5 things to do first with Ubuntu

Start off your life with Linux on the right foot by following these few beginning steps.

Ubuntu 10.10, or Maverick Meerkat, is proving to be one of the best, most user-friendly distributions of the Linux operating system ever seen, so it's no wonder that businesses and individuals are adopting the new operating system in growing numbers every day.

Though Ubuntu is now right up there with Mac OS X and Windows in terms of usability, it is still a bit different from those proprietary counterparts. Besides watching out for a few missteps common among first-timers, there are a few things newcomers should do to maximize their enjoyment of Ubuntu.

Particularly if you're new to Linux, here are a few things you should do first with your new operating system.

1. Customize the Look

Few things will help you make Ubuntu feel like home better than customizing the appearance of your desktop, and there are virtually limitless possibilities for doing that. You can try out different themes, backgrounds, and desktop effects, and you can even replace the GNOME interface that currently comes standard with Ubuntu with a different one altogether, such as KDE.

Customizability is one of Linux's key strengths, and you should explore for yourself just how much you can do. In Maverick, start under the "System" tab and choose "Preferences" and then "Appearance"; there, you'll get options for Themes, Background, Fonts and Visual Effects. Once you've exhausted the possibilities listed there, you can also try visiting the Ubuntu Software Center (below) for more options.

2. Check Out the Software Center

One of the biggest things to get used to for veterans from the Windows world, in particular, is that you don't need to hunt around on the Web and then haul out your credit card to get new applications. Rather, there's the Ubuntu Software Center for that, and its power is breathtaking.

The Ubuntu Software Center is what's known as a package manager, and it shows by category a raft of (usually open source) applications that you can download, generally for free. So, when you want to get an application of some sort, you should begin there. Go to "Applications" on the main Ubuntu page and you'll see it listed at the bottom of the drop-down menu that follows.

Once you're there, you'll see apps categorized into several sections, including Accessories, Education, Games, Graphics, Internet, Office, Sound & Video, Themes & Tweaks, and System. Click on the category you're interested in, and you'll see a variety of choices listed that are available for download. Click on one, and it is yours. Couldn't be much easier.

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