Ubuntu to-do list

EVERY time I install a new version of Ubuntu, I go through the same routine of installing extra programs that give me the convenience and extra functionality I need on my home computer. I’ve not been terribly organized about it, however, and often end up doing a number of online searches each time to recall what it was I did to get those applications and utilities onto my machine. 

With a new update coming up this month (Ubuntu 15.10 a.k.a. Wily Werewolf), I thought I would make things easier on myself this time around and work from one list. This list might be handy, too, for other folks who are similarly situated and want to find all this information on one page. To keep thing simple, I will use the command line—to carry out the command, simply type it into a terminal window (Ctrl-Alt-T) and hit Return.

On my home PC, I like to run the latest version of Ubuntu, but replace the Unity interface with the simpler and more lightweight XFCE desktop. I then weigh this down with Compiz special effects and the Emerald window decorator to get the eye candy I have come to expect on my desktop.

If you like Unity, you can skip Nos. 1 to 3.

1) Install XFCE.

sudo apt-get install xfce4

To use XFCE instead of Unity, log off, then choose XFCE in the new log-in screen.

2) Install Compiz Settings Manager. This will let you choose special effects for the desktop.

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager

3) Install Emerald windows decorator. Emerald is not in the regular software repository, so you will need to tell Ubuntu where to get it. Use these lines (three lines executed sequentially) in a terminal window:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:noobslab/themes

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install emerald

To activate your new window decorations, use the command


4) Install Restricted Extras to get MP3 and unencrypted DVD playback, other multimedia codecs and Microsoft core fonts. Bear in mind you will have to agree to a software licensing agreement some time during the installation process to get the core Microsoft fonts (which includes New Times Roma and Arial)

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras

5) Install Gimp. Ubuntu dropped Gimp, a powerful image editor, from its list of pre-installed programs some time ago. I use it a lot, so it is one of the first things I install.

sudo apt-get install gimp

6) Install Synapse. This is a great search utility that also serves as an applications launcher, much like Spotlight Search on the Mac. To install Synapse, type the following (executing one at a time) into a terminal window.

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:synapse-core/testing

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install synapse

7) Install Cairo Dock.  For me, Cairo Dock is the best dock-type launcher. It’s stable, easy to use, and it looks great, too.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:cairo-dock-team/ppa

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install cairo-dock cairo-dock-plug-ins

8) Install VLC. This player will play any multimedia file you throw at it. To install:

sudo apt-get install vlc

9) Install Deluge. Hands down, the best torrent application on Ubuntu.

sudo apt-get install deluge

10) Install Dropbox. The most convenient way to synchronize a shared folder among several computers. Simply visit the website (, click on “Download the app” and follow instructions.

If you are sticking it out with Unity, you might want to disable its most annoying features.

11) Protect your privacy. By default, Ubuntu will do online searches when you use its Dash search. To prevent Ubuntu from sharing your search information with third parties, go to System Settings > Security & Privacy > Search and turn off online results. Of course, if you don’t use Dash, this is not a big deal.

12) Disable Global Menus. I like my menus on top of application windows, not in the task bar ala the Mac. To enable the local menus, click the System Settings icon on the Unity bar. Select Appearance, then click on the Behavior tab. Under Show the menus for a window, click the In the window’s title bar option.

13. Install NVidia graphics drivers. If you use Nvdia, go to Dash and search for “Additional Drivers.” This will give you the option to use proprietary drivers that make the most of your graphics card’s capabilities. Chin Wong

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Topics: Chin Wong , Ubuntu
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