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2.1. Getting Started Using the Fedora Graphical User Interfaces

Fedora Core provides two attractive and easy-to-use graphical user interfaces (GUIs): KDE and GNOME. Each of these GUIs should be a comfortable adjustment for the majority of Windows and Mac users because basic operations are similar. However, there are some capabilities that are unique to Linux, and learning to use these features will enable you to take full advantage of the Fedora GUIs.

2.1.1. How Do I Do That?

Fedora Linux can boot into graphical mode or text mode, depending on the default runlevel (see Lab 4.5, "Using Runlevels"); when installed using the graphical installation program, Fedora's default is to present the graphical login display shown in Figure 2-1.

Figure 2-1. Fedora default login screen

In the middle of the screen are four clickable controls:


Displays a dialog enabling you to select the default language for the session. This will not change the messages on the login display, but it will change the default for messages after you successfully log in. Where possible, messages will appear in this selected language, but when no translation for the selected language is found, messages will appear in the default language for the application (usually English). After you enter a username and password, you will be given the choice of making the selected language the permanent default for that username, or using it only for one session.


Permits you to select the session type: GNOME (the default) or a fail-safe session. If you install additional software for other desktop environments, such as KDE or Xfce, they will also appear on this menu.


Presents a confirmation dialog, then restarts the computer. Except for the kernel (the core of the operating system), almost everything in Fedora can be restarted without a reboot, so this option is usually used only when switching between operating systems in a dual-boot configuration.

Shut Down

Presents a confirmation dialog, then shuts down the system and turns the computer off.

If you press F10, a menu containing most of these options appears.

After you enter your username and password, the system will check to see if you have selected a session type or language different from your normal settings. If so, you will be asked if the change is temporary ("Just for This Session") or permanent ("Make default"). Click on one of the buttons to make your selection. KDE or GNOME?

GNOME and KDE are built upon different technology and have been designed with different philosophiesas a GNOME or KDE advocate will quickly tell you. However, the most common operations are the same in both environments, and the GNOME and KDE communities collaborate on a number of key issues through ( The friendly rivalry between the groups spurs them on to develop innovations and refinements for both desktop environments.

Fedora installs and uses GNOME by default, and it is the best choice for most Fedora users. However, KDE is provided on the installation CDs/DVD, and it's worthwhile experimenting with both desktops to find the one that suits your style.

Regardless of which GUI environment you use, you can run both KDE and GNOME programs and have them side by side on your display. For example, you can fire up Evolution (the GNOME email/calendar/ scheduling application) and Konqueror (the KDE web browser) and cut and paste data between them. This interoperability is enabled by the X Window System, which provides the foundation for both GUIs. Using the desktop

Once you have logged in, you will see the GNOME desktop, shown in Figure 2-2, or the KDE desktop, shown in Figure 2-3. The same default visual theme has been installed in both environments to provide a fairly consistent appearance and style.

Figure 2-2. Fedora GNOME desktop.

Figure 2-3. Fedora KDE desktop

Although the two desktop environments have some significant differences, their main features are very similar. Here is a summary; where KDE and GNOME differ in their naming conventions, I've used a unified terminology (which will mortify GNOME or KDE purists but allow the rest of us to talk about the desktop in a sane way):

Panel bar (panel)

Fedora's default configuration of the GNOME desktop includes two panel bars, one at the top of the screen and one at the bottom. Fedora's KDE configuration includes one panel bar at the bottom of the screen. In both cases, you can move the panels to any edge of the screen by clicking on them (in an empty area of the panel) and dragging them. You can move an item within a panel by clicking on it with the middle mouse button (on a mouse with a wheel, depress the wheel; on a two-button mouse, press both buttons simultaneously) and dragging it to the desired location. To shove other items along while dragging an item, hold down the Shift key.

You can lock an item to a specific location within the panel by right-clicking and selecting the checkbox labeled "Lock to panel"; to unlock the item, deselect the checkbox.

Application/panel menus

GNOME's application menus appear on the left side of the top panel bar. Three menus are provided: Applications, which contains various useful programs; Places, which contains a list of location-oriented options, such as viewing your home directory or desktop, searching for files, or going to a recently edited document; and System, which includes preferences, administration, help, and options to log out or lock the display.

KDE's main panel menu is called the K menu (it's customized to look like an F in Fedora) and is located at the left side of the panel bar. It includes roughly the same applications as the GNOME menus, with some KDE programs replacing GNOME programs (such as the KDE Control Center instead of the GNOME Preference options).

Both environments permit you to access the application menu by pressing Alt-F1.

Panel icons

Common applications have icons on the panel bar. To add an icon for another program to the panel, find the program on the application menu, then right-click and select "Add this Launcher to Panel" or "Add Item to Main Panel."

Desktop icons

A default set of icons appears on the desktop, including your Home directory, Computer, and Trash. You can create additional icons by dragging files from a file manager or links from a web browser and dropping them on the desktop. Desktop icons are stored in the directory named ~/Desktop.

Workplace/desktop switcher

Both GNOME and KDE include virtual desktop (or workspace) capability, which means that the visible screen represents only one of several desktop workspaces. To switch between desktops, click on one of the desktop icons in the desktop switcher, or place your mouse pointer over the desktop switcher and roll the mouse wheel. GNOME's workplace switcher also allows you to drag a window outline from one desktop to another. GNOME's workspaces are initially arranged in a horizontal row, while KDE's are arranged in a 2x2 grid.

The virtual desktop facility provides a lot of screen area to arrange your windows; many users arrange their open applications according to tasksfor example, having email and messaging programs open on one desktop, a web browser on another, and on a third.

Window/task list

When an application is running, an entry appears in the window list (or task list) in the bottom panel. KDE's default task list includes the windows in all virtual desktops; GNOME's includes only windows in the current virtual desktop.


Click on the clock/calendar to display a calendar of the current month. The GNOME version of the calendar will also show you to-do list items from the Evolution scheduler program, and double-clicking on a date will take you to the Evolution schedule for that date.

Applets and monitors

A panel can also display applets and monitors to let you perform operations easily and to keep you informed. To add additional applets to the panel bar, right-click an empty spot on the panel and select "Add to Panel," and then select the applet or monitor from the list displayed. Managing windows

When you start a program by clicking on an icon or application menu item, one or more windows will appear. Almost all windows have a title bar and window controls, as shown on the window in Figure 2-4.

Figure 2-4. Dasher window, showing title bar and window controls

These are the basic controls:

Window border

When you position the mouse cursor over any edge or corner of a resizable window, it will change to a double-ended arrow. Click and drag to resize the window.

Title bar

Clicking and dragging the title bar will move the window. Double-clicking the title bar can be configured to maximize the window to fill the entire screen (the default for GNOME, similar to Windows) or to roll up the window into the title bar like a window shade (the default for KDE, similar to Mac OS 9).

Window menu

Clicking on the icon on the left side of the titlebar will bring up the window menu. You can also view the window menu by right-clicking anywhere on the window border.

The window menu contains options for placing the window on top of all other windows; maximizing, minimizing, and closing the window; and placing the window on a specific workspace/desktop or making it appear on all workspaces.

Minimize, maximize, and close icons

There are three icons on the right side of the titlebar. Clicking the leftmost one will minimize the window (you can then access through the window list); clicking the middle one will maximize or unmaximize the window, and clicking on the rightmost one will close the window.

You can also minimize a window by clicking on its entry in the window list.

Table 2-1 lists a number of useful keyboard shortcuts available for window management.

Table 2-1. Keyboard shortcuts for window management
Display window menuAlt-SpaceAlt-F3
Close windowAlt-F4Alt-F4
Unmaximize (Restore)Alt-F5
Task list menu Alt-F5
Move window using cursor keysAlt-F7
Resize window using cursor keysAlt-F8
Maximize Alt-F10 Fast pasting

KDE, GNOME, and other GUIs based on the X Window System have standard cut-and-paste features. Most applications use Ctrl-X for cut, Ctrl-C for copy, and Ctrl-V for paste, which is compatible with the keyboard shortcuts on other platforms.

But the X Window System also has a faster way of pasting: select the text (or graphic) you want to duplicate by highlighting it, then click the middle mouse button at the point you wish to paste. For example, to fast-paste a web address from Firefox into an email being composed in Evolution, you can highlight the text in Firefox (place the mouse cursor at the start of the text, press the left mouse button, drag the cursor over the text, and release the button), then move to the Evolution window and press the middle mouse button to paste that text.

Taking this one step further, all of the Fedora web browsers allow you to highlight a web address in any application's window, then middle-click on a blank spot in the browser window to go directly to that page (with Firefox, you can also search using this technique, by highlighting a search term instead of an addressas long as there's no period in your search term).

The clipboard used for cut/copy-and-paste operations is not used for fast pasting; instead, the selection (highlighted text or graphics) is directly duplicated (pasted) into the destination, and the clipboard contents are left intact. Logging out

To log out of the desktop, press Ctrl-Alt-Delete. A confirmation dialog will appear, and then you will be logged out. You can also select the Log Out option from the application menu (System menu in GNOME).

2.1.2. How Does It Work?

The Fedora GUI is built in seven layers plus some toolkits or user-interface libraries, as shown in Figure 2-5.

Figure 2-5. Layers in the Fedora GUI

This architecture fits in well with the Unix/Linux philosophy of writing programs that each do one task and do it well. The layers can be mixed and matched to serve various needs; for example, in the standard Fedora configuration, selecting a GNOME or KDE session changes the software used for the Session Manager, Window Manager, and Desktop Environment layers, even though the Display Manager and Application Clients remain the same. Likewise, if the system is configured for character-mode login, but the user starts the GUI after she has logged in, then the Display Manager layer is not used at all.

The X server manages all of the display hardware and is the only program that directly accesses the hardware. Client programswhich include any program that needs to communicate with the user, including the Display Manager, Session Manager, Window Manager, Desktop Environment, and Application Clientscommunicate with the X server using the X protocol over a network connection. That means that any application that can be used on a local display can also be used on a remote display. This provides powerful flexibility for remote access.

The Toolkits are function libraries used to simplify development of GUI applications. GTK+ is the toolkit used by GNOME, and Qt is used by KDE applications (though not all applications that use these toolkits are full-blown GNOME or KDE applications, because both environments provide additional services).

2.1.3. What About... ...other desktops/GUIs?

Many other desktop/GUI environments are availablefor example, Xfce, a nice but lightweight desktop environment included in the Fedora Extras repository. To install Xfce:

# yum groupinstall XFCE

You'll see an entry for Xfce in the Display Manager's Session menu (shown in Figure 2-1).

See Chapter 5 for more information on using yum.

2.1.4. Where Can I Learn More?

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