Ubuntu 11.04 tips and tricks

Ahh, linux, the hotbed of configurablilty. Here's a few tricks for customising the new Unity interface.

Adding virtual desktops

I need this mainly because I prefer rotating cube desktops, and the default layout is a 2x2 grid. I'll presume you have your own reasons.

Several methods are out there, this is the only one that seems to work at the moment. It requires you to install the Indicator Workspaces applet. To do so, open the software center (Super-A, then start typing "software"). In the menu, which is now integrated into the panel at the top of your screen a lot like the MacOS way, go Edit -> Software Sources. You will need to enter your password. Go to the "Other Software" tab, click "Add..." and paste the following:

ppa:geod/ppa-geod

Click "Add Source", and you should see two more options towards the bottom of the listing. Click close, and you should be all set! In the left hand column of the software centre, expand "Get Software" and click on GeoD. Workspace Indicator should be the only entry, click install, and you'll probably need your password again. Once installed, press Super-A and start typing "Workspace" - you should see the Indicator Workspaces option. In the top panel, a new widget will appear with a gray box and a number. Click on it, then click Preferences, and the desktops will be under your control.

Reduce the size of the Unity panel icons

Those unity icons are big, which is fine if you only have a few frequently-used applications, but I have a lot more. To reduce the size of the icons, press Alt-F2, type ccsm, and select the only result (you may need to install it). Once launched, go to the Desktop section, Unity Plugin (Don't untick it, just select the name) and click on the Experimental tab. Change the launcher icon size to whatever you like, you should see the results instantly (hold down the Super/Windows key to see the launcher)

Widget layer

and pushed all my communications apps into the widget layer (configuring CCSM -> Widget Layer -> Behaviour -> Widget Windows -> (class=Skype)|(class=Ekiga))