The Perfect Desktop - Xubuntu 12.04

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme , Christian Schmalfeld <c [dot] schmalfeld [at] projektfarm [dot] de>
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Last edited 05/11/2012

This tutorial shows how you can set up a Xubuntu 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.

The software I propose as default is the one I found easiest to use and best in their functionality - this won't necessarily be true for your needs, thus you are welcome to try out the applications listed as alternatives.

I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

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


  • Pinta - open source drawing application modeled after Paint.NET
    • KolourPaint - paint application with elemental functions
    • MyPaint - paint application with a large variety of brushes
  • 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
  • Thunderbird - email and news client
    • Evolution - combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions
  • Deluge - free cross-platform BitTorrent client
    • Transmission BitTorrent Client - Bittorrent client
    • Vuze - Java BitTorrent client
    • qBittorrent - free alternative to µtorrent
  • Marble - desktop globe similar to google earth
    • GoogleEarth - Google's desktop globe
  • Flash Player 11
  • FileZilla - multithreaded FTP client
  • Pidgin IM Client - multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype
  • Dropbox Client - cloud storage
  • Gwibber Social Client - open-source microblogging client (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)


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

Sound & Video:

  • Banshee - audio player, can encode/decode various formats and synchronize music with Apple iPods
    • Amarok - audio player
    • 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
    • Sound Juicer CD Extractor - CD ripping tool, supports various audio codecs
    • Nightingale - audio player similar to Winamp, but not yet as feature rich (Songbird fork)
    • XMMS - audio player similar to Winamp
    • Clementine - Amarok 1.4 fork
    • Exaile - audio player
  • VLC Media Player - media player, plays all kinds of videos (video/audio)
    • Totem - media player (video/audio)
    • Xine - media player, supports various formats; can play DVDs
  • Winff - free video converter
    • SoundConverter - free audio converter
    • Soundkonverter - free audio converter
    • XFCA - free video/audio converter and ripper
  • K3B - CD/DVD burning program
    • Brasero - CD/DVD burning program
  • Audacity - free, open source, cross platform digital audio editor
  • Kino - free digital video editor
  • dvd::rip - full featured DVD copy 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
  • gedit - simple 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. Some may also not be in the default repositories and have to be downloaded from the internet or from extra repositories.

The software provided in the above list covers most of the basic tasks one may need to do on their desktop computers, sometimes there are multiple choices for same functionality. If you know which one you like best, you obviously don't need to install and test the other applications, however if you like choice, then of course you can install more than one.

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 Xubuntu installer doesn't offer a lot of options to choose from, so you cannot go wrong.

Download the Ubuntu 12.04 desktop edition iso image from, burn it onto a CD, and boot your computer from it:

Select your language and click on the Install Xubuntu button to start the installation:

On the next screen you see a few requirements for the Ubuntu 12.04 installation (the system should have at least 4.4 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 Xubuntu is a good choice, unless you need custom partitions and know what you're doing. Erase disk and install Xubuntu will create one big / partition for us:

Select the hard drive that you want to use for the Xubuntu 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,Xubuntu 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 Xubuntu installation CD from the CD drive. Please do this now and press ENTER:

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

This is how your new Xubuntu XFCE desktop looks:

Now the base system is ready to be used.

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16 Comment(s)

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From: andrew at: 2012-05-16 07:21:48

"KompoZer - WYSIWYG HTML editor, similar to Macromedia Dreamweaver, but not as feature-rich (yet)" .. you wrote that yet over there.. but kompozer's latest stable version is from 2007-08 .. and latest development version is from 2010.. i don't think this guys will continue development for kompozer .. but instead other WYSIWYG, aloso by firefox is: BlueGriffon..

From: Anonymous at: 2012-05-16 02:57:55

Thanks for the article -- great selection of apps!

 Perhaps you could add an additional page for "eye-candy." In other words, how to tweak the desktop and UI to react more like Windows, and how to add cool effects and features (like conky). You needed to wrap up the great selection of apps, with a section on customizing the UI features and settings.

 But, once again, thanks for your efforts!

From: at: 2013-06-25 01:26:00

Hello guys,

Thanks for a nice tutorial. I would like to introduce my small tutorial on how-to use encryption for both Windows and Xubuntu installations and how to access/mount an encrypted Windows drive from Xubuntu.

I hope you'll find it useful.

From: Shaun at: 2012-05-14 00:20:11

 1. gedit wasn't installed for me, it gave me a command unknown error, so I just used leafpad instead.

 2. linuxmint-keyring wasn't found in the repositories, so I added an extra line to the sources.list,  deb debian main upstream import

 I'm completely new to Linux and was fairly sure I'd followed all the steps up to these points correctly, so it took me a second to find a way to make it work, just thought I'd comment in case anybody else completely new runs into the same problems

From: Anonymous at: 2012-06-27 04:07:23


thank you sooo much for your dedicated work. For anyone, even a bit advanced users, an excellent piece of work.

Amazing to get it out there so fast.

thanks again

From: Anonymous at: 2012-12-26 02:19:47

Just a note for all Xubuntu beginners: two very useful tips.  First. to use alt+right key for resizing windows.  Just right-click somewhere near the bottom right corner of a window while holding down the alt key to resize (xfce is otherwise not sensitive enough and it can be frustrating trying to find that sweet spot without this trick).  Second, an interesting and useful windows trick with xfce is to scroll while the mouse is in the window border - this scrolls up the windows leaving only the title bar, and vise versa, which can be a neat way to navigate windows that other desktops don't offer. For what it's worth, as far as appearance goes I always do the following immediately: use desktop settings to change the icons display to leave a clear desktop; use the settings editor to not show the removables files (now the desktop is really clear); and in settings manager switch to the Xubuntu Bluebird theme for window borders.  Hopefully xfce devs will realize some day that no, most of us do not want to see a dozen drive icons on our desktop (!).


Thanks for the great tutorial - I've been an xubuntu user for two years and this an excellent walk through.

From: Anonymous at: 2012-05-16 03:26:30

1.  I wonder about the safety of suggesting to people who might be Linux beginners that they user Erase Disk and Install Xubuntu without mentioning to them that they will lose any previously installed system.  (Yes, it seems obvious, but ...)

 2.  This may seem odd.  I'm aware that this series of articles isn't for changing the setup, but again with Linux beginners in mind ...  I consider the default Xubuntu desktop unusable for beginners (and perhaps for most.)  Don't get me wrong-I think Xubuntu is a great distro, and in fact am typing this comment using Xubuntu 12.04.  However, I doubt that there are many who consider the default desktop "perfect" without changing the desktop background and perhaps the screen resolution and panel and desktop setup.    Yes, I know that isn't the focus of this series of articles, but your title, "the Perfect Desktop" seems wrong to me without changing the default desktop settings.

From: Anonymous at: 2012-05-16 14:06:17

I've tried several Live USB versions of Ubuntu 12, with nothing but aggravation about Google Earth.  This is the first I've seen of some instructions to install it.  No such problem with Ubuntu 11 or 10.  Obviously a go to app for so many users should be in the standard supported repositories ready to go. 

From: Anonymous at: 2012-06-24 10:49:24


From: Anonymous at: 2012-05-16 22:49:40

your talking about the top panel?  just right click the panel click panel properties then unlock panel.  all you gotta do is click the side of the panel to move it around. 

From: Markthetrigeek at: 2012-05-16 11:24:15

Coming from someone who likes the typical menu config (ala Gnome 2, KDE 3.2) it's very disappointing to see everything across the top. At least in Gnome 2 there was a setting that allowed you to move the bar from the top to bottom. And yes Cinnamon does allow for this but why is everyone going in that direction?

From: jlane01 at: 2012-06-10 16:17:27

Nice tutorial, thanks.  I like the way that xfce is progressing.  Just installed xfce 4.10 on both xubuntu & kubuntu 12.04 (desktop and laptop respectively) and have to say that it's my new favorite desktop. 

From: Jerry C. at: 2012-10-28 16:59:27

I just finished upgrading a dell dimension 2400 to 2gb of ram and put Xubuntu on it. Really like it and it is alot faster than Ubuntu on the same system.

It's easily customizable so making it look slick was not a problem.

My only suggestion would be the check box for "download updates while installing" should be automatic. My first attemp at installing i didn't check it and the mouse cursor was not installed. I reloaded with "download updates" checked and it runs perfectly.


From: Dalton at: 2013-02-06 00:11:59

thanks for the help.....

From: Metric Rat at: 2013-04-13 23:34:33

A good run through of getting Xubuntu 12.04 setup and ready to go.

 IMHO a few apps missing:

Audacious (OK you had XMMS),

Inkscape (vector drawing, and edit PDFs),

K3B (yes, it brings in a load of KDE guff, but just works better than any other Burner app),

Devede (DVD maker), 

XBMC :),

Openshot (Video Editor),

Geany (a decent text editor and coder),

Wine (for when you need a Windows app),

Grub Customiser (a must for making grub look good and work for you), 

Meld, Xsane, MKVMerge, Feh, CDCat, KeepassX, Easytag.

From: jollydoger at: 2014-02-16 10:31:56

Really appreciate the work you did on this. I have been using Linux server commands for a while, but always gone to a MS Windows desktop for application use. I am very happy with this desktop setup this article arrives at.