Xubuntu basics

Posted on: Tue, 07/30/2019 - 15:15 By: charm


The Computer Recycling project has standardized on Xubuntu as our choice of Linux desktop environment. Xubuntu combines the familiarity of a Windows XP-like interface with awesomeness of Debian GNU/Linux. Xubuntu works well on less powerful computers, so if you've got an old computer that you want to breathe new life into ask us about trying Xubuntu. This is a quick overview of how to use Xubuntu. Please note that our version of Xubuntu is customized, so if you're using Xubuntu as downloaded from the xubuntu.org web site there may be some differences.


If you're used to Microsoft Windows you might have heard the term "Task bar" used to refer to the long strip at the bottom of the screen where the "start menu" and applications appear. Xubuntu Linux refers to this kind of object as a "panel." Unlike Microsoft Windows the main Xubuntu panel is normally across the top of the screen (instead of at the bottom). Like Microsoft Windows there is a start menu, known as the "Whisker menu" and when you open programs they appear in the panel. Xubuntu is very customizable. It's possible to move a panel from the top to one of the sides or the bottom (you have to "unlock" the panel in Panel Preferences), change the look of the panel or add more panels. Computer Recycling's version of Xubuntu adds a second larger panel at the bottom of the screen with some commonly used programs (Firefox, LibreOffice Writer, LibreOffice Calc, VLC, Terminal, Catfish file search, Software Centre, File Manager, the Trash Bin, and the Show Desktop icon) to make using Xubuntu simpler.

To create a shortcut icon in a panel simply drag the icon for a program out of the whisker menu and drop it on an unused area of a the panel. You should see a red line and a pop-up window that asks "Create a new launcher from 1 desktop file." Click "Create Launcher." Right clicking on the icon in the panel lets you look at the properties, move the icon, remove the icon (if you don't want it in the panel - this doesn't delete the program), or access other Panel options.

Whisker Menu

In the default installation of Xubuntu Linux the Whisker menu is activated by clicking the round "mouse" in the top left corner of the screen in the panel (You can also access the whisker menu holding down the CTRL key and pressing the ESC key). The whisker menu is organized into a number of elements:

At the top of the menu (or bottom if you've added a whisker menu to the bottom panel) is a search field. You can type the name of programs installed on the system to quickly find them in the menu (for example: Firefox). Normally Linux treats capital letters much different from lower case letters, but in the case of the whisker menu you can type the name of the program using either case.

The whisker menu in Xubuntu

Below the whisker search field on the left side are programs. When you first click on the whisker menu it shows programs that are considered "Favourites" on the left side. If you move over slightly to the right of the listed programs you'll see that "Favourites" is selected from the menu. Below Favourites are the following categories:

  • Recently Used - programs that have recently been launched
  • All - all the programs the interface recognizes, this won't list every program installed on Xubuntu (it doesn't show command-line programs and may not show programs designed for other interfaces such as KDE/Plasma or WindowMaker), but shows all the programs available in the whisker menu system.
  • Accessories - programs that are useful utilities such as compression programs, the file manager, a calculator, and text editor.
  • Education - educational software, particularly useful for children, but also shows some advanced educational programs like LibreOffice Math.
  • Games - Linux-native games of various types and qualities. On the Computer Recycling version of Xubuntu we've included 16 different games.
  • Graphics - programs for viewing, editing, and transforming graphics of different types.
  • Internet - web browsers, email clients, and other programs that are Internet-centric.
  • Multimedia - programs for viewing, editing, and creating videos
  • Office - office-related programs such as LibreOffice Writer, a calendar, PDF viewer, and dictionary.
  • Settings - programs used to adjust different Xubuntu desktop settings.
  • System - programs related to system operation such as a task manager and a script we included to easily change your password (you need to know the old password to change the password).

Your list of programs in each menu might vary depending on what other software has been added to the system through the Software Centre (or through the terminal/command line interface). Computer Recycling includes a different set of programs than the default installation of Xubuntu from xubuntu.org (so if you reinstall from xubuntu.org your list of programs may be different).

At the bottom right of the whisker menu are 3 small icons with the following functions:

  1. Logout
  2. Lock Screen
  3. All Settings

To the left of these icons is the full name of the user who is currently logged in (normally this says Linux User in our installation of Xubuntu. If you've set up your own user account this will say whatever you entered for the user's full name).

The Desktop / Workspaces

The desktop is the space in the centre of the screen where programs appear. Right clicking on an empty desktop space brings up a menu with several options. Some of the menu options have sub-options. If you want to change the wallpaper/background image right click on the empty desktop and select the Desktop Settings menu option.

XFCE menu flyout with applications selected