Here’s our pick of the top things to do after installing Ubuntu 20.04 LTS ‘Focal Fossa’ — things that will help you get more from your Linux system.
The arrival of Ubuntu’s latest Long Term Support (LTS) release is a pretty big deal as the majority of Ubuntu’s (ever growing) user base choose to run a an LTS edition over the latest short-term one.
Ubuntu prides itself on shipping sane defaults. It comes with apps most people will use, and settings most people will like.
But you’re not everyone, and there may be things you want to turn on, switch off, or tune out — and that’s what this guide covers.
While a few of the tips listed below may seem obvious they’re often forgotten or overlooked. Others are a touch niche or needs-specific.
Regardless, the following set of tweaks will improve your Ubuntu experience without making any impact on its stability or reliability.
Things to Do After You Install Ubuntu 20.04
1. See What’s New
Each version of Ubuntu is different to the last, and the latest offering is no exception. So before you start changing settings or flipping switches take a moment — say 3 minutes and 25 seconds to be exact — to bring yourself up-to-speed on what’s new n’ notable in the Focal Fossa.
If you don’t see the video embed above you can find it on our YouTube channel.
2. Play with Dark Mode
Dark modes are all the rage right now with major mobile and desktop operating systems I can think of having one — and that sentence now includes Ubuntu.
Although it’s not the default theme it is super easy to switch to dark window colours in Ubuntu 20.04:
- Open Settings > Appearance
- Select ‘Dark Windows’ setting
That’s it! The change takes effect immediately, instantly darkening the backgrounds and toolbars of most applications. Do be aware that dark mode in Ubuntu does not change the colour of GNOME Shell UI, such as notifications, calendar, and system menus.
When you’re tired of the dark look you can switch back to the default ‘mixed’ mode (or try the eye-blinding bright light version) in the Appearance settings panel.
3. Install GNOME Tweaks
GNOME Tweaks is a Swiss-army knife of options, including…
- Change GTK & icon theme
- Move window buttons to the left
- Change desktop font and font size
- Automatically centre new windows
- Show weekday in the clock label
- Switch between Dynamic and Static workspaces
And a fair bit more!
In short, Ubuntu Tweaks makes fine-tuning your Ubuntu desktop much, much easier than bumbling around in the
Better still, you can install it in a click:
4. Get a Powerful File Preview Tool
GNOME Sushi is a handy spacebar preview tool for the GNOME Shell desktop.
Anyone who’s ever tried macOS will instantly know what I mean by a ‘spacebar preview’ as the feature first featured in, and has been popularised by, Apple’s operating system.
First select (click) a file in the Nautilus file manager then hit the spacebar. This opens a near-instant preview of the file.
The makeup of the preview will differ depending on the file itself, but most common file formats are supported. You can use Sushi to instantly preview images, play media, scroll through PDF and LibreOffice documents, get folder size info, and so on — all without needing to open a single app.
And when you do find the file you want open fully the Sushi window (in most cases) gives you the option to do so.
Sushi is free, open source software. You can install it on Ubuntu from the Ubuntu Software app. Just search out ‘sushi’ by name or, if you’re reading this post from an Ubuntu system, click this button:
5. Enable Minimise on Click
If you want applications to minimise down to their Ubuntu dock icon when clicked you can manually enable the behaviour.
And I do mean manually as, despite being one of the most popular Ubuntu tweaks around, there’s still no easy GUI way to do it — but never fear, the command line is near!
Open a new Terminal window and type the following command to enable minimise on click in Ubuntu:
gsettings set org.gnome.shell.extensions.dash-to-dock click-action 'minimize'
The change is instantaneous.
6. Show Battery Percentage
Skip this step if you don’t use a laptop (or you do and you don’t want to see battery percentage remaining at-a-glance, without opening the Status Menu).
Ubuntu’s battery indicator lets you monitor your battery life at-a-glance, without opening the Status Menu. But it’s a bit small, and a bit vague (does “2” bars mean I have 60% left or 30%?).
You can easily get Ubuntu to show battery percentage from the ‘Power’ panel in the GNOME Tweaks tool I recommend in step 3:
- Open GNOME Tweaks
- Select ‘Top Bar’
- Slide “Battery Percentage” setting to ‘on’
If you don’t wish to go the GUI route you can run the following command to show battery percentage in the top bar:
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface show-battery-percentage true
Ahh, much better!
7. Change Touchpad Scroll Direction
If you’re ever use a touchpad or trackpad with Ubuntu and you don’t like the way the scroll direction is set by default — called ‘Natural Scrolling’ — be aware that you’re not stuck with it!
It’s simple to change touchpad scroll direction in Ubuntu so that contents moves in the same direction to your movement, e.g., scroll down to move the page down:
- Open Settings
- Go to Mouse & Touchpad
- Slide the “Natural Scrolling” toggle to on
That’s all it takes to set up a scroll direction you’re more comfortable with.
8. Set Up Livepatch
Livepatch can install kernel security updates and apply them without you needing to reboot your computer.
The feature is (naturally) aimed more at servers and enterprise systems which run mission critical workloads, but Ubuntu Livepatch works just fine on the desktop builds too — though only on LTS releases!
If you hate rebooting as much as I do, this feature is a definite boon. Just launch the ‘Livepatch’ shortcut from the Applications grid to see it up.
9. Turn on Automatic Trash Deletion
Nestled among the Privacy options in the Settings client are a handy set of space-saving features including a toggle to “Automatically Empty Rubbish Bin” at certain interval — perfect if you (like me) tend to forget to delete your trash bin/recycle bin regularly.
This and the “Automatically Delete Temporary Files” settings can help you save space on Ubuntu with minimal effort required on your side.
Yes: Ubuntu gives you an excuse to be lazy! 😉
10. Install Some Top Tier Software
A world of software, free, paid, and open source, is available to you on Ubuntu. But where to start?
Well, a tonne of open source favourites are available to install on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS straight from the Ubuntu Software app, including:
And you’re not limited to what’s in the archives, either. A crop of other popular (though not necessarily open source) software is available for Ubuntu, including well-known names like:
- Google Chrome
- Tracktion Waveform
And this is only scratching the surface.
You can follow this blog to get more software recommendations, news about updated apps, and spotlights on promising new apps as and when we discover them! For more software picks scan over our guide the best Electron apps.
…And 4 Things You SHOULDN’T Do
So those are some things you should do after installing Ubuntu 20.04 LTS. I hope you found some of them useful — but what are the things you shouldn’t do after you install or upgrade to Ubuntu 20.04?
Here are a few…
Don’t Add Zillions of Extra PPAs
PPAs provide a convenient way to install new apps and updates for Ubuntu delivered outside the main repos.
But takes some time to get to know your system as-is before you start adding a raft of random PPAs (often recommended by, yes, sites like mine).
And if you can’t do without them, try to only use PPAs that are software specific, i.e. don’t add kitchen sink PPAs that package a tonne of different tools, software and you don’t want!
And that goes double for kitchen-sink PPAs
Don’t Uninstall the Default Desktop
As mentioned at the start of this post, Ubuntu comes with a set of defaults with the broadest possible appeal.
Yet Ubuntu’s take on the GNOME Shell desktop doesn’t hit the spot with everyone.
So while it’s trivial to install a vanilla GNOME set-up alongside the Ubuntu-tweaked version, uninstalling your distro’s default desktop entirely is the wrong solution to not liking it.
You can get a leaner, cleaner system if you install the right distro (and desktop) to start with.
Don’t Run Random Internet Commands
It’s never a good idea to run random scripts or commands you find online, on your system.
My rule of thumb is that if I don’t understand what a command will do, I don’t run it.
This goes double for commands which do several things at once, or which download and run a script (ALWAYS check the contents of the scripts before you run them. Always, always, always).
P.S. NEVER run THAT command. You know which one I mean. Just …Don’t.
Don’t Forget to Share Ubuntu with Others
A great way to help make Ubuntu better is to to talk about it, what it can do, how you find it useful, and so on!
You could do this online in a blog post or social media update, or in-person at a some kind of convention or hobby group.
I’m not saying to fly out to auntie Barbara in Holland and demand she install it, but don’t be afraid to articulate the benefits of using a system like Ubuntu.
P.S. Maybe don’t mention it on a first date…
speaking from experience.