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Get started faster in Ubuntu

Eliminate the log-in, have your favorite apps open automatically, and keep them in front of all other windows.

The more I use Ubuntu, the more I like it. That's not to say I was happy with the operating system's default start-up settings, however. Here are three Ubuntu tweaks that speed up the start of my workday.

Do away with the log-in
I'm the only one using the ancient laptop I installed Ubuntu on, and I don't feel the need to keep interlopers off it, so I set it to start without requiring a log-in ID and password. To cancel the log-in, click System > Administration > Login Window, enter your password, and select the Security tab in the Login Windows Preferences dialog box. Choose your ID in the User drop-down menu, and click Close. The next time you start Ubuntu, the OS will load without prompting you for a username and password. You'll still have to enter your password to access Administration tools, however.

Ubuntu's Login Window Preferences dialog box
Set Ubuntu to start without prompting for a username and password via this option in the Login Window Preferences dialog box.

Add shortcuts to the top panel of the desktop
One of my favorite Ubuntu applications is the Tomboy note-taker, but opening it by clicking Applications > Accessories > Tomboy Notes takes too long. Instead, I added a shortcut to the program on the panel that runs across the top of the screen, much like Windows' Quick Launch toolbar reversed. To do so, right-click an empty area of the panel, choose Add to Panel, select the program you want to add in the list of Accessories, or scroll down the page to the Desktop & Windows, System & Hardware, or Utilities section, click Add at the bottom of the window, and close it.

Ubuntu's Add to Panel dialog box
Add shortcuts to your favorite Ubuntu apps by selecting them in the Add to Panel dialog box and clicking Add.

Keep your favorite app window on top
Now that I have my notepad at the ready on my desktop, I want to keep other windows I open from obfuscating it. A nice feature of Ubuntu that Windows lacks (unless you tweak the Registry or download a separate always-on-top utility) is the ability to keep a window on top of all others. Just right-click the bar along the top of the window, and select Always on Top from the drop-down menu.

The right-click menu for Ubuntu window options
Right-click the top of a program's window in Ubuntu and choose Always on Top to keep it in view as new windows open.

Bonus tip: Get a snapshot of your system performance by adding a mini System Monitor window to your panel: Right-click the panel, choose Add to Panel, scroll down to and select System Monitor, and click Add and Close. Now you can get a continuous glimpse of your system activity, though you may have to squint to make out the miniscule green blips in the tiny black rectangle that appears.

Tomorrow: Tell-tale signs of a Web site's trustworthiness.