elementary OS (always with a small “e”) is a Linux distro that offers an intuitive route to replace your MS Windows or Apple OSX. It is perfect for the everyday tasks like web browsing, playing music, videos, games and yes, getting serious work done. With Linux at its heart, elementary OS combines stability, simplicity and speed with a beautiful and consistent looking interface. You will also notice the ease in which it is possible to set up printers, scanners, audio devices and other peripherals.

The latest release codename “Loki” is the 4th significant step towards the developer’s final vision. There are however, some “expected gaps” like the omission of an Office Suite and other useful applications but hey! that’s the purpose of this tutorial.

Tip

Before you jump into the tutorial below be sure to visit the “elementary AppCentre”. The AppCenter is the way you download additional apps and manage updates on elementary OS. The AppCenter has introduced a pay-what-you-want model for apps made specifically for elementary OS. The default options presented are $1, $5, and $10 however you can enter any number including $0. The amount of applications being developed for elementary is increasing at a rapid pace and is worth keeping your eye on, the majority are very useful to regular computer users. Try them out for yourself

About This Software Selection

As there are literally 1,000’s of applications available for Linux I use this section to put a spotlight on some of my go to applications (subjective though it may be). My objective was to create a complete desktop environment that could be used by my whole family while adopting as much out of the box elementary experience into our daily work-flow. That is what using this complete and comprehensive tutorial will give you too. As well as sharing the installation instructions I also provide a link to all the applications websites as well as including some “how to use” tutorials.

For the majority of my tutorials on this website I use the “Terminal” which can be found in your “Application Menu”. There are 2 reasons for this…

  1. It simplifies instruction sharing as the user just needs to copy a command and paste it on the command line.
  2. It is proven to be the quickest way to install software.

Tip: Only use terminal commands from trusted websites.

Essential Preparation

Update your System

This must be done before anything else. There are two ways to do this select your preferred method.

Method 1

Navigate to System Settings > select About then > Check for Updates

Method 2

Open the Terminal Application then copy/paste the following line

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade

System Preparation

Install the following tools to enable access to and installation of additional software tutorials to work. Open the Terminal Application then copy/paste the following line.

sudo apt install software-properties-common gdebi git dconf-editor software-properties-gtk

Install Graphics Drivers

  1. Before proceeding make sure the steps are complete.
  2. Open the Applications menu and type software and updates in the search field.
  3. Software Properties will be displayed and you will be asked for your password
  4. Select the Additional drivers tab and wait for it to update
  5. Select and install the proprietary graphics presented
  6. Complete the installation by closing everything and rebooting your computer.

Enable Canonical Partner Repositories

  1. Again… open the Applications menu and type software and updates in the search field.
  2. Software Properties will be displayed and you will be asked for your password
  3. Select the Other Software tab
  4. Select Canonical Partners then Close
  5. Your system will update automatically.

Install Multimedia Codecs

This command installs codecs to enable playback for all proprietary multimedia formats. It also installs common Microsoft fonts. Open the Terminal then copy/paste the following line.

sudo apt install ubuntu-restricted-extras libavcodec-extra ffmpeg

The installation will pause asking you to agree to the End User Licence Agreement (EULA) On your keyboard use the and [arrow keys] to agree to the terms

Install Essential Archiving Tools

Open the Terminal then copy/paste the following line.

sudo apt install rar unrar cabextract lzip lunzip arj unace p7zip-rar p7zip

Optimize your Laptops Battery Life

There is no substitute for manually turning off functionality not being used e.g. bluetooth when on battery power. That said installing tlp with its default settings provide a good balance between performance and power saving. To install open the Terminal then copy/paste these commands one at a time.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tlp tlp-rdw
sudo tlp start

Optimize Your SSD Partitions – TRIM

One way to optimize your SSD in elementary OS is by adding the TRIM command to the file /etc/rc.local. This command will be executed automatically on every boot therefore prolonging the life of your SSD.

First disable the weekly trim. Open the Terminal then copy/paste this command

sudo mv -v /etc/cron.weekly/fstrim /fstrim/

In the terminal open the rc.local text file using this command

sudo -i scratch-text-editor /etc/rc.local

The text file will look like this

Above the line exit 0 in that file, add the TRIM command fstrim for every automatically mounted EXT4 partition on your SSD. It is important you do not add the command for partitions that are not auto-mounted, e.g. the swap partition or for the /boot/efi partition. Your rc.local should look like this below when done. I highlighted what I added to my mine as an example.

Save the modified file then reboot your computer.

Install Preload (optional)

Pre-loading is best used with large and often-used applications like your web browser or office suite. The benefit is that preloaded applications start more quickly because reading from the RAM is always quicker than reading from the hard drive.

To install open the Terminal then copy/paste this command

sudo apt install preload

Choose an alternative Web Browser

Epiphany is the default web browser on elementary OS. It integrates well with elementary’s design philosophy offering a very fast, simple, clean, interface. The deal breaker for me is that it does not have a means to assign a homepage however I occasionally use it. Here are some alternatives…

Firefox

The elementary team made a wise decision making the capable epiphany web browser as the elementary default. Unfortunately I have been using the highly customizable Firefox for years and have all my mobile devices synced to it.

To install Firefox

sudo apt install firefox

One useful Firefox add-on for elementary users is addon-bar (restored}. It allows you to move all the Firefox icons to the bottom status bar making the top-bar a somewhat acceptable integration into the elementary environment.


Google Chrome/Chromium

 

Functionally, there is no difference between Google Chrome and Chromium. The main difference is Chromium is completely open-source and is easier to install

To install Chromium…

sudo apt install chromium

Alternatively, download and install Google Chrome

    • Select the 64 bit .deb (For Debian/Ubuntu) then…
    • Select Accept and Install.
    • On the screen that pops up make sure Open with… Software Install is checked then click OK

    Opera

    The big advantage of choosing Opera is it has a built-in VPN

    To install…

    sudo apt install opera

    Office and Productivity Applications

    Out of the box elementary OS does not have an office suite however it comes with a great integrated email client, calendar and calculator etc.

    LibreOffice Suite

    LibreOffice is a powerful office suite with a clean interface and feature-rich tools comparable to MS Office.

    To install LibreOffice…

    sudo apt install libreoffice libreoffice-gtk libreoffice-l10n-en-gb libreoffice-style-breeze
    • To improve LibreOffice integration with elementary go to Tools – Options – Edit – and change the icon theme to “Breeze”

    Dropbox (cloud storage)

    If you did not install the “git” package from the first instruction in the “Essentials” section then do so now by typing sudo apt install git into the terminal. Installing Dropbox using this command will integrate it with the elementary file manager and an applet will appear on the top panel

    Copy and paste the following line into the terminal (Answer Yes “Y” when prompted)

    git clone https://github.com/zant95/elementary-dropbox /tmp/elementary-dropbox bash /tmp/elementary-dropbox/install.sh

    After installation you will be asked to sign into your Dropbox account then syncronization will begin.

    To uninstall use this command

    git clone https://github.com/zant95/elementary-dropbox /tmp/elementary-dropbox bash /tmp/elementary-dropbox/uninstall.sh

    Gramps – Family History Data Manager

    Gramps (an acronym for Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Programming System) is a free software project and community. They strive to produce a genealogy program that is both intuitive for hobbyists and feature-complete for professional genealogists. It is a community project, created, developed and governed by genealogists.

    To install Gramps…

    sudo apt install gramps

    Atom Text Editor

    Atom is my text editor of choice when it comes to my web development projects. Using the default plugins, the following languages are supported: HTML, CSS, Less, Sass, GitHub Flavored Markdown, C/C++, C#, Go, Java, Objective-C, JavaScript, JSON, CoffeeScript, Python, PHP, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, shell script, Clojure, Perl, Git, Make, Property List (Apple), TOML, XML, YAML, Mustache, Julia & SQL.

    • To install Atom download the .deb file from the main website

    Open the terminal then type

    cd ~/Downloads

    then..

    sudo dpkg -i --force-depends atom-amd64.deb

    Only use the next command if you get a message about missing dependencies

    sudo apt install -f

    Creativity and Graphics

    Inkscape Vector Graphics

    Inkscape is a free and open-source vector graphics editor; it can be used to create or edit vector graphics such as illustrations, diagrams, line arts, charts, logos and complex paintings. Inkscape’s primary vector graphics format is Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), however many other formats can be imported and exported

    To install Inkscape…

    sudo apt install inkscape

    Darktable

    Darktable is an open source photography workflow application and raw developer similar to Adobe Lightroom. A virtual lighttable and darkroom for photographers. It manages your digital negatives in a database, lets you view them through a zoomable lighttable and enables you to develop raw images and enhance them.

    To install Darktable…

    sudo apt install darktable

    Kdenlive (Video Editor)

    Kdenlive is a feature rich intuitive video editor. To install kdenlive…

    sudo apt install kdenlive

    Checkout the Toolbox tab on their website for additional resources like more transitions and tutorials

    Multimedia (Video & Audio)

    Spotify

    Spotify music player opens up the entire universe of music to you and allows you to listen to your favorite bands and artists. It offers a subscription service with access to more than twenty million songs

    To install open the terminal (copy and paste 1 line at a time)

    sudo apt-key adv --keyserver hkp://keyserver.ubuntu.com:80 --recv-keys BBEBDCB318AD50EC6865090613B00F1FD2C19886
    echo deb http://repository.spotify.com stable non-free | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/spotify.list
    sudo apt update
    sudo apt install spotify-client

    MusicBrainz Picard

    Picard is a cross-platform music tagger. It can correct all your mp3’s (and other formats) with the correct tags and album art within minutes

    To install Picard…

    sudo apt install picard

    Youtube-dl (Download)

    Youtube-dl is a command-line program to download videos or extract audio from YouTube.com as well as all these sites.

    To install…

    sudo apt install youtube-dl

    To use…

    Simply type youtube-dl

    on the command-line for video download

    youtube-dl –extract-audio –audio-format mp3

    for simple audio extraction

    There is a host of other commands available if you need to be specific about video resolution or format etc


    Gaming

    Steam

    Delivers a range of games straight to your desktop. Includes automatic updates a catalogue of games and prices. Before installing you must check your PC/Laptop meets the minimum hardware requirements.

    To install Steam.

    sudo apt install steam

    Minecraft

    Since its release in 2009, Minecraft has become one of the most popular games in the world. In simple terms it’s a virtual land where players can create their own worlds and experiences, using building blocks, resources discovered on the site and their own creativity.

    To install open the terminal (copy and paste 1 line at a time)

    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:minecraft-installer-peeps/minecraft-installer
    sudo apt update
    sudo apt install minecraft-installer

    System Tools and Utilities

    Install Skype

    This installation assumes you have a x86-64 bit machine. To check type uname -m in the terminal

    To install open the terminal (copy and paste 1 line at a time)

    wget -O /tmp/skype.deb https://go.skype.com/skypeforlinux-64-alpha.deb
    sudo dpkg -i /tmp/skype.deb
    sudo apt -f install

    Transmission (Bitorrent Client)

    Transmission is a Bit-torrent client thatallows users to quickly download files from multiple peers on the Internet and to upload their own files.

    To install Transmission

    sudo apt install transmission-gtk

    GrSync Backup Utility

    Grsync is used to synchronize folders, files and make backups

    To install Grsync

    sudo apt install grsync

    MenuLibre

    MenuLibre is a simple menu editor that can create new application shortcuts, as well as edit existing ones all with an easy-to-use interface. Easily rearrange menu items or change individual icons

    To install MenuLibre

    sudo apt install menulibre 

    Gnome Disk Utility Tools

    Utilities to manage SSDs and Hardrives (Partitioning, mounting etc)

    To install

    sudo apt install gnome-disk-utility gnome-system-monitor gparted

    Bleachbit

    Bleachbit is used tp clean Your System and Free Disk Space

    To install Bleachbit

    sudo apt install bleachbit

    Appearance and Tweaks

    OK! I hear your say, elementary is so perfect why do you need to tweak it and change its appearance. My reasons are simple 1: Because little things bug me and 2: Because I can. This section is totally optional however it is what I did to my installation of elementary OS

    Assign the Super key to open the Application Menu

    Open the terminal and run this command

    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings panel-main-menu "['Super_L']"

    Disable the default single-click policy

    My preference is to double click on a file to open it.

    Open the terminal and run this command

    gsettings set org.pantheon.files.preferences single-click false

    To enable NumLock at login

    Open the Pantheon Greeter configuration text file

    Open the terminal and run this command

    sudo scratch-text-editor /usr/share/lightdm/lightdm.conf.d/40-pantheon-greeter.conf

    Add the following line to the end of the file

    greeter-setup-script=/usr/bin/numlockx on

    When you log out then in again NumLock should be turned on

    Change Plank (dock) Theme and Icon Size

    I like smaller icons and a transparent theme for Plank. To achieve…

    Ctrl – Right Click on any icon on the dock

    1. Change icon-size to 36(replace with your preference)
    2. Type “transparent” in theme. (without quotes)

    Get the full set of elementary icons

    I love the elementary icon theme. Unfortunately it is not a complete set for the applications I use. This issue has been resolved thanks to the developers and you can install the full set right from source.

    To install open the terminal (copy and paste 1 line at a time)

    git clone https://github.com/btd1337/elementary-full-icon-theme
    sudo mv elementary-full-icon-theme /usr/share/icons/
    gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface icon-theme "elementary-full-icon-theme"

    Install elementary Tweaks

    I might be one of the very few who is not fan of elementary tweaks and believe it’s the last thing you should install. We got this far in the tutorials without it. I mentioned at the beginning I want to maintain as much of the “out of the box” elementary experience as possible including the theming. The design and behavior of elementary is its signature. I think if I was to grow tired of it then it would be time to move on to another distro. For those who want it… here it is. For any new users I say use sparingly and with caution.

    To install open the terminal (copy and paste 1 line at a time)

    sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:philip.scott/elementary-tweaks
    sudo apt update
    sudo apt -y install elementary-tweaks
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