Using the Desktop Preferences

Using the Desktop Preferences

The Desktop menu is your primary tool for customizing the appearance and behavior of the Fedora Core 4 desktop environment. By choosing Desktop, Preferences, you'll find a collection of tools that can be used to change your desktop settings; each of these settings has some effect on desktop behavior or appearance.

The Desktop, Preferences menu is shown in Figure.

1. The Desktop, Preferences menu contains a number of configuration-related tools.

Changing Mouse Behavior

Depending on the type of pointing device you're using and whether you're left-handed or right-handed, you might find that you're not comfortable with the speed of the pointer on your display or the configuration of click and double-click behavior.

To launch the Mouse Preferences dialog box used to configure mouse behavior, choose Desktop, Preferences, Mouse. The Mouse Preferences dialog box appears, as shown in Figure.

2. Using the Mouse Preferences dialog box, you can change the behavioral properties of the mouse. The default view is shown here.

What About Trackball, Touchpad, or Trackpoint Users?

You use the Mouse Properties dialog box to configure your pointing device even if you use a trackball, touchpad, trackpoint, or similar device instead of a mouse.

The default view in the Mouse Preferences dialog box, shown in Figure, is of the Buttons tab, which contains the following options:

  • Mouse Orientation reverses the order of the buttons on your pointing devices. Left-handed users should check the Left-handed mouse box to cause the button under their index finger to act as the first mouse button.

  • Double-Click Timeout changes the speed at which you must double-click in order for the double-click to be recognized by the Linux desktop. If you often find that the Linux desktop ignores your double-clicks, you should click the slider and increase the allowable delay between clicks.

You can display the second view in the Mouse Preferences dialog box by clicking the Cursors tab, as shown in Figure.

3. The Cursors tab contains options related to the appearance of the mouse pointer on the screen.

This view enables you to change the appearance of the mouse pointer, or cursor, on the screen. Select Small, Medium, or Large to cause the mouse pointer to appear in a size that is visually most helpful to you.

Check Highlight the Pointer When You Press Ctrl to make it easier to find a lost mouse pointer on the desktop by animating the mouse pointer prominently when you hold down the Ctrl key. If you often find yourself searching for the mouse pointer, consider enabling this option.

You can display the third and final view in the Mouse Preferences dialog box by clicking the Motion tab, as shown in Figure.

4. The Motion tab contains options related to the speed of the mouse pointer on your desktop while moving the mouse.

This view enables you to change both the sensitivity and the speed with which the mouse pointer responds to your input and moves around on the desktop. It contains the following options:

  • Speed contains options related to the speed of the mouse on the desktop. This area contains two sliders, labeled Acceleration and Sensitivity. Acceleration controls the absolute speed of the pointer on your desktop. Sensitivity controls the distance the mouse must be moved before mouse acceleration takes effect.

  • Drag and Drop controls the distance the mouse must be moved while clicking an icon before the desktop assumes that you want to drag the icon, rather than click it. If you sometimes have unsteady hands, increasing the Drag and Drop value can make desktop use easier.

After you configure the options in the Mouse Properties dialog box to suit your needs, click Close to close the dialog box.

Changing Window Appearance

If you find the default appearance of the application windows in Fedora Core 4 to be distasteful or difficult to use, you can alter the colors and decorations used to draw application windows by using the Theme Preferences dialog box.

To launch the Theme Preferences dialog box, choose Desktop, Preferences, Theme. The Theme Preferences dialog box appears, as shown in Figure.

5. Using the Theme Preferences dialog box, you can change the physical appearance and colors of application windows.

In the Theme Preferences dialog box, icons represent a number of miniature application windows, each containing a menu title and an icon so that you can see how window decorations, menus, and graphics appear in a given theme. By default, Fedora Core 4's own Bluecurve theme is selected.

To change the appearance of application windows to that of an alternate theme, click the icon representing the theme that you want to use. The border, title bar, and window decorations of all running applications change immediately to reflect your new theme selection, as shown in Figure. If you decide that you don't like your new theme, click Revert to return to your previous setting. Otherwise, to accept the new theme, click Close.

6. Selecting a theme causes the appearance of the desktop to change immediately. This is the Grand Canyon theme.

More advanced users may also want to create themes for individual components of the desktopfor example, the widgets (controls) from one theme, the window border and decorations from a second theme, and the set of icons from a third. To find controls that allow you this type of flexibility, click the Details button in the Theme Preferences dialog box. The Theme Details dialog box appears, as shown in Figure.

7. In the Theme Details dialog box, you can select widget, window deco ration, and icon themes independently of one another.

In the Theme Details dialog box, use the three tabs to set the three aspects of application appearance, respectivelycontrols (widgets), window border, and icons. By combining elements from disparate themes, you can achieve unique desktop effects.

You Can Install Your Own Desktop Themes

Ambitious users can download and install their own themes from the website To download and install a theme, follow the directions on the website to save the theme you want to use to your home directory. Then open a file manager window and drag the icon of the theme package into the Theme Preferences dialog box. The theme you downloaded then appears in the themes list and can be selected like any other theme.

Remember that any theme you want to download and install must be intended for Fedora Core 4; otherwise, it is not likely to work correctly.

Changing Your Desktop Wallpaper

Desktop wallpaper is an image or pattern that appears on the desktop beneath icons and application windows. To change your desktop wallpaper, choose Desktop, Preferences, Desktop Background. The Desktop Background Preferences dialog box appears, as shown in Figure.

8. Using the Desktop Background Preferences dialog box, you can change your desktop wall paper image.

To change the picture used as your desktop wallpaper, click on any of the images in the Desktop Wallpaper list. If you'd like to use one of your own image files as your desktop wallpaper, click Add Wallpaper. A standard file dialog box appears so that you can select the image file you'd like to use.

For any wallpaper image, you have several choices for how the image is shown on the desktop, accessible via the Style drop-down list. The following options are available:

  • Centered causes the image to be centered with respect to the desktop. If the image is smaller than the desktop, the edges of the display show a solid color. If the image is larger than the desktop, some of the image's edges may be cut off.

  • Fill Screen causes the image to be enlarged or shrunk, changing the shape of the image as necessary to fit the size of your desktop exactly from edge to edge, both horizontally and vertically.

  • Scaled causes the image to be enlarged or shrunk as necessary to fit the size of your desktop as closely as possible without changing the shape of the image.

  • Tiled should be used if the image is smaller than your desktop to cause the image to be tiled over and over again across your display.

If you don't want to use a picture as your desktop wallpaper image, but instead would prefer a solid color or blend of colors, select No Wallpaper from the top of the Desktop Wallpaper list. Then select one of the following styles from the Desktop Colors drop-down list:

  • Solid Color uses only one color that you select by clicking the button to the right of the drop-down list. This color then paints the entire desktop.

  • Horizontal Gradient displays a second color button and then blends the two colors that you select together from left to right.

  • Vertical Gradient displays a second color button and then blends the two colors that you select together from top to bottom.

After you configure your desktop wallpaper to suit your tastes, click the Close button in the Desktop Background Preferences box to close it.

Changing Your Screensaver

A screensaver is a popular kind of program that takes over your computer display when you haven't used your computer for several minutes. The screensaver paints patterns or animations on the screen until you return and press a key or move the mouse. By default, no screensavers are installed in the Workstation installation described in Chapter 2, "Installing Fedora Core 4."

To change your screensaver, choose Desktop, Preferences, Screensaver. The Screensaver Preferences dialog box appears, as shown in Figure.

9. Using the Screensaver Preferences dialog box, you can choose a screensaver and alter its behavior.

To select the way in which screensavers are used on your system, use the Mode drop-down box. There, you can choose among the following options:

  • Disable Screen Saver turns off the screensaver feature. Your desktop remains visible no matter how long it has been inactive.

  • Blank Screen Only causes the screen to go black after a period of inactivity instead of displaying graphics or animations for your amusement.

  • Only One Screen Saver causes the screensaver that has been selected in the selection box to become active after a period of inactivity.

  • Random Screen Saver causes the desktop to cycle through the list of screensavers at random, displaying one after another in turn, after a period of inactivity.

You can click any of the screensavers in the screensaver selection box to see a preview of the screensaver on the right side of the window. If you select the Only One Screen Saver mode, this also selects the screensaver that is used after a period of inactivity.

After you select a screensaver, you can alter its settings (such as color and speed of animation) by clicking the Settings button.

The number in the Blank After box determines how long a screensaver is allowed to run on an inactive system before the screen goes completely blank.

The number in the Cycle After box determines how long a screensaver is allowed to run before a new screensaver starts if you have selected the Random Screen Saver mode.

To cause the system to request a password when you return from a period of inactivity, check the Lock Screen After box and select the number of minutes of inactivity after which a password is to be required. It is a good idea to check this option if you work in an environment in which other people might have physical access to your computer system.

Most Users Don't Need to Use the Advanced Tab

The Advanced tab in the Screensaver Preferences dialog box contains options that most users won't need to alter, so we won't discuss them here. Feel free to explore the tab if you want, but don't change any settings unless you know what you are doing!

After you configure your screensaver according to your own preferences, click the Close button to close the Screensaver Preferences dialog box.

Changing Desktop Resolution

Sometimes it can be helpful to adjust the amount of information that you can see on your Linux desktop at any time, either by shrinking everything on the desktop (so that you can fit more things on it) or expanding everything on the desktop (so that you can see the things that are on it more clearly).

This change can be made by adjusting your desktop resolution. To do so, choose Desktop, Preferences, Screen Resolution. The Screen Resolution Preferences dialog box is shown (see Figure). To adjust your screen resolution, choose your preferred setting from the Resolution drop-down list. Some common settings are described here:

  • 640x480 Displays everything on your desktop as large as is possible, at the expense of being able to fit fewer things onto your screen at once

  • 800x600 Displays things at a nominally large size, while fitting more on your screen than the 640x480 setting; ideal for 14-inch and some 15-inch displays

  • 1024x768 Fits more on your desktop still, with the drawback of shrinking text and icons smaller than is comfortable for most 14-inch display users; ideal for most 15-inch and 17-inch displays

  • 1280x960 or higher Use these high-resolution settings to squeeze as many items onto your desktop as is possible, by making icons and text as small as possible; ideal for some 17-inch and most 19-inch or larger displays

10. Use the Screen Resolution Preferences dialog box to adjust the size of your desktop and the items on it.

Once you have selected your preferred desktop resolution, you should also select a refresh rate. In general, you should choose the highest number available to you in the Refresh Rate drop-down list, after you consult your monitor or display's documentation to ensure that the refresh rate is supported. The higher the refresh rate you are able to use, the less flicker and eyestrain you'll experience as you use your desktop.

Have a Monitor More Than a Year or Two Old?

If your computer's display is more than a year or two old, check your manual very carefully before adjusting your resolution or refresh rate.

Newer monitors tell Linux about the resolutions and refresh rates that they can operate at, and Linux is careful to present to you only choices that your monitor can support.

Older monitors, however, do not have this capability, and Linux may therefore present you with choices that could harm your monitor, if your monitor's manual or user documentation doesn't list them as supported modes.

Changing Other Desktop Preferences

Because of the limited amount of space in a book like this one, we can explore only the most commonly changed desktop preferencespreferences related to mouse movement, application window appearance, desktop wallpaper, screensavers, and desktop resolution. Many other aspects of the desktop can be altered through the Preferences menu, however:

  • Choose Password to change your password and personal information available to other Fedora Core 4 users on your computer system.

  • Choose Accessibility to change various aspects of desktop behavior to better suit disabled or differently abled individuals.

  • Choose More Preferences, Preferred Applications to change programs used by the desktop to handle various types of files and tasks in day-to-day use.

  • Choose Font to fine-tune the fonts used by GNOME to be as clear and visible as possible on your computer system. Special options exist for laptop computers or for those who find the default fonts to be too fuzzy.

  • Choose Keyboard to change the key repeat speed and the default text cursor's appearance, and to enable or disable the keyboard bell.

  • Choose Keyboard Shortcuts to tie Ctrl, Alt, and Function keystrokes of your choosing to various common GNOME functions, such as closing or maxi mizing windows.

  • Choose Menus & Toolbars to show or hide text beneath toolbar icons and to show or hide icons in application drop-down menus.

  • Choose Sound to change the sounds you hear when performing common tasks, such as hiding or closing windows, or to disable sound altogether.

  • Choose Windows to change how windows are selected; choose either the default mode in which you must click a window to make it active or an alternate mode in which any window the mouse is pointing to will become active.

Feel free to explore the rest of the preferences until your desktop behaves exactly as you would like it to.

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