Thursday, August 9, 2012

Customizing my Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin


I used to customize my Ubuntu desktop with Docky, Faenza icons, Compiz effects, Nautilus Elementary, fonts, etc. to look good and work efficiently. Until Ubuntu use Unity user interface instead of GNOME as default, my desktop settings is never the same. Even worse, it nearly makes me wanted to give up Unity after using several Ubuntu releases. But now I'm back with Ubuntu's Unity.

Today, I would like to share with you my desktop setup. The setup is solely my own preference. Though it might not be your cup of tea but hopefully you will find some tweaks/tips are helpful. I use Ubuntu on my old HP mini 210 netbook (10.1-inch, Intel Atom N450, 2 GBs of ram). With only 1024 x 600 resolution on my netbook, every pixel counts. I have to try to optimize the desktop settings for netbook as the screen space is scarce.
Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin - Wstarbust mod

Here are the basic settings on my desktop:

Faenza Icons

Ubuntu Unity Dash
The Faenza is a nice looking icon set which I have been using for years. The square icons look consistent with Unity Launcher don't they?

- Install Faenza Icons via PPA (fire up Terminal and run):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tiheum/equinox

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install faenza-icon-theme

- Download and install Ubuntu Tweak.

Or, via Ubuntu Tweak PPA,

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tualatrix/ppa

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak

Open Ubuntu Tweak, click Tweaks > Theme > Faenza-Ambiance for icon theme.

Ambiance/Radiance Theme

Ubuntu Ambiance Theme
I like Ubuntu's default themes - Ambiance and Radiance. Depends on darker or lighter wallpaper I use, I usually switch between both themes and they look nice and fit. I use Ambiance on my netbook because darker theme works better on smaller screen.

Unity Launcher

Ubuntu Desktop Launcher
The Unity Launcher is semi-transparent. Small launcher icons size will look nicer on netbook. Launcher backlight toggles on active programs only is much easier to find active programs. Launcher's behavior also changed to auto-hide so that web browser able to view most web pages in at least 1024 width on my netbook. If I have a higher screen resolution, I would just let Launcher always visible and bigger icons.
Unity Launcher - all backlights toggle (Backlight: all icons) Unity Launcher - active icons toggle (Backlight: active icon only)

Open Ubuntu Tweak, Tweaks > Unity,
  • Launcher opacity: 0.30
  • Launcher icon size: 32
  • Launcher icon backlight: Backlight Toggles
  • Launcher hide mode: Auto Hide

The top panel is fully transparent. The catch is the transparent panel can't "refresh" in some occasions. Global Menu shadow will stays on the panel in some occasions but it doesn't bother me much because I'm using a dark edges wallpaper which makes the annoying shadow hard to notice.

Still on Ubuntu Tweak's Unity settings,
  • Panel opacity: 0.00

Reduce Ubuntu font size

Ubuntu Tweak - Fonts Settings
I like Ubuntu font but do you think Ubuntu default font size is a little oversized? Of course it all depends on your screen size and resolution.

On Ubuntu Tweak, Tweaks > Fonts,
  • Text scaling factor: 1.0
  • Default font: Ubuntu 9
  • Desktop font: Ubuntu 9
  • Monospace font: Monospace 9
  • Document font: Ubuntu 9
  • Window title bar font: Ubuntu Bold 9
  • Hinting: Basic
  • Antialiasing: Subpixel antialiasing (LCD screens only)

Open windows/programs in the center of the screen

Ubuntu - open windows in screen center
I like to have all my windows or programs open in the center of the screen instead of the top left corner. It looks tidier opening windows in the center.

Install CompizConfig Settings Manager via Ubuntu Software Center.
Once installed, open it. Under Window Management category, click Place Windows. Enable it and choose "Centered" for Placement Mode.

Semi transparent Terminal background

Ubuntu - Transparent Terminal
Semi transparency on Terminal background is cool, also practical especially on netbooks with small screen size. The Terminal can be simply moving around on top of any windows on the screen without blocking the sight to execute commands. It allows me to work efficiently.

Open Terminal > Edit > Profile Preferences > "Background" tab,
Choose "Transparent background" and Shade transparent or image background slider is in middle for semi transparent background effect.

Desktop corner hotspots

Speaking of efficiency, I have set up 2 shortcuts on my desktop corners - bottom left and bottom right. So when I move my mouse cursor to the corner hotspots, the actions will be executed.

On bottom left I have "Show Windows" which will shows all windows on current workspace.
Ubuntu - show all windows - expose/scale

On bottom right I have "Show Workspaces". It shows all my workspaces.
Ubuntu - workspaces

Open Ubuntu Tweak, click Tweaks > Workspace.
Ubuntu Tweak - Workspace Settings

There you have it - all my basic desktop changes after a clean install of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise Pangolin. I would use a lighter version of Ambiance - the Radiance theme and semi transparent top panel that disguise as glass panel, if I install Ubuntu on computer with larger screen and resolution. That would be elegant as well.

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