All Gui-based operating systems use a desktop environment. Desktop environments encompass many things, such as the look and feel of your system, as well as how the desktop is organized, laid out, and navigated by the user. In Linux distributions (such as Ubuntu), there are a number of desktop environments available for use. One of the most popular desktop environments is called gnome, which is used by default in Ubuntu. kde, xfce, and lxde are other popular desktop environments (used in Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and Lubuntu, respectively), and there are many more. As Ubuntu is based on gnome, we will limit our discussion in this guide to exploring your gnome desktop.

When you first log in to Ubuntu after installing it to your hard drive, you will see the gnome desktop. Ubuntu is highly customizable, as is the gnome desktop, but for now let's just explore the default layout that is in front of you.

First, you will notice there are two panels—one at the top of your desktop and one at the bottom. A panel is a bar that sits on the edge of your screen and contains various applets. ^ese applets provide useful functions such as running programs, viewing the time, or accessing the main menu.

To read more about other variants of Ubuntu, refer to Chapter 9: Learning More.

Everything on a panel is an applet, even the main menu.

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