7.3. Desktop Components

The main components of the GNOME desktop are icons that link to files, folders, or programs and a panel at the bottom of the screen (similar to the task bar in Windows).

Figure 7.1. An Example GNOME Desktop

An Example GNOME Desktop

Double-click an icon to start its associated program. Right-click an icon to access additional menus and options. You can also right-click any empty space on the desktop to access additional menus for configuring or managing the desktop itself.

7.3.1. Default Desktop Icons

The GNOME desktop features desktop icons providing basic navigation and functionalities for your system.

You can right-click an icon to display a menu offering file operations such as copying, cutting, or renaming. Selecting Properties displays a configuration dialog. Change the title of an icon and the icon itself with Select Custom Icon. Use the Emblems tab to add a small icon to an item (such as a file or a folder) to visually mark the item. For example, to mark a file as important, add an Important emblem to the file icon. Use the Permissions tab to view and modify the access, read, and write permissions for this file for the user, group, or others. The Notes tab manages comments. The menu for the trash can additionally features the Empty Trash option, which deletes the contents of the trash can.

To remove an icon from the desktop, simply drag it to the trash can. Be careful with this option—if you throw folder or file icons into the trash can, the actual data is deleted. If the icons only represent links to a file or directory, only the links are deleted.

To create a link on the desktop to a folder or a file, access the desired object with Nautilus (see Section 7.4.1, “Navigating in Nautilus”). Right-click the object then click Make Link. Drag the link from the Nautilus window and drop it onto the desktop.

7.3.2. The Desktop Context Menu

Right-clicking an empty spot on the desktop displays a menu with various options. Select Create Folder to create a new folder or Create Document to create a new document. Create a launcher icon for an application with Create Launcher. Provide the name of the application and the command for starting it then choose an icon to represent it. The order and alignment of desktop icons are controlled by the Clean Up by Name and Keep Aligned options. It is also possible to change the desktop background or paste an item on the desktop.

7.3.3. The Panel

On your first login, the GNOME desktop starts with a panel located at the bottom of the screen. This panel holds the three panel menus (Applications, Places, and Desktop), a system tray holding applets, such as Beagle Search, Display Settings, and Network Settings, and a notification area with the system clock.

The panel also contains the window icons of all started applications. If you click the name of a window on the panel, the window is moved to the foreground. If the program is already in the foreground, a mouse click minimizes it. Clicking a minimized application reopens the window.

If you right-click an empty spot in the panel, a menu opens, offering the options listed in the following table:

Table 7.1. Panel Menu Options



Add to Panel

Opens a list of applications and applets that can be added to the panel.

Delete This Panel

Removes the panel from the desktop. All the panel settings are lost.

Lock/Unlock Panel Position

Locks the panel in its current position (so that it cannot be moved to another location on the desktop) or unlocks the panel (so it can be moved).

To move the panel to another location, middle-click and hold on any vacant space on the panel then drag the panel to the new location.


Modifies the properties for this panel.

New Panel

Creates a new panel and adds it to the desktop.


Opens the help center.

About Panels

Opens information about the panel application. The Applications Menu

The Applications menu provides a structured list of the applications installed on your system. Most of them are grouped into smaller submenus dedicated to a category, such as System, Office, and Internet. To start any application, click Applications to display the complete menu, select a suitable category, click the submenu, then click the application's name. Applications not listed in the menu can be started from the Run Application prompt (Alt-F2) if you know the command. The Places Menu

The Places menu provides easy access to common locations, such as your home directory, drives, the desktop, and network folders. A search function for recent documents and a file search can also be launched with this menu. For more information about file management of local and remote folders, see Section 7.4.2, “File Management”. The Desktop Menu

The Desktop menu contains controls for managing your desktop. Here, find the GNOME Control Center (customizes your desktop), Lock Screen (starts the screen saver), Log Out (ends your session), and an easy-to-use program for taking screen shots of your desktop. The screen shot function can also be accessed by pressing the Print Screen key (also known as PrtSc). Applets

An applet is a small application that resides within a panel, indicated by a small icon that you click to interact with the applet. Unlike “real” applications, applets do not have their own windows on screen. Some applets are already preconfigured to be in your panel on first start, but there are many more applets you can add to your own panels.

To add an applet to a panel, right-click any empty space on the panel then click Add to Panel. Select the applet to add then click Add. The new applet is then permanently added to the panel.

Figure 7.2. Adding a New Icon to the Panel

Adding a New Icon to the Panel

To modify the properties of an applet, right-click the applet to display its menu then click Properties. To move an applet, drag it to a new location on the panel.

7.3.4. Managing the Trash Bin

The trash bin is a directory for files, folders, and desktop objects marked for deletion. You can drag items from the file manager or the desktop to the trash bin icon by keeping the left mouse button pressed then releasing the button to drop them there. Alternatively, right-click an icon, file, or folder and select Move to Trash.

If you need to retrieve a file from the trash bin, you can display the contents and move the file out of Trash. When you empty Trash, you delete the contents permanently. Displaying Trash

You can display the contents of Trash in any of the following ways:

From a File Browser Window

Click Go+Trash. The contents of Trash are displayed in the window.

From a File Object Window

Click Places+Trash. The contents of Trash are displayed in the window.

From the Desktop

Double-click the Trash icon on the desktop. Emptying Trash

Empty the trash bin using either of the following methods:

From a File Browser Window

Click File+Empty Trash.

From the Desktop

Right-click the Trash icon then select Empty Trash.

7.3.5. Accessing CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and Floppy Disks

To access floppy disks, CDs, or DVDs, insert the medium into the appropriate drive then click Places+Computer. Double-click the appropriate icon in Computer to start the file manager and view the contents of the disk.

Figure 7.3. Computer


You can copy files to and from other directories by dragging and dropping.


Do not simply remove disks from the drive after using them. Floppy disks, CDs, and DVDs must always be unmounted from the system first. Close all file manager sessions still accessing the medium then right-click the icon for the medium and select Eject from the menu. Then safely remove the disk when the tray opens automatically.

Format floppy disks by clicking Applications+System+File System+Floppy Formatter. Select the density of the floppy disk and the file system settings: Linux native (ext2), the file system for Linux, or DOS (FAT) to use the floppy with Windows systems.