Tweak Ubuntu for peak performance

Disable unnecessary auto-start apps, visuals, and services, and take advantage of the OS's keyboard shortcuts.

One of the first things I noticed after using Ubuntu for a while was how snappy the OS is, especially compared to Windows Vista (which in my experience can't even keep up with its predecessor XP). Then I poked around the Linux forums a little bit and found out that I could work even faster in Ubuntu by changing some default settings, and using a few of the OS's unique keyboard shortcuts.

Start at the beginning by disabling the auto-start Ubuntu apps that you don't need. For example, the ancient laptop I run Ubuntu on has no Bluetooth connection, so I don't need the Bluetooth Manager applet that loads with the OS. To disable this and other unneeded startup programs, click System > Preferences > Sessions, and uncheck the programs you don't use. Other candidates for disabling are the Evolution Alarm Notifier, the Restricted Drivers Manager, Tracker (the search and indexing service), User folders update, and Visual.

Ubuntu's Startup Programs list in the Sessions dialog box
Speed Ubuntu's startup by disabling the auto-start apps you don't need.

Another way to cut back on the interface overhead is to disable visual effects: Click System > Preferences > Appearance, select the Visual Effects tab, and choose None.

The Visual Effects settings in Ubuntu's Appearance Preferences dialog box
Pare down the overhead in Ubuntu by disabling unnecessary visual effects.

One thing Ubuntu and Windows have in common is their tendency to run more services than you need. To trim the services overhead in Ubuntu, click System > Administration > Services, and uncheck any unnecessary entries. Just as in Windows, be careful not to disable a required service. In my case, I unchecked Bluetooth device management (bluetooth) and Printer service (cupsys), the former because my laptop lacks Bluetooth capability, and the latter because it isn't connected to any printers. You'll find a list of common Ubuntu services, along with a brief description and advice for leaving them on or turning them off, at this Ubuntu Forum.

Ubuntu's Services settings dialog box
Keep Ubuntu running at top speed by disabling unneeded services.

Navigate faster in Ubuntu via keyboard shortcuts: Several of the most popular keyboard shortcuts in Windows work in Ubuntu as well, such as Ctrl-C to copy, Ctrl-V to paste, and Ctrl-S to save a file. Here are a few others for working faster in Ubuntu and its apps:
Alt-F1 opens the Applications menu, then use the arrow keys to navigate the submenus.
Alt-F2 opens the Run Application dialog box.
Alt-F3 opens the Deskbar Applet (F3 opens the search bar at the bottom of the window).
Alt-F4 closes the current window.
Alt-F5 unmaximizes the current window (if it's maximized, of course).
Alt-F7, followed by arrow keys or mouse movement, adjusts the current window's position.
Alt-F8 resizes the current window.
Alt-F9 minimizes the current window.
Alt-F10 maximizes the current window.
Alt-spacebar opens the window menu.
Alt-Tab moves between open windows.
Ctrl-Alt-Tab moves between open panels on the desktop.
Ctrl-W closes the current window.
Ctrl-Q closes the current application.
Here are some keyboard shortcuts for working in the Terminal window:
Ctrl-C kills the current process.
Ctrl-Z sends the current process to the background.
Ctrl-D logs you out.
Ctrl-R finds the last command matching the entered letters.
Tab followed by entered letters lists the available commands beginning with those letters.
Ctrl-U deletes the current line.
Ctrl-K deletes from the cursor right.
Ctrl-W deletes the word before the cursor.
Ctrl-L clears the terminal output.
Shift-Insert pastes the contents of the clipboard.
Alt-F moves forward one word.
Alt-B moves backward one word.

Adjust your keyboard shortcuts: Ubuntu makes it easy to customize your shortcuts. Click System > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts, select one of the shortcuts in the list, and enter your preferred keystroke combination. You can also alter your keyboard accessibility options by clicking System > Preferences > Universal Access > Keyboard Accessibility. Here you can enable and adjust the timing for sticky keys, repeat keys, slow keys, bounce keys, toggle keys, and mouse keys (these convert your numeric keypad into mouse controls).

Tomorrow: Diagnose Office crashes.

About the author

    Dennis O'Reilly began writing about workplace technology as an editor for Ziff-Davis' Computer Select, back when CDs were new-fangled, and IBM's PC XT was wowing the crowds at Comdex. He spent more than seven years running PC World's award-winning Here's How section, beginning in 2000. O'Reilly has written about everything from web search to PC security to Microsoft Excel customizations. Along with designing, building, and managing several different web sites, Dennis created the Travel Reference Library, a database of travel guidebook reviews that was converted to the web in 1996 and operated through 2000.

     

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