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Learning Debian GNU/Linux

Learning Debian GNU/Linux

By Bill McCarty
1st Edition September 1999
1-56592-705-2, Order Number: 7052
360 pages, $34.95 , Includes CD-ROM

Previous: 6.4 Desktops Chapter 6
Using the X Window System
Next: 6.6 Using GNOME Applets and Applications

6.5 Using GNOME

In this section, you'll learn how to configure and use the GNOME desktop and the Enlightenment window manager. If you choose to use a different desktop or window manager, you should consult the documentation that accompanies each. However, you should read this section anyway, because the procedures for configuring various desktops and window managers are more similar than different: the way you perform each step may vary but the function of each step will not.

6.5.1 Launching GNOME and Enlightenment

Before starting GNOME, you must configure the X startup files. Login as root, move to the /etc/X11 directory, and enter the following command:

cp Xsession Xsession.SAVE

This command makes a copy of your Xsession file so that you can restore it to its current state if something goes wrong. If you get an error informing you that the Xsession file doesn't exist, simply ignore the error. Next, using ae or another text editor of your choice, edit your Xsession file to contain these lines at the beginning of the file:

xterm &
gmc &

window-manager &
exit 0

Table 6.2 gives possible values for window-manager, which lets you specify which window manager you want to use. You must have installed the proper package containing the window manager you select.

Table 6.2: Window Manager Program Path Names
Window Manager Path Name
Enlightenment /usr/bin/X11/enlightenment
FVWM /usr/bin/X11/fvwm95
FVWM95 /usr/bin/X11/fvwm2
ICEWM /usr/bin/X11/icewm-gnome
TWM /usr/bin/X11/twm
Window Maker /usr/bin/X11/WindowMaker-gnome

To start GNOME, type the command:


You should see the GNOME desktop, as shown in Figure 6.1. The contents of your own desktop may be different, of course.

Figure 6.1: The GNOME desktop

Figure 6.1

6.5.2 Logging Out

To log out of GNOME, left click on the main menu, which resembles a foot, as shown in Figure 6.2. From the pop-up menu that appears, select the Log Out menu item. A Log Out dialog box, shown in Figure 6.3, appears and asks you to confirm your decision to log out. Selecting Yes terminates your GNOME session.

Figure 6.2: Logging out of GNOME

Figure 6.2

Figure 6.3: The log out dialog box

Figure 6.3

6.5.3 Parts of the Display

Figure 6.4 shows the parts of the GNOME display, which are described in the following sections.

Figure 6.4: Parts of the GNOME desktop

Figure 6.4 Home directory icon

The home directory icon normally appears in the upper left corner of the display and resembles a file folder in appearance. The icon provides a convenient way to access the file manager: double clicking the icon with the left mouse button launches the file manager, which displays the contents of the user's home directory. Desktop

The desktop is the empty area of the display, where no windows or icons appear. Clicking the desktop with the middle mouse button causes a pop-up menu to appear; the menu lets you conveniently launch popular applets and applications. Right clicking the desktop causes a different pop-up menu to appear; this menu lets you arrange the desktop windows and icons. Drive icon

If you have permission to mount a drive, your desktop will include an icon representing the drive. If you right click on the icon, a pop-up menu appears. The menu lets you mount the device, eject the device's media, or open a file manager window to view the device. Panel

The panel appears along the bottom edge of the display. However, if you prefer a different location, you can move the panel. The panel resembles the Windows 9x taskbar: You can use it to launch programs, switch from one program to another, and perform other tasks.

The panel normally contains the main menu, the pager, and two hide buttons. However, your panel may not initially display the pager.

The panel can also contain applets, programs represented as panel icons. Applets are typically small programs that display information or take action when clicked. For example, a launcher applet launches an application when clicked. Date & time applet

The date and time applet displays your system's current date and time. If the date and time applet is not visible, you can add it to the panel in much the same way you add the pager to the panel. Simply select Panel -> Add Applet -> Utility -> Clock from the main menu. Once you've added the clock applet to the panel, it will appear automatically the next time you start GNOME. Main menu

The main menu resembles a big foot. Left clicking the main menu presents a menu from which you can choose a variety of programs. Several of the menu items are submenus; selecting such a menu item pops up a new menu to the side of the original menu item. Pager

The pager lets you switch between running programs and navigate the desktop. If you don't see the pager on your panel, you can launch the pager by using the main menu, as shown in Figure 6.5: simply select Panel -> Add Applet -> Utility -> Gnome Pager. Once you've launched the pager, it will automatically appear the next time you start GNOME.

Figure 6.5: Launching the pager

Figure 6.5

The pager has two parts: The left part, which consists of a matrix of rectangles lets you navigate the desktop; the right part, which consists of a matrix of icons and text representing running tasks, lets you switch tasks. To switch to a task, left click the pager icon corresponding to the task.

Depending on your X configuration, GNOME may provide a virtual desktop larger than your monitor can display. In this case, the pager lets you switch between pages of the desktop. For example, Figure 6.4 shows that GNOME has provided a virtual desktop that has four pages, only one of which is visible at a time. The highlighted icon shows the page you're currently viewing as your desktop. To view a different page, simply left click the icon that represents the desktop page you want to view. Hide button

You can hide and restore the panel by left clicking a hide button. Hiding the display is useful when you're using a window manager that likes to display a task bar or other information along the bottom of the screen. Help viewer

The GNOME help viewer works much like a familiar web browser, except that you can use it to view primarily help information, not web pages. GNOME launches the help viewer whenever you select the Help menu item of an application or applet. You can also launch the help viewer by selecting the Help System menu item from the main menu.

The default home page of the help viewer includes a hyperlink that takes you to the GNOME User's Guide. The user's guide will help you discover additional useful GNOME features and capabilities. File Manager

The file manager resembles the Windows 9x Explorer in both appearance and function. To launch the file manager, double click a directory or drive icon, or select File Manager from the main menu. The next section briefly explains the operation of the file manager.

6.5.4 Using the File Manager

Like the Microsoft Windows Explorer, the file manager window has two main panes. As shown in Figure 6.6, the left file manager pane presents a hierarchical directory tree whereas the right pane shows the contents of the directory currently selected in the left pane. To select a directory, simply left click it.

Figure 6.6: The file manager

Figure 6.6

The right pane can show an icon for each file or detailed information about each file, as shown in Figure 6.7. To switch from icon to detailed mode, left click the proper button on the file manager toolbar. You can also select custom mode, which lets you tailor the display appearance according to your own taste.

Figure 6.7: The file manager in detailed mode

Figure 6.7

Like the Windows Explorer, the file manager can copy, move, rename, and delete files. To perform one of these operations, you must first select the file or files you want to copy, move, rename, or delete. You can select a single file by left clicking in the right file manager pane. To select additional files, hold down the Ctrl key as you select them. Alternatively, you can click and drag the cursor around a group of files. The Edit menu provides additional ways of selecting files.

To move a file, simply drag it to its new location. To copy a file, hold down Shift while dragging it. Alternatively, you can right click on a file and use the pop-up menu to specify the action you want to perform. The file manager then displays a dialog box that lets you specify additional options.

To rename a file, right click on the file and select Properties from the pop-up menu. Simply type the new name in the File Name field and click on OK.

To delete a file, right click on the file and select Delete from the pop-up menu. A dialog box asks you to confirm your decision.

WARNING: Bear in mind that Linux provides no recycle bin for deleted files; once you delete a file you'll be unable to recover it except from a backup copy.

The file manager lets you double click on a file to launch the application associated with the file. Alternatively, you can right click on the file and select Open With from the pop-up menu. GNOME launches a dialog box that lets you specify the application that should be launched.

Many applications are GNOME compliant, supporting drag and drop operations like those supported by Windows 9x. For example, you can open two file manager windows and drag and drop files or directories between them.

The file manager menus provide additional functions, including the ability to configure the operation of the file manager. If you're familiar with the Windows Explorer, you'll find most of these functions and capabilities familiar. Consult the GNOME User's Guide for further information about the GNOME file manager.

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