Multi-Tasking in Ubuntu
Desktop - Ubuntu


Ubuntu 12.04 includes a desktop interface that is a strong departure from previous versions.  One of the most striking differences upon logging into the system is the launcher.  The launcher is a vertical bar that, by default, resides along the left side of the screen.  It is similar to the dock in Mac OS X and aims to make your user experience more efficient and intuitive.

Applications and Multi-Tasking

Ubuntu Launcher

Various applications appear in the launcher by default.  Other programs are installed in Ubuntu 12.04, but not all of them are present in the launcher (although they can be added).  While icons on the desktop require the user to double-click to execute the application, icons in the launcher require only one click.  After clicking on an application, its icon will begin to gradually change color.  This behavior indicates that the computer is busy starting the program.  Once the program is launched, an arrow will appear on the left side of the icon, as shown in the image to the left.  In this example, a file explorer, Firefox, and terminal have all been launched.


If an application is already running, additional instances of the program can be started by using the middle mouse button.  For example, a new Firefox window has been launched in the image below.  Since two Firefox windows are now open, two arrows are on the left side of the Firefox icon in the launcher.  Firefox is also the active program below, which is indicated by the arrow on the right side of the Firefox icon.

Ubuntu Desktop

A program that is not included in the launcher can be added easily.  Launch the program using any method and the application's icon will appear in the launcher.

Right-click on the icon, and the menu shown below will appear.

Lock To Launcher

Click on Lock to Launcher and the icon will remain in the launcher after the program closes.  Similarly,   selecting Unlock from Launcher will make the icon disappear from the launcher as soon as the program closes.  Using this simple method, the launcher can be customized to your needs and preferences.

In the previous examples, multiple Firefox windows were opened as indicated by the arrows on the left side of the icon.  Clicking on the Firefox icon once while multiple windows are open will result in the focusing of a single window.  If you would instead like to choose which window to maximize, clicking twice on the Firefox icon will display all open windows while dimming the background.

Select Instance

Clicking on the window you would like to work with will bring it to the foreground and the remaining windows will return to their original state.  The left side of the panel will change to reflect the current active window.  In the image below and to the left, there is no active window.  In this case, the desktop is active and the panel displays Ubuntu Desktop.  In the right-side image, Firefox is the active window and the panel displays Google – Mozilla Firefox.  This behavior is unlike Windows XP/7 but very similar to Mac OS X. In previous versions of Ubuntu, the top panel did not changed based on the active window.  In Ubuntu 12.04, the title and menus bars for an active window are usually located in the panel.

Active Firefox

The majority of programs in Ubuntu 12.04 will display their menu items in the panel as shown to the right for Firefox. The menu items (File, Edit, View, etc.) only become visible if the mouse cursor is positioned over the panel. This can be somewhat disorienting for users new to this operating system, but quickly becomes natural.