Friday, October 22, 2010

A look at Ubuntu Tweak 0.57

For those who don't know, Ubuntu Tweak is a simple yet powerful application to (ahem, you guessed it) tweak Ubuntu. The project is a very active one, constantly getting updates and new features. In fact, version 0.57 was very recently released and it does more than ever in a compact and user friendly interface.

INSTALLATION

Users can install Ubuntu Tweak by DOWNLOADING the application from the project official website and double clicking on the .deb file. Installation in Ubuntu 10.10 through a PPA is also available, and it is the approach I would recommend. If you choose that route, follow these simple steps:

1.- Open a terminal window and enter the following command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:tualatrix/ppa

2.- Once the PPA is added, update your sources:

sudo apt-get update

3.- Now proceed to install Ubuntu Tweak:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-tweak

LET'S ROCK UBUNTU

Once Ubuntu Tweak is installed in our system, the application launcher is stored under Applications > System Tools. A nice splash screen welcomes users as Ubuntu Tweak starts up.


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In my opinion, Ubuntu Tweak's most interesting feature is that it allows users to modify settings that are otherwise hidden or not easily accessible. If you are not the CLI hacker type, if you are not comfortable using gconf-editor or if you simply wish there was a more complete and comprehensive GUI configuration editor in Ubuntu, you might have found what you were looking for.


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As can be seen in the screenshot above, the main interface is made of two applets, a category menu on the left and a main applet that displays details for each of those categories in the center-right. There are too many categories to cover, so I won't go on about each one of them in detail, just concentrate on a few that I consider particularly relevant.


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Perhaps not that critical now that the Ubuntu Software Center has become such a powerful and user friendly tool, but back when synaptic was the main GUI software manager, Ubuntu Tweak's application management was probably making life a lot easier. Even today some users may appreciate the "one-does-everything" approach in Ubuntu Tweak.


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Adding software sources to /etc/apt/sources.list could be a pain if you were not familiar with the CLI (although things have vastly improved since the introduction of PPAs). The source editor in Ubuntu Tweak should simplify this task significantly.


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Come Ubuntu 9.10, tweaking GDM themes became a lot more difficult and restricted. Luckily, as shown on the screenshot above, Ubuntu Tweak provides some flexibility through a very straight forward interface. Changing the wallpaper and/or session login icon is a piece of cake now!


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Similarly, things like configuring the icons that are displayed on the desktop is real simple with Ubuntu Tweak.


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One of the features that I find attractive is the ability to backup your configuration settings. This allows users to restore a previous backup should anything go wrong. In addition, it is possible to restore to distro default levels.


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Another setting I love is the ability to control the display brightness when running on battery. This feature is one I really miss when moving from KDE to GNOME, so finding it in Ubuntu Tweak was a sweet surprise.

ALL IN ALL

I am sure you noticed I kept this introduction to Ubuntu Tweak (very) high level, but I think it should suffice to give you an idea of what it does and what it is capable of. If you like using the CLI, this application may not be of interest to you, but if you feel right at home using the GUI and need a more powerful and complete configuration editor in Ubuntu, make sure you give Ubuntu Tweak a go.

Note that Ubuntu Tweak should run smoothly on any Ubuntu derivative, such as Linux Mint.

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