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   How to create desktop shortcuts in Linux Mint, Ubuntu or Fedora if using a Gnome 2 desktop or a Gnome 2-like fallback desktop   
  The shortcut-creation methods on this page are applicable to the older 32-bit Ubuntu, Fedora or Mint releases which used a Gnome 2 desktop interface by default - and to a few more-recent 32-bit releases that still included a Gnome 2-like fallback desktop for the benefit of traditionalists or older machines.  This page was, therefore, relevant only to users of the version numbers highlighted in green and amber below...

Year    Ubuntu    Fedora    Mint      
2012    12.10     18    14   ~~ = Gnome 2-like fallback desktop not in these later versions.

 fb = Gnome 2-like fallback included.

~~ = Gnome 2 by default.
     12.04     17    13  
2011    11.10     16    12 fb  
     11.04 fb     15 fb    11  
2010    10.10     14    10  
     10.04     13    19  
2009    19.10     12    18  
     19.04     11    17  

1.  Desktop Shortcuts
Create shortcuts on a Gnome 2 desktop for Applications / Folders or Files / Trash / Webpages / Drives.
2.  Shortcuts on Panels (top or bottom panel)
Add shortcuts on a top or bottom panel for Applications / Folders or Files / Home Folder.
Move shortcut icons from the Desktop to a panel / Panel to the desktop / Panel to a topbar menu / Panel to another panel / Panel to a Start menu.
Sort icon positions on a panel.
3.  Shortcuts in the Quick Launch Area (qla)
Add shortcuts to the qla.
Unlock an inaccessible qla.
Add a Show Desktop icon.
Add a Start Menu button.
Add a Shortcut to the Backup Tool.
Add a Shortcut to Gnome's Nautilus file browser.
Add Shortcuts to applications.
Sort icon positions in the qla.
4.  Adding a Side Panel (Sidebar) with shortcuts on it
Add a side panel.
Configure a side panel.
Add shortcuts to a side panel for Applications / Folders or Files / Home Folder / Trash.
Move shortcut icons from a horizontal panel to a vertical side panel.
5.  Other tips for Gnome 2 desktops
Applications menu - how to add apps.
Background 1 - how to change the desktop wallpaper
Background 2 - how to import a favourite wallpaper.
Background 3 - a classic Linux wallpaper.
Blue Griffon - a WYSIWYG web editor for Linux users.
Buttons on oversize dialog boxes - how to view buttons if hidden off the bottom of the screen.
Compression - how to zip documents.
Emblems - how to add an emblem to a shortcut icon.
File Associations - how to re-associate files with a desired application.
Floppy disk drive - for old computers with a floppy disk drive, how to enable the drive in a distro which has removed support.
Icon appearance 1 - how to change the default image for system icons.
Icon appearance 2 - how to change the standard image for normal icons.
Icon names - how to change the name of a desktop shortcut.
Icon paths - how to mend a shortcut with a broken path.
Icon size - how to resize a desktop icon.
KolourPaint - an effective light-weight image editor.
OpenOffice - adjust size of toolbar shortcut-icons.
Maximised Windows - how to make a shortcut always open in a maximised window.
Mint's default Desktop icons - how to show/hide Mint's desktop icons for Computer, Home Folder or Trash.
Mint's Favourites Panel - how to add/remove apps from Mint's Favourites panel.  More desktop tips >>
  Fig 1 - The screen-snippet below shows four examples of desktop shortcuts for folders and files using Ubuntu 11.04 - the last version of Ubuntu to include a fallback option to a Gnome 2 desktop.  Shortcuts like these could be produced on any Gnome 2 desktop by any one of eleven different ways - as detailed later in item 1.2 in the left-hand column.

Limitations in this article - The leading Linux distributions of Ubuntu, Fedora and Mint changed, in 2011, from using the established Gnome 2 desktop environment as the default, to using either Gnome 3 (for Fedora 15+ and Mint 12+) or Unity (for Ubuntu 11.04+).  These later desktop styles are distinguishable by an interactive sidebar with launcher-icons down the left-hand side of the screen and modern tablet-like interactive access to applications.  These next-generation Gnome 3 and Unity desktops are not shown in any of the screenshots on this page, only the Gnome 2 style.During the transition period, if an older computer lacked the resources needed to render a Gnome 3 or Unity desktop properly (needs 3D acceleration and tons of RAM), it was usual for a distro's live-demo disc to automatically try to substitute a fallback desktop.  The fallback was Gnome 2 for Ubuntu 11.04 and Unity 2D (not 3D acceleration) for Ubuntu 11.10+.  The fallback for Fedora 15 and Mint 12 was Gnome 2-like but better as the quick launch area worked properly (i.e.was not locked off) for the first time since Mint 8.  Even if Gnome 3 installs itself successfully, a Fedora or Mint distro may still include an option to go back to the Gnome 2-like fallback desktop if a user is not happy with Gnome 3.

From 2012, distros will increasingly become 64-bit only.  64-bit distros will not run on older 32-bit XP-era machines.  But older 32-bit distros will run on 64-bit machines.

It can be deduced from the above that a user wanting a traditional Linux desktop experience can guarantee that only by using an older, resource-friendly distro like Ubuntu 10.10, Fedora 14 or Mint 11.  Though, in the case of Unity Ubuntu, it is actually feasible to subsequently install Gnome 2 so it becomes an available option on boot up.

If any of the shortcut-creation methods on this page fail to work on a Gnome 2 or a fallback desktop on your particular computer, try one of the alternative ways if more than one is given.  If there is no alternative method which works, it's just a case of continuing to live without that particular type of shortcut and not worrying about it.

If you are trying a distro's Gnome 2-like fallback desktop and find you cannot access any right-click context menus, hold down the Alt key every time when doing the right-click.  This Alt+right-click tip for fallback desktops needs to be memorised since it will not necessarily be repeated every time it might apply in the methods in the left-hand column.

The methods on this page can be practised while running any Gnome 2 or fallback desktop from a distro's live demo disk without needing to install the distro first.  However, any such practising will exist only in the current session's memory, so the changes would have to be redone for real if you subsequently went ahead and installed the distro.

Desktop tips continued from LH column
Mint's Menu Panel - how to add/remove apps on Mint's main Menu panel.
Nautilus's background colour - how to change the colour of the file manager's window.
Places Menu - how to add new places to a Places menu.
Printer & Scanner detection - no shortcut to success.
Scrollbars - how to remove overlay scrollbars.
Screen resolution - how to change the screen res.
Shut Down Fedora 15 - press Alt to see the menu.
Text under toolbar buttons - how to improve gedit.
Tile windows - how to tile windows side-by-side.
Tooltips - how to change a shortcut's tool-tip.
Zipping - how to handle archives with Linux.
  Not all given methods would work in all Gnome 2 distros.  If one way won't work, try another.

1. Create desktop shortcuts
1.1 Desktop launchers for applications (4 ways)
1.1.1 At a Gnome 2 desktop, click the Applications button or the Menu button, whichever is available, or press Alt+F1 > browse through the list of applications to the required one > either use the mouse's left button to drag the app from the list to the desktop or right-click on the app > choose 'Add this launcher to desktop'.
1.1.2 Mint 12's Gnome 2-like fallback desktop worked as above but Fedora 15's fallback failed to allow shortcuts of any kind to be sited on its desktop.
  Four examples of 'shortcuts' to applications can be seen in Fig 2.

Fig 2 (above) - This screensnip from Linux Mint 9 shows four examples of application launchers (shortcuts without arrows) added to the bottom-left of the desktop.  Launchers like these can be produced by any of the four ways in item 1.1.1 in the left-hand column.
1.2 Desktop links to folders or files (3 methods, 11 ways)
1.2.1  Open the Home Folder's window > browse to the target folder, subfolder or file and click to select it > make a symbolic link to it by any of the following sequences...
  a) right-click on the item > Make Link, or
  b) Edit > Make link, or
  c) Ctrl+M
A symbolic link will appear in the same directory as the target file or folder.  Transfer it to the desktop by any of the following three sequences...
  d) right-click on the link's icon > Cut > right-click on the desktop > Paste or, if available,
  e) right-click on the link's icon > Move to > Desktop, or
  f) use the mouse's left button to drag the link's icon over the desktop and drop it there [see sidenote].
1.2.2 2nd method: Open the Home Folder's window > left-click the target folder, subfolder or file to select it > hold down Ctrl+Shift > use the mouse's left button to drag the object over the desktop > release the mouse button first > then release Ctrl+Shift.
1.2.3 3rd method: Grab the target file or folder with the mouse's left button > then hold down Alt > drag the object over the desktop > release the mouse button first > then release Alt > at the context menu, choose Link Here.  Do not release Alt first or the target will be moved.
  Fig 3 (below) - This screen-fragment from Mint 9 shows examples of links to a folder and to two files on the bottom-right of the desktop...

The arrowed links above can be produced by any of the nine ways in item 1.2.1 left or the two faster ways in 1.2.2 & 1.2.3.

Sidenote to 1.2.1(f):  In some distros, method 1.2.1(f) may result only in creating a link to a link - which would fail to work if the superfluous first link were later deleted.  If you do only get a link to a link, delete the secondary link on the desktop and use the preceding methods 1.2.1(d) or (e) to ensure the symbolic link is correctly moved.

Why there are so many ways, (3 x 3) + 1 +1 = 11, is anybody's guess.  Decide which one best suits your style of working so you only have to remember that one, and forget the rest.
1.3 Desktop shortcut for the Trash can
1.3.1 Mint methods (to Mint 11)...

(i) Click Menu > Control Centre > Appearance > Desktop Settings* > tick/untick the Trash option > Close, or...

(ii) Click Menu > All applications or (iii) Alt+F1 > System, then... > Preferences > Desktop Settings.

* Mint 8: instead of a Desktop Settings option, the route was Look and Feel > Desktop Configuration Tool.
  Sidenote to 1.3.1:  See Fig 3 above for an example of Mint 9's Trash icon, 4th icon along, which could be hidden or unhidden as per item 1.3.1 left.  
1.3.2 Ubuntu or Fedora method:  These two distros, when still with Gnome 2 by default, normally came with a small Trash icon tucked away somewhere on a panel, as can be seen in Fig 1.  To put a Trash icon on the desktop instead was a bit round-the-houses - so don't bother unless you must.  Here goes: right-click on the top-left menubar > Edit Menus > in the left pane, expand Applications > select System Tools > in the right-hand pane, tick Configuration Editor > Close button.  Now click Applications > System Tools > Configuration Editor.  In the left-hand pane, expand 'apps' > scroll down to Nautilus and expand it > select desktop > in the right-hand pane, tick 'trash_icon_visible' > close the Configuration Editor.
  Sidenote to 1.3.2:  If you put a Trash icon on a Gnome 2 Ubuntu or Fedora desktop, and liked it that way, that would make any existing smaller one on a panel superfluous - meaning you could right-click on it to remove it from the panel if you wanted to.  
1.4 Desktop shortcuts to websites or ftp locations (2 methods)
1.4.1 Right-click on the desktop > Create Launcher > in the "Name" field, type the name of a Web page (e.g. youtube) > at the "Command" field, type (or paste) "firefox" (without the quotes, with the space) > leave the Comment field blank > OK.  That specimen web address can be replaced with any full url or ftp address.
1.4.2 Connect to the internet > open Firefox > go to the desired web page > use the mouse's left button to drag the small icon at the left of Firefox's address bar and drop the icon on the desktop.  A web-enabled shortcut should appear on the desktop.
  Fig 4 (below) - This screenfrag from a Mint 9 desktop shows four shortcuts to web pages.  When creating web-enabled links like these, by method 1.4.1, initially an icon will appear as a spring-pad icon, as per the one on the left below.  But a right-click on any such icon allows its image, name and target web address to be changed to anything you like - as indicated by the other three examples.

1.5 Desktop shortcuts to other drives (partitions)
1.5.1 On a single hard disk with both Windows and Linux installed to different partitions (a dual-boot setup), there would be at least two separate partitions but could well be five, or even more, depending how efficiently a user chooses to organise the system files, swap file and data storage on the computer.  With Windows, to get to the different Windows-only partitions, it's a simple case of using Windows Explorer or (My) Computer.  With Linux, to get to the different Linux and Windows partitions, it's also a case of using the file manager except, when any Linux or Windows partition is accessed, a shortcut to that Linux or Windows partition is automatically put on the desktop for the duration of the current session (called 'mounting' the drive).  Seeing these icons appearing, and later having to unmount them, can be disconcerting to a newbie at first.
  The advantage of visibly mounting drives is that you don't have to keep opening the file browser each time you want to re-access the same partition during the current session, you can simply double-click the desktop shortcut.

In Linux Mint to v11, the mounting/unmounting behaviour could be or was hidden.  The desktop would then act exactly the same as in Windows.

2. Add shortcuts to a top or bottom panel on a Gnome 2 desktop
2.1  Panel shortcuts to applications (2 methods, 5 ways)
2.1.1 At a Gnome 2 desktop, right-click in an empty place on any panel (to the right-of-centre if it's a bottom panel) > from the menu, choose 'Add to Panel' > at the panel, scroll down the list of objects or, for more objects, double-click 'Application Launcher' near the top of the panel (or select it and click the Forward button) > click the expander arrows to open each categorised list > drag an object from the list to a panel (or select an object from the list and click the Add button) to add it at the spot on the panel where you first right-clicked.  Repeat the process to add more apps to the same panel > when finished, click Close.
2.1.2 At a Gnome 2 desktop, click the Applications button or a Menu button, whichever is available, or press Alt+F1 > browse through the list or sublists to the required program > using the left mouse button, drag the app from the list and drop it in the middle of the destination panel.

Fig 5 (above) - This miniaturised screenshot shows a personalised Fedora 14.  Gone are the three long menu buttons (for Applications, Places & System), normally on the top bar, replaced in the bottom-left corner by Gnome's alternative single menu button (the blue circle with an f (for Fedora) on it.  That tidying of the top bar left space on it to add lots of quick-launch shortcuts by any of the ways under item 2.1 left.  Fedora 14 came without any shortcuts in the bottom-left quick launch area, not even a Show Desktop icon.  A procedure to add that one and others, so as to have a taskbar like Fig 5 above, is disclosed in section 3.
2.2  Panel shortcuts to Files or Folders
2.2.1 Navigate to the target folder or file > use the mouse's left button to drag the target object over the middle part of the destination panel and drop it there.  If this simplest method fails try 2.2.2
2.2.2 Navigate to the target folder or file > hold down Ctrl+Shift > use the mouse's left button to drag the folder or file over the middle part of the relevant panel > release Ctrl+Shift first > then release the mouse button.
  Fig 6 (below) - In the screengrab below, from Mint 9, the first three shortcuts are the same as the ones previously shown in Fig 3 - except they are now tucked away on the right hand side of the taskbar instead of being on the desktop.  Hover over the icons for more info.

2.3 Panel shortcut to the Home Folder
2.3.1 Click Places, or Menu > Places, whichever is available [or, Mint 11 or lower, press Alt+F1 > Places] > Home Folder > on the menu, locate the Home Folder item and try using the left mouse button to drag the object and drop it in the middle of the destination panel.  If that fails, try 2.3.2.
2.3.2 Open the Home Folder's window > at the breadcrumb trail on the toolbar, use the mouse's left button to drag the right-most breadcrumb button down to the bottom of the screen as far as it will go and drop it there.  If that simple drag fails, try holding down Ctrl+Shift before dragging the breadcrumb button over a panel > release Ctrl+Shift first > release the mouse button (to drop the object on the panel).
  For an example of a Home Folder icon on a panel, see the fourth icon up on the sidebar panel in Fig 12

To move and sort icons added to a panel, see item 2.9.
2.4 Move shortcuts from the desktop to a panel
2.4.1 Use the mouse's left button to drag the icon from the desktop and drop it on the panel.

2.5 Move shortcuts from a panel to the desktop
2.5.1 Right-click on the shortcut icon on the panel > on the context menu, ensure there is no tick against the option Lock To Panel > then use the mouse's left button to drag the icon over the desktop and drop it there.

2.6  Move shortcuts from a panel to a top bar drop down menu
2.6.1 A GUI method for this was not available in Ubuntu/Fedora with Gnome 2. >>
  Cont. from 2.6...

2.7 Move shortcuts from one panel to another panel
2.7.1 Right-click on the icon to be moved > ensure the menu option Lock To Panel is unticked > on the same right-click menu, click Move > then use the mouse's left button to slide the icon over to the destination panel and drop it on there.

2.8 Move shortcuts from a panel to a Start menu
2.8.1 A Windows-only feature.  A GUI method to do this on Mint's Gnome 2 Start menu was not available.
2.9 Sorting icons - how to sort the position of shortcut icons added to a taskbar panel
2.9.1 In Gnome 2 desktops, the main part of the taskbar is a standard panel item called the window list.  This is the area where labelled buttons for any opened windows are displayed.  It is essential to keep any shortcut icons added to the bottom panel well away from the left side of the window list, otherwise the window buttons would be caused to disappear from view behind the icons.  That meant all such icons had to be either kept over to the RHS of the taskbar panel or put firmly within the quick launch area on the taskbar panel (the latter is section 3 next).  For icons destined to be moved to the RHS, the moving and sorting was basically a combined operation.  After putting new icons on a taskbar panel, right-click on each icon in turn (Alt+right-click for fallback desktops) > Move > move the mouse to slide the icon to the right, as far as it will go (e.g. as in Fig 6) > left-click to exit the Move mode. >>
  With older, pre-fallback desktops, slide newly added icons only to the right, never to the left (unless the quick launch area has previously been unlocked so the qla can safely receive them, as per section 3 next).  When the icons are all on the right, use right-click > Move (to sort them into position) > then right-click on each icon again > Lock To Panel.  
3. Add shortcuts in the quick launch area on a Gnome 2 or a Gnome 2-like fallback desktop
  Putting shortcuts to a handful of key tools in the quick launch area is one of the best efficiency aids anybody can avail themselves of on a traditional Windows or Linux desktop.  Fig 7 shows an ideal setup, with some seven shortcuts added between the start menu button on the left and the start of the 'window list' on the right (where the buttons for open windows are displayed).  Use the qla just for your most important regularly used tools.  Other, lesser shortcuts can go elsewhere: a few can go on the right-hand side of the bottom panel (like Fig 6); more can go on a second panel across the top (like Fig 5) or down the side (like Fig 11).
3.0.1 Mint 8, Mint 12-fallback, Fedora 15-fallback
  To add suitable shortcuts to the qla for the above three distros, first add the icons to the bottom panel by method 2.1.1 (for tools) and 2.3 (for a File Browser) > right-click on any of the icons thus added to the bottom panel > Move > slide the mouse to the left until the icon is in the required place in the quick launch area > left click to exit Move mode.  Repeat to move the other icons off the panel into the qla.
3.0.2 Mint 9, 10 & 11
  Method 3.0.1 did not work with the above three Mint distros, nor with Fedora or Ubuntu distros from the same period, unless you first manually unlocked the taskbar's window list.
  To avoid having to unlock the window list in these three versions of Mint, they provided the following simple method for adding apps directly to the qla in Mint 9, 10 & 11 - which worked even though the qla was locked off.  Click Menu > right-click on the required application (e.g. Firefox web browser) > Add to Panel.  Repeat to add other desired shortcuts.
  If you later decide to re-sort the order of the icons added to the qla in these or any other distros with a locked-off qla, using right-click > Move, you have to be very careful not to let the icon being moved slide outside of the qla.  You can tell if that happens because you will no longer see buttons on the taskbar when you open a window like, say, gedit - which would be a serious problem.
  If an icon accidentally slides out of the qla when being moved to a new position, you have two options.  Either (i) delete the icon and re-add it from scratch as per method 3.0.2, second para above or (ii) unlock the window list as per 3.1.1 below, then slide the icon back in.
  The method in 3.0.2, second paragraph, only allowed shortcuts to applications to be added directly to the qla not, say a File Browser (Home Folder) icon.  That is covered in 3.5.1 below.
3.0.3 Ubuntu (10.10 or lower), Fedora (14 or lower)
  With the above referenced Ubuntu and Fedora distros, the qla was, for reasons unknown, always locked off.  To add icons to the qla it was first necessary, therefore, to unlock the window list, as per 3.1 below.  As soon as that has been done, icons can then easily be added as per method 3.0.1 above
  Fig 7 (below) - Example of an effectively used quick-launch area in the bottom-left corner of a Gnome 2 desktop.  This is Linux Mint.  Exactly the same could be done with Ubuntu or Fedora with Gnome 2 desktops - except it was necessary to unlock the qla first with those two.  Continued below >>

This is an image map, so you can hover over any object to identify its purpose.  The first object is a combined icon-and-label for a Start Menu button.  The second item, a green square, is the Show Desktop icon for minimising and unminimising open windows.  The third item, a blue and orange globe, is a web browser.  Then come five more icons which were important to that particular user.  The ninth object is a very thin, vertical, hard-to-see control bar for the 'window list' (which is shown holding a button for an open text document called 'app').  The window list's control bar needs to be unlocked in many distros, mainly Ubuntu and Fedora, before any icons can be added to the quick launch area.

Note 1:  There is no harm in leaving some icons over to the right of the bottom bar.  In fact, it's quite a good place to be for any icons of lesser importance than the ones destined to go in the qla.  Being able to put some shortcuts on the RHS of the Gnome 2 taskbar (Fig 6), as well as in the qla, was unique to Linux.  Windows users (any versions) cannot do that.  So it's good to take advantage of that benefit.

Note 2:  If you end up having to unlock the window list in order to free up the qla, there seems to be no reason why the window list cannot be left unlocked permanently, just as it used to be on the Mint 8 desktop and once again was in the Gnome 2-like fallback desktops of Mint 12 and Fedora 15.
3.1 How to unlock the quick launch area
3.1.1 Applicable to any distro with a locked-off qla.
If you are unable to add icons to the quick launch area in Gnome 2 Linux, this will be because the distro came with a panel object called 'window list' locked off.  To fix this, close all open windows, so there are no buttons in the window list on the bottom panel.  Now open the text editor (gedit) and you should see its button appear on the bottom panel.  If no button appears, go to 3.1.2 below to deal with that problem first, then come back here.

Assuming you can see the gedit button, exactly where the specimen (Basic Skills help) button is shown in Fig 8, then, to the immediate left of the button is a slim vertical control bar for the window list.  You have to perform the obscure action of a double right click on that bar to bring up its context menu.  You may not be able to tell it's a bar - but it's there all the same.  You must double right click on the bar precisely - which will not be easy if the distro has deliberately made it so users can't see it.  You will know you have hit the target spot on only when you see the context menu shown in Fig 8.  If you have any trouble pulling up that menu, study Fig 8 and the notes below it for further guidance.  When you see the menu, click Lock To Panel to remove the offending tick.  This completely unconnected action somehow frees up access to the qla and you will now be able to slide icons into the qla as was originally intended.  This fix for an unusable quick launch area in Gnome 2 desktops was unknown until we put it on here in 2010.

3.1.2 About obscured window buttons
The best way to locate a hard-to-see window list control bar is to open any window so a visible button for the window appears on the taskbar.  The control bar for the window list is to the immediate left of that button.  If you've opened a floating window (like gedit) but no button appears on the taskbar there are two possible causes...

(1)  The first likelihood is that previous attempts have been made to slide icons into or to sort icons in the qla but they are stranded just outside the qla.  That somehow causes a bug whereby the window list, its control bar and any buttons on the list to disappear out of view behind those misplaced icons.  To fix that, right-click on each stranded icon in turn, choose Move, and temporarily slide it as far over to the right as it will go.  On moving the last of any such misplaced icons over to the right, the window's button will suddenly appear next to the qla.  It may still not be possible to see the window list's control bar, but it is now known exactly where to do the double right click i.e. just to the left of the now visible button.  Once the control bar has been successfully unlocked, any icons that had to be moved out of the way to the right can be slid back to the left into the qla proper - if that is where they are wanted.

(2)  The other possible cause for non-visible window buttons next to the qla is if the window list has previously been inadvertently removed from the bottom panel - or has been intentionally moved to a top panel to give a Mac-like experience.  To restore a window list to the bottom panel, close all open windows so there are no window buttons on the taskbar > right-click on the bottom panel to the left of centre > Add to Panel... > in the list of items, select Window List > Add > Close.  Open a window (e.g. gedit) to put a button on the restored window list so you can ascertain the position of the list's control bar (to the immediate left of the button).  If the button and bar are not already hard left against the qla, right-click on the bar > on the menu, unlock the bar if it is locked and, still on the same right-click menu, choose Move > slide the control bar to the left as far as it will go > left click to exit Move mode.  With the window list restored and unlocked, proceed to slide the icons on the bottom panel into the qla.
  Fig 8 (below) - A screengrab from Ubuntu 10.10 which should be connected with item 3.1 left about unlocking Gnome 2's Window List object in order to restore normal operation to the quick launch area.

  Object 1 is the very useful Show Desktop icon.  Unfortunately, it was the only icon in the qla in Ubuntu 10.10.  There wasn't even that one with Fedora 14 and 15-fallback.  Worse still, they'd also made it impossible for a user to add more icons - unless the user knew the secret technique revealed in section 3.1.1.  This was a terrible abuse of a great feature.
  Object 2 (arrowed) is the control bar of a standard Gnome 2 panel object called Window List.  Above the white arrow is shown the control bar's context menu.  Removal of the tick against "Lock To Panel" is what it takes to free up a locked-off qla so that some icons can be added to it.
  Object 3 is a specimen button for an opened window (in this example, it happens to be the Help file's "Basic Skills" window, which can be seen floating in the background).  To the immediate left of that first window button on the taskbar is where the window list's control bar is always located.  If any application, such as Help or gedit, has been opened but its button is not showing on the taskbar, that problem is dealt with in 3.1.2 left.
  Object 4 is the icon for 'Computer', which had been added to the taskbar because it was destined to be slid straight into the qla as soon as that problematic tick on the context menu had been removed.
5   Not numbered in the diagram as such but, on the control bar's context menu seen above is an option to "Remove From Panel".  It should never be clicked as that will remove the window list.  If clicked inadvertently, the window list can be restored by reversing the action.  If in difficulty see the more comprehensive note in 3.1.2 (2) over to the left.

Note 3:  Fig 8 showed there will normally be an option on the window list control bar's context menu to "Remove From Panel".  Clicking that option will result in the removal of the control bar which will take the window list with it.  And that would prevent all window buttons from ever showing on the bottom panel, which would be a severe nuisance.  To restore a missing window list, see 3.1.2 (2) left.
3.2 Add a Show Desktop icon in the quick launch area if the icon is missing
  There are two good reasons why a user might need to add the all-important Show Desktop icon to the quick launch area.  One would be if it was missing in the first place (as in Fedora 14 and Fedora 15-fallback).  The other reason being if a Show Desktop icon that was once there has inadvertently been deleted by a user.  Replacing a missing Show Desktop icon is easier and more intuitive in Linux than ever it was in Windows.

In Linux, if the desktop has a locked-off quick launch area, begin by ensuring the Window List item has been unlocked, as per preliminary step 3.1 above.  Then, with any desktop, right-click on the bottom panel (remember, it's always Alt+right-click for fallback desktops) in an empty place right-of-centre > from the context menu, choose Add to Panel > scroll down the list of applets until reaching Show Desktop > select it > Add > right-click on the small icon which will have appeared on the taskbar > choose Move > slide the icon to the left until it is the first icon in the qla (or the second icon if there is a Start menu button in there, as in Figs 2 or 9) > left-click to exit the Move mode > right-click on the Show Desktop icon > choose Lock To Panel (if option available).
  Fig 9 (below) - Example of a quick-launch area on a Mint 9 desktop with a Show Desktop icon included (the green one on the right of the Menu button).

3.3 Add a Start Menu button in the quick launch area
  The first time Windows' users experienced the Gnome 2 variety of Ubuntu or Fedora, one of the first things they would notice was the lack of a Start Menu button in the bottom-left corner.  They had three options for dealing with that situation (i) adapt to using the custom menu bar in the top-right corner (it wasn't difficult), (ii) ditch that custom menu bar and, instead, add Gnome 2's 'main menu' button in the quick launch area or (iii) switch to Linux Mint (11 or lower) which had a familiar Start Menu button by default (see in Figs 2 or 9).  Gnome's plain 'main menu' button makes everything accessible from a single, small button which brings up a nice cascading menu.  To add the button to older distros with a locked-off qla, begin by ensuring the Window List bar has been unlocked, as per step 3.1 above. >>
  Then, right-click on the bottom panel in an empty place to the right-of-centre > from the context menu, choose Add to Panel > scroll down the list of applets until reaching a 'main menu' item > select it > Add > right-click on the small icon which will have appeared on the taskbar > choose Move > slide the icon over to the left as far as it will go so that it is the first icon in the qla (as is just discernable in Fig 5)* > left-click to exit Move mode > right-click on the Menu button > choose Lock To Panel (if available).

* If there are already one or more icons in the qla, it may be necessary to right-click on them to unlock them temporarily, if that option is available, to allow the Menu button to slide past them.
3.4 Add a 'backup tool' icon in the quick launch area
3.4.1 Mint Method:  Provided the window list is unlocked, as per preliminary step 3.1 above, right-click on the bottom panel in an empty place to the right-of-centre > from the context menu, choose Add to Panel > scroll down the list of applets until reaching Backup Tool > select the app > Add > Close > right-click on the small icon which will have appeared on the taskbar > choose Move > slide the icon over to the left until it is inside the qla (as in Fig 9) > left-click to exit Move mode.
3.4.2 Fedora Method:  Provided the window list is unlocked, as per preliminary step 3.1 above, right-click on the bottom panel > Add to panel > expand System Tools > use the left mouse button to drag the Deja Dup Backup Tool and drop it on the panel > right-click on the icon, choose Move > slide the icon into the qla.  Another Fedora way to get to the Deja Dup tool is Applications > System Tools > Deja Dup Backup Tool.
  The reason why it is good to put a shortcut to a backup tool in the qla is because its visual presence there will serve as a permanent reminder, and a convenient way, to keep doing periodic manual backups of the Home folder whenever any work is currently being done on an important file.

If there is no backup tool in the distro you are using, it would obviously be a good idea to make it one of the first tools you download and install through the distro's software centre.
3.5 Add a Nautilus icon in the quick launch area
3.5.1 Nautilus is Gnome's file manager which basically does the things Windows Explorer or (My) Computer do in Windows.  Nautilus is the Linux program at work whenever you open windows via any icon or menu option for Computer or the Home Folder.  A Nautilus icon (like a Windows Explorer icon) is one of the handiest shortcuts that can go in any desktop's quick launch area because any default one on the desktop will be hidden when maximised windows are open.

If the distro being used already has a Home Folder icon on one of its default panels (they sometimes do), you can skip this item and simply use that icon when required.  If it doesn't, you can add one to the bottom panel as per item 2.3.1.  Then, provided the window list is unlocked, as per step 3.1 above > right-click on the Home Folder icon > Move > slide the mouse to the left to move the icon so it is the first icon just inside the quick launch area (i.e. where the green Computer icon is, nearest to the 'app' button, in Fig 9).  Right-click on the new icon and change its tooltip label from Home Folder to the broader-sense "Nautilus file manager".
  Note that clicking the Nautilus icon twice would open two instances of its window.  By positioning them side-by-side that provides a very handy arrangement whenever dragging data files from one place on the computer to another.  However, since April 2010, a similar thing has been achievable with just one instance of a Home Folder window open - by clicking View > Extra Pane (which puts two panes side-by-side within a single Nautilus window).  To make either of those panes the active pane, click in it, or click the small square button above the relevant pane, then browse to the destination folder.  You can now click on any file or folder in the source pane and you will see options to move or copy the object to the other pane.

There is more about tiling windows in Linux in section 5.
3.6 Add an application (like Firefox) to the qla
3.6.1 Provided the window list is unlocked, as per step 3.1 above, then follow the same steps as in 2.1 to add, say, Firefox to the qla.  That's the orange and blue icon in Fig 10.
  Fig 10 (below) - This is Mint 9 with Firefox included in the qla (the orange and blue icon).

3.7 Sorting icons - how to sort the position of icons in the qla
3.7.1 Provided the window list is unlocked, as per 3.1 above, right-click on the qla icon you want to put in a new position > unlock it if it's locked > then choose Move > slide the icon to where it's wanted, taking care to ensure it is kept within the confines of the qla > left-click to exit Move mode.
4. New second panel for Gnome 2 desktops
4.1 How to create a second panel
4.1.1 Ubuntu, Fedora and Mint 12+:  These Gnome 2 desktops came with a second panel already positioned along the top of the screen (as seen in Fig 5 higher up).  If you wanted a sidebar on any of them, the answer was to switch the top bar to the side (as per 4.2), and then configure both the side panel and the bottom panel to suit the new arrangement, similar to the excellent Fig 11 opposite.
4.1.2 Mint 8, 10, 11 (v9 is item 4.1.3):  These older Mints were characterised by having a single bar, the same as Windows, along the bottom of the screen.  To add a second panel to any of them, right-click on the bottom panel > Add New Panel.  A new blank panel would appear across the top of the screen.

Mint 12's Gnome 2-like fallback:  This shipped with a second panel already across the top of the screen..
4.1.3 Mint 9:  Right-click on the bottom panel > Add New Panel.  If no new panel appears across the top of the screen (a v9-specific bug), the new panel was there, just hiding.  The fix we devised was to use the mouse's left button to drag the desktop's Computer icon all the way down to the bottom of the screen, as far as it will go, and drop it there.  For reasons not known, that unrelated action would cause the missing new panel to come out of hiding.  Then proceed as per 4.2.
Fig 11 - Ubuntu with the normal top bar redeployed as a quick-launch sidebar to give always-visible single-click access to any frequently-used apps, files or folders.  The screenshot is Ubuntu 11-04-fallback but It could just as easily have been Fedora 12/13/14 or Mint 8/9/10/11.

4.2 How to reposition a second panel to the side and customise it
4.2.1 A Gnome 2 top bar is able to do anything a bar down the side will do.  The only reason for preferring it down the side is because it frees up vertical height, which is an important consideration on today's wide-screen, shallow-height displays.  It can look very nice too (witness Fig 11).  To relocate a top panel, right-click on it > Properties > at Orientation, choose Right (or Left) > at Size, increase the figure from 24px to 28px wide > Background tab > click Solid Color > at Style, move the translucency slider so it is about 1/4 the way along its slot from the LHS > Close.  The result will be like the vertical sidebar in Fig 11 except empty, waiting for some shortcut-icons to be added.
4.3 How to put shortcuts on a second panel, for opening apps
4.3.1 Method 1:  Use the same steps as in 2.1.1.  Add applications from the Accessories category like Calculator and gedit (text editor), GIMP from the Graphics section, and all the Office apps from the Office section.
4.3.2 Method 2:  Use the same steps as in 2.1.2.
4.4 How to add the Trash icon on a side panel
4.4.1 Method 1:  Right-click on the new second panel > Add To Panel > scroll all the way down the window which appears and click on Trash > click the Add button > right-click on the small Trash icon which will have appeared on the side panel > Move > slide the icon down the panel so as to be the bottom icon on the sidebar (like the bin icon in Fig 12) > left-click to fix it in position > right-click to lock it to the panel.
4.4.2 Method 2:  Menu button > All applications > Preferences > Desktop Settings [or Desktop Configuration Tool in Mint 8] > tick Trash > use the mouse's left button to drag the large Trash icon, which will have appeared on the desktop, over to the new panel until it will go no further, and drop it there > right-click on the small Trash icon which will have appeared on the panel > Move > slide the mouse down until the icon is at the foot of the sidebar > left-click to fix in place > right-click to lock it on the panel > go back to the Desktop Settings window > click Trash to remove the tick (and the big Trash icon will disappear from the desktop) > Close.
4.5 How to add a Home Folder icon to a new second panel
4.5.1 Use the mouse's left button to drag the desktop folder called "mint's Home" or Home Folder over to the new panel until it will go no further and drop it there.  It will automatically assume the name of Home Folder as its tooltip (see 4th icon up in Fig 12).

Fig 12 (left) - Showing sample launchers and links on a translucent sidebar panel on the right-hand side of a Linux Mint 9 desktop.

Icons on a side panel can be sorted into separate groups, as indicated.

Hover over the icons for more about the types of shortcuts which can be added to a sidebar on Gnome 2 versions of Mint, Fedora or Ubuntu.

4.6 How to add a shortcut to a new second panel for a folder or file
4.6.1 Method 1:  Use the same steps as in 2.2.1.  For typical examples of a file and a folder shortcuts on a panel, see the two specimen icons in Fig 12, just above the Trash icon).
4.6.2 Method 2:  Use this convoluted method 2 only in the unlikely event you can't get method 1 to work.  Right-click on the target folder or file > choose Make link > when the shortcut icon appears in the same window, left-click on it and drag it towards the new panel until it will go no further > release the mouse button.  At this stage, the new icon on the panel is only a shortcut to a shortcut, meaning if the original shortcut were to be deleted, the dummy shortcut on the panel would no longer work.  To fix that, right-click on the icon on the panel > Properties > edit the Location field and the Command field so they show a direct path to the actual target, not to the original shortcut.  The following is an example of what to do.  Note that each instance of a %20 symbol merely represents a blank space in a file or folder's GUI name, so don't be confused by their presence. Hence, if the location field looked like the following...
file:///home/mint/Documents/Stuff%20Folder/Link%20to%20Any%20File  you would edit it to...
file:///home/mint/Documents/Stuff%20Folder/Any%20File (i.e. remove the 'Link to' bit and the two associated %20 spaces).
Likewise, if the corresponding Command field looked like...
Open '/home/mint/Documents/Stuff Folder/Link to Any File'  you would edit it to...
Open '/home/mint/Documents/Stuff Folder/Any File' (i.e. remove the 'Link to' bit again).
You could now right-click on the original link in the Stuff Folder to delete it without any risk of breaking the one on the new panel.
5.       Desktop Tips
These tips are for the original Gnome 2 desktops or the later Gnome 2-like fallback desktops
Applications menu - how to add/remove items on the Applications menu or the System submenus
Ubuntu, Fedora, or Mint 12-fallback:  right-click anywhere on the menubar in the top-left corner > Edit Menus > at the Menu Layout window, choose a category in the left pane to see its items listed in the right pane (using the expander arrows to show or hide submenus) > to add/remove an item from a menu, select/deselect it in the list.  For Mint pre-v12, see under "Mint's main Menu" and "Mint's Favourites menu" further down.
  A deselected item can be added back to the menu anytime later by selecting it once again.  You can use the same process to add/remove items on the System submenus for Preferences or Administration items.  
Background 1 - how to swap desktop wallpapers
Either (a) right-click on the desktop > Change Desktop Background > Background tab or (b) go to System > Preferences > Appearance > Background tab, then > select any of the included wallpapers to see it applied immediately > when you have found the one you like the most, click Close.

If the new wallpaper looks worse than the previous one, try another.  Or go back to the default one.  If you have a favourite wallpaper from an alternative or earlier distro which you would like to import, see the next item Background 2.
Background 2 - how to import a desktop wallpaper
Paste a copy of the desired background image into the current distro's backgrounds' directory - which might have a path like /usr/share/backgrounds/ or /usr/share/wallpapers/.  If the system won't grant you access to those directories, paste the image into the directory at Home Folder > Pictures.

To apply the imported wallpaper, go to the Backgrounds' window as per preceding item 'Background 1' above > at the bottom of the window, click the Add button > browse to where the required background image is located (as per 1st para just above) > select the image > Open.

Another way to import a wallpaper is to open your distro's image viewer (e.g. Eye of GNOME, Shotwell or gThumb) > browse to and select the background image > look for a menu or right-click option like "Set as Desktop Background" and click it.

Alternatively, open Nautilus (i.e. open Home Folder or Computer) > browse to the relevant PNG image > right-click on it > Set as Wallpaper.
  Imported PNGs should ideally be of the same pixel dimensions as your normal screen resolution (otherwise you will find the image being stretched or cropped by the system to fit, which may spoil it).

There is no reason why a favourite wallpaper from an old version of Ubuntu, Mint or Fedora should not be imported to a current version of any distro.  Earlier BG images can often be downloaded from places on the web or, alternatively, copied from an old Live Disk you may have kept.  A Live Disk would only need to be run, not actually installed, in order to find and copy a background PNG from it.
Background 3 - classic orange wallpaper
If there was one thing above all others that eventually succeeded in putting Linux on the map - getting regular, positive publicity in computer magazines previously dedicated just to Windows - it had to be the classic browney-orange wallpapers that characterised the out-of-the-box experiences that finally came with Ubuntu's desktop Linux.  Nothing quite got heads turning, and conversations started, than when you got your laptop out on the train or in the library, during that winter of 2009/10, and those around you were drawn by that unique, effervescent orangeness of Ubuntu 9.10.

Although Ubuntu went Mac-like purple after that (Fig 11), anyone hankering after the old orange will find orange wallpapers, for different sized screen resolutions, can easily be hunted down online, or copied from an old Live Disk, or manufactured.  We made this example, for one of our own dual-boot machines, simply by putting black and sand colours in the diagonal gradient capability in Microsoft Word (oops).  Orange (or green) looks particularly fantastic with Mint 11, 12 or 13 as those colours make a perfect desktop backdrop behind the otherwise lifeless light-grey floating windows and dialogs in those versions.
BlueGriffon - a WYSIWYG web editor for Linux
You won't need to download many extra programs to do whatever you need to do with any of the leading Linux distros as they come pre-loaded with most stuff.  Though not if writing web pages is your thing.  You will need to get BlueGriffon via your distro's download manager.  BlueGriffon is not perfect as it stems from rudimentary look-a-like forerunners Nvu and Nvu-offshoot KompoZer.  But it's the best  >>
  free WYSIWYG so far on Linux.  It could easily make a very basic HTML 4.0 page like the one you are currently looking at now, as well as ones in later HTML languages if required.  But we wish BlueGriffon could include much more toolbar and preferences' configurability as it's still way short of what FrontPage 2003 users enjoy.  
Buttons hidden off bottom of screen
In Linux, same as in Windows, you may occasionally come across the odd, carelessly designed dialog box which is so deep the buttons along the bottom for OK, Apply, Cancel or Next can't be clicked because they disappear off the bottom of the screen.  If you encountered this in Windows, there was no mouse-drag way  >>
  of moving an oversize dialog's title bar off the top of the screen so as to reveal the buttons at the bottom.  But, in Linux, all you need do is hold down the Alt key and you should find you can click anywhere on the oversize dialog's window and drag it higher to expose the hidden buttons.  
Computer / Home Folder / Trash - how to show/hide Mint's default desktop icons
Mint to v11:  Click Menu > 'All applications' link, or Alt+F1, then... > Preferences > Desktop Settings [or, Mint 8, Desktop Configuration Tool] > tick/untick the options to show/hide individual icons as required > Close.
  If you intend to hide Mint's Home Folder desktop icon, wait until after you have used it to put a facsimile in Mint's quick launch area, as per item 3.5.  
Emblems - how to add/remove a shortcut emblem
Right-click on a desktop shortcut or a launcher icon > Properties > if an Emblems tab is available, click it > scroll down the pane of available emblem images for a suitable one (e.g. the 'Web' emblem for a web-enabled shortcut) > select (tick) it > Close.  You can attach more than one emblem to a desktop shortcut if you wish - say you've made a desktop shortcut to give quick access to a favourite dating site, you could add a star and a heart to the icon. How nice is that?  The clip was from a Mint 8 desktop.
File Associations
If you click on a shortcut which is supposed to open, say, a text file in the gedit text editor but, instead, it opens in some other program such as Abiword, this means the file association for .txt files has somehow changed.  To change it back, right-click on any txt file (not on the misbehaving shortcut) > Open With > click Text Editor.  >>
  That will cause the txt file to open in gedit and should reset all other txt files to also open in gedit.  Try the shortcut again just to make sure the fix has worked.  Use the same process whenever you encounter any other shortcut you have made to a file which is opening the document, data or image in an undesired program.  
Floppy Disk icon
Computers no longer come with floppy disk drives included.  However, some people install light-weight Gnome 2 distros on old computers to breathe new life into them.  And, by being old computers by definition, they may still have a floppy drive.  An Ubuntu or Mint distro, not Fedora, on such a computer, will satisfactorily detect and list a "Floppy Disk" option when you open a Computer or Home Folder window but, unlike any USB or other drives which might also be listed, the floppy drive item will be strangely dead when you click it.  However, the option can be activated if, for instance, you would like to be able to read any of your old floppies in order to copy their contents across to the Windows partition or to a USB key.  To do that, right-click on Applications or Menu, whichever is available > choose Edit Menu > in the LH pane, click System Tools > on the RHS of the dialog, click the button for "New item" > at the Type field, ensure Application is showing > for a name, type in Mount Floppy > at Command, type in udisks --mount /dev/fd0 (keep on one line, include the space, two dashes, another space, the final 0 is a zero) > leave the Comment field blank > OK.  Insert a used floppy disk > Places > Floppy Disk.  The floppy's contents will now appear in the RH pane.  If you want to copy the contents to another destination >>
  right away, click View > Extra Pane > target the new right-hand pane to somewhere on the hard disk or to an inserted USB memory key > select all the contents in the LH pane > right-click on the selection > Copy to > Other pane > on completion, close the window > right-click on the floppy icon on the desktop > choose Unmount > remove the floppy.

If you want to copy the contents of another floppy, insert the disk and proceed as before except, if you didn't unmount the drive earlier you may have to right-click on the floppy icon on the desktop and choose Detect Media in order for the display to change from the contents of the previous floppy to the new one.

When you've completely finished using the floppy drive, right-click on the floppy icon > choose Unmount.  To reuse it again at any future time, insert a floppy > open Places > right-click Floppy Disk.

We were obliged to Linux Format magazine for providing the said command line (added here 22.7.11).
KolourPaint - an image editor for Linux
The leading Linux distros sometimes come with a big, professional quality image editor known as GIMP.  However, for small editing jobs, which do not need layers, KolourPaint is a great, lightweight alternative.  Despite the K (for KDE environment) in the name, it should install and run fine with Gnome 2 distros.  In Ubuntu, for example, go to Applications > Ubuntu Software Center > Graphics > Painting & Editing > KolourPaint > Install.
  If you have been used to using MS Paint or PhotoFiltre on Windows, you should be completely at home with KolourPaint.

If you want to try KolourPaint before committing to installing it, you can often sample it by running the Live Disk for distros based on a KDE desktop.
The shortcut-icons on the toolbars of OpenOffice Writer have two size settings - Small or Large.  The program is supposed to choose the right one automatically.  However, if you are using Open Office on a low (big) resolution of 800 x 600, it assumes you also need big icons. Wrong.  That low res actually means the smaller icons are just right.  To change the setting, go to Tools > Options > in the left-hand task pane, expand the Office section (if not already expanded) > View > at Icon style and size, change to Small > OK.  The same option is available for a later spin-off called LibreOffice - but it had no effect when tried.  >>
  These competent office suites still use conventional toolbars - unlike Microsoft's irksome ribbons - so everything is logical and easy to find.  However, OpenOffice Writer takes up to half a minute to cold start.  While LibreOffice takes up to double that!  Tragic.  In comparison, Microsoft's nearest equivalent, Word 2003 on Windows XP, takes a mere 2 seconds to open after a reboot.  
Maximised windows - how to make a shortcut always open in a maximised window
In Linux, windows open at the same size they were at when last closed.  The only way to be certain a window will open large next time is to remember, before closing it, to see that it is maximised or, at least, adequately stretched out.
  Gnome 2 did not enable a user to change a shortcut's properties to force a window to always open maximised, as you can in Windows.  
Mint's Favorites Panel - how to add/remove shortcuts to Mint's menu
Mint 11 or lower, click Menu > "All applications" link > at the All Applications panel, browse to the required application > either right-click on the app > "Show in my favorites" or use the mouse's left button to drag the app over the Favorites button in the top right corner of the menu and drop it there.
  After using Mint's All Applications list, return to the Favorites list by clicking the Favorites button in the top-right corner of the menu panel.  
Mint's Main Panel - how to add apps to it
Mint pre-v12, right-click on Menu > Edit menu > in the LH pane, click a category > in the RH pane, locate the required app, click the empty tick box to put a tick in it > Close.  Now, if you click Menu > All applications, the relevant program will be listed.
  If you inadvertently click any of the headings on the main panel (i.e. Places, System, Favourites), that part of the panel will disappear, with no obvious way to get it back.  The solution is to click a small, unlabelled icon on the left side of the panel.  
Icon images 1 - how to change a default system icon
When you right-click on the desktop and choose Create Launcher (as one way to create an internet shortcut to open a web page or application) the resulting shortcut may end up displaying a default system icon (a platform on a spring, like the 'WebLink' icon in Fig 4).  If you've got several shortcuts all displaying the same 'spring' icon, you will need to change their image so they look different from one another.  To get rid of the springs, right-click on an icon > Properties > in the left-hand pane, click on 'pixmaps' > in the RH pane, scroll down to any icon image file, or open any of the listed folders for  >>
  more icon image files > click on any image file and a preview will appear on the RHS of the window > when you have found an image you like, click the Open button and that image will be applied to your desktop shortcut.

Figure 4 illustrates how you could have lots of fun changing the default system icons, of any internet-capable shortcuts, to different images.  However, for users who like little or no clutter on the desktop, a neater arrangement would be to add favourite shortcuts to the Bookmarks' feature in Firefox.
Icon images 2 - how to change a normal icon's image
Right-click on the desktop shortcut whose icon you wish to change > Properties > Basic tab - if there is no Basic tab option you can't change the icon for that particular shortcut.  If there is a Basic tab, click on the displayed icon > at the window which opens, click on any of the listed image files to see a preview on the right or, to see more image choices, click on 'icons' or 'pixmaps' in the left-hand pane, if available > when you have found an appropriate icon you like, click the Open button and that icon will be applied to your desktop shortcut.
  This procedure will often allow you to change the image of any shortcut icons on the desktop or panels to apps, folders or files.  However, the default icons are usually the best - except for any cases of the 'spring' icon referred to in the preceding item above.  
Nautilus File Manager - change its window background colour
Open the Home Folder or Computer > Edit > Backgrounds and Emblems > on the LHS of the popup window, click the Colors button > drag any colour tile to replace Nautilus's background with that colour.
  If one of the tiles is called Reset, dragging that one will reset the background colour (to white normally).  
Places Menu - how to add new places
Open the Home Folder > check the right-hand pane shows the standard folders for Documents, Pictures, Music etc. and right-click on that pane > choose Create New Folder > right-click on the new folder and rename it as, say, Letters Folder > use the mouse's left-button to drag the new folder and drop it near the bottom of the left-hand pane > close the window.
  Open the Places menu and you will see a new shortcut link on the menu called Letters Folder.  Then open the Home Folder and you will see 'Letters Folder' now appears in the list of links in the left pane.  
Printers & Scanners
Enabling a standalone or networked printer to work in Linux is sometimes simple enough.  In Ubuntu, go to System > Administration > Printing > Add (new printer), and follow the prompts or options to detect and activate the printer and/or install an appropriate driver.  If that fails, meaning you either cannot print from any Linux app or you get an unwanted message like "Print as a PDF file", this is a missing driver issue.  Solve this and you will be well on your way to being a serious Linux convert!  Start by typing the make, model number and the word Linux in a search engine to see what you get.  The last printer we bought for ourselves was a Canon LBP 6000 Laserjet.  Noisy but otherwise excellent in Windows.  But, to this day, we still  >>
  haven't got it to work with Linux.  Ubuntu 11.04 had drivers for 200 different Canon printers but they stopped at LBP 5975 - and ours was evidently the next one!  Even Mint 12 and Ubuntu 12.04 failed us.

If a connected scanner fails to work, that may also be a driver issue.  But first, go to Applications > Graphics > Simple Scan.  That tip has been known, on occasion, to cause a reluctant but properly connected scanner to burst into life.

In the event of a missing driver issue, you will not be able to prove, from a Linux live-demo disk, if your printer or scanner is going to work if you install the distro.
Rename a shortcut's icon
Right-click on any shortcut icon > at the context menu, choose Rename > type in the new name.

Repair a shortcut's broken path
Study item 4.6.2 for guidance on how to repair shortcuts with broken paths.
Resize a shortcut's icon
If an icon on a Gnome 2 desktop seems too large, right-click on it > Resize Icon > grab a handle on the icon and drag it down to an acceptable size.  This will shrink an icon without...  >>
  shrinking its text label.  But it's not easy to apply exactly the same amount of reduction to any other icons you intend to reduce.  You'll need a keen eye.  
Screen resolution - how to change the res
To alter the screen resolution, you have to use any one of several ways to browse down to a menu option called Monitors (or Display on older Gnome 2 distros).  After clicking Monitors, at Resolution, choose a new size > Apply > "Keep this configuration" > Close.

Begin as follows:

Ubuntu, Fedora:  do System > Preferences > Monitors, then as above.

Mint 9, 10, 11:  Menu > if at the Favorites panel, click Monitors or, if not, click 'All applications' > Preferences > Monitors.

Mint (all):  Alt+F1 > System > Preferences > Monitors.
  If you are somebody who needs to toggle resolutions fairly frequently (e.g. a web designer needing to test how their pages will look to different viewers), consider adding a 'Monitor' shortcut to a panel.  Windows users can't do that anymore except by installing a third-party application - the built-in option was taken away from them after Windows 98.  So that's one up for Linux.  Use method 2.1 to add 'Monitor' to the bottom panel, then move the icon to the right of the bottom panel as far as it will go.  
Scrollbars - how to disable underlay scrollbars
The fiddly new auto-hide scrollbars inherited by Mint 11 from Ubuntu 11.04 can be disabled if desired.  Click Menu > Terminal > type or paste in the following single-line command (include the four spaces; the two 0s are zeros)...
sudo apt-get remove overlay-scrollbar liboverlay-scrollbar-0.1-0.
The command will restore normal scrollbars to most windows though not, frustratingly, to the Nautilus file browser.
  We were obliged to Linux Format magazine for this command for Mint 11 (added here 22.7.11).

Ubuntu 11.04 Gnome 2 fallback:  An equivalent command to disable underlay or overlay scrollbars in Ubuntu 11.04-fallback can be searched on the web.

Mint 12 Gnome 2-like fallback:  Proper scrollbars were back.
Shut Down
Fedora 15 (Gnome 3) - You had to press the Alt key first to access the Shut Down menu.
Text under toolbar buttons
If you open gedit in a small floating window, you will see the labels for certain toolbar buttons are at the side of the buttons, possibly causing some buttons to disappear off the side of the tool's window if it's quite small.  You can fix this by hiding the labels or moving the text below the buttons - but doing so is not as intuitive as it should be.  In Mint 9, 10, 11, go to Menu > Control Center > Desktop Settings > Interface icon [or, Mint 8, Appearance > Interface tab] > at "Button labels:" choose "Text below labels" > Close.
  Another gedit tip, if you want to work on two text files side-by-side, is to grab the tab of one of them, tear it off and it will form a new window in its own right.  But don't waste time looking for an option to actually disable gedit's tab feature.  It's a shame such an elementary omission has continued to pass uncorrected for so many years.  
Tile windows
Side-by-side window tiling makes the simultaneous use of two windows simple and easy.  But, in Gnome 2, it is not possible to directly tile two floating windows the way they can be in Gnome 3 or Windows.  However, in Gnome 2, there is a technique whereby double-clicking on the title bars of both floating windows would cause them to maximise vertically, which is as good as if not actually better than full-screen fixed-width tiling.  To set that up, go to System > Preferences > Windows > at "Double-click titlebar to perform this action:", change from the default Maximize to "Maximize Vertically" > Close.  Double-clicking the title bar of any such vertically maximised window will restore the window to its earlier floating size.
  Also see the side-note immediately above about working on two text-file windows.  And see the side-note to item 3.5.1 about tiling two Nautilus file-browser windows within a single instance of Nautilus.

Gnome 3 and Unity (3D, not 2D-fallback) have snap-tiling and snap maximising of floating windows.  You drag almost half the window past the left or right edge of the screen for it to resize to half-screen size.  That snap-tiling is similar to what Windows acquired in Windows 7 to supplement Windows' earlier, and more comprehensive ways of tiling via a right-click on the clock in the system tray.
Tooltips - how to change a hover label
Right-click on any shortcut icon > if there is a Properties or Preferences option, choose it > if there is a Name field, type in the text you want to see when you hover the mouse over the icon.
  The new text you type in will either replace or preface the tooltip that was showing previously.  If the latter, you may need to go back in and add a full stop and a space between the new and old text.  
Zipping - how to compress documents
Archiving functionality is built into Linux, same as in Windows.  To compress or extract a file or folder, simply right-click on it and choose the appropriate archiving option.

Compressing in Linux is available not just via the right-click context menus but also as an application with its own window.  That means a shortcut to the application could be added to Gnome 2's Applications' menu, if not already there, thus allowing it to be opened in a window just like any other basic third-party zip tool.  To add an archiving tool's shortcut to the Applications menu, use the first tip in this section 5.

Gnome 2's Compress tool (which also lurks under the name of Archive Manager or File Roller) can handle some ten compression formats - including the ubiquitous .ZIP extension which is ideal when emailing or uploading stuff that will be opened by Windows' users.  Incoming compressed files for Linux often have double-barrelled file extensions like filename.tar.gz... >>
  or filename.tar.bz2 (referred to as "tarballs").  By default, the Compress tool will try to create your outgoing zip files in like manner, so the zip file's name might become or  If you see that happening, delete the superfluous .png or .txt bit, while still at the Compress dialog, to avoid any possibility of a recipient's Windows machine blocking the double-barrelled extension as a suspect package.  The extension of the original file inside the zip file will not be affected by removing the .png or .txt bit from the zip file's name.

The Compress tool is also a convenient way of password protecting any files or folders when compressed.  You can't do that in Windows with its built-in zip tool after Windows XP.  So this page concludes with yet another one up for Linux!

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     First posted here 10.10.2010 (dmy)    Last amended 28.11.2012    Copyright (C) 2010-2012 PM Designs   All Rights Reserved     

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