Understanding the Ubuntu desktop

Initially, you may notice many similarities between Ubuntu and other operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X. This is because they are all based on the concept of a graphical user interface (GUI)—i.e., you use your mouse to navigate the desktop, open applications, move files, and perform most other tasks. In short, things are visually-oriented. This

SLP is designed to help you become familiar with various applications and menus in Ubuntu so that you become confident in using the Ubuntu GUI.


All GUI-based operating systems use a desktop environment. Desktop environments contain many features, including (but not limited to):

  • The look and feel of the system
  • The organization of the desktop
  • How the user navigates the desktop

Ubuntu uses Unity as the default desktop environment. The Unity desk-top is comprised of the desktop background and two bars—a horizontal one located at the top of your desktop called themenu bar and a vertically-oriented bar at the far left called the Launcher.

The Desktop Background

Below the menu bar at the top of the screen is an image covering the entire desktop. This is the default desktop background, or wallpaper, belonging to the default Ubuntu 14.04 theme known asAmbiance. To learn more about customizing your desktop (including changing your desktop background).

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