For better for worse, many Linux users end up installing Ubuntu as their default desktop OS. Since Canonical, Ubuntu parent company, ditched Unity and moved back to GNOME for their Ubuntu 18.04 LTS release, many previously disgruntled users, displeased with the Unity User Interface, have been tempted to come back for another try.

Below are a few suggestions for getting started on your new Ubuntu 18.04 installation. There are certainly more exhaustive guides out there (see our suggestions at the bottom), but we hope we help you find something new here.

Beautiful Ubuntu 18.04 Gnome Desktop

GNOME Shell Extensions

One cool thing about Ubuntu switching back to GNOME is that you can now install GNOME shell extensions.  Gnome shell extensions are managed through an extension store in your browser, which lets you easily install, uninstall, activate and configure. To do this you have to first:

Add the GNOME Shell Integration add-on to Firefox and create an account. Next, run the command:

apt-get install chrome-gnome-shell

After that you can click on the GNOME Shell Integration icon and start installing your shell extensions. Our favorite is Caffeine, which lets you turn off auto suspend and screensaver while you work.

The Caffeine Gnome Shell Extension lets you disable auto suspend and screensaver. Simply click on the coffee cup in the top bar so that it is displaying heat vapors, as seen in this photo.

We also recommend:

  • Coverflow Alt-Tab: Changes the look and feel of your alt-tab function.
  • Dynamic Top Bar: Lets the top bar become transparent when no application window is maximized.
  • Gno-Menu: Provides an old-school app menu!
  • Panel OSC: Changes the location of where your notifications appear.

There are many others, check out the GNOME Extensions list for more!

Turn Off Animations in Ubuntu 18.04

To turn off the application menu animations simply run the command:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface enable-animations false

To turn them back on, run:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface enable-animations true

Thanks to this blog post on Ubuntu Buzz for the tip.

Remove Amazon Web Launcher

For those of us concerned about privacy, it might be disturbing to see the Amazon icon located in Ubuntu's desktop application launcher. To remove it from your system completely, simply run:

sudo apt purge ubuntu-web-launchers

Install Additional Software

Below is some software we commonly install. Note, it includes non-free media software such as 'ubuntu-restricted-extras'. Please make sure to check out each of the software packages before installation just to confirm that they are indeed something you would find useful.

sudo apt-get install guake conky gimp terminator inxi gedit inkscape virtualbox qbittorrent bleachbit build-essential ubuntu-restricted-extras htop nmon redshift-gtk redshift 

Minimize Windows on Sidebar Click

Thanks to the wonderful folks, this handy little command allows you to minimize widows when clicking on the Ubuntu sidebar.

gsettings set click-action 'minimize'

Startup Applications

Installing software is great, but sometimes you want it to start automatically when you login! To set this up, open up the applications menu and search for "startup applications". From there you can configure software like Guake to launch automatically.

Startup applications are great. In this case you can see Guake, Nextcloud, and Private Internet Access VPN were added in addition to the default applications.

Get a VPN

Everyone should have a VPN, especially if you do work on the road or in cafes that provide public WiFi. While a VPN does not protect you from everything, it can mitigate damages related to insecure connections, protect your data, and prevent you from getting information stolen by accidentally logging into a honeypot hotspot.

With a desktop VPN application, managing your connection is very straightforward. 

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a great VPN that supports the Linux Community. However, we have also used both NordVPN and ProtonVPN, as well, and both work greatk. One great thing about a good VPN is that they often provide desktop and mobile applications, which makes setup relatively easy.

Optimizing and Customizing Linux Even Further

Above we have went through some very basic steps you can take to help get Ubuntu 18.04 working a little better. There are, however, many other more in-depth guides, depending on what you're looking for.