Ubuntu 16.10 essential tweakology guide


Updated: April 3, 2017

Taste is subjective. Taste is, in this case, whatever I say it is. Welcome to my guide on essential beautification and enrichment of the Ubuntu Yakkety Yak desktop. We've done this work many, many times before, links to follow in abundance, and we shall attempt it once more with the latest Ubuntu release. Just before 17.04 knocketh on our door.

So, if you allow me, we will now commence to make the default installation a little bit less boring, a little bit more exciting, a whole lot more fun for immediate consumption. There isn't that much wrong with stock Ubuntu, but as I've revealed in my review, things aren't as exciting and peachy as they can be. Shall we?

Teaser

Pick up the papers and the trash - New software

Please narrate this Arnie style. The first task is to fatten up on some megabytes full of good software. The defaults are a little lean, so we need some extra productivity stuff. You can grab everything with a one-liner, but you should first double-check that all the relevant software channels are enabled.

How should you do this? Well, this is a tricky question. Because the new Ubuntu Software is quite pointless as a program (it ain't the only one), and it does not allow you to edit software sources directly. You can use the old Ubuntu Software Center as a temporary alternative, as it lets you edit software sources through its menu, like any sane program should. I've done this in my Xubuntu 16.10 review.

USC

USC sources

Alternatively, you can manually edit the /etc/apt/sources.list file and make sure the following repositories are uncommented, ergo enabled - multiverse, restricted universe and partner. I've copied the contents and only left the relevant entries here, for comparison. Yours may vary, or have a local/regional mirror.

## N.B. software from this repository is ENTIRELY UNSUPPORTED by ## the Ubuntu team, and may not be under a free license. Please
## satisfy yourself as to your rights to use the software. Also,
## please note that software in multiverse WILL NOT receive any
## review or updates from the Ubuntu security team.
deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ yakkety multiverse
deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ yakkety-updates multiverse

## N.B. software from this repository may not have been tested as
## extensively as that contained in the main release, although it
## includes newer versions of some applications which may provide
## useful features. Also, please note that software in backports ## WILL NOT receive any review or updates from the Ubuntu
## security team.
deb http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ yakkety-backports main restricted universe multiverse

## Uncomment the following two lines to add software from
## Canonical's 'partner' repository. This software is not part of
## Ubuntu, but is offered by Canonical and the respective vendors
## as a service to Ubuntu users.
deb http://archive.canonical.com/ubuntu yakkety partner

Once this is done, execute:

sudo apt-get install build-essential cheese gimp gimp-registry vlc steam skype

This command will install compilation tools and several other nice programs. You can also install Google Chrome if you like. These instructions clearly list what needs to be done to add a new repository, so you can enjoy updates, too. Essentially, you need to add an extra line to the /etc/apt/sources.list file:

deb http://dl.google.com/linux/chrome/deb/ stable main

Then, add the right signing key for the repo:

wget -q -O - https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/
linux_signing_key.pub | sudo apt-key add -

Lastly, install the software:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install google-chrome-stable

Nice desktop, apps 1

Nice desktop, apps 2

Or you'll get no spending cash - Unity Tweak

Gnome has its own mandatory tweak tool, and so does Unity. This program lets you change various visual and behavioral aspects of the Ubuntu desktop that are not available through the standard system settings. You can tweak fonts, move the Launcher to the bottom of the screen - highly recommendable, use new themes, and more.

Unity Tweak Tool

Theme

Icons

Desktop icons

If you don't scrub the kitchen floor - Visual tweaks

Subjective, remember? So feel free to ignore this and apply your own artistic style. Overall, Ubuntu comes with a pretty decent if somewhat timid setup, and it does not take much to get everything just right. If you like the classic desktop scheme, you can just position the Launcher at the bottom of the screen and change the opacity.

This will also help you avoid the icon "pile-up" problem when there are too many icons and the system starts squashing them together either at the top or the bottom of the Launcher. There is no override for this, but the bottom placement is an elegant workaround.

Launcher position

Transparent Launcher

More opaque Launcher

Transparent vs opaque, notice the difference.

You ain't gonna rock 'n' roll no more - New icons

We talked about Ubuntu themes a while back. The same concept applies. My testing shows that it's only the icon theme(s) you should be playing with, but you can do more if you feel like fiddling and changing the defaults. Moka icons, as they are even nicer than Faenza.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:moka/daily
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install moka-icon-theme

Moka

Theme wise, if you feel like doing it, something like Vimix or Macbuntu (more to come) might be the right thing. Now, we will talk about this in detail in a separate article, so please be patient. Good things come to those who wait. Or something.

Vimix

Macbuntu

Either way, whatever you grab, extract the archives, then copy the contents into the hidden folders .themes and .icons in your home directory. If these two locations do not exist, you can create them. Of course, do be careful when randomly grabbing stuff off the Web. As Miss Moneypenny likes to say: Oh, do we careful, James.

Yakkety Yak, don't talk back - Fine detail

If you do not want to see mounted volumes in Launcher, unlock them. There isn't a button to toggle a global view on/off. But this can be useful if you have lots of internal partitions and do not want them to litter your panel.

Volumes

Once upon a time, startup applications had its rightful place in the system settings menu. This does not seem to be case lately, but worry not. Open the Ubuntu menu and then type gnome-session-properties. You will find and be able to launch the Startup Applications utility.

Startup apps

Gallery

Some fine screenshots:

Nice desktop 3

Nice desktop 4

File manager

More reading

Happy? Liking it? Loving it? Well, there's more:

Xubuntu pimpology (old but good)

Fedora tweaking guides, parts one and two

Gnome 3 essential accessibility guide

Conclusion

Here we go. None of what is written here will make your life in any way, shape or form remarkably different, and you can use Ubuntu in its stock form just fine, with or without some of the extra apps you may like or need. But then, this article also shows that you can make small, fairly non-disruptive changes and get a lot more from this operating system. The choice of software and decorations goes a long way toward that first impression.

All in all, Ubuntu 16.10 was a somewhat underwhelming offering, following an equally disappointing LTS. This makes it less than ideal for average users, but if you like to tinker, it takes about seven minutes putting everything in the right order. About the same time a typical Fedora installation requires, to be frank, only Ubuntu feels a little more pro, plus it comes with better fonts and clarity. Anyhow, the purpose of this guide was to expose you to a higher level of fresh excitement and fun when it comes to Ubuntu. We shall unilaterally deem this mission accomplished. More good stuff to come.

Cheers.

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