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Feature: Ubuntu

Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

By Bruce Byfield on January 10, 2008 (9:00:00 AM)

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For years, discerning Windows users have relied on Tweak UI, a semi-official Microsoft program for system settings not available on the default desktop. Now, in the same tradition and with something of the same name, Ubuntu Tweak (UT) offers the same advantage to Ubuntu users. Currently at version 0.2.4, for now UT is limited to features for GNOME and focuses mainly on changing default desktop and system behavior and how GNOME interacts with your hardware, but this small feature set is more than enough for proof of concept.

UT runs on Ubuntu 7.10 and 7.04, and is available as either a Debian package of 127KB or as source code. Since UT apparently searches for the distribution and version, it does not run on earlier versions, or -- unlike many Ubuntu packages -- on other distributions that use Debian packages.

The package creates a menu item under Applications -> System Tools, and the program opens on a plain but effective interface, with a pane of icons on the left serving as as a table of contents and a right pane displaying the available options in the currently highlighted category. The interface is self-explanatory, although a few categories could be more plainly labeled for ease of use. For instance, "GNOME" actually refers to panel and right-click menu items, while "Desktop Icons" is more specifically about the default icons. However, perhaps such category names will become more appropriate as more options are added.

By contrast, one place where online help is needed is with the options themselves. The sort of desktop users that UT is aimed at are going to be spooked by options like "Metacity theme active window opacity shade" or wonder exactly what the advanced permissions, BurnProof technology, or OverBurn options for Nautilus entail. Both brief mouseover explanations and more detailed help would be useful for UT's target audience, but such finishing details cannot be expected in an early release.

A selection of options

Computer, the first entry in UT's table of contents, summarizes system and user information, but -- contrary to first glance -- does not allow any editing of this data. Below this summary, UT lists dozens of options, largely in terms of the part of GNOME that they apply to. Many are concerned with changing Ubuntu's default behavior. For instance, under Session Control, you have the option of whether to show the splash screen as GNOME starts up, or replace it with a graphic of your choice. Similarly, under Desktop icon, you can choose whether the Computer, Home, Trash, and Network icons display, and rename them.

Other options are concerned with the dialog windows you encounter. Under Session Control, you can disable the Logout prompt, while under the GNOME category, you can disable the Confirmation dialog that appears when you remove a panel.

A third category of options affects how GNOME interacts with your hardware. Under Power Manager, you can disable the Hibernation and Suspend options, or, if you are on a laptop, adjust the CPU frequency depending on whether you are running on AC or battery power.

An especially powerful set of options is placed under the general category of Security, where you can choose to disable the Alt-F2 popup command shell, printing, or saving to disk. All these features could be ideal for a system administrator who needs to limit what users can do.

So far as I can see, UT offers no options that you could not get by editing the ./gconf folder in your home directory. However, desktop users are unlikely to be aware of that folder unless they happen across the Show Hidden Files option in Nautilus. And, even if they are aware of gconf, they might well be daunted at the idea of editing XML files, particularly without a guide.

Ubuntu Tweak fills a definite need. If the steady trickle of suggestions for additional options on the project's Web site is any indication, there are plenty of Ubuntu desktop users who appreciate such ease of use. If UT is somewhat limited in functionality now, as it develops, it should evolve into a useful addition to Ubuntu's desktop tool kit.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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on Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 78.156.71.25] on January 10, 2008 09:56 AM
is there really such a thing as a discerning Windows user

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 146.23.212.21] on January 10, 2008 10:15 AM
Discerning Windows users live a perpetual state of sedation, to stop them hurting themselves when punching the screen during yet another system failure.....
Okay Debian users get all the cool mods then? what about us RedHat (Fedora) users?

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Re: Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 91.106.143.39] on January 11, 2008 03:28 AM
With a bright blue hat, how could we be anything but cool?

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 146.23.212.21] on January 10, 2008 10:24 AM
Work Colleague Quote of the week :- "If my Vista won't do it, it's impossible." (& he was serious!!) - pass the valium.

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 80.254.84.119] on January 10, 2008 11:40 AM
The sad thing is that people need tools like these. IMHO, these important settings should be dealt with in GNOME itself, not in some 3rd party app. Simplicity is good, but when it makes me fire up gconf-editor to change something really basic, then it's oversimplifying things.

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Re: Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.244.156.75] on January 10, 2008 07:22 PM
Dude get a life

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 124.43.104.13] on January 10, 2008 01:03 PM
yes I have.Please post for me

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.200.91] on January 10, 2008 01:42 PM
nice wok

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 75.175.58.82] on January 10, 2008 04:29 PM
Oh, goody. A Windows kludge, necessitated by bad design, is now duplicated in GNOME. Now, what does that say?

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Re: Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 91.106.143.39] on January 11, 2008 03:26 AM
That Ubuntu or whoever is making this is attempting to make it a bit easier for someone to get the benefit of using Linux without having to hand configure everything, while still leaving the choice to do it in other ways for those who want to. Isn't Linux supposed to be about choice?

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 195.14.69.251] on January 10, 2008 05:35 PM
try here for complete screenshots http://www.ubuntugeek.com/howto-tweak-ubuntu.html

Great pick

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 134.174.149.186] on January 10, 2008 06:34 PM
What is the advantage of this program over gconf-editor, precisely? Or another duplicate effort to do the same thing? (Not that gconf-editor couldn't be improved, though.)

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.244.156.75] on January 10, 2008 07:13 PM
Man this is as wack as a heart attack. Who needs this thing? If you really want to be a linux guru, learn how to tweak everything from CLI. And STOP trying to duplicate a winBlows people.

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.244.156.75] on January 10, 2008 07:15 PM
phuck all u phags!!

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.244.156.75] on January 10, 2008 07:17 PM
adsfadfadafadfadf

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 201.80.200.180] on January 10, 2008 07:38 PM
UbuntuĀ“s freetards, keep up copying Windows solutions.

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sabayon

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 169.233.25.12] on January 10, 2008 08:25 PM
i thought i'd put a plug for something previously reviewed by linux.com: sabayon. offers much more flexibility through a xnest session that acts as a what-you-see-is-what-you-get desktop customization editor.

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: DylanMcCall on January 11, 2008 03:45 AM
To those claiming that this is an example of "bad design" in GNOME: This is a small third-party tool precisely because these options are unimportant to the majority of users. Flipping through here for the heck of it, I have changed a single thing (wheel on window title gives me the Shade action). Other than that, GNOME has done an excellent job of choosing sane defaults. If anything, this tool shows how GNOME has done simple interface properly. On the other hand, Windows' TweakUI is something I could not live without.

Besides that, most of the stuff in Ubuntu Tweak is really just extra configuration that happens to have good effect, such as in the Compiz Fusion section.

It would be cool if Gconf-editor got some love, and I think that would be a great place to unload some effort. Perhaps an entirely new program, since the existing one definitely feels more difficult than is necessary. Gconf gives us some really great tools to present that editor in a user-friendly manner, and they just have to be applied nicely with friendliness in mind :)

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Ubuntu Tweak off to a good start

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 194.160.135.33] on January 11, 2008 09:17 AM
it's perfect!
I want to see how would any stupid user show/hide computer icon on his desktop via gconf-editor!

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