Freedom, Community & Sustainability

[VIDEO] Ubuntu 12.04 Tutorial - First steps (beginner)

April 22, 2012 -- Webmaster
Last modified on May 2015
Duration: +- 15 minutes

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#0 - Ubuntu first steps

1 - Download and install Ubuntu GNU/Linux

2 - Desktop overview (equivalences & differences):

-Migrating from Windows

-Migrating from Mac

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Before Installing

There are several ways to experience Ubuntu that help to go through the transition from another operating system over to Linux. The easiest one it to run Ubuntu from your DVD or USB drive. This won't change anything on your computer and will give you the chance to see it in action. The second easiest method is to run Ubuntu inside your current operating system, as if it were just another application. To do this you will have to install VirtualBox and create a virtual machine. We have a tutorial about Virtual machines for Ubuntu that might also help even if you are using another operating system. The third option is to install Ubuntu on your computer alongside your current OS and chose between the two on start-up. Finally, the best way to experience Ubuntu is to have it as the only OS on your computer and take full advantage of your machine memory and HD space. Whatever method you chose you will follow roughly the same procedure of downloading and installing it. Check out the link on the video for more details of the migration process as documented by the contributors of Ubuntu help.


Download and install Ubuntu

Downloading and installing Ubuntu is very easy although it might take a couple of hours altogether if you have a fast Internet connection and a reasonably recent computer. To download Ubuntu go to the website ubuntu.com, click on download in the menu at the top and then choose Desktop. On the right you can choose the flavour 32 or 64 bits then hit “Start Download”. If you have a doubt about which flavour to choose, go for the 32bit flavour. If you have a reasonably recent computer that is 64bit compatible and you have at least 4 Gb of RAM, go for the 64bit flavour to take advantage of improved performance. The trend is to move to 64bit software so chose this if your computer hardware supports it. Note that under the download button you can also order the official CD's for almost as cheap as a blank CD. The file is about 750Mb so it will take a while to download. You can use this time to read the instructions on the link that is on this same frame. This page has all you need to know to download, burn and install the software. On the right, you can see the guides to create the bootable medium depending on the OS you have currently available.
In step one you will choose to use a CD, DVD or USB drive to install your system. Note the link to the booting guide in case nothing happens when you boot your computer from your CD or USB. Then proceed to step two where you will see Ubuntu running. At this point you can choose to either try it out or install it on your machine. If you decide to install it keep following the instructions of this page. The instructions are very clear and the screen-shots are very helpful to know exactly where you are.
All this should be pretty easy and straight forward. To take full advantage of your operating system the ideal thing is to have a computer that is in the list of Certified hardware for Ubuntu, but nothing prevents you from installing it in any computer you want. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the Certified Hardware to take a look at it. Most hardware is supported on Linux but some less common hardware might not have full support. You will certainly notice if you have hardware incompatibilities when you try out Ubuntu from the DVD or USB drive directly on the computer where you want to install it.
If you feel like it's not the right time for you to migrate yet, you can install Ubuntu in your current operating system and start getting used to it little by little. This approach is good for you to learn gradually and avoid getting upset by the new environment. Alternatively you can do it the other way around and install your current operating system inside Ubuntu in case you need to have the possibility to have a quick access to your current OS. We will see during the tutorial how to install an OS inside Ubuntu using a virtual machine. In both cases you will still have access to any environment you want independently of your primary choice.
Once you've finished the installation, click on one of the overview videos to take a tour of the desktop and get to know it a little bit better.

Desktop overview

Migrating from Windows to Ubuntu overview (equivalences and differences)

(thanks to Brendan for the insights on the migration process)

The process of migrating from Windows to Ubuntu should not be too hard. You will quickly be doing everything you did on Windows using only your new Ubuntu desktop. This requires you to abandon a few habits and adopt new ones. I will outline in this video some basic information that will help you to focus on the similarities and differences in order to make an efficient transition. This video is purely descriptive and we will see in more depth how to use each of these functionalities in the rest of the tutorials.
Let's start by taking a look at the desktop: on Windows you have at the bottom of your screen a task-bar where you can see your applets on the right, your open applications in the middle and a start button on the left. On Ubuntu this bar is located on top rather than at the bottom and there is an additional bar on the left. The top bar also has the applets on the right but not the open or minimized applications. When you open an application in Ubuntu you will notice that a small white arrow will appear next to the application icon on the bar at the left. The top bar will be displaying instead the menus of the application that is on focus. Notice that the menus of an application are usually located on this top bar rather than on the window of the application itself. The menu appears when you hover your mouse over the top bar or when you press the Alt key, otherwise the menu will be hidden. If you have the HUD interface, the Alt key will bring up a search bar for searching into the application and system menus.
The start button on Windows display information about programs, files, configurations and user accounts. On Ubuntu this is divided in two menus: the Dash home at the top left-hand side of your screen to find files and applications and, at the top right-hand side a menu for system configurations and user accounts. On the Dash home you can either type what you are searching for, like in Windows 7, or browse the content, like on previous versions of Windows, using the bottom icons and clicking on one of the rows titles to show all the content.
Among the differences between the two operating systems you will notice that your disks and folders have a different organization. First of all, the disks do not have letters like c: or d:. The main disk (or the c: drive) is called “File System”. Inside file system you will see several folders that you will gradually get to know. Additional disks like for example CD's or USB pen-drives are mounted into the “media” folder and receive names with several letters or numbers like for example disk1 or sda1 or 1234-567A and so on. The equivalent to “Program files” folder is located under File system > usr > share > applications. The user personal files and settings are stored into the home folder. The home folder is the one you will use most of the time and you probably won't need to touch on the other folders at least at the beginning. They are managed by the system and that goes beyond the scope of this tutorial.
An other important difference between GNU/Linux systems like Ubuntu, and Windows is the way to install software. We will see in more details how to install software during the tutorials but just keep in mind that instead of searching the web and downloading an .exe file, you will do everything with a program called Software Center.
As a Windows user, you might be surprised to see that Ubuntu does not come with anti-virus software. You can download one if you want but it's not necessary. GNU/Linux operating systems are quite secure and very few people feel the need to have an anti-virus at all.
Last but not least, the Windows short-cut control+alt+del to launch the Task Manager in Windows and quit unresponsive applications is replaced by the System Monitor. In Ubuntu the short-cut ctrl+alt+del triggers the logout window and not the system monitor. When an application is not responding it's window will become darker and a pop up alert will ask you if you want to force quit it or not. Alternatively you can navigate to the System monitor as follows: press the “super” key (the one with the windows logo on it), type system monitor and launch it. Under the processes tab you can view all running processes and stop the ones that are not responding by pressing “Ctrl+K”. We will see during the tutorials how to change the short-cuts if you still prefer to launch it with ctrl+alt+del.

 In the rest of the tutorials I might also talk about equivalences and differences between operating systems but most of the time I'll just be talking about how Ubuntu works. I hope this was helpful to better understand your new environment and please write a comment if there are things you would like me to add to this video.

See also:
https://help.ubuntu.com/community/SwitchingToUbuntu/FromWindow/TransferringFilesAndSettings (transferring info and settings)

Migrating from Mac to Ubuntu overview (equivalences and differences)

Migrating from a Mac to Ubuntu should be rather easy. There are more similarities between a Mac and a Linux OS than there are between Mac and Windows. Nevertheless, Mac OSX and Ubuntu are still quite different and require some learning before you are able to do everything you did on a Mac with your new Ubuntu desktop. In this video I will try to present the main similarities and differences for you to focus on what you need to learn and make an efficient transition. The scope of this video is only to expose the differences, you will learn in more depth how to use your computer during the rest of the tutorial.
Ok, so let's take a look at the desktop. Apart from the colours you will see that it is similar to Mac OS except for a couple of details: the Dock that is by default at the bottom of the screen on Mac OS is located at the left on your Ubuntu desktop and takes advantage of the fact that most screens nowadays are much wider than tall. The unity launcher on the left is very similar to the dock, you have a set of applications that you can launch with one click and all open applications will have an icon there with a white arrow to show that they are active. The icon at the top of the Launcher, the one with the Ubuntu logo on it, is the closest equivalent to the Spotlight feature in Mac OS. The top bar hosts the menus of the applications and the applets just like on Mac OS, except that the equivalent of the Apple menu is located on the right rather than on the left side. If you have the HUD interface installed on Ubuntu you will see that pressing the Alt key will open a search bar to look for menu options, similar to the search bar located on the “help” menu of Mac OS.
Among the differences between the two operating systems you will see that your system and folders are organized differently on your disk. When you open the Home folder you will see that your main hard drive is called “File System” instead of “Macintosh HD”. Inside file system you will see several folders that you will gradually get to know. The most important one is the Home folder where all your personal files and settings are stored like the Users folder in Mac OS.
Another important difference that is worth mentioning is the way to install software on GNU/Linux. On Macs you will often download an installer, mount it and run it in order to install applications. Although it is possible to install applications downloaded from the internet on Linux too, at the beginning you will be using the Software Centre. It works exactly like the App store on Mac OSX and iOS. We will talk about installing new applications during the tutorials.
Last but not least, the Alt+Cmd+Esc short-cut to launch the Force Quit applications does not exist on Ubuntu. Instead you have something similar to the Activity monitor called System monitor. With this program you can spot and exit unresponsive applications without having to shut down the computer. Usually the System monitor will launch automatically when an application does not respond. To launch it manually, press the Command key, type system monitor and launch it. Under the processes tab you can view all running processes and stop the ones that are not responding pressing Ctrl+K. If you want to add a short-cut for this application you can do it on your system preferences. We will see how to do this in the tutorials.
In the rest of this tutorial I will also talk about equivalences and differences between operating systems but most of the time I'll be talking about how Ubuntu works. I hope this was helpful to better understand your new environment and please write a comment if there are things you would like me to add to this video.

See also:


Hi, love your tutorials so far, only watched the first two but am eger to keep going.
However, is it possible to add the file system and partitioning settings in some sort of the tutorial? will they still come up?
Ok I'll just keep watching
Take care!

Submitted by Webmaster on
I'm really glad you ask because it is in my plans to do a tutorial about that! Thank you for your support! Cheers


Submitted by Sally (not verified) on

I feel for people who want to go Ubuntu but become frustrated by the equivalents.

I want to get into bios to change boot order - a simple task in Windows but not (for me) in Ubuntu.

I am using a netbook with attached dvd drive.

Any help would be appreciated



Submitted by Webmaster on

Hello Sally, The BIOS is actually built into your computer's motherboard and it doesn't change regardless of the operating system you install. The BIOS is a software provided by the computer vendor. Usually it displays a short message to enter the setup (often Del, F2 or F10). It will allow you to chose the device to boot from (HD, USB, DVD...).

If you have a dual boot computer and want to change the order of the operating system that will boot, you can edit the GRUB configurations. To do this easily, download StartUp-Manager from the software center and configure the boot options to your liking. Hope this aswers the question!


Submitted by Sally (not verified) on

Thanks so much. Tried that and got in. Now to try start upmanager I love the way people are so helpful to newbies like myself.

Thanks again.

Submitted by Deb (not verified) on

Does a dual boot configuration need to be set up on the same disk/partition as Windows 7?

Submitted by Webmaster on
On a dual boot, each operating system is in a separate partition but the two partitions are often on the same disk. You can also have two separate disks if you want, it's not a problem. In any case, the two operating systems are separate. When you install Ubuntu it will create automatically the necessary partitions on your disk if you choose to keep your current operating system. The most common situation is to have a computer with one disk and one partition for each OS.


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