Some useful tips and tools for Ubuntu

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Ubuntu is an awesome distribution and one of its goals is to be as user-friendly as possible. While a fresh installation is ready to use, you can still tweak it to fit your needs. The following 10 tools might be a useful addition to your computer.


Using tilda, your terminal is always only one button away from you. Upon pressing it, a small, customizable terminal window pops up and auto-hides when you don’t need it anymore.

Update: While tilda has some very nice features, a drop-down terminal can also be achieved in an easier fashion. Simply install xfce4-terminal (unless you already use xfce) and bind xfce4-terminal --drop-down to your desired key.


Plank is a very lightweight dock that is highly customizable. You can put starters and files on there, and even tools like a clock. Those who don’t like the classic menubar can use this package to have a more mac-like feeling.


As I have mentioned in another article, I personally don’t like Gnome. However, plenty of people use it, and the gnome-tweak-tool is an essential package. With this program, themes like cursor and icons or the position of the window buttons can be configured. It also adds some nice features that weren’t there before: For example, one can remap the caps-lock button to become an additional shift-, control- or escape-key, which is especially useful for vim users.


Of course, this list can’t be complete without the compiz package. This one adds beautiful animations to your desktop, like window snapping, desktop wall and fading on minimizing. You won’t recognize the look and feel anymore - especially when using the wobbly window feature.

sudo visudo

With this command, you can edit a configuration file. Add the entry Defaults pwfeedback to it. From now on, the password prompt in the terminal (e.g. when using sudo) will show asterisks (***). This is helpful to prevent double-pressing a key. More information can be found in the Ubuntu documentation.


This program is an extremely fast and lightweight PDF viewer. When compared with evince, zathura wins by miles: It can load even very big PDF files fastly, and scrolling is smooth anyways. Another cool feature is handy for vim users - many known key combinations (like the hjkl keys, or :q) work here as well.


It shouldn’t even be mentioned as additional tool, I think it should directly come with a fresh installation: wine. With wine, you can run many windows programs under Linux - and as its name says, wine is not an emulator. They also list the compatibility with programs on their website.