Monthly Archives: February 2014

Configure The Dash With Unity Tweak In Ubuntu 14.04

SummonDash

Ubuntu’s Dash search is very useful, but it’s not very configurable. You can change whether or not the Dash searches online sources, but that’s essentially it. However, you can use the third-party Unity Tweak Tool to further customize the behavior and attributes of the Dash.

First, you’ll need to install Unity Tweak Tool. You can do so by going to the Ubuntu Software Center application (pinned to the Launcher by default), searching for “Unity Tweak Tool”, and install it from there. If you are familiar with the Terminal, Ubuntu’s command-line interface, you can install Unity Tweak Tool with this command:

sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool

After the installation, you can launch Unity Tweak Tool by going to the Dash, searching for “Unity”, and clicking on the icon for Unity Tweak Tool. After Unity Tweak Tool launches, go to the Unity category, and then click on the icon for Search.

You will then see a number of additional options for the Dash. You can adjust whether or not the Dash will blur the background when it appears. You can also control whether or not the Dash will search online sources (similar to the option in System Settings).

Under the Applications heading, you can adjust whether or not the Dash will show “more suggestions” when you search for an applications, and whether or not it will list Recently Used applications. Under the Files heading, you can control whether or not the Dash is able to search your files. Disable this setting, and the Dash will not search your files.

Finally, under the Run Command heading, clicking the Clear History button will purge your history of Dash searches. Clicking the Restore Defaults button will reset the Dash to its default settings.

-JM

Use The Heads-Up Display (HUD) In Ubuntu 14.04

HUD

Ubuntu includes a feature called the Heads-Up Display. The HUD has been described as a “keyboard-driven menu system.” The idea is that you can now use the keyboard to perform menu functions that would previously have required a mouse.T he HUD currently only works with a certain number of applications (specifically, applications that use the appmenu system) and not all applications are compatible with the HUD.

However, if an application is compatible with the HUD, the Heads-Up Display can be a real time saver. Using the HUD, you can quickly locate menu items that are nested two or three levels deep. If you’re comfortable using your keyboard, the HUD can save you a good chunk of time – especially if you’re trying to find a menu option with which you are unfamiliar.

Like the Dash, you can invoke the HUD with a single keystroke. The HUD is linked to the ALT key (both the left ALT and the right ALT keys) on your keyboard. Simply tap the ALT key, and the HUD line will appear at the top of the screen.

The icon to the left the HUD “type your command” field changes based upon which application you are using. If you invoke the HUD in Firefox, for instance, you will see the Firefox icon. If you invoke the HUD in LibreOffice Writer, you’ll see the Writer icon, and so forth.

What exactly can you type in the “type your command” field? Basically, think of the HUD as a search engine for an application’s graphical menus. Enter a phrase, and the HUD will search the application’s menus for items close to your phrase. For example, let’s say you want to zoom Firefox in or out, but cannot remember how to do so. If you invoke the HUD, and type “zoom” into the search field, and the output then shows all results related to Zoom that can be found within Firefox’s menus. The HUD also reports where the results are located with in the menus – the command to Zoom In is located in the View menu, and then in the Zoom category.

You can select the result you want by clicking on the appropriate result with the mouse (which would rather defeat the purpose of using the HUD) or by using the UP and DOWN arrow keys to select the appropriate result and then hitting the ENTER key. Note that as soon as you select a result, the HUD will perform the item indicated. To use the example of the screenshot from above, if you select  Zoom In, the HUD will immediately zoom in the browser.

If the HUD brings up no satisfactory results, you can close it by tapping the ALT key again.

On the surface, the HUD might seem like a fancy but useless trick. Firefox does not have all that complicated of a user interface, and most people can find what they need in the menu system with a minimum of searching. Where the HUD really shines is applications that have large and complex menu systems – like the LibreOffice Writer application, for example, or the GIMP Image Manipulation Program.

For instance, let’s say you’re using the GIMP and need to use the Desaturate tool, but you can’t remember where it is. Tap the ALT key and type “desaturate” into the field.

The HUD will locate the Desaturate tool for you in the Tools menu, and the Color Tools submenu. You can hit Enter to launch it from the HUD, or go to it via the menu system.

Likewise, the HUD can find menu objects for you in the menus of LibreOffice Writer. Let’s say you’re working on a long document in LibreOffice Writer, and can’t remember how to insert page numbers. Tap ALT to invoke the HUD, type “page” into the search field, and the option to insert page numbers will show up on the list.

The HUD technology in Ubuntu is still in its first phases, but properly used, it can still help you to use your applications more efficiently (provided they support the HUD).

-JM

Disable & Delete Dash Search History In Ubuntu 14.04

DashHistory

When using Ubuntu, you will notice that the Dash keeps a record of your searches. When you summon the Dash, you will notice a list of your most recently accessed applications and files. However, for reasons of privacy, you might not wish to have the Dash record your searches and maintain a list of recently accessed items. Fortunately, Ubuntu makes it easy to disable these features and to clear the list.

To purge the list of accessed items, launch the System Settings application by clicking on its icon on the Launcher or by searching for it from the Dash. After System Settings launches, click on the Security & Privacy icon in the top row. When that expands, click on the Files & Applications tab.

On this tab, you can immediately delete your entire Dash search history and recent items list by clicking on the “Clear Usage Data” button. When you click on this button, you will see a dialog box asking how far back you want to delete the usage data. You can delete data from the past hour, the past day, the past week, a custom date, or all time. After you have made your select, click on the OK button, and Ubuntu will immediately delete the data from the requested time period. Note that after it is deleted, the usage data cannot be recovered.

Additionally, you can also configure the Dash not keep usage data at all. Under the File & Applications tab, set the “Record file and application usage” switch to OFF, and Ubuntu will no longer record any searches or usage data from the Dash. Additionally, you can leave the switch set to ON while disabling specific items listed below the switch – documents, videos, music, and so forth. Simply uncheck the item’s check box to stop recording usage data about it in the Dash.

-JM

Disable Online Dash Search Results In Ubuntu 14.04

DashSearchResults

By default, the Dash searches various Internet sources when you conduct a search, and these searches are routed through Canonical’s servers. However, this has a few drawbacks. For one, searches take longer to complete, since the Dash has to scour whatever online sources you have selected in Filter Options. Additionally, there are privacy concerns as well, since your search terms are routed through Canonical’s servers. If you are searching for the name of a sensitive document that is only located upon your computer, you might not want to take even the slightest risk of someone else ever learning the name of the documents.

Fortunately, these risks are easily avoided by turning off Internet searches in the Dash.

To do so, launch the System Settings application, either by searching the Dash for “system settings” or by clicking on its icon on the Launcher. Once System Settings launches, click on the Security & Privacy icon in the top row. When the icon expands, click on the Search tab.

Under the search tab, set the switch for “Include Online Search Results” to OFF. Once you do, the Dash will no longer search online sources.

-JM

Use Dash Lenses For Better Searches In Ubuntu 14.04

Lenses

The Dash is Ubuntu’s “global” integrated search, which means when you enter a search term, the Dash searches everything on your computer and everything it can find on the Internet. While this is useful, it is often overwhelming. If you are searching for a particular document, you likely do not need search results from Amazon or Wikipedia. Fortunately, the Dash offers several different ways to refine your search. One of the most useful ways is with the Lenses.

The “Lenses” are essentially different search filters you can apply to the Dash’s searches. There are five main lenses – Applications, Files & Folders, Videos, Music, and Photos. You can select these lenses by clicking on the row of lens icons at the bottom of the Dash’s search form, or by using the appropriate keyboard shortcut.

The Applications lens limits your search to applications installed on your computer. If you have the Dash enable to search Internet sources, it will also list available applications in the Ubuntu Software Center.

The Files & Folders lens limits your search to the files and folders on your computer. If you use the Filter Results options, you can also specify the type of file, the size, and the date last modified.

The Videos lens searches your computer’s video files. If you allow the Dash to search online sources, you will also see results from various online sites such as YouTube.

The Music lens searches your computer’s music files. If you use the Filter Results options, you can also search by specific genres of music, if your music files are tagged with the appropriate metadata. Additionally, if the Dash is configured to search online sources, it will check the Ubuntu One Music store and other online sources for music files.

The Photos lens searches your computer’s image files. If you use the Filter Results options, you can search for photos by age.

Using the lenses allows you to specify your Dash searches to a more granular level.

-JM

Ubuntu 14.04: Filter Results With Dash Searches

FilterResults

When using the Dash to conduct searches of your computer and the Internet, you can quickly fill the screen with a plethora of search results. If you are looking for a specific item, this can easily become overwhelming. This is part of the reason the Dash offers specific lenses, which allow you to search only a certain subset of items – files, applications, music, and so forth. However, even within lenses, you can achieve a greater granularity with your search results by using the Filter Results option.

You can see the drop-down menu for Filter Results directly to the right of the Dash’s search box. Left-click on the “Filter Results” menu to open it up, and you will see the available filters. They are divided into two groups – Categories and Sources.

Categories lists the different sorts of items you can find with the dash – Applications, music, photos, documents, files and folders, and so forth. Sources lists the various online sources that the Dash will search – Amazon, various search engines, ecommerce sites, reference sites like Wikipedia, images archives like Deviantart, and so forth. You can select different search criteria by left-clicking on them, and deselect them by clicking again. You can mix and match as many criteria as you want to create a highly granular and filtered search.

-JM

Ubuntu 14.04: Search From The Dash

Searching

The Dash is Ubuntu’s integrated application launcher and system search. But since you need to search for applications before you find them, you will spend a great deal of time using the Dash to search for items on your computer, whether applications, documents, multimedia files, or other items. Additionally, the Dash will display search results from various Internet sources – Ubuntu Software Center, Amazon, Ubuntu One Music, and others.

To search from the Dash, first summon the Dash by tapping the SUPER key or clicking the Dash icon on the Launcher. The Dash will then appear as a translucent overlay over your screen, with the search box directly to the right of the Dash’s Launcher icon. Type your search term into the box, and the Dash will search your Ubuntu system and Internet sources for appropriate matches.

The matches are sorted into categories. The first category is Applications, which displays any installed applications that match your term. The second category is Files and Folders, which displays any documents or folders that match the search terms. Next are search results drawn from various Internet sources – the Ubuntu Software Center, the Ubuntu One music store, Wikipedia, Amazon, and others.

To clear your search results, use the Backspace key to delete the search term from the search box, or click the X next to the search term to delete it.

-JM

Ubuntu 14.04: Open The Dash And Its Lenses

SummonDash

The Dash is Ubuntu’s integrated system search and application launcher. Using the Dash, you can search your computer for documents, folders, music, video, and other types of files. You can also use the Dash to find and launch all the user applications installed upon your computer, and even to search the Internet.

When you need the Dash, there are a number of different ways to summon it. The first way is to click on the Dash icon on the Launcher. The Dash’s icon is permanently pinned to the Launcher, and will always occupy the top position on the Launcher.

The second way is to simply tap the SUPER key on your keyboard. Regardless of what applications you are using, tapping the SUPER key will summon the Dash over top of your current activities.

Finally, there are a number of ways to summon the Dash with a specific lens pre-opened. A “lens” is essentially a search criterion that limits the areas the Dash searches – the Files lens searches only files, the Video lens only videos, and so forth. Each of the built-in Dash lenses has its own keyboard shortcut:

-Using SUPER+A opens the Dash App lens, for searching applications.

-Using SUPER+F opens the Dash Files lens, for searching files and folders.

-Using SUPER+M opens the Music lens, for searching music files.

-Using SUPER+C opens the Photo lens, for searching music files.

-Using SUPER+V opens the Video lens, for searching video files.

-JM

Use Unity Tweak Tool To Change Launcher Settings In Ubuntu 14.04

Launcher

Ubuntu’s Launcher is very useful, but by default, it is not terribly configurable. You can change the order of the icons on the Launcher, determine which applications are pinned to it, and adjust its size, but you can do little else with it. However, you can use the third-party Unity Tweak Tool to further customize the behavior and attributes of the Launcher.

First, you’ll need to install Unity Tweak Tool. You can do so by going to the Ubuntu Software Center application (pinned to the Launcher by default), searching for “Unity Tweak Tool”, and install it from there. If you are familiar with the Terminal, Ubuntu’s command-line interface, you can install Unity Tweak Tool with this command:

sudo apt-get install unity-tweak-tool

After the installation, you can launch Unity Tweak Tool by going to the Dash, searching for “Unity”, and clicking on the icon for Unity Tweak Tool. After Unity Tweak Tool launches, go to the Unity category, and then click on the icon for Launcher.

You will then see a number of additional options for the Launcher. You can set it to “auto-hide”, meaning it will disappear unless you move the mouse to the left side of the screen to summon it back. Additionally, you can adjust the color and transparency of the Launcher. By default, the Launcher derives its color from your desktop wallpaper, but if you would prefer it to look different, you can adjust that setting here.

Finally, you can also alter the Launcher’s animation settings under the “Icons” heading. You can adjust the size of the Icons, like in System Preferences, but you can also customize the animations icons use when launching an application or presenting a notification. One useful switch here is the “Show Desktop” setting, which lets you pin a button to immediately show the desktop to the bottom of the Launcher.

If you dislike the changed settings, you can restore the defaults at any time by clicking on the “Restore defaults” button.

-JM

View All Keyboard Shortcuts In Ubuntu 14.04

KeyboardShortCuts

As you use Ubuntu and grow more comfortable with the operating system, you might find yourself using more and more keyboard shortcuts to expedite your workflow. Launching applications using the Launcher keyboard shortcuts and controlling windows with the keyboard is often quicker and easier than using the mouse. However, Ubuntu has a lot of keyboard shortcuts, and keeping track of them all is often tricky. Fortunately, Ubuntu includes a quick way to view the most common keyboard commands all at once.

To view the keyboard commands, press and hold down the SUPER key (usually the Windows key on most PC keyboards). Usually tapping the SUPER key summons the Dash, Ubuntu’s integrated search and application launcher utility, but if you hold down the SUPER key for several seconds, a chart of the available keyboard shortcuts will appear.

The shortcuts will be divided into five categories – Launcher, HUD (Heads-Up Display) & Menu Bar, Switching, Dash, and Windows. Under each category, you can see a variety of useful keyboard shortcuts for controlling that specific function.

Once you release the SUPER key, the chart will disappear.

-JM