Are you sick with Windows? How to log in and start using Linux

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Jack Wallen continues his introduction to Linux for new users, this time going through the process of logging in, updating and installing applications.

Are you sick with Windows? How to log in and start using Linux, Techfeeddata
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Image: Larich/Shutterstock

I started using Linux in ’97, and a few weeks ago, I actually watched Linux on Twitter at least three times. That’s something I never thought I’d see, but I’m glad it happened. For me, that is a sign that the open source operating system is starting to gain more market share on the desktop.

As the market share of Linux desktop continues to rise, it means more and more new users will jump on board. That’s why I started this new “Sick of Windows”? a series that guides new users in each step of using an open source operating system. First I showed you how to test-drive Linux and then I followed how to install Linux. During this series, I used the first OS as an example. The reason is that the first OS offers a very clean and simple experience (with the exception of one-off of that bit) all over the Linux world. Does that mean it is the best distribution you can use? Not at all. And since there are so many distribution options, there is something for everyone. The good news is that the first OS installation is a good picture of how easy it is to install Linux. If you are able to install this app, you can install Ubuntu, Linux Mint, ZorinOS, Deepin and any modern versions of Linux.

With that said, we will take our next step by logging in and using the operating system. I want to show you how easy it is to speed up Linux on desktop.

You will need

I will continue to use the original OS as an example, so you will need a working example of that desktop OS and that is it.

How to log in and update the OS

You may be asking, “Why bother showing us how to access the desktop?” The answer is simple — I don’t want to think about anything.

So, to get into the first OS, start your computer and wait for the login screen. When you see the login screen (Picture A) type your username (which is not your name, but the username you created when you entered) and your password.

Figure A

Are you sick with Windows? How to log in and start using Linux, Techfeeddata
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The elementary OS login screen.

After your initial login, you’ll be greeted by a welcome app (Figure B), which allows you to set up a few features such as the look of the desktop, enabling Night Light, automatic deletion of old temporary and trashed files, online accounts and installing applications.

Figure B

Are you sick with Windows? How to log in and start using Linux, Techfeeddata
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The elementary OS welcome app.

You don’t have to worry about any of these configurations, as they can all be taken care of later.

One of the first things you should do is check for updates. Take a look at the AppCenter icon on the panel (far end, looks like a little shop front). A red circle with a number (Figure C) indicates there are updates available.

Figure C

Are you sick with Windows? How to log in and start using Linux, Techfeeddata
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The elementary OS App Center indicating there are updates available.

Click the AppCenter icon and then click the Installed tab. Here (Figure D) is where you can install all available upgrades.

Figure D

Are you sick with Windows? How to log in and start using Linux, Techfeeddata
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The AppCenter updates tab is ready to upgrade some apps.

That number 5 was a bit misleading. One of those updates is for the operating system itself. As you can see above, there are 51 OS component updates. It’s very important that you always install updates as soon as they become available (so you can keep your operating system and its apps up-to-date and secure).

Click Update all and the upgrade will begin.

How to find and install applications

One of the things you should be aware of is that elementary OS ships with a bare minimum of applications. This is also where it veers away from being as user friendly as it could be. If you click on Applications in the top left corner (Figure E), the app menu will open.

Figure E

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The elementary OS desktop includes the applications menu for finding and launching applications.

Scroll through the elementary OS menu (Figure F), and you’ll see how few applications are installed out of the box.

Figure F

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The elementary OS menu seems a bit barren at first.

You will find the following useful applications:

  • Email — read, send, delete email (and spam).
  • Music — play your favorite songs.
  • Tasks — keep a list of all the tasks you need to take care of.
  • Calculator-add, remove … you get an idea.
  • Document Viewer — view all the PDFs that people send you.
  • Videos — watch videos.
  • Web — Browse TechRepublic (and other sites).

At this point, you probably think, “Those are not enough requests to help me get my job done!” Don’t worry, AppCenter is your friend. Let me show you how to install the LibreOffice office suite.

Usually, I would just say, open AppCenter, search LibreOffice and click Free, then click Free again. However, even the first OS AppCenter has lost most of the tools you may need. If we were using Ubuntu (or a similar distribution) the software installer GUI could have additional inputs. Hopefully, this is something the first OS developers will be dealing with in the future (otherwise, I may have to stop recommending this distribution to new users).

Let’s fix that. Warning, we will use the terminal window. Don’t worry: It’s easy.

Open the Apps menu and click Terminal. When the terminal opens, type:

sudo apt-get install snapd -y

Press Enter on your keyboard to execute the command. When prompted, type in your user password and dial Enter again. Once snap support has been installed, you can install LibreOffice with the command:

sudo snap enter libreoffice

This will add LibreOffice and add entries to the apps menu. Installation may take some time, as snap installation is not as fast as installing with AppCenter.

And that, my friends, is one of the most challenging things you should do on desktop Linux. And remember, if you use a distribution like Ubuntu, you will never do that. Hopefully, this may prompt early OS developers to add AppCenter support automatically (so it’s easier for new users to install the apps they need).

That’s how you use Linux. I will continue with this series, but switch to Ubuntu Linux, for a better experience of how easy it is to use an open desktop operating system.

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