist you want to add the songs to or indeed create a new playlist.

Media devices are picked up within Rhythmbox and it is possible to synchronise with the libraries on the computer simply by right clicking on the device and selecting sync. I did notice one issue with this and that is the fact that Rhythmbox picks up 2 external devices even though only one is plugged in. If I pick the wrong one then the other one disappears. I have to re-mount the device to get it to be picked up again.

Summary

I really like Rhythmbox. It is a really professional tool and so this is the player that I will be keeping within my Xubuntu build.

It is obviously down to everyone's requirements and experiences with products as to which application will work for them but these are 4 music players that could work with Xubuntu to make it the ultimate operating system.

There are of course other music players and I'm sure to be graced with comments such as "why did you not pick music player x or what about music player y". Feel free to add your favourite music player as a comment or if you'd like to write a guest review about specific music players let me know.

The next article in the Xubuntu series will be about office software. If you are looking for a review of another version of Linux then sign up to my twitter feed as one is coming shortly. 

Finally if you are working on a distribution (no matter how big or small) and would like a review please get in contact.

Thankyou for reading.











Posted at 00:16 |  by Gary Newell

19 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

Offensive messages will be removed as will blatant adverts for misleading products and sites.

Thanks for visiting my blog

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Introduction

In the first part of my review of Xubuntu I just looked at the default installation.

The thing with Xubuntu is that the base is very light but it has so much potential that I believe it can be turned into anything you want it to be. As your needs are different from my needs the ability to customise is very important. 

Ubuntu is a good operating system. If you are a computer user who is happy to work in a way that the developers have decided is the best way to work and you find the Ubuntu system intuitive and useable then you will have no issues with Ubuntu whatsoever. Ubuntu is very stable, there is a huge software repository and Unity provides all the bells and whistles that you associate with other operating systems.

As I said before though it is highly likely that what I think is good others think isn't so good. For instance I might like a task bar at the top of the screen or I might like it at the bottom. I might like a docking bar, a specific menu system and whizzy effects. I might like my notifications to be displayed in an area of the screen that is non-intrusive. I may also have certain items that I need at a mouse click on the taskbar.

With Xubuntu I can customise the way my desktop works and I can keep the system highly responsive even on older hardware. This article shows how.


Changing that desktop background


I think the default desktop wallpaper provided with Xubuntu is dull. It is too dark and plain. So the first thing I am going to do is change it.

To change the desktop wallpaper right click on the main desktop and a menu will appear. On the menu is an item called "Desktop Settings". Clicking on the "Desktop Settings" icon pulls up the desktop settings application as shown on the left.

Xubuntu comes with just two wallpapers which are as equally bland.

To add your own one either download it from the web or copy it from a camera or USB drive or other device onto your computer.

Make sure you are on the background tab and click the green plus (+) symbol underneath the images. 


This will bring up a file browser and you can find the image you wish to use. The image will now be displayed in the desktop settings window. Click the image to make it the current background. 

If you are the type of person that likes to have a different image every time you login then you can create a list of images which are then picked from at random. (Perhaps you have 3 children and can't pick your favourite :) so by having 3 pictures you get a different one randomly each time).

To create an image list select "Image List" as the type and then add the list of images you wish to use by using the green plus (+) symbol to locate the files to go in the image list. To test it out click close and log out of Xubuntu and log back in again.

If the image is too small to fit the screen you have a number of styles you can choose from. First of all you can centre an image, stretch it, tile it across the screen or zoom in. 

Finally you can adjust the brightness and saturation by moving the appropriate sliders.

For more hints and tips with regards to changing the desktop background and the use of image lists visit http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/creating-slide-show-backgrounds-xfce.


As you can see using by changing the desktop background the Xubuntu operating system looks much more exciting.

Customise the right click menu

Whilst the desktop settings program is open it is worth discussing some of the other customisations that can be made.

If you right click on the desktop then by default there is an option called applications which you can then navigate to find the applications installed on your system.

The desktop settings application has a tab called menus which enables you to turn on and off the applications menu on the context menu.

As you can see from the image on the left that by default the desktop menu has the applications menu set to visible.

You can turn this menu off completely by unchecking the appropriate box. If you prefer to see the menu without the icons (why?) then just uncheck this option.

The windows list menu enables you to pull up a list of all windows when you click the middle mouse button (If you have one).


For more information about this subject visit http://docs.xfce.org/xfce/xfdesktop/preferences

Desktop Icons

When you first install Xubuntu there are three icons on the desktop (File System, Home Folder and Rubbish Bin).

Now this is clearly one area where we will all have our preferences. Personally I like my desktop to be completely uncluttered and so I tend to remove all these icons but other people might think the more icons that are available the more useful it is. I know a guy who uses Windows and has his screen full of icons. 

Within the "desktop settings" screen there is a tab called "Icons".

Using this tab you can specify the icons that appear on the desktop and how big they are.

The icon type enables you to choose which kind of icons you see on the screen. If you choose none then there will be no icons on the desktop at all.

If you choose minimised applications icons then you will see an icon for each open application that is currently minimised.




The default option is for file/launcher icons. This works similarly to Windows. You can drag files to the desktop  and this will create a shortcut to that file. You can also create shortcuts to applications by creating a launcher.

There are four icons that are considered default icons and they are "Home", "Filesystem", "Wastebasket" and "Removable Devices". 

To create a launcher right click on the desktop and choose "Create Launcher".  

The "Create Launcher" application appears (as shown by the image to the right).

Enter the name of the application and find the application to run by clicking the folder icon next to "Command" and then click the application you wish to create a shortcut for.

Click the icon button and then find the image you wish to use as a desktop icon. 

Click "Create" to create the icon.


You can change the icon sizes for all the icons on the desktop within the desktop settings screen. Simply change the icon size to the size you want it to be.

It is also possible to change the font size for the text underneath the icons by checking use custom font size and then select the font size you wish to use.

If you want to see a preview of the file when you hover over an icon check the option called "Show Thumbnails". 

Finally by default XFCE is like Windows by default. You have to double click and icon to launch an application. If you prefer you can change it so that a single click launches an application by checking the "Single Click To Activate Icons" option.

Customising the panels


The panels can be customised to work just the way you want them to. You can change the colour, the icons and the order thereof and where the panels are positioned on the screen.

To customise a panel right click on it and select panel -> panel preferences.

The Panel application allows you to customise the look and feel.

There are three tabs: display, appearance and items.

The display tab deals with the positioning and size of the panel.  

First of all lets deal with the style of the panel. You can choose to either have a horizontal bar or a vertical bar.  A horizontal bar is the default option. A vertical bar puts the panel down the left hand side of the screen. (which of course can be moved to the right or vertically down the middle or whereever you choose).

The lock panel checkbox locks the panel in place. If you uncheck this option you can position the taskbar anywhere you choose.


To show just how customisable XFCE is, here is a screenshot with a panel positioned right across the middle of the screen.

The "automatically show and hide" checkbox enables you to show the panel only when the mouse is hovering over it and hide it at all other times. This is useful for perhaps netbooks where screen space is at a premium.

The row size option enables you to increase the size of the bar. By default the bar is fairly thin but you can change this to make it more Windows-7-esque. You can also choose the number of rows which I think is just plain weird.


You can change the panel width so that it only takes up as much screen space as is truly necessary by changing the length %. If you make it too short you might cut off some of the icons. You can prevent this from happening by checking the "Automatically increase the length" icon.

If one panel isn't enough you can add another panel by clicking the green plus (+) symbol. You can then position this anywhere on the screen you want it to be.

Thus far I have looked at the sizing and positioning of a panel. 

The appearance tab enables you to change how each panel looks within XFCE.

By default Xubuntu comes with 2 panels. The top panel is like a traditional taskbar with 100% width and a solid black background with a menu, icons and clock.

The other panel is like a docking bar. The width is much shorter and the panel only contains launcher icons. The background is also transparent.

The background style of a panel can either be a solid colour or an image. By default this option is set to none which means you get the system style (which is a black bar).

If you choose solid colour then a dialog appears enabling you to choose your colour from a colour wheel or alternatively enter the red, green and blue values or the hex value for a colour.

If you choose a background image then you can 
obviously pick and image to use as the background for the panel.


The Alpha slider enable you to change the opacity of the bar. This enables you to get a transparent background or a semi-transparent background.

The opacity sliders enable you to choose what happens when the mouse hovers over the panel. You can make the panel more or less visible.

Choosing the items on a panel

As mentioned before there are two panels within Xubuntu and each behave very differently. You can customise a panel to have the items that you need on them. You can also set the order of the items.

The items tab within the panel settings screen enables you to add items to the panel.

You can move the items up and down (left and right if horizontal) by clicking the up and down arrow.

There are various types of items that can be added including program launchers, action buttons, applications menu, a clock, notifications area etc.



Separators

One of the more important items is the separator. This enables you to position the other items on the panel.

It isn't very exciting except that if you check the expand checkbox it fills up the rest of the screen (either horizontally or vertically). Therefore if you place a separator in front of say five other items and click the expand checkbox then the five items will be shifted to the right.


If you then add a separator on the right and click expand then all the icons will be centred as the separators on the left and right will squeeze all the space leaving just the other items in the centre. This is of course how the bottom panel in Xubuntu gets its look.

Launchers

To add an icon that can be clicked to launch an application you need to add a launcher icon. Click the green plus (+) symbol on the items tab and select launcher.

The launcher window that opens can then be used to add an icon.

Click the green plus (+) symbol and choose the application that you wish to add an icon for.

The advanced tab enables you to set tooltips and also whether you'd prefer text as opposed to an icon.

If you add multiple programs to the launcher they appear as a menu.



Action Buttons

The action buttons item determines what happens when you click the username on the panel.

The options available include lock screen, switch user, suspend, hibernate, shut down, restart and log out.


Applications Menu

Another item that can be added to a panel is an applications menu. If you wish to amend one that is already on a panel right click over it and select properties.

The show generic application names checkbox determines whether the items on a menu show the physical name of the application (for example Chromium) or whether it shows the type of application (for example web browser).

The show icons in menu determines whether icons are shown alongside the menus.

If you want to make it obvious where the menu is you can enter the term "Applications Menu" in the button title and then check the "show button title" checkbox. You can also change the icon.


You can edit the menu itself by clicking the "edit menu" button.

By clicking the "edit menu" button the screen to the right appears.

At this point you can choose any submenu and choose which applications appear under that menu.

If you want to add a new menu click the new menu option.




Summary

As you can see XFCE is highly customisable. You can make the desktop work just as you want it to. I have barely touched the surface when it comes to the types of items that can be added to panels.

In the next article I will be looking at improving on the applications installed by default with Xubuntu and comparing the top applications for playing music.

Thankyou for reading.
















Make Xubuntu the ultimate Linux Operating system by customising the desktop

Introduction

In the first part of my review of Xubuntu I just looked at the default installation.

The thing with Xubuntu is that the base is very light but it has so much potential that I believe it can be turned into anything you want it to be. As your needs are different from my needs the ability to customise is very important. 

Ubuntu is a good operating system. If you are a computer user who is happy to work in a way that the developers have decided is the best way to work and you find the Ubuntu system intuitive and useable then you will have no issues with Ubuntu whatsoever. Ubuntu is very stable, there is a huge software repository and Unity provides all the bells and whistles that you associate with other operating systems.

As I said before though it is highly likely that what I think is good others think isn't so good. For instance I might like a task bar at the top of the screen or I might like it at the bottom. I might like a docking bar, a specific menu system and whizzy effects. I might like my notifications to be displayed in an area of the screen that is non-intrusive. I may also have certain items that I need at a mouse click on the taskbar.

With Xubuntu I can customise the way my desktop works and I can keep the system highly responsive even on older hardware. This article shows how.


Changing that desktop background


I think the default desktop wallpaper provided with Xubuntu is dull. It is too dark and plain. So the first thing I am going to do is change it.

To change the desktop wallpaper right click on the main desktop and a menu will appear. On the menu is an item called "Desktop Settings". Clicking on the "Desktop Settings" icon pulls up the desktop settings application as shown on the left.

Xubuntu comes with just two wallpapers which are as equally bland.

To add your own one either download it from the web or copy it from a camera or USB drive or other device onto your computer.

Make sure you are on the background tab and click the green plus (+) symbol underneath the images. 


This will bring up a file browser and you can find the image you wish to use. The image will now be displayed in the desktop settings window. Click the image to make it the current background. 

If you are the type of person that likes to have a different image every time you login then you can create a list of images which are then picked from at random. (Perhaps you have 3 children and can't pick your favourite :) so by having 3 pictures you get a different one randomly each time).

To create an image list select "Image List" as the type and then add the list of images you wish to use by using the green plus (+) symbol to locate the files to go in the image list. To test it out click close and log out of Xubuntu and log back in again.

If the image is too small to fit the screen you have a number of styles you can choose from. First of all you can centre an image, stretch it, tile it across the screen or zoom in. 

Finally you can adjust the brightness and saturation by moving the appropriate sliders.

For more hints and tips with regards to changing the desktop background and the use of image lists visit http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/creating-slide-show-backgrounds-xfce.


As you can see using by changing the desktop background the Xubuntu operating system looks much more exciting.

Customise the right click menu

Whilst the desktop settings program is open it is worth discussing some of the other customisations that can be made.

If you right click on the desktop then by default there is an option called applications which you can then navigate to find the applications installed on your system.

The desktop settings application has a tab called menus which enables you to turn on and off the applications menu on the context menu.

As you can see from the image on the left that by default the desktop menu has the applications menu set to visible.

You can turn this menu off completely by unchecking the appropriate box. If you prefer to see the menu without the icons (why?) then just uncheck this option.

The windows list menu enables you to pull up a list of all windows when you click the middle mouse button (If you have one).


For more information about this subject visit http://docs.xfce.org/xfce/xfdesktop/preferences

Desktop Icons

When you first install Xubuntu there are three icons on the desktop (File System, Home Folder and Rubbish Bin).

Now this is clearly one area where we will all have our preferences. Personally I like my desktop to be completely uncluttered and so I tend to remove all these icons but other people might think the more icons that are available the more useful it is. I know a guy who uses Windows and has his screen full of icons. 

Within the "desktop settings" screen there is a tab called "Icons".

Using this tab you can specify the icons that appear on the desktop and how big they are.

The icon type enables you to choose which kind of icons you see on the screen. If you choose none then there will be no icons on the desktop at all.

If you choose minimised applications icons then you will see an icon for each open application that is currently minimised.




The default option is for file/launcher icons. This works similarly to Windows. You can drag files to the desktop  and this will create a shortcut to that file. You can also create shortcuts to applications by creating a launcher.

There are four icons that are considered default icons and they are "Home", "Filesystem", "Wastebasket" and "Removable Devices". 

To create a launcher right click on the desktop and choose "Create Launcher".  

The "Create Launcher" application appears (as shown by the image to the right).

Enter the name of the application and find the application to run by clicking the folder icon next to "Command" and then click the application you wish to create a shortcut for.

Click the icon button and then find the image you wish to use as a desktop icon. 

Click "Create" to create the icon.


You can change the icon sizes for all the icons on the desktop within the desktop settings screen. Simply change the icon size to the size you want it to be.

It is also possible to change the font size for the text underneath the icons by checking use custom font size and then select the font size you wish to use.

If you want to see a preview of the file when you hover over an icon check the option called "Show Thumbnails". 

Finally by default XFCE is like Windows by default. You have to double click and icon to launch an application. If you prefer you can change it so that a single click launches an application by checking the "Single Click To Activate Icons" option.

Customising the panels


The panels can be customised to work just the way you want them to. You can change the colour, the icons and the order thereof and where the panels are positioned on the screen.

To customise a panel right click on it and select panel -> panel preferences.

The Panel application allows you to customise the look and feel.

There are three tabs: display, appearance and items.

The display tab deals with the positioning and size of the panel.  

First of all lets deal with the style of the panel. You can choose to either have a horizontal bar or a vertical bar.  A horizontal bar is the default option. A vertical bar puts the panel down the left hand side of the screen. (which of course can be moved to the right or vertically down the middle or whereever you choose).

The lock panel checkbox locks the panel in place. If you uncheck this option you can position the taskbar anywhere you choose.


To show just how customisable XFCE is, here is a screenshot with a panel positioned right across the middle of the screen.

The "automatically show and hide" checkbox enables you to show the panel only when the mouse is hovering over it and hide it at all other times. This is useful for perhaps netbooks where screen space is at a premium.

The row size option enables you to increase the size of the bar. By default the bar is fairly thin but you can change this to make it more Windows-7-esque. You can also choose the number of rows which I think is just plain weird.


You can change the panel width so that it only takes up as much screen space as is truly necessary by changing the length %. If you make it too short you might cut off some of the icons. You can prevent this from happening by checking the "Automatically increase the length" icon.

If one panel isn't enough you can add another panel by clicking the green plus (+) symbol. You can then position this anywhere on the screen you want it to be.

Thus far I have looked at the sizing and positioning of a panel. 

The appearance tab enables you to change how each panel looks within XFCE.

By default Xubuntu comes with 2 panels. The top panel is like a traditional taskbar with 100% width and a solid black background with a menu, icons and clock.

The other panel is like a docking bar. The width is much shorter and the panel only contains launcher icons. The background is also transparent.

The background style of a panel can either be a solid colour or an image. By default this option is set to none which means you get the system style (which is a black bar).

If you choose solid colour then a dialog appears enabling you to choose your colour from a colour wheel or alternatively enter the red, green and blue values or the hex value for a colour.

If you choose a background image then you can 
obviously pick and image to use as the background for the panel.


The Alpha slider enable you to change the opacity of the bar. This enables you to get a transparent background or a semi-transparent background.

The opacity sliders enable you to choose what happens when the mouse hovers over the panel. You can make the panel more or less visible.

Choosing the items on a panel

As mentioned before there are two panels within Xubuntu and each behave very differently. You can customise a panel to have the items that you need on them. You can also set the order of the items.

The items tab within the panel settings screen enables you to add items to the panel.

You can move the items up and down (left and right if horizontal) by clicking the up and down arrow.

There are various types of items that can be added including program launchers, action buttons, applications menu, a clock, notifications area etc.



Separators

One of the more important items is the separator. This enables you to position the other items on the panel.

It isn't very exciting except that if you check the expand checkbox it fills up the rest of the screen (either horizontally or vertically). Therefore if you place a separator in front of say five other items and click the expand checkbox then the five items will be shifted to the right.


If you then add a separator on the right and click expand then all the icons will be centred as the separators on the left and right will squeeze all the space leaving just the other items in the centre. This is of course how the bottom panel in Xubuntu gets its look.

Launchers

To add an icon that can be clicked to launch an application you need to add a launcher icon. Click the green plus (+) symbol on the items tab and select launcher.

The launcher window that opens can then be used to add an icon.

Click the green plus (+) symbol and choose the application that you wish to add an icon for.

The advanced tab enables you to set tooltips and also whether you'd prefer text as opposed to an icon.

If you add multiple programs to the launcher they appear as a menu.



Action Buttons

The action buttons item determines what happens when you click the username on the panel.

The options available include lock screen, switch user, suspend, hibernate, shut down, restart and log out.


Applications Menu

Another item that can be added to a panel is an applications menu. If you wish to amend one that is already on a panel right click over it and select properties.

The show generic application names checkbox determines whether the items on a menu show the physical name of the application (for example Chromium) or whether it shows the type of application (for example web browser).

The show icons in menu determines whether icons are shown alongside the menus.

If you want to make it obvious where the menu is you can enter the term "Applications Menu" in the button title and then check the "show button title" checkbox. You can also change the icon.


You can edit the menu itself by clicking the "edit menu" button.

By clicking the "edit menu" button the screen to the right appears.

At this point you can choose any submenu and choose which applications appear under that menu.

If you want to add a new menu click the new menu option.




Summary

As you can see XFCE is highly customisable. You can make the desktop work just as you want it to. I have barely touched the surface when it comes to the types of items that can be added to panels.

In the next article I will be looking at improving on the applications installed by default with Xubuntu and comparing the top applications for playing music.

Thankyou for reading.
















Posted at 23:45 |  by Gary Newell

19 comments:

Feel free to comment on any of the blog posts. Please try to be constructive.

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