Linux for Parents – A Beginners Guide to Ubuntu

by Ross McKillop on August 13, 2007

Linux

ubuntu logo

Recently I upgraded my mum from Windows XP to Ubuntu. I’m not the only one who has done the same thing. As many of you already know, even Dell now includes an option to have Ubuntu as the pre-installed operating system, rather than Windows.

This page will serve as a central location for all of the beginner-to-intermediate Ubuntu “how-to” tutorials that I create (so my mum can bookmark one page and have quick access to all of the things she asks me to explain). Some of the links will open in a new page (or tab). I’m not doing that to increase my page-views-per-visitor, rather I want this page to load quickly if all you’re trying to figure out is how to rename a file. The lengthier tutorials will go on their own page, the ‘short’ ones will be included right here.

If you’ve recently upgraded a family member from Windows to Ubuntu please feel free to share your experiences and offer any suggestions for FAQs/tutorials.
 

Last Updated: Mon, Aug. 13th, 2007

Browser Related

  1. How to change your Home Page in Firefox
  2. How to delete one (or more) sites from your Firefox address bar (the drop-down list of previously viewed sites)
  3. How to add and edit the sites in the Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar

Managing Files, Folders and Programs

  1. How to rename a file or folder in Ubuntu
  2. How to create a desktop shortcut in Ubuntu
  3. How to resize pictures/images in Ubuntu
  4. How to install programs in Ubuntu using the Synaptic Package Manager
  5. How to install, setup and use Google Desktop Search in Ubuntu
  6. How to share files and folders across your network in Ubuntu
  7. How to install Windows programs and applications in Ubuntu – using Wine

Ubuntu “Look and Feel” (User Interface)

  1. How to change your desktop background/wallpaper
  2. How to change the Ubuntu screensaver
  3. How to change the Ubuntu theme

Email Related

  1. How to set up and use Evolution – the default email program in Ubuntu

Multimedia

    Hardware

  1. How to move or copy photos from your digital camera to your PC in Ubuntu
  2. How to use Banshee to manage your iPod in Ubuntu
  3. How to use gtkpod to manage your iPod in Ubuntu
  4. How to use Amarok to manage your iPod in Ubuntu
  5. How to manage your iPod using Rhythmbox in Ubuntu

    Video

  1. How to play .rmvb files in Ubuntu

    Audio

  1. How to install Amarok in Ubuntu (and get it to play MP3s)

Browser Related

How to change your Home Page in Firefox

Select Edit and then Preferences from the Firefox menu.

Firefox edit menu

Change the Home Page: field to the address of the page you’d like to have open when Firefox starts (or when you click the Home button).

Firefox Preferences
click to enlarge

Alternately, you can opt to have a blank page or the pages you were viewing the last time you used Firefox open when Firefox starts. To do so, select your choice from the When Firefox starts: menu.

Firefox Preferences
click to enlarge

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How to delete one (or more) sites from your Firefox address bar (the drop-down list of previously viewed sites)

Use the drop-down button in your address bar, scroll to the site you wish to delete, and hit the Delete key on your keyboard (not the Backspace key).

firefox address bar

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How to add and edit the sites in the Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar

  1. The Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar (that menu in Firefox that contains ‘buttons’ that are links to sites – see screenshot below) can be completely customized to your liking.

    firefox bookmarks toolbar

  2. To rename a Toolbar bookmark, right-click that button and select Properties.
  3. firefox bookmarks toolbar

  4. Change the Name: value to whatever you want displayed on the button and click OK.
  5. firefox bookmarks toolbar

  6. To delete a bookmark, right-click that button and select Delete.
  7. firefox bookmarks toolbar

  8. To add a bookmark to your Bookmarks Toolbar, visit the page you want to add and select Bookmarks -> Bookmark This Page….
  9. firefox bookmarks toolbar

  10. Select Bookmarks Toolbar from the Create in: drop-down list.
  11. firefox bookmarks toolbar

  12. Edit the name (if you’d like) and click Add.
  13. firefox bookmarks toolbar

  14. Now that bookmark is available via the Bookmarks Toolbar.
  15. firefox bookmarks toolbar

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Managing Files and Folders

How to rename a file or folder in Ubuntu

  1. There are a number of ways to rename files and folders in Ubuntu. The two fastest are: right-click the file/folder you want to rename, and select Rename… from the menu.
  2. renaming files in Ubuntu

  3. If you prefer to use the keyboard more than the mouse, select the file you want to rename and hit the F2 key. The background will change (the cursor will be blinking) indicating that you can rename the file now.
  4. renaming files in Ubuntu

  5. Hit enter when you’re done, and the file will take its new name.
  6. renaming files in Ubuntu

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How to create a desktop shortcut in Ubuntu

  1. Navigate to the program you want to create a desktop shortcut for, select it by clicking on it once and while holding down the mouse button, drag it over to your desktop and let go.
  2. creating desktop shortcuts in Ubuntu
    click to enlarge

  3. Your new desktop shortcut is now ready for use.
  4. creating desktop shortcuts in Ubuntu

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Ubuntu “Look and Feel” (User Interface)

How to change your desktop background/wallpaper

  1. Right-click in an empty space on your desktop and select Change Desktop Background from the pop-up menu.
  2. right-click ubuntu desktop

  3. The Desktop Background Preferences window will appear. From here you can opt for No Wallpaper, one of the defaults (Simple and Smooth Chocolate), set your own, or use a solid color. To set your own wallpaper, click the Add Wallpaper button.
  4. change the wallpaper in Ubuntu
    click to enlarge

  5. Navigate to the folder that contains the picture you wish to use as your desktop background (wallpaper). Select it and then click Open.
  6. change the wallpaper in Ubuntu
    click to enlarge

  7. That image will now appear as one of the wallpaper choices (and should already be selected). Click Finish and your new wallpaper will be set.
  8. change the wallpaper in Ubuntu
    click to enlarge

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How to change the Ubuntu screensaver

  1. To set (or change) a screen saver in Ubuntu, select System -> Preferences -> Screensaver.
  2. ubuntu screen saver
    click to enlarge

  3. The Screensaver Preferences window will appear.
  4. ubuntu screen saver
    click to enlarge

  5. Select a screensaver from the list in the left column. It will preview itself in the main Screensaver Preferences window.
  6. ubuntu screen saver
    click to enlarge

  7. After you’ve found one you like, just click the Close button. If you want to see what the screensaver will look like in “full screen” mode, click the Preview button directly underneath the column of screensavers. If you want to require a password (yours) to be entered to turn off the screensaver once it has become active, place a check in the box labeled Lock screen when screensaver is active.
  8. ubuntu screen saver
    click to enlarge

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How to change the Ubuntu theme

  1. To change the Ubuntu Theme, select System -> Preferences -> Theme.
  2. changing the ubuntu theme
    click to enlarge

  3. The Theme Preferences window will appear.
  4. changing the ubuntu theme
    click to enlarge

  5. Select one that looks interesting to you, and Ubuntu will actually apply that theme right away.
  6. changing the ubuntu theme
    click to enlarge

  7. When you’ve found one you like, just click the Close button. If you decide you actually prefer the default Theme, just click the Revert button, or select Human (which is the name of the default).
  8. changing the ubuntu theme
    click to enlarge

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Email Related

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Multimedia

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  • Crumpetstilskin

    this isn’t basic ubuntu, this is basic 1st time computer user.
    my parents: “how do i send this [happens to be a web page] to [offspring's email]?”

  • http://www.simplehelp.net Ross McKillop

    Crump -

    Yep, pretty much. But it’s geared towards parents (grandparents) and/or people very, very new to computers in general. A lot of the stuff (how to change wallpapers etc) is very similar in Ubuntu as it is in Windows, but even my mum (who has been using Windows for years) doesn’t know how to do it.

  • ryan

    Hey dude can you write a tutorial to show me how to actually connect to the internet with ubuntu 7.10? I have a sagem fast 800 adsl modem and my service provider is talktalk ( a service from bt )

    Ubuntu cant load the autorun part of my talktalk disc to install the modem and setup all of the settings automatically. Any help you could give me would be appreciated

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  • rme

    I have installed the newest version of Ubuntu but my sound does not work, I had windows before and the sound worked fine. I have tried to find resources on the net to help, but everything is too complicated. It would be a great help if you could post some information.

  • Sonny Starks

    Need info on how to get Ubuntu to recognize my network (or basic internet connection) upon (Ubuntu’s) installation. I downloaded and installed Ubuntu in the recent past and discarded it because it did not recognize my internet connection and the on-line help menu (accessed from another computer) was so immersed in techniqalese that it wasn’t worth my time. Windows has wizards for such things. If the open source community would put their technical prowess (“I know something you don’t know; aren’t you stupid?”) attitude aside and get back down to earth, people would be flocking to use their OS.

  • http://chlrbgh0.egloos.com chlrbgh0

    Hi~
    this is a really good information for me, thanks ;-)
    I want to know dosen’t using screen saver on ubuntu 8.10(Never execute screen saver)
    could you help me about that?

  • http://healyhq.deviantart.com/ HealyHQ

    Way to go, man! You’re helping a lot of people out here with all these tutorials. Great work. Keep ‘em coming if you can think of anything else that can help folks out. Maybe a few tuts on the latest Ubuntu distribution, Jaunty Jackalope (9.04). ;-)

    In any case, thanks for all the help. You’ve taught me a couple things that I didn’t even know! (And I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable; lol!)

    I think I’ll go ahead and browse the site some more to see if I find any more tuts of interest. :-)

    Thanks again, dude! ^_^

    A friendly cyber-highway passerby,
    Robert B. Healy III

  • Simon, Leicester UK

    What a great website, im a newbie to Ubuntu. i have recently installed it on my laptop. after i had a big problem with vista, and all the data was lost and i cleaned the drive and reinstalled with Ubuntu. I cannot get the sound to work. is it because i need to install the drivers for the audio? which incidently is a Toshiba Satelite L300. laptop. If its not this can you tell me how to get sound on my Laptop please. just to save me banging my head on the wall.
    cheers
    Simon

  • yochule

    hola, tenés idea como hacer para eliminar salvapantallas?
    no digo todos los salvapantallas, sino solo los que no me gustan…
    tenés idea?
    gracias

  • http://johnson-yip.com Johnson Yip

    Very nice tutorial, I like how you used screen captures on your tutorial. My favourite part was when you explained how to explain how to change the Screen Saver in Ubuntu 9.04. Great tutorial for Beginners. Keep up the good work.

  • vikas

    sir i wanna to partition the disk tell me how can i do this in ubantu

  • http://ubuntu-tutorials.com Christer Edwards

    This is a nice collection of articles with plenty of detail that certain people need. Maybe this is what I need to do in order to get my parents to switch. I’ve already switched two siblings, but my parents are still stuck in their ways

  • Arif

    Very good information, thanks

  • http://www.themanaworld.org Auldsbel

    Thanks for a basic tutorial, sorely needed. Few exist. Most tutorials assume a reasonable amount of Windows & command-line knowledge. Beginner PC tutorials will be needed as more users find themselves on Ubuntu as their first O/S.

    The disadvantage of this tutorial is its age. The print screens no longer look the way they do now. And basic users haven’t learned yet to say: “Oh, I gather the difference between what I see in this tutorial and what’s on my screen are based on minor changes in the O/S.” No, they’re more inclined to think: “Is this the right tutorial? This doesn’t look like what I use at all.”

    Sounds far fetched? Not when I’ve helped users over the phone with a basic Windows install where the whole thing slowed to a crawl because I said “Click ‘Next’” instead of “Click ‘OK’”. Many new users are fairly terrified of breaking something. Hence the need for precision. And print-screens from 2007 could certainly be updated to 2010 at least.

  • http://www.simplehelp.net Ross McKillop

    Auldsbel – you’re absolutely right. I need to (and will) update all of the content here that is outdated.