Monday, 29 June 2015

Elementary OS and Apps

Just a note about the odd looking screenshot.  I usually have one image spread across two monitors.  In this shot I have the same image on each screen, but the screens are each of vastly different size and resolution.  that's why the odd black sectio top and bottom.  :-)

A little further into usage of Elementary OS Freya and I am discovering more good bits.  One f the best bits of news is that as far as I recall, so far not one of my computers running Elementary OS has crashed.  Crashing on relatively old computers was one reason I moved away form KDE and Mint KDE.  Even XFCE was causing problems and Gnome.  Well I just had problems working wit it.  But so far Elementary has coexisted nicely with the various things I have changed to make it 'mine'.

I wrote previously about myt dislike for some aspects of the Plank dock, and that I have installed Docky.  One thing Docky gave me was the ability to scroll through my desktops using the mousewheel.  A neat thing about Elementary is that because it is using its own window manager and other bits, there is a small but devoted team writing applications just for it.  One of the Elementary App sites is here:

And one of those Apps is a simple workspace switcher for the wingpanel indicator.  Now, this indicator is missing possibly the most useful component.  The ability to switch desktops with the mousewheel.  But on the other hand, what it does is let me swap between a fixed number of desktops, and dynamically added desktops.  While I wasn't a fan of dynamic desktops before Elementary Freya, I am now.

In the picture at the top of the page you might just be able to make out the workspace indicator (showing Workspace 1).  Here's a close up of the Workspace Indicator App.
And here it is open for switching to the next dynamically created work space.

 Here is the App with the preferences window open.

You can rename workspaces to reflect what you are doing on them at any given time.  So maybe Workspace 1 could be called 'Browsing', Workspace 2 might be called 'Graphics' and so on.  And of course, switch dynamic workspaces on or off.

As  mentioned.  It would be nice to be able to simply scroll the mouse wheel on the App and switch workspaces. 
But I'm sure the developer has either thought of that already and has a good reason not to implement it, or that I can make a few tweaks to the code myself.

Until then, it serves as a reminder of what workspace I am actually on at the moment, and as a way to set the workspaces to a definite number and rename them if I am doing say, web work on one and graphics work on another.
Finally, here's the link directly to the home page for this handy little tool.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Elementary OS Freya and Docky - (by Ross Devitt)

I like Docky better than Plank.  And I do all sorts of things to Docky including making my own custom additions with their own icons to make it do stuff, because, well, it is simple.

But no matter that I have used it for years, occasionally I will find something it does that I simply didn;t know.  And a few minutes ago I found one trick.

I like to have the icons ZOOM larger as I move the mouse over them.  The normal way to change the zoom amount is to go into Docky Settings and select a dock, then adjust the zoom amount for that dock.  You can zoom up to 400% above the base icon size you have chosen.

Today I discovered quite accidentally that scrolling the mouse wheel over an icon on Docky while holding down the CTRL key will also allow you to change the zoom size.

No only that, but I can zoom far further than 400% as you can see in the screen shot!  Obviously this is a ridiculous amount of zoom, but there are times when I do adjust the zoom amount and this is a nice easy way to do it without going into settings.
Elementary across two monitors - Docky zoomed on primary screen with CTRL and mouse wheel
Wallpaper - One of the wallpapers that comes with Elementary OS

Monday, 8 June 2015

Elementary OS Freya - Desktop Switching with Two Monitors

Elementary OS Freya on Two Screens - Dolphin File Manager - and KIM (Right Click Image Menu)
Wallpaper - The Rocks - Nara Inlet, Whitsundays, Queensland Australia
Another one of my little annoyances with Elementary OS Freya has been solved.  I use two monitors and I often have related tasks across two screens on each workspace.  So my main workspace for example might be running my web browser on one screen, and either a video or a music player on the other.

Then I might switch to another workspace where I do my writing in Libre.  A third workspace might have whatever graphics I am working on, so GIMP or XARA or Inkscape might be on one screen along with Libre Office Draw, and my file manager and perhaps an image viewer on another screen.

The default setup with Elementary OS Freya was driving me nuts, because when I switched workspaces, only the primary display switched.  

Now, there are advantages to this, and one of them is that I can leave something like my to do list open all the time.  bt that can easily be accomplished by right clicking the title bar and choosing 'Always on visible workspace'.

Our friends at however have discovered the solution, and I'll paraphrase their answer here, because I am sure to forget it myself some time.

That behavior changed on Freya.  You can set it with dconf-editor. 
Go to org.gnome.mutter and uncheck workspaces-only-on-primary.

If you are using Elementary OS Freya and don;t see dconf-editor you should be able to find it in Software Sources, alternatively Google it and install it.
Once installed, if it doesn;t show in your menu, simply type dconf into the search box in your menu and it should appear.

Obviously if you want to switch back to having only the main screen swapping workspaces, just go into dconf-editor and check the box again.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Elementary OS Freya - Not Enough Apps? - (by Ross Devitt)

I've been reading views and even the very few complaints about Elementary OS, however most are positive comments.  In fact, it was a user review that caused me to try it in the first place.  There seems to be only a couple of things people are not satisfied with.
Elementary OS Freya with Conky Clock running in corner of second monitor
Wallpaper - Hill Inlet, Whitsundays, Queensland Australia

One is that there are not enough Applications built into it.  I noticed that too.  One reviewer was surprised that there's no native system monitor.  Another wondered why Libre Office and Firefox or Chrome are not installed as part of the default suite.  More users are concerned that only a few settings can easily be tweaked.

I thought about this, and realised one of the refreshing things about Elementary OS is that I don't have to delete a lot of stuff to replace it with things I like.  The developers have worked hard on what is essentially a new Operating System 'based on' Ubuntu, rather than simply adding a theme to an existing distribution.

To that end it seems they took a fairly new window manager, then wrote enough code around it that Gala has become a new window manager in its own right, with the advantage of still falling back to code that is compatible with the rest of Ubuntu.  So nothing actually breaks, but the user gains from this. They wrote their own 'shell', Pantheon, and again, it makes a pleasant experience.  It is interesting to see some of the big Linux Distros looking seriously at incorporating Pantheon and Gala.

However when it comes to Applications they seem to have decided on enough functions for a beginner to get the job done on basic installation, then leaving the end user who knows enough, to add and remove what they want.

So there's a basic Music Player and a basic Video Player which both work well.  The one thing I liked about the Video Player was that it has a working repeat function, something often either missing or not working in some other light weight players.

The Midori browser complies with modern web standards and is fast.  It also has a Private Browsing mode that doesn't load your system up with redundant tracking data as well as the normal browsing mode.  If you want to slow your system down, just add one ot the big browsers, like Firefox, Chrome or Opera.

I think the one big omission is the lack of an Office Suite.  There might be an argument that the Elementary OS team is building their own, but this is unlikely.  It would also be a stupid waste of resources.  There is little to be gained from trying to compete with something like Libre Office.  As cute as the Gnome and KDE office suites are, they simply don't come close to Libre.  I can see why someone would develop Calligra for example, as a hobby.  But for serious use?  Not really.  Although with a bit of work, the Caligra Writing program might be a reasonable standalone Desktop Publisher, as Microsoft Office was.  Bearing in mind that MS Office was never really as good as its DOS predecessor Express Publisher, which it seemed to more or less mimic. 

So in my personal opinion the one big thing missing from Elementary OS is Libre Office.  And fixing that is as simple as opening the Software Centre and clicking a couple of times!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Elementary OS - FREYA Workspace Switching with mouse wheel (by Ross Devitt)

Elementary OS Freya on Twin Monitors with Workspace Switcher selected on DOCKY
Wallpaper - Sunset at Islaverde Tropical Friendly Resort - Batangas, Philippines
I'm well into my Elementary OS usage now, and while I like it better every day there are some things about it that are simply annoying.  The main one is being able to switch the workspace using my mousewheel.

So because I always have two Linux operating systems installed I've been installing others where I'd had my XFCE installation to compare and see just how much this really means to me.

I tried KDE with Plasma 4.x again, and the newest KDE with Plasma 5, which happens to be so cumbersome it is horrible despite all the things I like about KDE.  I tried the new Chalet OS, which is kind of cutesy but has its own set of problems.  I tried Mint Mate and Cinnamon and remembered why I never use them.  Until it began breaking things Mint KDE was my favourite.

So I'm back now to TWO installations of Elementary OS Freya.  One with everything tweaked, and one to experiment on.

So, about the workplace switching, and the topic of this post.  In an earlier post I pointed out that the Elementary dock, called Plank, is based on Docky.  So it was not a big deal to install Docky and write some .desktop files to drag to docy so I had my own icons to launch whatever I want.

This morning I remembered a Workspace Switching 'docklet' in Docky.  Because I've always been able to switch workspaces in the past by scrolling the mousewheel I never found it useful.

When you click the Workspace Icon in Docky you are presented with a list of available workspaces and you simply click the one you want.  And Elementary being what it is, dynamically adds workspaces as you want, and deletes each space when all programs on that space have been closed.

 But, as well as being able to show a list of Workspaces to choose with a click, this clever little Docky Docklet allows you to simply scroll the mousewheel over it and it will scroll through the workspaces.

And it has one big advantage over scrolling the mousewheel on the desktop.  You don;t have to change out of full screen mode to get a clear spot to scroll!