Posts Tagged ‘tweak’

While Ubuntu‘s new Unity interface has been designed for less clutter, and generally makes getting to common tasks a breeze, many have found navigating through the rest a bit of a nightmare. While everything is supposed to be more simplified, some would argue having all your launchers accessible via categories in the old Applications menu was actually simpler and quicker.

But you can actually have the best of both worlds, so if you’re avoiding Unity and using the Classic Desktop simply for access to the Applications and System (or Wine) menus, read ahead.

While you can’t actually add the old menu system to the Unity panel, since it is not gnome-panel that is running, there is actually an “indicator” available for Unity that will do the same thing. So while this new (or old?) menu won’t replace Unity‘s “Dash“, you will see an Ubuntu icon in your system tray’s notification area. Click that, and you will see the old familiar Applications menu, with all the categories you’re used to.

To install Classic Menu Indicator, enter the following commands in sequence in a terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:diesch/testing

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install classicmenu-indicator

Once installed, hit Alt+F2 and enter classicmenu-indicator as the command to run.

Apart from easy access to all your launchers, you’ll find your old System menu is there too, split into the familiar Preferences and Administration sub-menus.

More importantly for many, you will also have your old Wine menu back for running Windows programs. Unity‘s Dash menu system does not currently show a Wine section, and finding those apps can be near-impossible, but classicmenu-indicator will rectify this.

If you find that this menu/indicator does not automatically run upon your next boot (which it should), simply add classicmenu-indicator to your Startup Applications, and it will be forced to load from then onwards (it should already be in there, so check it isn’t disabled).


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In Ubuntu 11.04‘s new Unity desktop, you may have noticed that the clock in the panel’s system tray only shows the time, whereas before you may have been used to it showing the day and date as well. But this is actually very simple to remedy: just click the clock, and when the calendar/menu appears, click Time & Date Settings… at the bottom.

When the settings app appears, in the Clock tab you will see you can customise it in all sorts of ways. If you would simply like to show the date, just check Date and month, and it will immediately appear.

If you’d also like to add the day, check Weekday as well. You’ll also be able to choose to show Seconds, or change the time display mode to 24-hour time.



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PLEASE NOTE: This article was written for earlier versions of Nautilus File Manager (2.x) found in earlier Ubuntu releases running on Gnome 2.x, so most of the cosmetic customisations (background/colours and custom toolbar buttons) will not work in Unity (the default desktop environment) or Gnome Shell, both of which are based on Gnome 3. However, the guides for plugins/extensions are still valid, as well as most of the tips for getting more out of Nautilus. Tricks that will only work in legacy versions are marked “Gnome 2 Only“.


Nautilus is the default file manager for Gnome-based Linux distros like Ubuntu, and has many great features while being easy-to-use for newbies.

But you can make it even more useful, and even more attractive, without too much effort or fuss. So what you’ll find here are links to various articles in this blog dedicated to this task, split up into sections for easier browsing.

While cosmetic alterations and enhancements are some tricks you might try for the fun of it, other tips offer far more usability than you may have thought possible in Nautilus, and may even be the answers to features you’ve been longing to see in the list of your file browser’s capabilities.


Nautilus Toolbar Enhancements:

Add Toolbar Buttons for New Folder, Cut, Copy, Paste & Trash/Delete (Gnome 2 Only)

Add a File/Folder “Properties” Button to the Nautilus Toolbar (Gnome 2 Only)


Essential Nautilus Extensions:

Nautilus Open Terminal: Command-Line in the Current Folder

Nautilus GKSU: Open Files & Folders with Administrative Privileges


More Cool Nautilus Plugins:

Nautilus Image Converter: Easily Resize & Rotate Pictures

Nautilus Image Resizer Extension

Open Selected Folders in New Windows with Nautilus-Actions

Nautilus-Actions: Open in New Window

Open Selected Folder in Image Viewer or Movie Player with Nautilus-Actions

Nautilus-Actions: Adding Movie Player/Videos to Context Menu (DONE!)

Nautilus Pastebin: Send Text Clips to the Web


Cosmetic Alterations to Nautilus:

Change Background/Colour/Gradient & Assign File/Folder Emblems (Gnome 2 Only)


Tweaking Nautilus Settings:

Show Hidden Files by Default in Nautilus

Show Text-Entry Address Bar or “Breadcrumbs” (Buttons)

Enable Split-Pane File Browsing (Gnome 2 Only)

Nautilus Thumbnails: Zoom In or Out with Your Mouse


Applying New Settings:

Apply New Settings Immediately Without Rebooting


File Management Tricks:

Change File Icon & Permissions + Default Program for a File Extension

Add Program to List of Applications in “Open With” When Right-Clicking Files in Nautilus


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Please note that this is for the “legacy” version of GRUB still widely in use, not the next-generation GRUB 2. If unsure, check out this guide on how to find out which version of GRUB you are using.


You can create your own splash images for the GRUB bootloader menu, but they need to be 640×480 pixels in size, a maximum of only 14 colours, saved in the .xpm format, and then compressed. Sound too hard? Well, here’s a single command that does it all for you in one go!

In this example, the image is called “Ubuntu-Glass.png” and residing in the user’s Pictures folder. Obviously, just replace the path and filename in the example command with that of your own image. Another thing to remember is that some pictures resized will look very different (ie: distorted), so go for ones that have the same shape/ratios (in other words, wallpapers that are 800×600, 1024×768, 1600×1200, etc).

To convert a picture, enter the following (with correct filename) into a terminal:

convert -resize 640×480 -colors 14 ~/Pictures/Ubuntu-Glass.png ~/Pictures/Ubuntu-Glass.xpm && gzip ~/Pictures/Ubuntu-Glass.xpm

You now have a boot menu splash you can get GRUB to load instead of just showing white text on black background. Don’t know how to go about that? Then read about how to add a splash image to GRUB.


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If you’re using Gnome-OSD, you probably think it’s great, but can’t stand the colours they’ve chosen as the default. You may have already found gnome-osd-properties (OSD Properties) for changing some of its settings, but were dismayed to find that changing the colours wasn’t even an option. Well, luckily it just involves editing a text config file, which you do with this command in a terminal:

sudo gedit /usr/share/python-support/gnome-osd/gnomeosd/server.py

You will see the following not too far from the top, and the values here are what you need to edit:

bgcolor = "#1B48FF"
fgcolor = "#6648FF"

bgcolor is the track name, artist name, album name, and track number, with the default being bright yellow.

fgcolor is the track time after track name, eg: (3:51), as well as the titles “Artist“, “Album“, and “Track” (the default for which is bright green).

All you need to do is open a graphics editor that can supply those colour numbers (like Gimp), or install a small app made for the task, like KColorChooser. Then just replace the default numbers with those of colours of your own choosing, and save the file upon exiting.

You might have noted you can do a couple more things, like make the border around OSD text larger (or remove it by setting it to 0), as well as have more control over the animations (in OSD Properties, you can only turn animations on and off). Any changes you make will be visible after you reboot your computer.


If your bgcolor doesn’t change to the specified colour, but stays yellow, then you’re in the same boat as I. As soon as I figure it out, I’ll post the solution here.


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We all know Microsoft tries to create “standards” rather than follow them, and when this interferes with other programs, protocols, technologies and such, people tend to blame the other party. A good example is the horrid .url format Internet Explorer uses for web shortcuts you save on the desktop, etc, in Windows. When people change to Firefox as the default browser, they’re often upset to find it won’t open .url files, as it doesn’t know what to do with them.

While you could argue that in this day and age of Microsoft dominance, Firefox should be adding support for everything to do with Internet Explorer, it should be pointed out that the vast majority of users don’t create internet shortcuts on their desktop, but use a concept called “Favorites” (“Bookmarks everywhere else). In over a decade of using Internet Explorer (IE), I never saved a single one – I mean, why would I when I had a Favorites menu?

But the fact remains that there are many people out there who, rather than create bookmarks for their sites, save links on their desktops or in sub-folders of My Documents. And when these people migrate to Ubuntu, they expect to be able to open them, unaware it is a Microsoft-only format (which, if I must point again, is actually a shortcoming of IE).

But there is a way to open these .url shortcuts in Ubuntu by adding support for it in Firefox yourself. While it takes a little fiddling, it’s not that hard if you follow the steps outlined. Basically, you’ll need to create a script to handle this task, make the script executable (then copy it to a system folder), create a symlink to it, then create a mimetype to recognise .url files. Don’t worry if that sounds too technical, as even if you knew what all that meant, you’d still need to follow these instructions.

So, firstly, designate a folder for the script to reside in (create one if need be; eg: /home/yourusername/Settings/Scripts), and open it. Right-click an empty area of the folder and choose Create Document > Empty File. A new blank text file with the generic name “new file” will be created; you’ll notice the name will be highlighted, meaning you can type the new name in, so type in fx-url, then hit Enter to finalise it. Double-click the file (or just hit Enter again if it is still selected) and paste the following script code into it:

# Script to make Microsoft Windows Internet Shortcuts (*.url) work on Linux.
# Open up the file
open(F,"<$ARGV[0]") or die "$0: Could not load Internet Shortcut file $ARGV[0]!\n";
# Find the URL
while($in = <F> and not $url) {
if($in =~ m/\s*URL\s*\=\s*\S*\s*15*/) {
$url = $in;
$url =~ s/\s*URL\s*\=\s*//; # Filter out the beginning stuff
$url =~ s/\s*15+//; # Filter out the nasty DOS carriage return!
system "firefox $url &";# or die "$0: Could not open $netscape\n"

Once you have exited and saved the script, you’ll need to make it executable so that it can run like a program. Open a terminal in the folder the script is in, and enter the following:

sudo chmod a+x fx-url

You’ll now need to copy the executable script to /usr/bin, so enter the following into the terminal:

sudo cp fx-url /usr/bin/fx-url

To create a symlink to fx-url in /usr/bin, enter the following command into the terminal:

sudo ln -s /usr/bin/fx-url /usr/bin/'Web Shortcut Browser'

This symlink step is not essential, but it allows you to specify the name that appears in the context menu when right-clicking on .url files. This way, you’ll see a menu item that says Open with Web Shortcut Browser, instead of justfx-url. Since you are only renaming the symlink, you can choose whatever name you’d like to see in the context menu; just replace the text Web Shortcut Browserin the above command with the name that you prefer.

Now you have to create a mimetype for the .url extension, so you’ll need assoGiate (read this for more info).

Open Applications > System Tools > File Types Editor, and click the New button. Enter the following information in the corresponding tabs:

Category: Text and source code
Name: x-url
Description: Microsoft Internet Explorer Shortcut

You can choose an icon for the .url file-type via the browse button […] – if you don’t have any, there are some at the bottom of this post that you can save to a folder like /home/yourusername/Settings/Icons.

Filename pattern: *.url

File contents:

When you click +Add, you’ll see more than one data entry field, but all you need to worry about is the Value: one.

Value: [InternetShortcut]

Now your system knows what .url files are, but it still doesn’t know what to do with them. You now have to associate the .url extension with the executable script fx-url, so right-click any .url file and go to Properties > Open With.  Click the Add button, and at the bottom of the Add Application window you’ll see the Use a custom command option; click this, then either browse to /user/bin and select the symlink you created, or enter /usr/bin/Web Shortcut Browser (or the appropriate name if you changed it). Click the Add button to save your changes (but leave theProperties window open as you’ll need it in the next step).

Now you need to make the associated action the default option for double-clicking, otherwise you’ll have to right-click .url files and choose the required option from the context menu. To make opening in Firefox the default action, in the Open With tab of  the Properties window, click the dot to the left of the entry you just added (eg: Web Shortcut Browser), then click Close.

Next, open any Nautilus (file manager) window and go to Edit > Preferences > Behaviour. In the Executable Text Files section, make sure that View executable text files when they are opened is selected. Click Close, and it is done (you may need to log out or reboot for the changes to take effect). Now when you right-click any .url file, you should see Open with Web Shortcut Browser as the top entry of the context menu, and it will be the default action for double-clicks.

Some Issues You May Come Across:

Error Opening .url Files in Firefox

If Firefox opens when you double-click .url files, but instead of going to the web page, it gives you this error message:

Firefox doesn’t know how to open this address, because the protocol (basehttp) isn’t associated with any program.

… then there is an issue with the code in the .url files themselves. If you open an .url in a text editor, you will see something like:


Basically, it means the first 2 lines are interfering, so will need to be removed, as they are not needed (and obviously causing problems). But you won’t have to do so manually, as we can delete the offending lines from all your .url shortcuts with one command. Open a terminal in the folder with all your .url files, and enter the following:

sed -i "1,2 d" *.url

That command that only edits .url files, removing the first 2 lines of each, then saves each file. They’ll open fine in Firefox now.

Specified .url Icon Doesn’t Appear

If the icon you picked for the .url file-type isn’t showing, but is a generic text icon, you’ll probably find this is only the case with Nautilus, the default file manager in Ubuntu. If you have another like Thunar, you should see your icon displayed without issue. While this doesn’t really help the majority of Ubuntu users, I should point out that once you’ve opened each .url in Firefox, and bookmarked them all, you won’t really need to hold onto your old Internet Explorer shortcuts anyway.

But if this is bugging you, try updating the system icon cache with this command before rebooting:

sudo update-mime-database /usr/share/mime/

(This probably won’t do much if you have this error, so when I can figure out a fix I’ll update this tutorial)

Here are a few icons for the .url mimetype:


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When you right-click a file, there is a wealth of options available in the context menu that appears. At the bottom, you’ll notice Properties, and clicking it will let you change all sorts of things, and give you lots of info about the file (depending on the file-type).

In the first tab, Basic, you’ll see you can rename the file, and if you click on the icon on the left, you can change it to whatever you want. Note that this will change the icon only for the file specified, not all others of the same extension. If you want to change the icon for a whole file-type, read about creating your own mimetypes in Ubuntu.

If you’re ever having permissions trouble with a file, go to the Permissions tab and make sure you have full Read and write access. Also, if files of a specific extension are not opening in anything (and a default program has been specified), or if scripts aren’t being executed, or certain text files not opening, then you may need to tickAllow executing file as program.

The last thing you can do is change the default application for the whole file-type under Open With, and all you need to do is select another from the list. You can +Add more, and if the app you want isn’t in the list that is presented to you, you can create your own custom command instead. In this example of .txt documents, if the desired program, Leafpad, isn’t in the Open With list, and isn’t presented after clicking +Add, you could type leafpad as the custom command.

So there you have a few ways to get greater control over your files. As you can see, changing the default program a file-type opens in is a quick and easy task, and you can customise your most important files to have their own unique icons.


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