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A Tour of the SimplyMEPIS KDE Desktop

 A Desktop Tour of SimplyMEPIS 11 Linux

The SimplyMEPIS Graphical User Interface (GUI)

The SimplyMEPIS distro is based on a fusion of Debian and Ubuntu sources, and ships with a slick KDE based GUI/desktop. If you are familiar with the Linux Mint LXDE desktop, you may experience some feelings of deja vu! Both SimplyMEPIS and Linux Mint distros both have similar aims: to provide a complete O/S that is usable straight out of the box.

One of the big plus points of SimplyMEPIS over it's rivals is the amount of software that it comes pre-installed with

There are two big players in the Linux desktop GUI arena: Gnome and KDE. The SimplyMEPIS GUI is based on the latter, whereas distros like Ubuntu and Fedora use the former . Both provide similar functionality -and each one has fiercely loyal advocates. However, if you are new to Linux, then which desktop you choose will depend purely on personal taste: both do the job brilliantly!


Default Applications

One of the huge plus points of SimplyMEPIS over it's rivals for the Linux newbie is the amount of software that it comes pre-installed with - meaning that you can start using it straight out of the box. Here is a taster of some of the applications the latest release (11) is currently shipping with:

ApplicationPackage Used
Word Processor LibreOffice Write
Image EditorGIMP,InkScape
SpreadsheetsLibreOffice Calc
Email ClientKmail
Media PlayersAmarok,VLC
Video EditorKDEnlive
Internet BrowserFirefox,Konqueror
ChatKopete
CD/DVD WriterK3b
Web SupportAdobe Flash Support, PDF Viewer
Package ManagerSynaptic

In addition, it comes with all the system tools you would expect - as well as the ability to fully customize the look and feel should you so desire.

Note that even if an application is not in the default installation, it can be easily downloaded using the Synaptic Package Manager within minutes.

The downside is that the SimplyMEPIS distro is larger than most (-although smaller than Mint), so it will not fit on a CD - and will require more disc space. Also, should you prefer different applications to those supplied, you are going to have to remove the unwanted apps and install the desired ones anyway, so the pre-install might not give you anything!

In summary, SimplyMEPIS could be a good option for users new to Linux, with the only real reservations being the amount of disc space needed and the (relatively) small user community to draw on. It's Debian base should ensure that there is no shortage of applications available should you find a gap in those that ship as standard/

For old hands at Linux, we have yet to be convinced that it has anything to offer over Ubuntu or Fedora. In use, it is slick - and if you have a grudge against Ubuntu - or are not experienced enough to throw your lot in with Fedora - it is definitely worth a try!


The SimplyMEPIS Desktop

Note: the screenshots in this section were taken from SimplyMEPIS version 11, which was the latest version at the time of writing.

When you boot SimplyMEPIS, the desktop will display:

The SimplyMEPIS Desktop

As can be seen, the default desktop is a fairly spartan one - with a line of icons (-either invoking the file manager or giving access to documentation), the KDE panel and the context cashew in the top right corner. The desktop background can be customized as desired, using the System Settings window.

Open windows and applications display in the main desktop area.

MEPIS allows files and shortcuts to be saved to the desktop, by simply dragging the desired file to the "Desktop" heading in the left hand pane of the file manager window. An icon will then appear on the desktop, which can be dragged around or renamed / deleted as desired.


The KDE Panel

The bulk of your desktop interaction with MEPIS will be through the KDE panel at the bottom of the desktop:

The Mint Main Menu The Mint Main Menu Sub Menu

This can be divided into four main parts:

  • Mepis MenuClicking on the icon in the bottom left hand corner of the screen displays the Main Menu, which allows the user access to all the MEPIS functions

  • Next, is a series of shortcuts:
    IconUsage
    Mepis Workspace Switcher IconThe icon immediately to the right of the Main Menu cog is the Workspace Switcher icon(s). Click one of the four sub-boxes to switch between the available workspaces
    Mepis System Settings IconThe next icon is a shortcut to the System Settings area: click this and a new window will open up, allowing you to customize the desktop and other O/S features
    Mepis File Manager IconThe next icon is the File Manager icon. Click this and a Dolphin window will display
    Mepis Browser IconThe next icon is the Internet Browser icon. Click this and (by default) a Firefox window will display
    Mepis Email Client IconThe next icon is the Email Client icon. Click this and (by default) a Kmail window will display
  • In the middle part of the toolbar, the thumbnails of all open applications are listed: click on these to jump directly to that window -or to restore it to it's former size if it was previously minimized (iconified)

    Mepis Application Minimized

  • On the right hand side of the toolbar is the system tray: this allows you to interact with any system program and processes (daemons) running in the background. What appears here depends on what you are doing and what it running on your system, but in the case above, the icons are as follows:

    IconUsage
    Mepis Alert IconThe icon immediately to the right of the application area is the Alert icon. Click this to view errors or messages logged by the system
    Mepis Package Mgr IconThe next icon is a shortcut to the Software Centre area: click this and a new Synaptic package manager window will open up, allowing you to install and manage existing applications
    Mepis Cut and Paste IconThe next icon is the Cut and Paste icon. Click this and a Dolphin window will display
    Mepis Volume Control IconThe next icon is the Volume icon. Click this to adjust the sound / volume of the system
    Mepis Battery Client IconThe next icon (-if you are running on a laptop) is the Battery icon: this is a visual indicator showing the current charge in your battery
    Mepis Network IconThe next icon is the USB icon: this allows you to check / access devices connected via a USB connector
    Mepis Interfaces IconThe next icon is the Interfaces icon: this allows you to check / configure any devices attached to the system
    Mepis Carat IconIf the carat icon displays, it means there are other icons but no room to display them: click this icon to view them
    Mepis Calendar  IconClick on the system time to access the calendar for the current month
    Mepis Calendar  IconClick on the Cashew icon to customize the display of the KDE panel itself

The Main Menu

  • The Main Menu allows users to access to all the MEPIS functions. This can be likened to the "Start" menu in Windows:

    The Mepis Main Menu

    From here you can access functions such as:

    Menu OptionUsage
    GamesA few basic games to keep you amused
    GraphicsLists programs for dealing with images:

    MEPIS Graphics Menu

    InternetList programs for accessing the internet:

    MEPIS Internet Menu

    MultimediaList any applications for audio / video viewing and editing:

    MEPIS Multimedia Menu

    OfficeList any applications commonly used for business purposes:

    MEPIS Office Menu

    SettingsUtilities for changing the setup / appearance of the desktop
    SystemClick this icon to access various system administration tools:

    MEPIS System Menu

    UtilitiesVarious utility applications:

    MEPIS Utilities Menu

    Find Files/FolderSearch the system for files or folders
    HelpAccess the help system / documentation
    FavouritesYou can add applications and shortcuts under this heading, so you can find them quickly
    Run CommandClick this to open a dialogue to run a program or script without dropping to the Terminal window
    LeaveOptions to close the current session, power off, restart, etc

Each Main Menu option will, in turn, have a sub-menus off it listing various related applications.


The Dolphin File Manager

SimplyMEPIS uses the Dolphin File Manager - and this works very much like that of it's Ubuntu counterpart with only superficial differences (-mainly the general KDE look and feel).

The File Manager can be accessed directly from the icon in the KDE Panel - or via the "System" option on the Main Menu. Both with open up a window to your user home directory, similar to that below:

Mepis File Manager

Left-click any item to select it:

Mepis File Manager with Selected Executable File

Double-click a directory to navigate down into it. Double-click a file to either open it or run it (-depending on whether it is executable or not). Generally, executables are shown as a cog icon (-see above example).


The Context Menu

If you right-click on any blank area of the MEPIS desktop, the Context Menu will display:

Mepis Context Menu

From here, you can create a new file, access the File Manager, configure the desktop, exit MEPIS, etc.


The Cashew Menu

If you click on the icon in the top left corner (Mepis Cashew Icon) (-aka the cashew) a menu will pop up:

Mepis Cashew Menu

This allows you to configure the desktop. Note that, to avoid accidental changes, you need to first unlock the widgets. Once your changes are completed, lock the widgets again.


System Settings

If you click either on the icon in the KDE Panel or the "Settings" option in the Main Menu, then the System Settings window will open up:

Mepis System Settings Window

This allows you to configure the operating system to your specific needs.


The Kmail Application

If you click on the icon in the KDE Panel a window to the Kmail email client will open up:

Kmail Email Client

Initially, this will allow you to configure the email client, then to read and write emails from these accounts.


Exiting SimplyMEPIS

When you have finished with MEPIS, select the "Leave" option in the Main Menu:

Mepis Leave Option

From here, you can select from a number of options:

  • End Session : log out of the current user session
  • Lock Screen : lock the terminal (e.g. while you are away from the PC)
  • Start a parallel session as another user : log in as a different user whilst retaining the current user session
  • Suspend to RAM : save the current state in RAM and go into power-save mode
  • Suspend to disc : save the current state to disc and power down
  • Restart Computer : reboot the PC
  • Turn Off Computer : power down the PC, losing everything in memory

Simply choose the desired option in order to carry it out. If you decide you wish to continue with the current session, simply click away from the menu on the desktop.

If you choose to shutdown the PC, you will be asked to confirm your choice, prior to carrying out the action:

Mepis Confirm Shutdown

The computer will restart in 30 seconds by default: if you click "Cancel", you will be returned to the current session; if you click "Turn Off Computer" it will shut down immediately.


References and Further Reading:


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