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4 Set Up Linux Mint

Chapter 4 Set Up Linux Mint includes the following four sections.

4.1 First Steps After Installing Linux Mint
4.2 Set Up the Linux Mint Desktop
4.3 Set Up and Use the Mint File Manager
4.4 Add Free Programs to Linux Mint

In this chapter, you will learn how to use Linux Mint including how to change the appearance of the desktop, use the file manager and add free programs to Mint.

Note: It is not necessary to read this chapter if you want to simply install the DistroTweak we describe in Section 2.4.

Remember

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We are about to review dozens of customizations for Linux Mint as well as how you can install dozens of programs to Linux Mint. If you would like to learn how to do this, then read this chapter. On the other hand, if you are not interested in these technical details, you can get the same result, in terms of loading all of these tweaks and programs we will go over in this chapter, simply by downloading our free “DistroTweak” and then installing that on your computer with just the click of a button! See Section 2.4 for more information.

You may still want to read Section 4.3, which describes how to use the Mint File Manager (but since it works almost exactly like the Windows File Manager not even this section is completely necessary to read).

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The good news about changing our operating system in our Acer C910 from Chrome to Linux Mint is that the amount of free space on our SSD rose from 202 GB to 220 GB. The bad news is that some of the function keys on our keyboard might not work. There also might be a problem with the cursor jumping around making it difficult to type. In this article, we will explain how to fix these problems. In Section 2.2, we detailed the first two important steps to take after installing Linux Mint. These were to first change the screen saver and power settings so that the computer does not turn itself off on its own. The second step was to install the Mint Updates. We also showed how to add a Desktop Slideshow to Cinnamon. All of these changes were made in a virtual machine. The install process and set up process on a real machine are about the same as they were for a virtual machine. In this chapter, we will review the Screensaver and Power Settings and how to add Updates. We will also review a few other important steps you should take after installing Linux Mint. Here is a list of improvements we will cover in this chapter:

Mint Customization Checklist

#1 Add and Use Shutter
#2 Reset Screen Saver in System Settings
#3 Reset Power Management in System Settings
#4 Install Updates with Mint Update Manager
#5 Turn Off Sound Effects in System Settings
#6 Turn Off Cinnamon Visual Effects
#7 Improve Mint Touch Pad Setting
#8 Set up your printer
#9 Improve Mint Swapiness

#1 Add and Use Shutter

To take a screen shot of your entire screen with a Chromebook, press the Ctrl key and the Box key at the same time. There is a better alternative to this key that only take a few minutes to set up. Since we want to take screen shots of how to set up Linux Mint, we will begin by adding a free screen capture tool called Shutter. Here is the initial desktop for Linux Mint:

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Click on the Mint Menu in the lower left corner of the Mint desktop.

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Mint Cinnamon Menu Icons

There are 8 icons in the left column of the Mint Menu. Hover over any of them and their name will appear in the lower right corner of the Mint Menu. Here are their names and functions.

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Mint Cinnamon Applications Categories

You can also reach the Mint Software Manager by clicking on the Administration Category. Then clicking on Software Manager.

In the last section, we covered changing settings and installing updates to Mint. In this section, we will review how to improve your Desktop appearance. These customizations can be divided into six steps:Mint Desktop Appearance Checklist

#1 Customize Your Desktop Background
#2 Customize Your Window Theme
#3 Move Mint Panel aka Task Bar from bottom to side
#4 Add Applets
#5 Add Desklets
#6 Hide Computer and File Manager Icons

#1 Customize Your Desktop Background

To install a custom desktop background image, either right click on the Desktop and select Change Desktop Background or click on System Settings, then Backgrounds. Either way, you reach a screen that looks something like this:

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Click on Sarah, Serena, Sonya or Sylvia to get more options. You can also click on Pictures to open your Pictures folder. Or you can place any images you want in a new folder in your Nemo File Manager and then click on the Plus sign at the bottom of the screen to add this folder to the side panel above.

Here are a couple of links to get free background images that are sized at 1920 x 1080 to accurately fit our Acer screen. https://www.opendesktop.org/browse/cat/295/ord/top/#

https://www.wallpapers13.com/category/nature-wallpapers/landscapes-wallpapers/

Add a Slideshow to your Desktop

If you would like use a variety of background images, Cinnamon also allows you to replace your background image with a rotating slideshow with as many images as you want. Just click on Settings and set up a slideshow:

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Here is the first slide of the default slideshow:

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You can add your own images by creating a folder in Nemo and naming it slideshow. Then click on the plus sign in System Settings, Background to add this folder to Background Images side panel.

#2 Customize Your Window Theme

To change the “theme” used to display open Windows. Click on the System Settings, Appearance, Themes:

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The Desktop icon brings up 14 different options. To get more options, click Add Remove at the top of the screen. Scroll down to see 77 options. Then scroll down to Mint XP.

In this section, we will review how to set up and use the Linux Mint File Manager. The Mint file manager, which is called Nemo, is one of the most important reasons to choose Linux Mint over Windows or Apple. The Nemo File Manager is similar to the File Manager that comes with Windows but comes with several additional features.

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To open this file manager, click on your Home folder in the upper left corner of the Mint Mate desktop. Or alternately, open the Menu in the bottom left panel and click on Home Folder. Below is what the Nemo file manager looks like using the Mint XP theme we installed in the last section:

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By default, the Home folder opens in the Icon View at 100%. While Icon View is great for looking at Image Thumbnails, it is much easier to move files and folders by using the List View which is the Icon just right of Icon View. To permanently change to List view when opening your File Manager, click on Edit Preferences.

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In the Views tab, change Default View to List View. Also change List View Defaults to Zoom Level 50%. Next click on the Toolbars button and check everything except the Terminal button.

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Then close the Preferences window. Here is what the File Manager now looks like:

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By default, the Nemo File Manager shows the Places View in the left column. This is not very useful for moving folders or transferring files between folders. Click on the icon to the right of Show Places to select Show Tree View:

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The Tree View will cause Nemo to look and function like the Explorer File Manager in Windows XP and Windows 7. Changing to Tree View will cause some important arrows to appear to the left of any folders in the left panel which have sub-folders.

Now we can click on the arrows in the left column to expand any folder to show its sub folders – allowing us to move documents and folders open in the right column into folders and sub folders in the left column.

Add a New Folder

Just as you can do with Windows 7, you can create additional folders and create your own folder structure. Click on the Desktop folder to open it. Then right click on the white workspace to bring up the following screen:

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Click on Create Folder to place a new folder on your desktop. Give the folder a name like My Book Documents:

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Add a New Document

You can also put a file on the desktop. Right click on the File Manager workspace and click on Create New Document, Empty Document. Then give the file a name like My Test Document.

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Moving Files and Folders

We will now move the Test Document from the Desktop folder to the My Book Documents Folder. We could have opened the My Book Documents folder first and then created this file in it. However, you can also create the Test document and then move the Test document into the My Book Documents folder either by opening the My Book Documents folder in your file manager and then selecting the Test document on the Desktop and dragging it to the My Book Documents folder in the File Manager. Or you can close the file manager and drag the document to the Current Documents folder in the Desktop. Or you can move files and folders by using the Nemo Tree Structure. To do this, open the Nemo File Manager and click on the arrow in the left column to bring up the My Book Documents sub folder inside of the Desktop folder. Then select the Test document in the right column of the File Manager and drag it to the My Books Folder – which will light up when the document is in the correct position.

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Use List View to Sort Many Documents and Folders

Changing from Compact View to list view will present a table with the folder and file names in alphabetical order followed by the number of files in a folder (or file size of a file) and the date that the folder or file was last modified.

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This additional information can help us sort through and organize our documents.

What’s Next?

In the next section, we will review several ways to add free programs to Linux Mint.  

Linux Mint comes with the Firefox web browser and VLC media player already installed along with more than a dozen other free programs. But if you are going to be writing a book or building a website, then you will also need many other free programs. One of the biggest advantages of Linux over Windows is that there are thousands of free open source programs which you can add to customize your computer. In this article, we explain three ways to add free programs to Linux Mint. First, we will review how to use the Linux Mint Software Manager to add any of thousands of programs. Second, we will demonstrate how to use the DEB package installer to add free programs that are not available in the software center. Third, we will cover how to use the Mint Terminal to add free programs that are not available in the software center or via DEB package files.

Add Free Programs from the Mint Software Manager

Go to the Mint Menu and click on the Software Manager which is the second icon from the top left:

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Linux free programs are organized by category. But if you know the name of the programs you want to install, the quickest way to find them is to type the name into the search box in the upper left corner. The first tool we always add is a screen capture tool called Shutter.

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The green check mark shows we have already installed shutter. To have this program start at first launch and always display an icon in the side panel, open it. Then click on Edit Preferences. Then click on the Behavior tab. Then check Start Shutter at Login and check Hide Window on first launch and uncheck Present main window after taking a screen shot.

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We can now take all of our screenshots without Shutter taking up any space on our desktop by right clicking on the Shutter icon in the bottom of our side panel.

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Next we will add an important graphics editor called Pinta.

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Click on it to open the install screen.

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You can read the reviews. Or just click Install. Then enter your password.
Repeat this process to add several more free programs:

Fotoxx – another important graphics editor.
Open Shot – a simple video editor.
GUVCView - a simple screen recorder.
Sigil – an excellent HTML and ebook file editor.
Calibre – an Ebook Viewer that is capable of viewing any kind of ebook from epub to mobi.
Unetbootin – a tool for making a Live USB for installing Mint or a computer.
VirtualBox – to test operating systems and programs
Kdiff3 – file and folder comparison tool
Chromium – a browser like Google Chrome but without all the spyware.
Waterfox – a lightweight webkit based web browser that is good for playing videos and defaults to the Duck Duck Go search engine.

Why Add Waterfox and Chromium Web Browsers

You may be wondering why we are adding two more web browsers (Waterfox and Chromium) when Mint already comes with the Firefox browser. The answer is that Waterfox is better at respecting your privacy that Firefox and Chromium is better at respecting your privacy that Google Chrome. Firefox Addons work with Waterfox and Google Chrome extensions work with Chromium. We need at least two browsers because when we build websites, we should always check how our website displays in various browser layout engines because different browsers have slightly different ways of displaying various website features. Also, when we build a website, we will use one browser (Chromium) to make the changes (where the browser cache is not cleared) and check the changes in another browser (Waterfox) where we are constantly clearing the cache to see the result.

Add Free Programs with DEB Package Installer

We will also add a couple of programs that are not in the Software Manager using the DEB package installer. Installing new programs with the DEBS package manager is almost as easy as installing packages from the software center. Just go to the website download page and download the “DEB” file. Then transfer the file from your Downloads folder to your File Manager OPT folder. Right click on the File Manager screen before the transfer and click Open as Root in order to make this transfer. Then right click on the file and click Install with DEB package manager.

We will use the DEB install method to add an important free tool for image editing is called XnView Multiplatform. Go to the following web page: https://www.xnview.com/en/xnviewmp/

Then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Linux Deb 64 bit Download button.

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Transfer the package from your Downloads folder to your File Manager OPT folder. Then right click on the XNView DEB file and click Install Package with DEB package manager. When it says Installation Finished, then close the window. Then go to the menu and click on XNView to see if it works.

Add Free Programs with the Mint Terminal

A drawback of using the Mint Software Manager to install programs is that you often wind up with a program that is two or more years out of date. While you get a more current version by using the latest DEB package, there is no way to update the programs over time. A third and perhaps best way to install packages is by using the Mint Terminal to install Personal Packages also called PPAs. These not only install a more recent version of the program, but also can be updated over time. To see how this works, we will first install a screen recording program called Simple Screen Recorder. Right click on the Mint Desktop and select Open in Terminal. Then copy and paste the following command to install the repository:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:maarten-baert/simplescreenrecorder

Then click Enter.

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Type in your password. This will not be shown in the terminal. Do not worry. This is normal. Just click Enter again.

Then copy and paste the following command and hit Enter. Wait for the program to load. Then click Enter again. When this is done, copy and paste the following:

sudo apt-get update

Once the PPA update is done, copy and paste the following line and hit Enter.

sudo apt-get install simplescreenrecorder

Wait until this program completely loads. Then close the terminal. Open the Mint Menu and open the program to make sure it works.

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Use the terminal to update an existing program

One of the biggest problems with the default programs in Linux Mint is that some of them are very outdated. The most important of these outdated programs is LibreOffice – which can be as much as a year out of date. Thankfully, we can use the terminal to quickly update LibreOffice to the latest version – and make sure that as new versions come out, our system is automatically updated to the latest version. To check the version of LibreOffice you have, open a new document. Then, in the Writer menu, click Help, About LibreOffice. Mint 18.3 comes with LibreOffice 5.1.6.2. To get the latest version of LibreOffice, with many new features, we will install the LibreOffice PPA.

First, right click on the Desktop and click Open the Terminal. Then copy and paste the following command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:libreoffice/ppa

Press Enter and then type in your password. Then press Enter again to continue loading the PPA. Then copy and paste this line:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install libreoffice

Then press Enter. This will install the latest version of Libre Office and keeps your Libre Office up-to-date with updates. After it loads, press Capital Y for Yes. Then press Enter.

Improve the Toolbar Icons

Next click View. For Icon Size, you can choose Automatic, Small or Large. For Icon Style, you may only have one option called Human. Here is Human. Many of these icons like Undo and Redo are hard to read.

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We will therefore add an Icon set called Galaxy which is more colorful and easier to read. Galaxy can be installed with the terminal using the following command. sudo apt-get install libreoffice-style-galaxy

Close all writer documents and restart LibreOffice. Then open a writer document and click on Tools, Options, View. Click on Icon Style and you will see Galaxy is now an option. Click on it. Then close Options. Here is what our Writer Top Menu now looks like with the Galaxy icons:

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This makes it more obvious where the Undo icon is located. We will learn how to use LibreOffice in the next two chapters.

Set Up the Linux Mint Panel

We can add Quick Launch icons to our Desktop simply by right clicking on the application and then clicking “ Add to Desktop.” While this is what people commonly do, the problem with placing quick launch icons on our Desktop is they will be hidden anytime we have two or more side by side windows open at the same time. It is therefore best to minimize quick launch icons on our Desktop.

Add Quick Launch Icons to the Left Side Panel

By default, our Nemo File Manager and the Firefox Browser icons are already in the side panel just below the Mint Menu icon. We replaced Firefox with Waterfox. The black Terminal icon was also in this side panel. But we have replaced it with Libre Writer. We have also added Shutter and our Window and Workspace icons to the bottom area of the side panel. We could add any other programs we use very often to the side panel. However, the programs we will use most often when writing books and building websites, besides LibreWriter and Shutter, are our two web browsers. We will therefore add Quick Launch icons for Chromium and Waterfox to our side panel. Here is what the upper and lower portions of our panel look like:

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What’s Next?

In the next chapter, we will review how to use LibreWriter.