An important note to start with – This guide can be applied with any ‘Gnome’ based desktop. Since I am using Ubuntu 11.04, I am writing this for the same. Let me demonstrate what do I intend to do.

I want to change my desktop from this:

to this:

While I go on about ‘how to‘, I will also point out why to do these changes. Before I start, let me tell you about the applications you will get with Stock ‘Ubuntu’ and their drawbacks.

1. Gwibber

My heartfelt apologies to Gwibber team, but I personally don’t like their interface one bit. Hence, all the advantages of having a Gwibber service running in background and indicator telling the number of tweets/DM, goes in vain. If anyone can bear with the interface then it indeed is a social network client well integrated with Unity interface (using indicator api).

Alternative: My alternative in this guide is ‘Hotot‘. I prefer it over Gwibber because of 2 reasons:

a) It has a neater interface.
b) I use Facebook as web client instead of desktop

You can get ‘Hotot’ by writing these commands in terminal:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:hotot-team
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install hotot

If you want to remove Gwibber, then write these commands:

$ sudo apt-get remove gwibber gwibber-service

To remove Gwibber from indicator applet follow this command

$ sudo rm -rf /usr/share/indicators/messages/applications/gwibber*

2. Evolution

It is decent enough desktop email client, also well integrated with ‘Ubuntu’, but I found it lagging at times and giving errors while fetching mails for Google imap server. Another problem with the Evolution was its clunky interface.

Alternative: In this guide, alternative Email client is going to be Thunderbird. Ubuntu is going for Thunderbird + Lightning for Oneric (next release of Ubuntu). The reasons for this choice are:

a) Nice UI
b) Fast and responsive

You can get ‘Thunderbird’ by writing these commands in terminal:

$ sudo apt-get install thunderbird xul-ext-lightning xul-ext-gdata-provider xul-ext-calendar-timezones thunderbird-globalmenu thunderbird-gnome-support

You will also need an extension if you want the notifications to be shown properly in unity indicator. You can get it by following these steps:

a) Download ‘Thunderbird Indicator’ from this link  (Don’t open this link in Firefox. It will try to install it as extension there. Instead right click on it and save the link)
b) Run this command in terminal

$ sudo apt-get install libnotify-bin

3. Movie Player

As much as I appreciate Cannonical for building such a beautiful OS, I abhor them for choice of applications that come in default with Ubuntu. Same goes for Movie Player. It is the application which I dislike most among all pre-installed ones.

Alternative: VLC is the best alternative when it comes to Linux.

You can get it by writing these commands:

$ sudo apt-get install vlc

4. Banshee

I always thought Rhythmbox was better as compared to Banshee and it was beyond me, why Canonical made such a change. So to replace I began my search for an alternative media organizer / player. Then I stumbled on Clementine. Its amazing media player/organizer and comes with integration to Ubuntu indicators.

You can get it by typing following in terminal:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:riccetn/clementine
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install clementine

Other applications that you need for this guide:

1. Avant Window Navigator: No doubt you have Unity, but I have found that its not sufficient at times. Moving your pointer to the left of the screen can be troublesome. Unity with AWN can be an excellent combination. AWN has lots of applets like ‘menu applet’,’weather applet’ etc. which I found useful.

You can get Avant Window Navigator by writing this code in terminal:

$ sudo apt-get install avant-window-navigator

2. Guake terminal: If you are geeky enough and like terminal, there is no better alternative than Guake terminal. Its a drop-down terminal which shows itself when you press a hot-key. It can be real life saver if you are doing something and need to check terminal on occasion.

You can get it by writing this command:

$ sudo apt-get install guake

These were the applications that would make your life a little easy and make your Linux experience more enjoyable. In my next post I will write about how to customize your Ubuntu install to a degree where it looks like the one in screenshot.

PS: I have not tested all the scripts/commands that I have written here, they are mostly out of my memory. If any of them doesn’t work please tell me in the comments I will update them with the correct ones.


A full time developer and a part time blogger, but above all a person with extreme passion about anything with a 'Tech'. You can find him at, and follow him at @ujjwalkanth


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