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Ubuntu explore software

How to perform an upgrade from Windows 7 to Ubuntu – Desktop tour and applications.
This is the third and the last guide in this series. In the first installment, we learned about considerations for an update from Windows 7 to Ubuntu, key differences in hardware and software between the two operating systems, the terminology, and how to safely backup data ahead of migration

Terminology

There are some small differences in common terms:

Windows 7Ubuntu
DesktopDesktop
Start menuActivities
TaskbarPanel (top) Dock (left)
System traySystem area
Windows ExplorerFiles (also known as Nautilus); commonly referred to as file manager
User’s default folderHome
FolderFolder or directory
Task managerSystem monitor
Command prompt (cmd)Terminal

In Ubuntu, your (default) user account will have administrative privileges, and be able to perform privileged tasks, like software installation, for instance. In such scenarios, you will be asked to provide your password. This is similar to the UAC dialog prompts in Windows. 

First login

Once Ubuntu starts for the first time, it will ask you to configure a few things. You have the option to configure your online accounts – this is somewhat similar to how you’d do this on a smartphone. This will make the configured accounts available to applications that support this functionality. For example, you can integrate Google Docs and Google Calendar into your Ubuntu desktop using Online Accounts. You can also send a system information report to Canonical, and enable location services, which may be used by applications that require it.

 

 

The last step in the first-login wizard will show you a grid of popular applications available in Ubuntu Software – the app store for Linux. At this point, you can install some popular applications you like or need. You can also do this later on, at any time. We will review this functionality shortly.

 

Desktop tour

The Ubuntu desktop has a different layout from Windows 7. There are two panels, one on the top, and one on the left. The top one contains Activities (application menu and search) in the left corner, Calendar and notifications in the middle, and a system area in the right corner. The left one is a launcher dock, and contains pinned application shortcuts (Favourites), and a grid-like icon that opens a full-screen view of your installed applications.

 

 

How to install applications in Ubuntu

This is probably the most important element of desktop usage, and there are notable differences from Windows 7.

  • In Windows 7, users would typically go to a website, download a program installer (exe or msi), and then run these files to install and configure their software. Some applications have a built-in update mechanism, but most do not, and it is up to the user to manage and update their applications as they see fit.
  • In Ubuntu, application management is done using Ubuntu Software, which utilizes a store model, similar to Android or iOS. When you search for applications in Ubuntu Software, you can also use categories, as well as view descriptions, screenshots, and user reviews to help you decide what you may like or need. You can also search for popular applications directly, e.g. Skype, Steam, Spotify, etc. Effectively, it also means you do not need to manually search for applications on the Web. You can install software using a secure store-like utility.

Snap Store

Ubuntu offers software in two formats – Deb and snap. When you search for applications through Software, you will be offered applications from the archives and the Snap Store. You can see the source in the description details.

Snaps do have various advantages over Deb packages. Snaps are self-contained applications, with security isolation and automatic updates, designed to be used on the desktop, in the cloud and IoT devices. Snaps can run on Ubuntu as well as any other Linux distribution that has snap support, which makes them easier to develop and distribute – something that has traditionally not been easy in Linux.

The complete technical reasons behind this are intricate and beyond the scope of this article. In general terms. Some applications are available in both formats, while others are exclusive to one or the other. Overall, in most cases, the user experience is pretty straightforward. In fact, you can explore the available catalog on software online, even without having installed Ubuntu.

Snap Store offers applications uploaded and managed directly by their publishers. It hosts thousands of applications, and is used by millions. It is available as a desktop application, but you can also browse the official website (even on a Windows system) to get an impression of the available software. There are also additional tools for developers, user forums, and more. The Snap Store has over 2,000 stable applications available for use.

System updates

Much like applications, when it comes to system updates, Ubuntu does things differently from Windows 7:

  • In Windows 7, system updates are done separately from applications via the Windows Update mechanism. Through Windows Update, you can receive system patches, drivers, and updates for other Microsoft products (like dotNET, Microsoft Office, etc).
  • In Ubuntu, after you have installed applications you want, you will receive updates for your software. Periodically, Ubuntu will search for drivers, security patches and application updates and install them automatically, whenever they become available.

Popular applications

By default, Ubuntu ships with the following applications:

  • Firefox browser
  • Thunderbird mail client
  • LibreOffice office and productivity suite
  • Rhythmbox music player
  • Videos media (videos and music) player
  • Cheese webcam application

If you require additional applications, you can simply search for them using Ubuntu Software. For example, all of the following are available: Android Studio, Atom, Blender, Chromium, Discord, Eclipse, Hiri, OBS Studio, Opera, OnlyOffice Desktop Editors, Skype, Slack, Spotify, Steam, Telegram Desktop, VLC, and thousands of others. The Snap Store also includes some Windows applications and games that are not normally natively available for Ubuntu.

For licensing reasons, Google Chrome is not currently available in either Ubuntu Software or Snap Store. However, you can manually download the Deb file from the official site – much like you would with an .exe installer file in Windows, and install it that way. Google Chrome will then be configured correctly, including updates.

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