Note: this is the third part of a series on how I made my old computer a lean, mean Ubuntu machine.  You can read the first part here and the second part here.

So we’re now up and running with a minimal Ubuntu system.  We can’t do much with it right now but we’ve got almost all the basics in place.  We’ll add some software in a bit but first we’ll tweak some things.  Now one of the nice things about Ubuntu is you can customize your system any way you like.  What I’ll be showing you is how I’ve set my system up.  You may want yours to look very different from mine and that’s fine.  Use my instructions to get the hang of how things work and then make it how you want it.

First we’re going to work with the panels.  These are the bars that contain your menus and some other goodies.  Right now you have a basic menu sitting there on your desktop waiting to be customized.

See that little thing with the star-like pattern on it?  In my screenshot it is sitting there next to my floppy drive icon.  Yours might actually be placed over an icon.  That’s okay, we’ll get it into position right away.  But if you want, you can click on the sides of it (not the star-like part) and drag it around your desktop.

Now to get things going, right-click on the floating panel and choose Customize Panel from the menu.  This will bring up a dialog box where we can change some options.  Click on Fixed Position then from the drop-down box that says Normal Width choose Full Width and click on the box on the top center of the border.  Last, under Appearance, we’ll change the size to around 20 or so to make it smaller.  When you’re done it should look like this:

Now I like a second panel at the bottom of the screen to launch programs.  To make this, we’ll click on the Plus sign on the right side by where it says Panel 1 and that gives us a second panel.  I like this one to be size 40, Fixed Position at the bottom center and Normal Width.  Now we’re done with the basic panels, so let’s work on the menu.

Right-click on the top panel and choose Add New Item.  This will give us some options but we want Xfce Menu down at the bottom.  Click on that then click Add.  Another window will pop up that lets us configure the Xfce Menu.  I left all these options alone except for the Button title.  I usually change mine to say Ubuntu but you can change yours to Menu or A Flock of Seagulls or whatever you want.  Or you can just leave it the way it is.

Now there are two things on the top panel, the original star-shaped launcher button and the new Xfce Menu.  I didn’t want the launcher so I right-clicked on it and chose Remove.  That left the menu in the top left corner of the screen where I like it.

A couple other things I like on the top menu are a Task List, a Clock and Action Buttons.  Go ahead and add them if you’d like.  Note that once you place an item on the panel you can right-click on it and you’ll get a menu that lets you change its properties, move or even remove the item.

Now that our top panel is complete, it’s time to install the web browser Firefox.  In your new menu (pat yourself on the back!) go to System and then to Synaptic Package Manager.  If asked, type your password and then you’ll see a window pop up.  Click on the button that says Search, type “firefox” and hit return.

Scroll down until you see Firefox listed.  This will give you the most current version (mine’s 3.01 as of today).  Click in the checkbox to the left of Firefox and select Mark for Installation.  It’ll tell you it needs to mark additional required changes.  These are all files that help Firefox run.  They’re called dependencies and we’ll need them so click on the button Mark and you’re now ready to install Firefox.  At the top of the main Synaptic window is a button that says Apply.  Click on it and a confirmation window pops up.  Click on Apply in the new window and you will download and install Firefox.   Congratulations!

Once done, exit out of Synaptic and return to your desktop.  Now, to get to Firefox, click on your menu, go to Network and choose Firefox Web Browser.  Voila!  That feels good doesn’t it?

The last thing we’re going to do here is make a launcher for Firefox.  For programs I use frequently (and I use Firefox a lot) I make a launcher in the bottom panel.  To do this, right-click on the generic star-shaped launcher in the bottom panel and choose Properties.  Up pops a window that lets you configure your launcher.  Set yours up like this:

Once you’re done, click close and you now have a quick way to launch Firefox.  Just click once on the launcher and Firefox starts right up.  Later, we’ll show you an easier way to set up launchers with nice icons and everything but we’ll have to do some more work first.  That’s enough for now.  Have fun browsing with Firefox!