Using Linux More Efficiently

It can be difficult to learn the best way to use Linux in an efficient manner. The is contributed by being new to the operating system as well as being new to the applications that use Linux. This is a list of hints that can possibly help you use Linux faster.

Use the virtual desktop

You may have noticed that there are four small boxes that form a rectangle on the taskbar. These boxes make up virtual desktops. If you click on one of the boxes, you'll be taken to that desktop. Alternatively, if you hold "ctrl" + "tab", you'll be able to select the desktop from the keyboard. The best way to use these virtual desktops is to let each desktop handle separate types of applications. For instance, you could let desktop one hold your email application. Desktop two could be your web browser. Desktop three could be open office. Using these desktops just helps reduce clutter. Normally you can just open an application on the virtual desktop that you want to use. If you need to send an application to a different desktop number, just select the down arrow in the very top left of the application's title. One of the choices will be "To Desktop." Just select the one that you want to use.

Select applications from the keyboard

The mouse can be very inefficient at times, especially when trying to find which application you want open. You may want to try the keyboard combination of "alt" + "tab". If you hold the "alt" key, every time you press "tab", a different application (that is currently running) will be selected. When you find the one that you want to use, just release the keys.

Use programs with MDI, that is multiple display interfaces

Some applications allow you to open multiple files without opening the application all over again. This means instead of having two windows open, you would only have one. Applications that do this are said to utilize MDI. Most of the time these applications will have tabs that allow you to select which open file you want to view or modify. You have probably seen this in Excel before. Both mozilla-firebird and konqueror allow you to do this for Web pages. (In konqueror, right click on a link and select "Open in New Tab," while in firebird just click the mouse wheel on a link.) Try other programs out to see if they have this feature. Open Office does not. Other programs accomplish this with other methods. You should try out Kate for programming tasks, or possibly Xemacs which uses multiple buffers.

How many windows should you have open?

Some users choose to have dozens of windows open at one time. There is nothing wrong with this but occasionally one can get lost. At any rate, keeping all windows maximized simultaneously is not advisable because the next window you want may be hidden (Alt-Tab will help, whether windows are minimized or not). It may be better to minimize all but the two or three most important windows. When the icons on the bottom task bar are too small to read, then perhaps it's time to close some windows.

Define abbreviations in your .bashrc file

The file .bashrc in your home directory can be used to define abbreviations for many uses. These abbreviations or aliases will be defined when you open a new command window. It is especially helpful to define aliases to issue the cd command to change the current working directory to a commonly-used project area. Here is an example .bashrc file. You may have some of the aliases defined in a file that was already set up on your workstation.
PS1="\w \u:"                                              # define command prompt as current directory and user
alias lsd="ls -F | grep '/' | sed -e 's/\//  /g' | fmt"   # type lsd to list all directories in the current one
alias reviews="cd ~/doc/reviews/journals"                 # type reviews to go there
alias cproj="cd ~/projects/consulting" 
alias picolo="cd ~/projects/consulting/sanofi-winthrop/picolo" # type picolo to go there
alias latest="ls -lagt | head -12"                        # list 12 most recently written files
alias lasts="ls -lagt *.s | head -12"                     # most recent .s files
alias lasttex="ls -lagt *.tex | head -12"                 # most recent .tex files
alias dlatest='ls -FAt | grep "/" | tr "/" " " | fmt'     # list latest directories
alias Xmacs="gnuclient -q"                                # type Xmacs foo to open existing xemacs session on file foo
vudesk=                                    # define $vudesk variable to hold IP address
export vudesk                                             # make definition globally available

- ColeBeck - 07 May 2004; modifed FrankHarrell - 08 May 2004, 23 June 2004
Topic revision: r4 - 15 Jan 2010, DalePlummer

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