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The TinyCore Desktop

 A Desktop Tour of TinyCore Linux

The TinyCore Graphical User Interface (GUI)

TinyCore is one of the few Linux distros that do not use Gnome or KDE as a desktop

In line with it's "no frills" ethos, the TinyCore desktop can best be described as "basic". TinyCore is one of the few Linux distros that do not use Gnome or KDE as a desktop. This is primarily because it is intended as a lightweight "no frills" Linux and using one of the major GUIs would greatly impact both the size and minimum hardware specifications required. Instead, TinyCore uses the Fast Light Window Manager (flwm).

You can view a video in our Video Section of the TinyCore desktop in use

The TinyCore Desktop

When you boot TinyCore, the desktop will display:

The TinyCore Desktop

The entire area outside of the toolbar is considered the desktop. If you click in this area (-it can be a left or right click: it makes no difference) a pop-up menu will appear, giving you access to all the functions that are available from the wbar (toolbar) and more. The initial menu that displays shows three basic options:

Click Menu

These options comprise:

  • SystemTools : this takes you to a sub menu listing the main system administration functions (-see below)
  • NewDesktop : create a new virtual desktop
  • Logout : brings up the Shutdown Options dialogue box

The last two options are covered in later sections but the most useful option is the first which, when you slide the mouse to the right of it, brings up a large submenu of options:

System Admin sub Menu

These cover the following functions (top to bottom):

  • Browse the list of available applications available for installation
  • Manage any patches/updates for TinyCore and any installed applications
  • Display the TinyCore system administration control panel dialogue
  • Open a text editor window
  • Mount/unmount a disc drive
  • Run a command or program
  • Take a screenshot of the desktop
  • Start/stop/show the currently running services (daemons)
  • Set the system date/time
  • Open a command line window
  • Run the Linux top command to show the most active processes on the system
  • Configure the wbar toolbar (add/remove icons, etc)
  • Forcibly shutdown a window from the desktop

These are fairly self-explanatory - and the best way to get more familiar with them is just to play around with them - but this should give you a good appreciation of the basic functions available.

Using Virtual Desktops

A virtual desktop (-also known as a workspace under Gnome) allows you to organise your windows into several desktops that you can switch between. This allows you to group windows for different tasks in separate areas: for example, you could keep your email and chat applications in one virtual desktop - and your word processor in another.

To create a new virtual desktop in TinyCore, simply click on the background, to bring up the popup menu:

Click Menu

Choose the "NewDesktop" option to create a new virtual desktop. Click again on the background and you will notice extra options have now been added to the pop-up menu:

Click Menu - Workspaces

These new options comprise:

  • Desktop 2 : a click takes you to desktop #2
  • Desktop 1 : a click takes you to desktop #1
  • Sticky : a click takes you to windows active over all desktops

If you click either of the "Desktop #" options, you will be taken to that virtual desktop; if you slide your pointer to the right of the option, you can also choose a window on that desktop to switch to or, if there are no active windows in that workspace, to delete that workspace altogether.

Once you have displayed a desktop, any windows opened will be associated with that desktop only. If you want your window to appear whichever desktop is being displayed, then choose the "Sticky" option before opening it, rather than one of the numbered desktops.

The TinyCore Toolbar (wbar)

The bulk of your desktop interaction with TinyCore will be through the wbar, which is a scrollable toolbar at the bottom of the screen. This allows you to access all the main functions (-and any installed applications) by clicking on the relevant icon:

The TinyCore Toolbar

The default applications are (left to right):

TinyCore Shutdown OptionsShutdown OptionsClick this icon to exit TinyCore and select whether to save or discard any changes
TinyCore Command Line IconCommand LineClick this icon to open a command line window
TinyCore AppStatus IconAppsAuditClick this icon to display a window allowing you to patch/update TinyCore or any applications that you have installed
TinyCore Text Editor IconEditorClick this icon to open up the simple text editor application
TinyCore Control Panel IconControl PanelClick this icon to display the TinyCore control, which allows you to administer the system and configure it to your liking
TinyCore Application Installer IconAppBrowserClick this icon to locate and install new applications
TinyCore Run Line IconRun CommandClick this icon to enter a single shell command to run without opening up a command line window
TinyCore Disc Mounter IconDisc MounterClick this icon to mount/unmount the devices (e.g. disc drives) attached to your system
Midnight Commander (mc) IconUser ApplicationAny user-installed applications will be added to the end of the toolbar list (-the application shown here is the midnight commander file manager)

Exiting TinyCore

When you have finished with TinyCore, click on the "Shutdown" icon in the toolbar:

TinyCore Shutdown Options

This will bring up a dialogue asking you exactly what you wish to do:

Shutdown Options

The options comprise:

  • Shutdown : power down
  • Reboot : power down and power back on
  • Exit to Prompt : quit the flwm GUI / desktop and return to the command line:


You can also specify if you want to save any changes - and to pick the device to save them to - so that they are available when you next boot into TinyCore.

Clicking "OK" will execute the selected option and "Cancel" will return you back to the TinyCore desktop.

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