So we’ve made some progress but there’s still a little bit more to go.  For one thing, we can’t play any mp3’s or watch any movies.  That would be nice, huh?

Ubuntu doesn’t enable “restricted formats” like mp3 or DVD playback by default so we have to manually install the software to play these files.  Start up Synaptic and find the program “xubuntu-restricted-extras” and install it.  This will allow mp3 and DVD playback, install some Microsoft fonts and install Java.  You’ll need to agree to a couple of licenses and the rest will be automatic.

Now we need a music player.  There are a lot of great music players for GNOME like Rhythmbox or Banshee but we don’t want a lot of GNOME dependencies installed on our lightweight system.  Two options that I like are Exaile and gmusicbrowser.  Both are available by searching Synaptic.  I’m partial to gmusicbrowser but it can be a little harder to set up compared the Exaile.

Now we can play music but what about movies?  For movie playback, including DVD’s, I like mplayer.  It seems to be able to handle just about any format I throw at it including XviD files.  You can also download the mozilla-mplayer plugin for Firefox which will let you play embedded movies on web pages.  The default look of mplayer is nothing to get excited about so I like to also install SMplayer which is a “front-end” that gives you a nicer interface as well as access to a lot of options for playback.

You might also want a podcast client.  A really nice one that works well with XFCE is gPodder.  By now you know how to find software in Synaptic and install it.  Pretty easy, right?

We now have some useful applications so let’s work on that launcher at the bottom of your desktop.  Go to Menu -> Accessories -> Appfinder  This opens up a list of all the installed applications on your system.  Leave that window open for now.  You can launch any program in that list by double-clicking on it but we’re going to use it for a different purpose.  At the bottom of your screen we have a launcher for Firefox but it’s that generic, star-shaped launcher icon.  Right-click on that icon and choose Properties.  Notice on the left side of the Properties window it says Firefox and it looks like there could be more programs listed there?  Go back to your Appfinder program and find Firefox on the list.  Click and drag the Firefox entry from Appfinder to the Program Launcher Properties window and let go when you are over the list pane on the left side.  That should add Firefox as an entry with a nice icon.  Now you can select the old, generic launcher in the list and hit the minus sign at the bottom and it will delete it, leaving only the nice, new Firefox launcher there.

Leaving your Appfinder window open, right-click on the Firefox launcher icon at the bottom of your desktop and choose Add New Item, then choose Launcher.  Now there’s a new Program Launcher Properties window open so this time drag both your music player and movie player to the list on the left side.  Add your podcast aggregator as well if you like.  Now delete the generic “New Item” entry and close the window.  You now have three programs in one launcher space at the bottom.  I like to group my programs but you can fill the whole row with all your frequently used programs if you’d like.

That’s it for now.  Next time I think we’ll bring this series to a close by talking about a neat program named conky and finishing up any last remaining details.