There is a new version of this tutorial available for Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal).

The Perfect Desktop - Ubuntu Studio 12.04

This tutorial shows how you can set up an Ubuntu Studio 12.04 desktop that is a full-fledged replacement for a Windows desktop, i.e. that has all the software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that works even on old hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge. Please note that Ubuntu Studio 12.04 uses Xfce as the default desktop environment.

I want to say first that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

To fully replace a Windows desktop, I want the Ubuntu Studio desktop to have the following software installed:


  • The GIMP - free software replacement for Adobe Photoshop
  • Shotwell Photo Manager - full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop


  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Chromium - Google's open-source browser
  • Flash Player
  • FileZilla - multithreaded FTP client
  • Thunderbird - email and news client
  • Evolution - combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions
  • aMule - P2P file sharing application
  • Transmission BitTorrent Client - Bittorrent client
  • Vuze - Java Bittorrent client
  • Empathy IM Client - multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype
  • Google Earth
  • Xchat IRC - IRC client
  • Gwibber Social Client - open-source microblogging client (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)


  • LibreOffice Writer - replacement for Microsoft Word
  • LibreOffice Calc - replacement for Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Reader
  • GnuCash - double-entry book-keeping personal finance system, similar to Quicken
  • Scribus - open source desktop publishing (DTP) application


  • Amarok - audio player
  • Audacity - free, open source, cross platform digital audio editor
  • Banshee - audio player, can encode/decode various formats and synchronize music with Apple iPods
  • MPlayer - media player (video/audio), supports WMA
  • Rhythmbox Music Player - audio player, similar to Apple's iTunes, with support for iPods
  • gtkPod - software similar to Apple's iTunes, supports iPod, iPod nano, iPod shuffle, iPod photo, and iPod mini
  • XMMS - audio player similar to Winamp
  • dvd::rip - full featured DVD copy program
  • Kino - free digital video editor
  • Sound Juicer CD Extractor - CD ripping tool, supports various audio codecs
  • VLC Media Player - media player (video/audio)
  • RealPlayer - media player (available for i386 systems only)
  • Totem - media player (video/audio)
  • Xine - media player, supports various formats; can play DVDs
  • Brasero - CD/DVD burning program
  • K3B - CD/DVD burning program
  • Multimedia Codecs


  • KompoZer - WYSIWYG HTML editor, similar to Macromedia Dreamweaver, but not as feature-rich (yet)
  • Bluefish - text editor, suitable for many programming and markup languages
  • Eclipse - Extensible Tool Platform and Java IDE


  • VirtualBox OSE- lets you run your old Windows desktop as a virtual machine under your Linux desktop, so you don't have to entirely abandon Windows
  • TrueType fonts
  • Java
  • Read-/Write support for NTFS partitions
  • gDebi - package installer taking care of dependencies
  • gedit - text editor

Lots of our desired applications are available in the Ubuntu repositories, and some of these applications have been contributed by the Ubuntu community.

As you might have noticed, a few applications are redundant, for example there are two CD/DVD burning applications in my list (Brasero, K3B). If you know which one you like best, you obviously don't need to install the other applications, however if you like choice, then of course you can install both. The same goes for music players like Amarok, Banshee, Rhythmbox, XMMS or browsers (Firefox, Opera, Chromium).

I will use the username howtoforge in this tutorial. Please replace it with your own username.


2 Installing The Base System

The installation of the base system is easy as 1-2-3 because the Ubuntu Studio installer doesn't offer a lot of options to choose from, so you cannot go wrong.

Download the Ubuntu Studio iso image from, burn it onto a DVD, and boot your computer from it. Select your language:

Then select Install Ubuntu Studio:

The installer is started afterwards:

Select the installer language:

On the next screen you see a few requirements for the Ubuntu-Studio 12.04 installation (the system should have at least 7.6 GB available drive space and should be connected to the Internet). Please check the Download updates while installing and Install this third-party software (this will install the software necessary to process Flash, MP3, and other media files) checkboxes and click on Continue:

Now we come to the partitioning of our hard disk. Usually Erase disk and install Ubuntu-Studio is a good choice, unless you need custom partitions and know what you're doing. Erase disk and install Ubuntu-Studio will create one big / partition for us:

Select the hard drive that you want to use for the Ubuntu-Studio installation:

Then choose your time zone:

Change the keyboard layout, if necessary:

Type in your real name, your desired username along with a password, and click on Continue:

Afterwards, Ubuntu-Studio is being installed. This can take a few minutes, so be patient:

After the installation, you will be asked to reboot the system. Click on Restart Now. At the end of the shutdown process, you are asked to remove the Ubuntu-Studio installation CD from the CD drive. Please do this and press ENTER:

Your new Ubuntu-Studio system starts. Log into the desktop with the username and password you provided during the installation:

The base system is now ready to be used.

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8 Comment(s)

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By: Aleve Sicofante

Please stop calling The GIMP a "replacement" for Adobe Photoshop or LibreOffice a "replacement" for MS Office. Have you ever seen those popular apps referred to as "the prorpietary commercial replacement" for the free ones?

Let's grow up and define applications for what they do, not for what some think they are trying to catch up to.

By: Gord Jeoffroy

I share the sentiment! But this also helps put the apps in context for the newcomer. Simply calling The GIMP a "graphics program" doesn't paint as specific a picture as "it's like Photoshop."

By: Anonymous

"Have you ever seen those popular apps referred to as "the prorpietary commercial replacement" for the free ones?"


Maybe we should start doing that. :D


Does anyone know if Ubuntu studio has a real time kernel or not?

By: Maxei

"Does anyone know if Ubuntu studio has a real time kernel or not?"

Not exactly real time: Ubuntu Studio 12.04 uses the 3.2.0-23-lowlatency kernel. AFAIK, there is not yet a real-time kernel for Ubuntu Studio. I was using the 11.04 version (with a 'standard' kernel), and installed a low latency from alesio's repository. It was working ok for me: no xruns, but eventually, the updates of the system hogged it all to a slow responsive ubuntu. I was fed up of how slow it became ("thanks" to those nasty sob updates!).

I installed this 12.04 version, with xfce, and seems so, so, and is faster or more responsive than previous 11.04. However, I am now having terrible xruns! But I have NO intention to install updates; not again that mistake!!!

I need to find ways to eliminate xruns. Anyone??

By: Brian

To get rid of xruns, you're going to have to make sure you are running the lowlatency kernel. Then, the first recommendation I'd make is to completely disable WiFi.

 I've never had a problem with any Ubuntu install's performance deteriorating over time because of updates. However, in saying that, I do always wait about a week after a new kernel is installed (just in case the new one is flakey) and if all okay after the week, zap all old kernel images and headers.

By: Anonymous

did I miss the anti-virus?  Can't call it perfect desktop without one, right?


By: Anonymous

there are open source free security programs but hacking a Linux based computer is extremely hard. Linux is actually safer than most other operating systems you come across in terms of security. why? because everything that effects the "System" of the computer is protected by your Root password/verification, a hacker can't do anything to your system without your permission.

 In short Linux by it's self is safer than a windows PC with expensive security programs.

By: Anonymous

There really is no open source replacement for quicken that can connect to your bank and reconcile your transactions.