For me, the Linux desktop is all about being efficient. Yes, I do enjoy the eye candy as well. But having an incredibly efficient desktop just makes for much faster, more reliable work. And much to the surprise of most users, Linux should be hailed as the king of desktop efficiency. There are many ways to have an efficient desktop in Linux, but I have narrowed the list down to these five tips. Even if you employ only a couple of these techniques, your desktop experience will become far more efficient.

1: The pager

I am always shocked at how few people actually use the Linux pager. It’s been around forever and has always served the same functionality — it offers the user multiple desktops to keep the desktop better organized. I employ the pager like this: With four workspaces, I dedicate each workspace to a different use. My layout looks like this:

  • Desktop 1 is for networking tools.
  • Desktop 2 is for writing/office tools.
  • Desktop 3 is for graphics or video.
  • Desktop 4 is for miscellaneous items.

This layout pretty much covers it for me. I’m sure you could find a four-desktop scheme that would better suit your needs.

2: Window management

The desktop can get cluttered with windows. You can minimize open windows, but then you wind up with a window list full — sometimes to the point that you can’t even read what minimized window is what. I like to take advantage of the Shade (or roll up) feature of my window manager. All I have to do is double-click the title bar of the window manager and the window rolls up like a window shade into the title bar. This way I always know what window is what and can better organize those windows so it’s easier to work.

3: Keyboard shortcuts

If you haven’t taken advantage of keyboard shortcuts on Linux, you don’t know what you’re missing. Both major desktop environments (GNOME and KDE) offer plenty of preconfigured keyboard shortcuts, and you can create your own keyboard shortcuts, too. As any power user will tell you, the less your fingers leave the keys the more efficient your work will be.

4: Drawers

One of the nice features of the GNOME panel is that you can add drawers. These drawers are slide-out menus where you can place just about any icon or applet you need. Do this instead of having a desktop full of icons, and you won’t be wasting so much time searching. You can take this one step further and create different drawers for different types of apps. You can have a drawer for your most-used office apps, a drawer for most-used social apps, etc. This scheme is often more efficient than going through the menu hierarchy.

5: Folder organization

This one gets away from users all the time. Modern Linux distributions have the HOME directory (~/) laid out in perfect, logical sense. You will find:

  • Desktop
  • Documents
  • Downloads
  • Pictures
  • Music
  • Public
  • Templates
  • Videos

If you maintain this hierarchy and actually put files in their proper place, you’ll find yourself spending less and less time relying on search tools. A poorly organized folder/file system will lead to more wasted time than you can image. I even like to add subfolders to the hierarchy that will help me keep my system as organized as possible. This standardization on the Linux desktop has come a long way and it’s where it is for a reason: It works.

Easy improvements

There you go. Five quick and dirty ways to keep your Linux desktop efficient and organized. Give these tips a try and see how much they help. You’ll be surprised at how little you have to do to make your Linux desktop experience amazingly efficient. And if you have any favorite tips of your own, share them with other members in the discussion.

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