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Linux in a Windows World by Roderick W Smith

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Configuring Applications and Environments

If you’re familiar with administering Windows desktop systems, many of the issues involved in administering Linux desktop systems will be similar, but others are unique. Likewise, if you’re already familiar with Linux system administration in other contexts (such as servers), desktop environments present some unique challenges. Some of the issues in Linux desktop configuration include understanding the difference between global and user configuration files, locating configuration files, creating default desktop configurations, and making desktop environments accessible as options at login time.

Global Versus User Configuration Files

Linux has long supported multiple users. Part of this support includes mechanisms to help keep users’ configurations separate—enabling two users to use the same computer but set different defaults for assorted application and desktop environment options. Even if a computer has a single user, Linux uses these features, maintaining nominally separate global and user configuration files. You can take advantage of this distinction to set global defaults, which users can then modify without impacting other users’ settings. On a system with a single user, you can use this distinction to easily restore a user’s settings to the default if the user’s settings become corrupt.

Typically, global configuration files are stored in a system area. These files can be used in one or both of two ways:

  • User programs can access the ...

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