A few Ubuntu "power user" tips

Jack Wallen
Apr 1, 2010
Updated • Dec 5, 2012

I thought I would start off the month with a collection of "power user" tips I have collected over the years. Some of these are real gems, some of them are just "been there, done that". But all of them are useful.

So, without further adieu, let's get to the tippage!

Global keyboard shortcuts

We all know that keeping your fingers on the keyboard makes for much more efficient computing. But did you know you can create global keyboard shortcuts for GNOME? This is done with the help of the gconf-editor tool. Here's how it's done:

  1. Hit <Ctrl>F2
  2. Enter gconf-editor to start up the tool.
  3. Navigate to Apps > Metacity > keybinding_commands.
  4. Right-click in the pane that lists all of the entries.
  5. Scroll until you see a list of command_N Where N is a number from 1-10
  6. Double click on one of these entries (remember which number you double clicked on).
  7. In the Value section enter the command you want to use.
  8. Click OK.
  9. Navigate to Apps > Metacity > global_keybindings.
  10. In the Value field enter the key combination you want to use for that app (for example <Alt>f for firefox).
  11. Click OK.
  12. Test out your short cut.

Remember your state

Did you know you can have GNOME remember everything you have open when you next log in? This way you can resume working in the same state you were when you left. To do this navigate to System > Preferences > Startup Applications. In this new window click on the Options tab and check the box for "Automatically remember running applications when logging out".

Now the next time you log out and log in, your apps will be there for you.

Speed up boot time with profiling

Ubuntu 10.4 has reached the 10 second mark for boot time. But what if yours isn't quite reaching that goal? You can speed this up using the profile option. To do this follow these steps:

  1. At your boot screen press "e" (for edit).
  2. Use your arrow key and move down to the entry beginning with "kernel".
  3. Press "e" again.
  4. Add "profile" (no quotes) at the end of this line.
  5. Hit Enter.
  6. Click "b" (for boot).

The firs time you boot with profile it will take a little longer. What this is doing is profiling your boot process so it knows what files are accessed and then sorts them according to how they are stored on your drive. Your next boot should be considerably faster.

Remove menu delay

If you are like me, you want menus to pop up instantly. By default there is a slight delay for menus. To change this follow these steps:

  1. Open up a terminal window.
  2. Enter nano ~/.gtkrc-2.0
  3. Add a single line gtk-menu-popup-delay = 0
  4. Save that file
  5. Log out and log in.

You should now notice no delay in your menu popup speed.

Speed it up with no effects

If you find your GNOME desktop to be a bit sluggish, you might gain some speed by disabling special effects. To do this navigate to System > Preferences > Appearance. In this new window click on the Visual Effects tab and select None. This will boost your dekstop performance.

Final thoughts

And there you have it. Starting out your April with some "power user" tips. I have tons of tips just like this so expect them to be scattered about. Next time we'll take a look at some KDE power tips.


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  1. D herman said on April 9, 2010 at 7:56 am

    I assume since you specified Ubuntu in the headline these tips won’t work with just any other linux/gnome desktop :-(

  2. Raja said on April 4, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Power tips? More of beginner’s tips.

  3. Jon said on April 2, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Profiling should happen ONCE, not every boot. Thus, you make the temporary change in GRUB before booting. On the next reboot the change is lost but the effects of profiling stay. This is a “been there, done that” tip from back when speeding booting was first decided to be a a major issue, ca. 8.04.

  4. David said on April 2, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    How can you add the profiling with grub2?

  5. Roger said on April 2, 2010 at 10:14 am

    To get rid of all animations and similar clutter, after turning off
    visual effects in ubuntu’s System->Preferences->Appearance,
    in gconf-editor go to apps->metacity->general and select

    this gets rid of all wireframe animations and other visual usability aids..
    which is good if already know what you expect from your clicks.

    now if I could get firefox to stop animating its various bars…

  6. paul(us) said on April 1, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks a mil. Jack i cant wait for the next set off tips from you.

  7. Paul said on April 1, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks for the tips Jack.

    I wonder why Ubuntu does not ship this wonderful OS without a ‘default’ menu delay?

  8. or said on April 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    about the profiling tip – dont you need to write down on the bash_rc file to make it stick? or at least on menu.lst?

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